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Date: 07.01.2019

Russia News



1) Whale prison break

Authorities have ordered the release of nearly 100 whales held captive in Russia’s Far East.

— The Federal Security Service (FSB) brought charges against four companies for breaking fishing laws on Monday.

— Photos of whales in poor conditions have sparked criticism from celebrities and President Vladimir Putin.

Read more

2) Calvey cold-shouldered

U.S. investor Michael Calvey is to be kept in custody for at least six more weeks after a court on Thursday rejected his bail appeal.

— Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied speculation that the president has any personal feelings on Calvey's arrest.

Read more

3) Media death

Russian media executive Igor Malashenko was found dead in Spain on Monday.

— Malashenko was the co-founder and president of NTV, an independent television channel. More recently, he briefly ran Ksenia Sobchak’s 2018 presidential campaign.

— A preliminary autopsy report indicated that he died by suicide.

Read more

4) Meanwhile, in South Korea earlier this week a drunk Russian sailor commanding a 6,000-ton ship crashed into a bridge, creating a 5-meter hole. Watch the nerve-racking video here.

Editor’s picks

Emma Friedlander takes a look at how members of the Mormon church are holding on to their faith amid increasing challenges for minority religions.

Moscow’s historic dwellings are under threat from developers. Christy Monet speaks to the people fighting to preserve the city’s legacy.

On the 75th anniversary of the deportation of Chechen and Ingush peoples, Neil Hauer argues the victims still haven’t found justice.

Save the date

On Saturday, Putin will open the 2019 Winter Universiade in Krasnoyarsk.
On Monday, it is the first anniversary of the Skripal poisonings in Britain.

Have a good weekend!


1) Putin’s domestic pivot

President Vladimir Putin gave his annual address to the Federal Assembly on Wednesday.

— His domestic policy oriented speech comes after reports of falling approval ratings and poor economic growth.

— “There are too many poor people [...] we, of course, should focus our attention on this and on fighting this phenomenon,” Putin said.

Check out our gallery

2) Calvey indicted

U.S. citizen Michael Calvey, the founder of major private equity fund Baring Vostok in Russia, was formally indicted for fraud, his lawyer said on Thursday.

— U.S. diplomats have said they were denied access to Calvey, while leading figures in Russia’s business and political elite have criticized his detention.

— Meanwhile, the Kremlin said the arrest shouldn't hurt the confidence of foreign investors.

Here is the latest on this case

3) Jehovah’s Witnesses allege torture

A Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesperson reported that Russian investigators have tortured at least seven members of the religious group who had been detained on extremism charges in Siberia.

— The victims were reportedly asked to disclose information about their meetings and leadership.

— Russia's Investigative Committee denied the claims, saying that investigators did not apply any physical or psychological pressure on the detainees.

Read more

4) Meanwhile, an intoxicated Russian woman in Ufa called the fire brigade to help put out her “burning soul.” Here’s some of the cursed footage.
Editor’s picks

As changing weather patterns bring increasingly severe floods, St. Petersburg is in a race against time to adapt to climate change, reports Daniel Kozin.

Evan Gershkovich profiles Michael Calvey, the respected U.S. investor who has been indicted on fraud charges.

The polar bear invasion in Novaya Zemlya is just a preview of the challenges to come if Russia doesn't start tackling climate change, argues Ellie Martus.

Save the date

On Saturday, Russia celebrates Defender of the Fatherland Day.
On Sunday, a march in memory of murdered politician Boris Nemtsov takes place in Moscow on the fourth anniversary of his killing.
On Thursday, a Moscow court will hear the case against Michael Calvey.

Have a good weekend!

1) Putin’s Sochi soirée

President Vladimir Putin, who is always ready to exhibit his physical prowess, spent Valentine’s Day skiing in Sochi with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

— Lukashenko is currently in Sochi for multi-day talks with Putin and has already promised that his country would never export bad vodka or snacks to Russia.

See our gallery here

2) More U.S. sanctions

U.S. senators introduced a new sanctions bill against Russia that would target the country’s sovereign debt, banks and energy companies.

— Russian lawmakers derided the bill as “insane” and said it was equivalent to the U.S. shooting itself in the foot, while the Kremlin said Russia’s economy is well equipped to cope with new sanctions.

— Since the news, Russian stocks, government bonds and the ruble have tumbled, while the country's debt insurance costs jumped.

Read more

3) Isolating Russia’s internet

Russian lawmakers voted in favor of a bill that would allow the authorities to unplug the country's internet from the outside world.

— The bill seeks to protect the Russian-language section of the internet in case it is disconnected from the World Wide Web.

— Russia has reportedly conducted secret tests which showed that isolating the country's internet is possible.

Read our explainer here

4) Meanwhile, polar bears stormed the Arctic archipelago of Novaya Zemlya, terrifying its 3,000 residents and wreaking havoc by entering apartment blocks and ransacking garbage cans. The mass invasion of at least 52 polar bears has raised concerns over the effects of global warming, which have driven the Arctic mammals from their usual habitat to populated areas.

Read more

Editor’s picks

The social outcry following Reebok’s controversial “Sit on his face” ad campaign in Russia shows the country is not ready for this modern approach to feminism, argues Yulia Vakhonina.

Banned in the Soviet Union and sidelined in the 1990s, Ayn Rand is making a comeback among young Russians in St. Petersburg. Daniel Kozin has the story.

Vladislav Surkov’s latest open letter in praise of Putin is a way to distract the public, writes Sam Greene, while Mark Galeotti suggests that it is a sign that Putin is no longer essential.

Save the date

On Saturday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attends the Munich security conference.
On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin will address the Federal Assembly.
On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Russia for talks with President Putin.


Following news that Russian authorities have reopened the notorious 60-year-old Dyatlov Pass case, Emma Friedlander explains the ins and outs of the investigation into the mysterious deaths of the nine hikers.

Have a good weekend!


1) Taliban in Moscow

Taliban militants and opposition politicians met in Moscow on Tuesday for talks about the withdrawal of thousands of foreign troops from Afghanistan and an end to more than 17 years of war.

— The push for peace comes as the Taliban, ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001, have staged near-daily attacks in the country.

Read more

2) Jehovah’s crackdown

A Russian court has for the first time convicted a Jehovah’s Witness on extremism charges and handed him a six-year sentence.

— Danish national Dennis Christensen was detained in May 2017, a month after Russia’s Supreme Court declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist group.

— "If this verdict stands, our concern grows for the more than 100 other Jehovah’s Witnesses who are likewise facing criminal charges for their faith,” Jarrod Lopes, a spokesman for the group, told The Moscow Times.

Read more

3) Google censors

Google has given way to demands from the Russian authorities to remove certain entries from its search results, Russian media report.

— Google has reportedly removed at least 70 percent of pages blacklisted by the authorities.

Read more

4) Meanwhile, a group of self-proclaimed witches is casting spells in Putin’s support. On Tuesday, the mystics performed one of their most powerful rituals, “the circle of power,” to enhance quality of life in Russia and the whole world in general. Let’s see if it works.

Read more

Editor’s picks

By cracking down on Jehovah’s Witnesses, the authorities have sent a clear signal to all religious minorities in Russia, argues religious expert Roman Lunkin.

After pledging full support to embattled President Nicolas Maduro, Moscow is starting to show signs of doubt. Henry Meyer and Ilya Arkhipov untangle Russia’s position on Venezuela.

While DAU, Russia's genre-breaking revolutionary film project is taking the world by storm, it may never hit the screens in Russia, writes Michele Berdy.

Save the date

On Tuesday, a U.S. court will hold a status hearing on the case of Maria Butina, the Russian gun rights activist accused of espionage.
On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin will host his Belarussian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi.
A day later, on Thursday, Russia will welcome Turkish and Iranian leaders for a summit on Syria.

Have a good weekend!



1) Dramatic arrest

A Russian senator who is the son of a high-ranking gas official has been slapped with several charges, including two counts of murder.

— Rauf Arashukov, 32, was detained by security forces during the Federation Council’s weekly session on Wednesday.

— Investigators said Arashukov, who is from the North Caucasus, claimed to be “insufficiently proficient in Russian” and had asked for an interpreter during his court hearing.

Read more

2) ‘Unavoidable’ corruption

Russia’s Justice Ministry has submitted draft legislation that would exempt certain officials from having to comply with anti-corruption rules.

— “In certain circumstances, complying with restrictions and bans... to prevent or settle conflicts of interests... is impossible for objective reasons,” the bill on the government's legal portal says.

Read more

3) Gold or people?

The arrival of a Russian passenger plane in Caracas has social media abuzz with rumors about its mission and cargo.

— The Boeing 777, with room for some 400 passengers, was parked by a private corner of Caracas' airport after flying in from Moscow.

— Among the versions circulating online are that the plane had brought mercenaries, was there to escort President Nicolas Maduro into exile or was being loaded up with gold.

Read more

4) Jailed activist’s daughter dies

The 17-year-old daughter of an activist under house arrest died in a hospital from obstructive bronchitis.

— Her mother, Anastasia Shevchenko, a coordinator for the Open Russia NGO, last week became the first person to be prosecuted under a 2015 law against “undesirable organizations.”

Read more

5) Meanwhile, a Russian blogger has been fined by police for riding a traditional carpet through the snowy streets of Nizhny Novgorod, 400 kilometers east of Moscow. It’s not such a whole new world after all.

Read more

Editor’s picks

The dramatic arrest of a senator on murder charges says a lot about the state of Russia’s upper chamber of parliament, write Maria Zheleznova and Vladimir Ruvinsky.

Seventy-five years after the Leningrad Siege ended, the city’s residents are torn between whether to mourn or celebrate. Daniel Kozin has the story.

Headlines would have us believe that a Russian takeover of Belarus is imminent, but a merger between the two countries looks unrealistic for now, argues Artyom Shraibman.

Save the date

On Tuesday, representatives of the Taliban are expected in Moscow for talks with opposition Afghan politicians mediated by Russian officials.
On Wednesday, Dennis Christensen, the first Jehovah's Witness detained for extremism in Russia, is due to be sentenced.



1) Venezuela tug-of-war

After Washington backed Venezuela’s self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, Russia has stepped up its own support for Nicolas Maduro.

— Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has vowed Moscow will protect Venezuela’s sovereignty and the principle of non-interference in its domestic affairs.

— Moscow also warned the United States against a military intervention, saying it would trigger a catastrophe.

Read more

2) Long way down

Public trust in Vladimir Putin has fallen to its lowest level in 13 years, according to the results of a new survey.

— The poll by the state-funded Public Opinion Research Center found that only 33.4 percent of respondents trust the president.

Read more

3) Whelan denied bail

The former U.S. marine accused of spying by Russia this week appeared in public for the first time since his arrest.

— Paul Whelan’s lawyer told reporters his client had been misled and that he believed a thumb drive handed to him in a hotel room had contained cultural rather than secretive information.

Read more

4) Respect my authority

The State Duma on Thursday passed a package of highly contentious laws which would see individuals and outlets punished for “disrespecting” the Russian government or spreading fake news.

— The law recommends a fine of up to $15,000 for spreading information “disguised as authentic reports.”

— The bill will now have to pass two more readings and be cleared by the Federation Council and Vladimir Putin to be signed into law.

Read more

5) Meanwhile …

Air traffic controllers in Russia’s Far East said they had ordered pizzas for their American neighbors across the Bering Strait, who have been hit by the government shutdown.

Apparently, the Cold War can wait over a hot slice.
Editor’s picks

Both Japan and Russia are only interested in showing the public that they’re determined to negotiate over the Kuril islands while postponing an actual decision for later, writes Dmitry Streltsov.

If Nicolas Maduro loses, it will be a painful defeat for Putin. But it won’t stop him from funding other Maduros the world over at Russian taxpayers' expense, writes Leonid Bershidsky.

As costs of basic ingredients like sugar and eggs in Russia rises, bakers are feeling the pinch. Evan Gershkovich has the story.

Save the date

This weekend, St. Petersburg marks 75 years since the Leningrad Siege came to an end. On Sunday, a military parade will mark the occasion.
On Sunday, Kaliningrad will host a series of events as part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds talks with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed Hakim.

Have a good weekend!


1) Second gay purge

More reports of a gay purge in Chechnya have emerged after the Russian LGBT Network said that at least two gay men had been tortured to death there.

— Chechnya’s Information Minister Dzhambulat Umarov has dismissed the news as “utter crap.”

Read more

2) Detained until further notice

A Moscow court has ruled to extend the detention of four Ukrainian sailors seized by Russia off the coast of Crimea late last year.

— The United States and European Union have called on Russia to release the men but the Kremlin has said they must be put on trial. No date has been set.

Read more

3) Lavrov speaks

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this week held his annual press conference.

— Asked about the seemingly endless news reports on U.S. President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, Lavrov said: “I believe it reflects the falling standards for journalism in the American press.”

More highlights

4) ISIS claims attack

A media outlet affiliated with Islamic State has said that the terror group was responsible for the explosion in Magnitogorsk on New Year’s Eve in which 39 people were killed.

— Another Russian-language media report has also claimed the blast was the work of terrorists, adding more attacks had been planned.

— Russia’s Investigative Committee on Friday said it still considered as the most likely scenario that a gas leak caused the blast.

Read more

5) Different tallies?

At least six times more Russians are leaving the country than Russian official statistics claim, a study by the Proekt news outlet concludes.

— Proekt said official estimates that 377,000 Russians left the country in 2017 are a gross underestimation.

— With 10.6 million living outside the country, Russia has the third largest number of people living beyond its borders after India and Mexico, according to UN data.

Read more

6) Meanwhile

Russian publisher Komilfo has scrapped a chapter of the “Deadpool” comic book for containing so-called “Nazi propaganda.” The publishing house’s editor has said an expert review concluded that “the Holocaust, Nazism and racism cannot be the subjects of satire and humor.”

Read more

Editor’s picks

Putin has given Chechnya free rein to persecute LGBT people, writes Amnesty International’s Natalia Prilutskaya.

Whether or not the explosion in Magnitogorsk should be blamed on terrorists or ageing infrastructure, the incident has exposed Russia’s sore points, says Maxim Trudolyubov.

Mikhail Larionov, who left Russia for France early in his career, was one of the leaders of the Russian avant-garde. With a comprehensive collection of his work on display in Moscow, he is finally returning home. Anna Dolgova reports.

Save the date

On Sunday, Putin is due to immerse himself in freezing water as part of the Orthodox Christian ritual to mark Epiphany.
Several days later, on Tuesday, he will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Moscow for talks over the disputed Kuril Islands.
On Wednesday, Putin will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Moscow to discuss the conflict in Syria.

Have a good weekend!


1) Journalists’ murders

A new investigation has cast light on the deaths of three Russian journalists who were killed while reporting on a private military contractor in the Central African Republic.

— Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguyev and Kirill Radchenko were shot dead in late July in what officials have said was a robbery gone wrong.

— A new report, however, appears to show the journalists were being monitored by men with ties to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the man allegedly behind Russia’s “troll farm.”

Read more

2) Diplomatic pawn

The Kremlin has denied it is using Paul Whelan as a bargaining chip to win the release of Maria Butina who is being held in the United States.

— "In Russia we never use people as pawns in diplomatic games,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

— Whelan, whose lawyer this week filed for bail, regularly traveled to Russia to visit famous landmarks and friends, his twin brother said in an exclusive interview to local media.

Read more

3) Island dispute

Tensions between Russia and Japan are rising as the countries try to resolve a decades-old territorial dispute.

— Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday summoned the Japanese Ambassador to explain statements that it said “crudely distort the essence of agreements” between the countries.

— Among other things, Tokyo had said Russia “occupied” the island chain known in Russia as the Southern Kurils and in Japan as the Northern Territories.

Read more

4) Space feud

The head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has called on NASA to explain why it abruptly canceled a planned visit to the United States.

— "It’s a disgrace, this is illegal and complete international lawlessness,” Dmitry Rogozin said.

— He also appealed to his critics to cut it out with their memes.

Read more

5) Meanwhile …

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill has warned that people’s dependence on modern technology is speeding up the coming of the Antichrist. You heard it here first.

6) Moscow in Winter

As temperatures in Moscow are plummeting to -15 degrees Celsius, the city is lighting up.

Editor’s picks

With Paul Whelan’s arrest, there is a danger we are sliding into an era when civilians become pawns in the game of modern statecraft, says Mark Galeotti.

Putin is using Russia’s energy prowess to force neighboring Belarus into becoming a more deeply entrenched ally, Leonid Bershidsky writes.

Cyprus isn’t what it used to be as new anti-money laundering laws have made life more difficult for high-flying Russians using the island as a financial haven.

Save the date

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds his annual press conference.
On Thursday, Putin is expected to visit Serbia where he will discuss Kosovo’s economic cooperation and regional issues with his counterpart Aleksandar Vucic.

Have a good weekend!


1) Espionage suspicions

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was charged by the Federal Security Service this week with espionage and faces 20 years behind bars. Whelan’s family has said the American is innocent and was in Moscow for a wedding.

— U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has demanded that Whelan be returned. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman visited him at Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison Wednesday.

— The arrest came two weeks after Russian citizen Marina Butina plead guilty in the United States to conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent.

Read more

2) New Year’s tragedy

An apartment building in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk partially collapsed on New Year’s Day, resulting in the deaths of 39 people. The authorities have said that the collapse was caused by a gas explosion.

— Before ending their search Thursday, rescue workers were able to dig out six people alive, including a baby who had spent 35 hours under the ruble.

— Terrorism speculation has swirled after a minibus exploded on the same street the next day, killing three unidentified people.

Read more

3) Animal cruelty banned

Russia has banned petting zoos, animal cafes and the killing of stray dogs and cats.

— The new law, which was submitted eight years ago, dramatically overhauls rules overseeing the treatment of domestic and wild animals.

Read more

4) Meanwhile …

The dacha is dead! Long live the dacha! A new law, which passed in July 2017 and took effect when the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, now categorizes Russians’ summer homes (or dachas) as either “gardening” plots or “vegetable farming” partnerships. It’s the end of an era.

Read more

Editor’s picks

Europe should make a concerted effort to woo Russia the moment Putin is no longer president, writes Leonid Bershidsky.

President Putin has addressed the nation on New Year’s Eve every year for nearly two decades, but this tradition is not as long-standing or as predictable as you might think. Go back in time with Michele Berdy.

Save the date

On Sunday, Russians mark the beginning of Orthodox Christmas.
On Tuesday, the trial against 16 defendants accused of killing Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov in 2016 begins in Ankara.

Have a good weekend!


It’s been an eventful year: Russians re-elected Vladimir Putin (few surprises there) and the country hosted its first ever FIFA World Cup (surprising everyone by proceeding to the knockout stages).

But in 2018 Russia also maneuvered itself into an even tighter corner of international isolation. Its GRU agents have been linked to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, which led to more sanctions, and were caught spying in the Hague. And, once again, Moscow is ending the year at loggerheads with Ukraine.

Despite the erratic newsflow, however, this year for our Moscow newsroom was also about taking a step back to look at the bigger picture.

In 2018, The Moscow Times launched its first news and analysis podcast, From Russia With News, and we toured the country for two special projects: Generation P and Mothers and Daughters. Meanwhile, we also published several special print issues, going deeper into mostly unreported topics (you can find them here).

I thank you, our readers, followers and listeners around the world, for the encouraging messages we receive from you every day.

But we also take your criticism to heart. We might be a small team, but we remain as committed as ever to comprehensive, independent and balanced reporting on, and from, Moscow.

Next year, we’ll be releasing a redesigned site to make it easier for you to navigate our content. We’ll also be launching The Moscow Times’ first ever crowdfunding initiative and hope to be able to count on your support then, too.

For this last newsletter of 2018, we look back at the year in photos, memes, opinion articles and “meanwhile in Russia” stories. We also take a sneak peek at 2019.

On behalf of the entire team,
С новым годом!

Eva Hartog

Happy holidays!


1) End-of-year press conference

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday held his annual press conference, fielding questions on domestic and international affairs from state media and independent journalists.

— The conference lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes, falling well short of the record 4 hours and 40 minutes set a decade ago.

— Putin discussed economic growth, nuclear apocalypse, rap music and foreign policy.

Here are the highlights

2) Mixed sanctions bag

The United States imposed new Russia-related sanctions on Wednesday, expanding a blacklist of individuals allegedly involved in “malign activities” around the world.

— The sanctions targeted four entities and 15 members of Russian military intelligence, including Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — over their alleged role in poisoning Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal.

— Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury announced it would lift sanctions on firms tied to sanctioned billionaire Oleg Deripaska after a deal was struck to sever the Russian oligarch's control over the companies. The move was widely seen as a “Christmas present” for the Rusal aluminum giant.

Read more

3) Syria pullout

Moscow welcomed U.S. President Donald Trump’s announced decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

— Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the move creates prospects for a political settlement of the Syrian war.

— Earlier this week, Russia, Iran and Turkey met to discuss the makeup of a Syrian Constitutional Committee, but called for it to convene next year after failing to reach an agreement.

Read more

4) Media spat

Britain's media regulator Ofcom said Russian broadcaster RT had broken impartiality rules in its coverage, adding that it would “consider imposing a statutory sanction.”

The day after the announcement, Russia’s media regulator said it would investigate British broadcaster BBC over its compliance with Russian law as a response to Ofcom’s decision.

Read more

5) Meanwhile …

All is not well in Russian Christmas Land.

Authorities in the coal-mining Siberian region of Kemerovo this week reportedly attempted to cover up polluted snow with white paint. And in Kemerovo, a Russian version of Santa Claus fell ill halfway through what was meant to be a festive celebration at a kindergarten and then died.

6) Mothers and Daughters

This week, we traveled to Sardayal, a village in the Marii-El republic. A grandmother, mother and daughter talk about the harsh realities of Russian rural life, including teenagers committing suicide and men who seem to be either drunk or absent.

Editor’s picks

It is meant to keep the streets clean and residents from slipping, but not everyone is happy about the street salt scattered on Moscow’s sidewalks. Evan Gershkovich reports.

In a column looking back on 2018 and looking forward to the year ahead, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman writes that Moscow will need to show that it can be a responsible member of the international community if it wants relations to improve.

Nearly five years since MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, Piet Ploeg explains why some of the victims’ families have taken Russia to the European Court of Human Rights.

Save the date

On Friday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to meet his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad Maliki.
On Monday, the Kremlin will host an official ceremony to light its Christmas tree.
On Tuesday, Putin is scheduled to meet with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow.

Have a good weekend and happy holidays!


1) Human rights veteran laid to rest

Politicians, activists and foreign dignitaries attended the funeral of veteran human rights defender Lyudmila Alexeyeva in Moscow on Tuesday.

— Alexeyeva died at the age of 91 on Saturday.

— The ceremony brought together figures from opposite sides of the political spectrum: Opposition leader Alexei Navalny made an appearance, so did President Vladimir Putin.

See more

2) Bomber dispatch

Russia has dispatched two TU-160 bombers to Venezuela in a symbolic show of support for the government there.

— Local media have reported that Moscow is reviewing plans to deploy strategic bombers in Venezuela full-time, despite U.S. criticism.

Read more

3) Person of the year

Time magazine has included Russian journalist Tatiana Felgenhauer on its list of journalists named “Person of the Year.”

— Arkady Babchenko, who earlier this year faked his own death to thwart what he said was a Russian murder plot, also received a mention.

Read more

4) Meanwhile …

A Russian priest in Tver is at the epicenter of an earthly scandal after he flaunted his lavish wardrobe, including a Louis Vuitton handbag and Gucci sandals, on Instagram. The Orthodox Church said it was opening an investigation, and the priest has since apologized.

Read more

Editor’s picks

Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch remembers Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the matriarch of Russia’s human rights movement.

Protests over Russia’s struggling waste management system are getting louder and the government’s solutions are only fueling the anger. Evan Gershkovich reports.

Viktor Sheinis, who helped draft Russia’s Constitution 25 years ago, explains why it is still worth defending today.

Save the date

Saturday in Russia is the official day of remembrance of journalists killed on the job.
On Wednesday, the Primorye region will stage new gubernatorial elections after September’s results were thrown out over allegations of fraud.
On Thursday, Vladimir Putin will host his annual question-and-answer session with journalists in Moscow.

Have a good weekend! (If you’re in Moscow, here’s what’s on. ) 


1) INF breach

A top Russian military official has warned that Moscow will target countries hosting U.S. missiles if Washington pulls out of the INF treaty.

— The United States gave Russia a 60-day ultimatum on Tuesday to come clean about violations of the treaty, which keeps U.S. missiles that could reach Russia out of Europe.

— “If the INF treaty is destroyed, we won’t leave it without a response,” Russia’s General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov said Wednesday.

Read more

2) Sanctions concern

Russians are increasingly worried about Western sanctions and international isolation, according to a new survey published by the Levada Center pollster.

— The number of Russians who said they were “very concerned” or “fairly concerned” with political and economic sanctions has jumped to 43 percent over the past six months, up from 30 percent in April, the poll shows.

Read more

3) Successful Soyuz launch

On Monday, Russia successfully launched a manned Soyuz rocket into space, two months after a failed attempt.

— The Soyuz rocket carried three astronauts from Russia, the U.S. and Canada to the ISS.

Watch the launch here

4) A Saudi friend

The Kremlin has said that Putin’s high-five with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit was “based on an interest in further development of bilateral relations.”

— Late last month, the Kremlin said it had no reason to believe that bin Salman had been involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Read more

5) Meanwhile …

Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky is upset with J.K. Rowling after her film “Fantastic Beasts” reportedly snatched 70 percent of screen time in Russian cinemas last month.

The Russian film industry should be protected from the “global machine that is Hollywood,” he said.

Read more

Editor’s picks

With the INF treaty on the brink of ruin, Leonid Bershidsky asks what needs to happen for Russian and American leaders to realize the value of binding deals again.

Christy Monet looks back on the life of Andrei Bitov, a founder of Russian postmodernism who is considered one of the greatest writers of his generation.

After the leader of Chechnya forced a neighboring republic into an unpopular land swap, Neil Hauer explains what’s behind Ramzan Kadyrov’s territorial expansion, and what could come next.

Save the date

On Saturday, Vladimir Putin is scheduled to speak at United Russia’s annual convention in Moscow.
On Monday, the trial continues against theater director Kirill Serebrennikov.
On Tuesday, the World Anti-Doping Agency will begin a non-compliance audit of Russia’s anti-doping branch.

On Wednesday, the Kremlin will host an event to mark the 25-year-anniversary of the Russian Constitution.

Have a good weekend! (If you’re in Moscow, here’s what’s on)

1) Kerch crisis escalates

Ukraine has banned adult Russian men aged between 16 and 60 from entering the country, as tensions boil over following a flare-up in the Sea of Azov last weekend.

— Ukraine imposed martial law this week, citing fears that Russia was planning a full-scale invasion.

Read more

2) Trump moves

In one of his trademark U-turns, U.S. President Donald Trump has canceled plans to meet Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina.

— In a tweet, Trump said he had based his decision “on the fact that the ships and sailors have not been returned to Ukraine.”

— Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said the Kremlin regrets the decision.

Read more

3) Rap for freedom

Hundreds of supporters Husky attended a concert in Moscow on Monday night to protest a recent crackdown on rappers.

— Husky was sentenced to 12 days behind bars last week but was released early on the day of the concert.

— “Artists are blamed for society’s problems because that is easier than addressing the [actual] problems,” rapper Oxxxymiron, who organized the concert, wrote on Instagram.