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Russian Socialists in the Struggle for Democracy

For the past few weeks, protests for fair elections in upcoming municipal polls have become weekly in Moscow and St. Petersburg as thousands have defied authorities to attend unsanctioned rallies. The police crackdown has been particularly harsh in Moscow. Protests on July 27 and August 3 resulted in over 2000 detentions. Images of police in riot gear wrestling citizens to the ground and beating peaceful protesters were reminiscent of the mass protests against election fraud in 2011-2012.

Members of the Russian Socialist Movement, a small Marxist, anti-Stalinist organization active in the Russian left, have been participants in local electoral campaigns and in the protests. Two RSM activists, Valeria Kovelishina and Ilya Budraitskis talk about the Russian Socialist Movement, their electoral work, the protests for democracy in Russia and what they might mean for the future.

Witnessing the Collapse of Communism

Roundtable discussion marking the 30th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Participants include Timothy Garton Ash, Bridget Kendall, and Jens Reich.

The Evictors

Around Moscow, there’s a whole industry of so-called “black creditors” — microfinance institutions (or MFOs) that swindle and seize debtors’ homes. Ivan Golunov’s investigation for Meduza has discovered that almost 500 apartments have been seized from their owners over the past five years without so much as a court order. In fact, this scheme involves more than simply “squeezing” people from their homes. It is possibly part of a wider, international money-laundering system. Here’s Meduza special correspondent Ivan Golunov on the ins and outs of this industry.

Donetsk Republic Executes Its Own

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While the battle between Kyiv and separatists intensifies, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) is helping stack the bodies via revolutionary justice.

The DNR may be adopting Russian laws, but one practice it’s exercising not found in the Russia codex is the death penalty. Several Russian news outlets reported that an order given by Igor Stelkov, the commander of the DNR’s militias, sentenced two men to death by shooting for “marauding, armed robbery, abduction, abandoning their military position, and hiding their crimes.” The two weren’t just regular grunts but commanders: Dmitri Slavlov, the commander of the Bulgar company, and Nikolai Lukyanov, the commander of Luka company.

Life News published a copy of Stelkov’s order.


Alexandr Mozhaev, a commander of a checkpoint neighboring Kramatorsk, told Kommersant that the men “broke into houses, robbed the families, and abused people. . . Such instances aren’t unique, but before someone just stopped a car, took the passengers jewelry and stole their money. Now, a decision was made to take harsh measures against these people so as to teach others a lesson.”

More evidence that things are spiraling out of control in eastern Ukraine.

Acts like this have to scare Putin. This is perhaps why Moscow is backing off its support for the DNR and has mostly been mute on the continued violence against separatists. All we get are repeated empty statements calling for an end to Kyiv’s “anti-terrorist” operation. Perhaps Moscow is now realizing that the separatists have gone off the reservation and are taking their revolution too seriously.

This is what Aleksandr Baunov argues in a recent article in Slon. With Poroshenko’s election, Kyiv is no longer a revolutionary threat. He’s calling for order and for the Maidan to be dismantled. This makes the president elect someone Moscow can work with. But the Donetsk People’s Republic? It might be becoming a liability. Baunov writes:

“The main danger for Putin now is the Donbass because it remains revolutionary. And therefore Putin will not increasingly meddle in it and will back off and stand aside. Although traffic in Kyiv still winds between the leftovers of barricades, the Maidan is not there, but in Lugansk and Donetsk, and that means you have to be on guard.”

. . .

“And Putin will become estranged from the Donetsk Republic. In all of his appearances at the Petersburg Forum there wasn’t a word about fascists, Banderovtsy or junta. There wasn’t even anything about Novorossiia or a unified Russian people. In the news, the Balkan floods, the train accident, the Nigerian abductions, and European and Ukrainian elections have all the more attenuated the topic of the junta and Right Sector. Even the chief ideologist [Dmitry Kiselev] has calmed down.”

I wonder if we can expect Putin to speed up his extrication from eastern Ukraine now that the DNR is decreeing revolutionary justice.