Fascist pseudo-anti-fascism advances in Russia

We have been noting, with growing unease, a phenomenon we call the Paradoxical Anti-Fascist Rhetoric of Contemporary Crypto-Fascism—witnessed both in the stateside far right Hitler-baiting Obama, and (more disturbingly) in the increasingly fascistic Vladimir Putin Nazi-baiting the Ukrainians. Now the websites Human Rights in Ukraine and Kyiv Post report on a far-right summit just held at Yalta (yes, in recently annexed Crimea, and the site of an Allied summit in World War II), attended by representatives of such unsavory entities as Hungary's Jobbik party, Belgium's Parti Communautaire National-Européen, and the British National Party—and overseen by Sergei Glazyev, a senior adviser to Putin, and Maxim Shevchenko, a member of Putin's human rights council (sic!). Predictably, this assemblage of neo-fascists discussed forming an "Anti-fascist Council" to oppose the "fascist junta in Kiev." Many of the Russian militants in attendance are said to have been followers of the Eurasia Party of Alexander Dugin—seemingly a key ideologue of Putin's Eurasian Union project.

We are heartened to note that simultaneously, as Sweden's neo-fascist Svenskarnasparti or Party of the Swedes (formerly the more honestly named National Socialist Front, with an agenda of halting immigraiton to preserve the country's "Western genetic and cultural heritage") took to the streets of Stockholm, the 150 or so of them were massively outnumbered by thousands of anti-fascist counter-protesters. There were clashes with police who tried to separate the two groups. (AP, Aug. 30) 

But with much of the European and American "left" stupidly rallying around Putin and buying his line that the Ukrainians are neo-Nazis, we fear that some of the once stalwart antifas may become confused in their analysis. It isn't that there isn't a fascist element emerging in Ukraine. Of course there is. It's that there is also a fascist element emerging in Russia, around the ultra-nationalist and authoritarian cult of Putin. Supporting Putin in the name of "anti-fascism" is despairingly stupid—and all the more so after this Yalta confab.

Meanwhile, Euromaidan Press reports that a Russian Anti-War Committee has been formed to oppose Putin's invasion of Ukraine. The founding statement demands Putin's impeachment and calls on Russians to "Express their strong rejection of this fratricidal war with acts of peaceful civil disobedience." The mothers of soldiers mobilized to Ukraine have formed a Сommittee of Soldiers' Mothers and released a video demanding that Russian officials (who still deny Russian incursions into Ukraine) bring back their children alive.

We have noted the emergence of an anti-war opposition in Russia before—and that being an anti-war protester in Russia requires far more courage than in the West. We again insist: These are the people in Russia that we as progressives in the West should be supporting—not the war criminal Putin.

Israel Shamir attends Yalta pseudo-anti-fascist summit

It is hardly a surprise, but it appears that the vile Israel Shamir attended the Yalta affair, which was officially entitled "Russia, Ukraine, New Russia: Global Problems and Challenges." A very staid and technocratic name, except that the reference to "New Russia" completely betrays their hand. Ukraine-watcher Anton Shekhovtsov has assembled on his blog photos from the confab, in which Shamir is seen. So is the Italian neo-fascist Roberto Fiore. What a rogue's gallery.

Ukrainian fascists fight Russian fascists

Foreign Policy reports that the eastern Ukraine city of Mariupol is being defended by a Kiev-commanded paramilitary force called the Azov Battallion that uses openly Nazi imagery, including the wolfsangel ("wolf trap") symbol that was widely used by Third Reich military divisions (and has since been adopted by neo-Nazi groups including the Aryan Nations). This assuredly sucks, but we should also point out that the closer Ukraine gets to the EU, the more pressure there will be on Kiev to kick thugs like the Azov Battallion overboard. So, once again, the Putin propagandists have everything backwards. In addittion to failing to recognize the fascist element within the Russian and "rebel" ranks.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch reports on the systematic detention and torture of civilians who oppose the rule of the Donetsk and Luhansk "People's Republics" declared by the Russian-backed "rebels." This echoes recent findings of Amnesty International. The silence from the "left" (sic) about this has been deafening, as it echoes Putin propaganda about how the Kiev regime is "Nazi."

This is essentially a reprise of the 1990s Ustashe-v-Chetnik horrorshow in ex-Yugoslavia (itself a replay of the 1940s Ustashe-v-Chetnik horrorshow), where the "left" (sic) was similarly duped into supporting fascists.

Ukrainian 'rebels' use forced labor

Human Rights Watch reported Sept. 5 that insurgent forces in eastern Ukriane "are detaining civilians on allegations of violating public order and then subjecting them to forced labor. Rebels appear to be using public order infractions as a pretext to obtain unpaid labor. In some cases, the members of these 'punishment brigades' are beaten or subjected to other cruel and degrading treatment. In several cases Human Rights Watch documented, civilians were forced to work at checkpoints near front lines, where they were at risk of attacks by Ukrainian government forces."

What, no fascism here!

Russian pot calls Ukrainian kettle black —again

Hopefully we don't have to over-emphasize that the term "fascist junta" is pretty absurd when applied to a government not run by a junta but a parliament and executive that were, for better or worse, elected. True, as The Guardian noted May 25, the rebel-held east of the country did not participate in the election. But need we remind Putin's admirers that the elections that brought his own government to power in 2012 were tainted?

Russian pot calls Ukrainian kettle black —again

Putin now says the Ukrainian army "is not an army, but a foreign legion, in this case a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine." (RT) This as he has thousands of his own literally foreing forces fighting illegally in Ukraine. He must be wetting his pants laughing.

Cult of Putin gets more fascistic

What, no fascism here! From Huffington Post, Oct. 7:

If, for some reason, you have ever wondered what Russian President Vladimir Putin might look like as Hercules, then the art world has finally provided your answer. A new exhibit depicting Russia's demagogue as demigod opened in Moscow on Monday as a one-night-only tribute for Putin's 62nd birthday.

Entitled the "12 Labors Of Vladimir Putin," the exhibit depicts the Russian president in a variety of heroic feats as he triumphs over mythical beasts that range from a Cretan bull (referencing Crimea) to a multi-headed Hydra that seemingly represents western sanctions. While certainly on top of current events, much of the unauthorized art is less than subtle. Indeed, one work paints Putin literally strangling a terrorist with his bare hands.

The show was organized by the head of a Facebook fan group dedicated to Putin, who told the Guardian that the aim of the exhibit was "forming a different image of Putin because the western media constantly criticises [sic] him."

Putin fascism attacks sex deviants

Russia has barred transsexuals, "exhibitionists" and "fetishists" from driving, finding that "'mental disorders" make them more likely to crash. (Daily Mail) What, no fascism here! Just ask The Nation or Counterpunch.

Anti-Semitic attack in Moscow?

From The Forward on Oct. 12:

On the second night of Rosh Hashanah, a group of five or six men disrupted a Jewish concert in the Great Hall of Moscow's International Music House with a tear gas attack. A half-hour into the program, the men, who were seated in the first row, began shouting menacing insults at rock star Andrey Makarevich, the featured performer of the evening, and hurled canisters of pepper gas into the hall, forcing the audience of 400 to evacuate the building teary-eyed and coughing.

To the Russian Jewish Congress, a major national Jewish organization, this was a clear anti-Semitic attack. In a statement after the onslaught, the group condemned the incident as a desecration of the Jewish holiday, which many members of Russia's largely nonreligious Jewish population celebrate through cultural rather than religious observance. The use of gas against Jews was especially hurtful, the RJC said, conjuring up painful memories of the Holocaust.

But state-controlled Russian TV networks presented things otherwise. NTV, for example, described the attack as a legitimate expression of outrage at Makarevich “for his friendship and support of the fascist junta in Ukraine,” where pro-Russian rebels, with Russian military aid, are battling government forces.

Television and the mainstream Russian press coverage have made no mention of the Jewish nature of the occasion (Rosh Hashanah), the concert program ("Yiddish Jazz") or the makeup of the audience. In the media's reading, the incident had nothing to do with anti-Semitism; it was all about Makarevich’s politics.

What, no fascism here! By the way, Andrey Makarevich's Wikipedia page informs us that he has been denounced in the Russian media as a "traitor" and supporter of "fascists" for having the temerity to perform for internally dispalced persons in Svyatogorsk, Ukraine, who had fled the "People's Republics" (sic) of  Donetsk and Luhansk.

The attitude of the Western "left" (sic) in the face of all this continues to be disgraceful. The ever-annoying Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) runs a piece entitled "'Radioactive' Putin Is 'Stalin's Spawn'," providing a tiresome litany of predictable overheated rhetoric from the likes of Fox News demonziing Putin. Talk about an easy target!

I read stuff like this, and I think "cast the beam from thine own eye." The shameless shilling for Putin on the "left" is no less odious than the demonization in the MSM. When FAIR has anything—anything at all—to say about Stephen F. Cohen's serial Putin-shilling in The Nation, I will take them seriously. Not until.

Russo-Ukraine intra-fascist war comes to New York...

The Hyperallergic arts blog on Oct. 3 notes alarmingly that a photo exhibit on Ukraine and Syria entitled Material Evidence, held at 540 West 21st Street ("formerly" home of the Eyebeam Art & Technology Center, although we confusingly aren't told what it is called now) was vandalized by hoodlums who left behind neo-Nazi leaflets. A photo shows that one was emblazoned with the wolfsangel, symbol of the above-referenced Azov Battallion. Now the Ukrainian Policy website runs a piece, "New York’s anti-Ukrainian art gallery, and the far-right Russian network behind it," alleging:

While the curator of the NYC gallery states that the Material Evidence event was “backed by crowdfunding and private fundraising efforts,” RT’s coverage admits that Material Evidence is organized by Zhurnalistskaya Pravda (Journalistic Truth, JT), a Moscow-based newspaper with a heavy anti-Ukrainian slant (a recent article mockingly asks readers how many Kharkiv residents will survive until the spring)...

So, who runs the paper? Its Editor-in-Chief is Vladislav Shurigin, and Deputy Editor is Denis Tukmakov – both of whom work for Russia’s extremist / ultra-nationalist-communist newspaper Zavtra. In the case of Shurigin, he also is a member of the notorious Izborsky Club, a group which advocates forming a "Eurasian Empire." For those unaware, Zavtra and his club are run by Alexander Prokhanov, a notorious anti-Semitic conspiracist who is now a regular at Russian government events.

Alas, the article minimizes the attack, disingenuously stating that the flyers did not contain neo-Nazi imagery (yes, they did). Hoo-boy...

Ukraine rebel chief: Kiev run by 'miserable' Jews

From AFP, Feb. 2:

Ukraine's pro-Russian rebel chief on Monday branded the country's leaders "miserable" Jews in an apparent [sic] anti-Semitic jibe.

Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, claimed that Kiev's pro-Western leaders were "miserable representatives of the great Jewish people".

"I can't remember a time when Cossacks were led by people who have never held a sword in their hands," Zakharchenko told a press conference in the eastern rebel stronghold of Donetsk, in a reference to Ukraine's nationalist forebears, the Cossacks.

Zakharchenko said that the country's historical nationalists "would turn in their graves if they could see who is running Ukraine."

Now which side are the Nazis again? Leave it to the stupid American left to get everything backwards.

US idiot-leftists attend Russo-fascist confab

December 2014 saw an international conference in Moscow on the "Right of Peoples to Self-Determination and Building a Multi-Polar World," organized by one Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia (AGMR). Participants included US "leftists" from the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) and the International Action Center (IAC)—both in the orbit of the Workers World Party—alongside Russian and Italian fascists and white nationalists from the neo-Confederate League of the South. AGMR appears to be in the orbit of Eurasinist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin UNAC notes that attendees included Israel Shamir, "a leading anti-Zionist writer from Israel," with no mention of his abject Jew-hatred.

All this is reported by Three-Way Fight, an anti-fascist blog that has not been taken in by fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Hang in there, comrades.

Ukraine: neo-Nazis fight on both sides

Three Spaniards were arrested upon their return from Ukraine, where they were apparently fighting as part of the pro-Russian Donbass International Brigades. One told El País of his fellow fghters: "Half of them are communists and the other half are Nazis... We fought together, communists and Nazis alike… We all want the same: social justice and the liberation of Russia from the Ukrainian invasion."

Meanwhile, Israel's YNet runs the story of a Jewish volunteer who was killed fighting for the Kiev forces in Ukraine, and whose body was removed from a battlefield under fire by members of the Jewish emergency organization ZAKA. The soldier, Yevgeni Yatsina, was buried by the Ukrainian Jewish community in Kiev's Jewish cemetery.

Now, who are the Nazis again?

The Daily Beast reminds us that there are neo-Nazis on the Keiv side too, reporting that a group from Sweden's Nordisk Ungdom (Nordic Youth) have arrived to fight for the Ukraine government, and is recuiting a brigade on its website.

But isn't it interesting how the "left" only sees the Nazis on one side—and is blind both to the countervailing evidence on that side, and to which side has behaved in fascist manner by invading and partially annexing a weaker neighbor. 

Ukrainian 'rebels' fly Confederate flag

Amid all the controversy now about the rebel flag flying at the South Carolina state house, it has come to our attention that Moscow Times reported a year ago that that flag of the "Novorossiya" confederation that the Russian-backed rebels have declared in eastern Ukraine is actually based on the Confederate flag! The only difference is that it doesn't have stars: "otherwise, it is the same as the Confederate flag, a blue diagonal cross bordered with white on a red background." The "Ukrainian Dixie flag" has been used in recent weeks by Pavel Gubarev's secessionist Novorossiya Party, and serves as the backdrop in his numerous video appeals.

Still rooting for these guys, Idiot Leftists?

Putin push to bring back Romanovs

So the great hero of the "left" (sic!) wants to bring back the czars... The UK's Daily Express reported June 24 that Vladimir Petrov, a lawmaker from Putin's United Russia party, plans to introduce a law (to be implemented by the centenary of the end of czarist rule) that would "give the Royal family members a special status" and "stimulate their return to Russia." Putin is said to have loaned his support to the idea. Yeah, the Express is a right-wing scandal-rag, but this appears to be true. The Moscow Times reported on the proposal that same day, and also mentioned that Petrov has actually written to Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna Romanova in Spain and Prince Dmitry Romanovich Romanov in Denmark, both of whom claim to be the head of the house of Romanov, pitching them on a return to Mother Russia... 

Ukraine gets Jewish prime minister

Amid all the charges of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, and the government being assailed as "Nazi" by Putin's propaganda partisans, it is worth noting that country's new prime minister, just appointed by President Petro Poroshenko, is Vlodymir Groysman—a former mayor of Vinnytsia and a practicing Jew. The appointment makes "Groysman the first openly Jewish person to hold the country’s second highest post and, at 38, the youngest person to have the job," Israel's Haaretz notes happily.

Wonder how Ukraine's Jewish prime minister feels about this?

From JTA, May 31:

Ukraine honors nationalist whose troops killed 50,000 Jews
Amid a divisive debate in Ukraine on state honors for nationalists viewed as responsible for anti-Semitic pogroms, the country for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of Symon Petliura, a 1920s statesman blamed for the murder of 50,000 Jewish compatriots.

The minute was observed on May 25, the 90th anniversary of Petliura's assassination in Paris. National television channels interrupted their programs and broadcast the image of a burning candle for 60 seconds, Ukraine’s Federal News Agency reported.

A French court acquitted Sholom Schwartzbard, a Russia-born Jew, of the murder even though he admitted to it after the court found that Petliura had been involved in or knew of pogroms by members of his militia fighting for Ukrainian independence from Russia in the years 1917-1921. Fifteen of Schwartzbard's relatives perished in the pogroms.

Russian fined for telling historical truth

The Human Rights in Ukraine website reports the maddening news that "37-year-old Vladimir Luzgin has been convicted and fined 200 thousand roubles for reposting on his social network page a text which correctly states that the Soviet Union, in collaboration with the Nazis, invaded Poland in 1939." A court in Perm found Luzgin guilty of posting "knowingly false information." Perversely, he was convicted under a law passed in May 2014 against "rehabilitation of Nazism." Alas, Luzgin may be partisan of wartime Ukrainian nationalst Stepan Bandera. His offending text: "The communists and Germany jointly invaded Poland, sparking off the Second World War. That is, communism and Nazism closely collaborated, yet for some reason they blame Bandera who was in a German concentration camp for declaring Ukrainian independence."

Timothy Snyder on consolidating Russo-fascism

Timothy Snyder has a bracing op-ed in the NY Times Sept. 20 on how Ivan Ilyin, a "prophet of Russian fascism," is being embraced as the ideological patriarch of Putin's Russia...

The brilliant political philosopher has been dead for more than 60 years, but his ideas have found new life in post-Soviet Russia. After 1991, his books were republished with long print runs. President Putin began to cite him in his annual speech to the Federal Assembly, the Russian equivalent of the State of the Union address.

To complete the rehabilitation, Mr. Putin saw to it that Ilyin's corpse was repatriated from Switzerland, and that his archive was returned from Michigan. The Russian president has been seen laying flowers on Ilyin's Moscow grave...

According to Ilyin, the purpose of politics is to overcome individuality, and establish a "living totality" of the nation. Writing in the 1920s and '30s after his expulsion from the Soviet Union, when he became a leading emigré ideologue of the anti-Communist White Russians, Ilyin looked on Mussolini and Hitler as exemplary leaders who were saving Europe by dissolving democracy. His 1927 article "On Russian Fascism" was addressed to "My White brothers, the fascists." Later, in the 1940s and '50s, he provided the outlines for a constitution of a fascist Holy Russia governed by a "national dictator" who would be "inspired by the spirit of totality."

This leader would be responsible for all functions of government in a completely centralized state. Elections would be held, with open voting and signed ballots, purely as a ritual of support of the leader. The reckoning of votes was irrelevant: "We must reject blind faith in the number of votes and its political significance."

And Putin certainly seems to be putting these ideas into practice. As Russia holds national elections for 450 seats in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, claims of election fraud are rife... raising prospects of a reprise of the protests similar to those in 2011, following the last Duma election. (Jurist, Sept. 18) We can only hope.

Russian bill to decriminalize domestic violence

Pending Russian legislation may weaken the country's protections against domestic violence, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Jan. 23. HRW is urging the Russian parliament to reject the legislation for the threat it posses to human rights obligations. The legislation will decriminalize the first offense in a matter of family violence so long as there is no serious harm that would require the hospitalization of the victim. Such offenses will be classified as "administrative offenses," which may result in fines against the offender, but the law eliminates the potentiality of a prison sentence. The law will undergo a second reading in parliament this Wednesday.

Domestic violence has recently become a point of contention in Russian politics. In July, parliament adopted legislation that criminalized violence against family members. Citing concerns over the impact this legislation has on "traditional family values," some Russian politicians introduced a bill to reverse the July legislation. Statistics show that 40% of all violent crimes in Russia are occurrences of domestic violence.

In March the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a UN mandate created to implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, called on Russia to amend, reduce and revise a list of restricted or prohibited occupations and sectors for women established by law, and to give women access to and appropriate compensation for jobs for which they are qualified. (Jurist, Jan. 23)

Russia decriminalizes domestic violence

Russia's parliament voted 380-3 to decriminalize domestic violence in cases where it does not cause "substantial bodily harm" and does not occur more than once a year. The move eliminates criminal liability in such cases, making a violation punishable by a fine of roughly $500, or a 15-day arrest, provided there is no repeat within 12 months. The bill now goes to the rubber-stamp upper chamber, where no opposition is expected. It then must be signed by President Vladimir Putin, who has signaled his support. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists that family conflicts do "not necessarily constitute domestic violence." (USA Today, Jan. 27)

Top Russian lawmaker baits Jews as anti-God

From JTA, Jan. 25:

The deputy speaker of the Russian parliament intimated that Jews are using their positions in the media and government to continue the work of ancestors who "pulled down our churches."

Peter Tolstoy at a news conference Tuesday on plans to move a cathedral in St. Petersburg appeared to blame Jews for anti-religious persecution under communism. He referred to the descendants of people who on 1917 "jumped out of the Pale of Settlement" in the churches statement.

The Pale of Settlement was an area of western Imperial Russia beyond which most Jews were not allowed to settle. This changed after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, in which Russia became a communist country until 1991.

The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, one of the largest Jewish groups in the country, deemed Tolstoy’s statements anti-Semitic.

"Such statements usually come from irresponsible instigators of anti-Semitic campaigns," Alexander Boroda, a Chabad rabbi and president of the federation, told Interfax Tuesday. "When we hear this from the mouth of the State Duma vice speaker at an official press conference, this is a direct undermining of interethnic coexistence in the country, and it stirs up tension."

No, ya think?

Death of the Russian far right?

That is what is proclaimed in an Al Jazeera piece, noting that the annual Nov. 4 march by the ultra-nationalist right in Moscow is today bringing out mere hundreds rather than the thousands that were routine a decade ago, and that many of the organizers are now in exile or jail. But the article acknowledges that Putin has merely co-opted much of this sentiment though a strategy of "controlled nationalism." 

We'd argue that the persecution of these extremoids by the Putin regime is just a struggle within the Russian far right, and that the far right is actually in power. And the march has diminished because the extremoids are no longer pissed at the government—they know their guy is in charge. 

Blood libel makes comeback in Russia

A rather misleading an understated headline from the JTA  states: "Russian bishop claims last tsar murdered by Jews for ritual purposes." But if you actually read the story, it isn't just some clerical rando making the claim, but "Marina Molodtsova, a senior investigator for a special ministerial committee on the 1917 slaying of Nicholas II." She was speaking at the same Moscow conference where the bishop, Father Tikhon Shevkunov, said that, according to “the most rigorous approach to the version of ritual murder, a significant part of the church commission [on Nicholas II’s killing] has no doubt that this murder was ritual." Molodtsova followed up that she will conduct “a psycho-historical examination” of the ritual murder theory.

Sent to labor camp for dissing Putin regime

A court in St Petersburg has sentenced a man to two years in a penal colony for insulting high-ranking Russian officials on social media. Vladimir Timoshenko, 43, was found guilty of writing a post on the popular Russian social network Vkontakte that "contained text of humiliating and insulting nature towards high-placed officials," the court said in a statement. In the post, which has since been removed from Vkontakte, Timoshenko called on Russians to rise up against an "unpopular regime." (The Guardian)

Duma chief OKs sexual harassment

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Russian State Duma, has recommended that female reporters change jobs if they feel threatened by men in the Russian parliament.

Volodin's comments came less than 24 hours after BBC Russia Service journalist Farida Rustamova became the fifth female journalist to accuse Duma deputy Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment. Although Slutsky has denied the accusations, the BBC says it is in  possession of audio recorded by Rustamova during the March 2017 incident in the deputy’s office. "Is it dangerous for you to work in the Duma? If yes, change your job," Volodin said in congratulatory remarks on International Women’s Day to female pool reporters, as reported by the opposition-leaning Dozhd TV news channel.  (Reuters via Moscow Times, March 7)

Dugin calls for 'Red-Brown alliance'

From a Salon profile of Alexander Dugin, "Putin's Rasputin"...

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dugin is eager to form a political alliance with leftists, with whom he shares a common foe—liberalism and American or Western imperialism—and has called for "conscious cooperation of the radical Left-wingers and the New Right." In order to do this, Dugin insists that both sides in this marriage of convenience must "put aside anti-Communist, as well as anti-fascist, prejudices," which are "the instruments in the hands of liberals and globalists with which they keep their enemies divided." In other words, to use parlance that will be familiar to some activists, Dugin wants a “Red-Brown alliance” against liberalism.

1,000 detained at protests across Russia

A Russian rights group on Sept. 10 reported that more than 1,000 people were detained at anti-government protests across the nation. The OVD-Info group, which tracks police detentions, said that 1,018 people were detained during multiple Sunday demonstrations against Russian pension reform that plans to increase the ages at which citizens can collect their state pension. (Jurist)

So, as usual, the cynical play to both Czar-nostalgia and Stalin-nostalgia, while instating a thoroughly neoliberal economic program. Glad some Russians aren't going for it.

Pussy Riot activist poisoned in prison: report

From Pitchfork:

Over the weekend, two members of the Pussy Riot collective who stormed the field at this year's World Cup—Veronika Nikulshina and Peter Verzilov—were arrested in Moscow during a day of widespread protests in Russia. It's now been revealed in the Russian publication Meduza that Verzilov was hospitalized yesterday and was in serious condition following a possible poisoning.

Nikulshina said that after a court session, Verzilov began to lose his sight, speech, motor skills, and memory. Verzilov was reportedly taken to a toxicological department, and doctors would not tell Nikulshina whether or not Verzilov was poisoned. "The doctor only said that his condition was serious, but his behavior was improving and he’d started responding to his own name," Nikulshina said.

Solidarity with Pussy Riot. Nice to know that punk is still dangerous, somewhere...

Pussy Riot activist jailed for public swearing

A Moscow court ordered Pyotr Verzilov, an anti-Kremlin activist and associate of the Pussy Riot punk group, jailed for 15 days on June 22 after finding him guilty of petty hooliganism for swearing in public. He was arrested the day before, ostensibly in connection with instigating riots last summer over corruption in Moscow's city elections. (ArtNet, PRI)

imprisoned for posting irreverent memes in Russia?

Maria Motuznaya, 23, from the city of Barnaul in Siberia, is facing six years in prison on "inciting hatred" charges for sharing satorical memes on VKontakte, Russia's largest social media network. One of the offending memes shows women dressed as nuns smoking cigarettes and urging each other to be quick "while God isn't looking." She's already been placed on an "extremist" watch list. Over 400 were brought up on charges related to Internet posts in Russia last year. (BBC News)

Putin sends Orwellian meter into full tilt —again

From Channel NewsAsia, Dec. 11:

Kremlin critics accused President Vladimir Putin of hypocrisy for attending the wake on Tuesday of a veteran Soviet and Russian dissident who was a staunch critic of his administration.

Putin has been accused by rights groups of muzzling the media, jailing his opponents and clamping down on civil society over the 19 years in which he has dominated Russia's political landscape and enjoyed consistently high popularity ratings.

The president joined hundreds of others who paid their respects at the open-cask ceremony for Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the founder of Russia's oldest human rights group who died on Saturday aged 91.

But while Putin attended, a notable absentee was Alexeyeva's fellow human rights veteran Lev Ponomaryov, jailed last week for calling in a Facebook post for rallies in support of activists at two political groups that authorities have labelled extremist.

"Instead of Lev Ponomaryov, Vladimir Putin will bid farewell to Alexeyeva. This is what it means to spit on someone's grave," journalist and long-standing Kremlin critic Viktor Shenderovich wrote on Facebook.

Lavrov insinuates full annexation of Ukraine

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow will not recognize the Donbas "republics" because to do so would be "to lose all the rest of Ukraine and leave it to the Nazis"—a clear indication that the Kremlin ultimately seeks to control all of Ukraine and not just part of it. (EuroMaidan Press)

This is what we mean by fascist pseudo-anti-fascism... treating Ukraine the way Hitler did Austria and Sudetenland because the Ukrainians are "Nazis."

Putin wants traditional marriage and God in constitution

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants marriage to be defined as the union of a man and woman in a revised constitution, ruling out gay marriage. It is among several constitutional amendments proposed by Putin, which are set to be put to a public vote. The package includes a proclamation of Russians' faith in God and a ban on giving away any Russian territory—an obvious reference to Crimea. Critics see the proposals as a move by Mr Putin to keep a hold on power after his presidential term ends in 2024. (BBC News)

Russia parliament approves constitutional changes

Both houses of the Russian parliament on March 11 approved a constitutional change that would allow President Vladimir Putin to run for reelection again.

The current Russian constitution requires the president to step down after serving two consecutive terms. Putin is currently serving his second consecutive term and would have to leave office when his term ends in 2024. He had proposed some constitutional changes in January, but nothing that directly addressed term limits. However, in an address to parliament March 10 he supported the change, referring to the office of the presidency as vital to the "security" and "internal stability" of the state.

The amendment, which would reset the term-limit clock to zero, was introduced by Valentina Tereshkova, a politician who, in 1963, was the first woman in space. She cited the president's "enormous authority" as a "stabilizing factor for [Russian] society."

The amendment passed the Duma, the lower house, by 383 votes in its third and final reading, with 43 abstentions and 24 absents, and no votes against. Several hours later the Federation Council, which is the upper house of the Russian parliament, passed the amendment by 160 votes, with one against and three abstentions. The amendment must now be approved by two-thirds of regional parliaments, then a final public vote on April 22. (Jurist)

Russia constitutional court approves constitutional changes

The Russian Constitutional Court released a 52-page decision March 16 approving amendments to the constitution, including an amendment that would allow Vladimir Putin to serve up to two additional terms as president.

Just hours before the court issued its decision, a group of 350 legal experts, journalists and writers published an open letter decrying the proposed changes as "an anti-constitutional coup" that "threatens...national discord." The court's decision itself was no surprise except in its speed, having come down only two days after Mr. Putin submitted his request; the court is widely seen as under the Kremlin's control.

The next step is a national referendum on the changes, scheduled for April 22. (Jurist)

Russo-fascists make US 'terrorist' list

For the first time the US government has designated a white supremacist group as a "terrorist" organization: the "Russian Imperial Movement," which apparently has paramilitary training camps near St. Petersburg, and is linked to bomb attacks in Sweden. (Jurist, NYT) So not only do the stateside allies of this "Russian Imperial Movement" get a pass, but all the pseudo-left idiots will dismiss this as "Russophobia".... thereby joining the stateside allies of this "Russian Imperial Movement"....

And right on cue, Max Blumenthal tweets: "The Russian Imperial Movement has reportedly clashed with the Azov Battalion, a powerful neo-Nazi militia. The group the US designated as terrorists is practically unknown. Azov, meanwhile, is sponsored by the Ukrainian govt & has been armed by the US." Yeah Max, emphasis on the "has been"; Congress passed a provision in 2018 barring any US aid to the Azov Battalion, and it is unclear if they ever actually received any such aid. While the "practically unknown" RIM is evidently well ensconced among the Donbass separatists...

Putin prevails in president-for-life scheme

In results that will surprise nobody, Russians voted overwhelmingly to approve constitutional  changes allowing Putin to remain in power until 2036, wth the right to run for two more six-year terms when his current one ends in 2024. Of Russia's 85 regions, only one rejected the amendments: the remote and sparsely populated Nenets Autonomous District.

Russians were lured to the polls with prizes, and the package of amendments included measures deisgned to appeal to populist and reactionary sentiment: wage boosts, as well as a ban on gay marriage, a ban on high officials holding dual citizenship, and constitutional language about "faith in god." The poll packaged all amendments into one vote, for-or-against.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny called the referendum a "coup" and a "shameful farce." Navalny claimed the results "have nothing in common with the opinion of Russia’s citizens." (Al Jazeera, Reuters, Jurist)

Russian editor dies after self-immolating

A Russian news editor died after setting herself on fire in front of an Interior Ministry office in the city of Nizhniy Novgorod Oct. 2. Irina Slavina earlier wrote on Facebook: "I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death." She said that days earlier police had searched her flat looking for materials related to the pro-democracy group Open Russia. Computers and data were seized. (BBC News)

Russia takes action against Google over banned search results

Russia's media censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, has opened a case against Google for failing to remove banned content from its search results. According to the agency, Google has failed to remove up to 30% of prohibited content from its searches. Russian law requires Google and other search engine operators to remove "dangerous content" from their results using Roskomnadzor’s registry. Google has reportedly been complying on a case-by-case basis. (Jurist)

Putin signs measure giving Russian law precedence over treaties

President Vladimir Putin signed a new law giving Russian national legislation precedence over international treaties and rulings from international bodies. The bill was initially passed in the lower house, the State Duma, in late October, and subsequently by the upper house Federation Council.

The law is one among many constitutional reforms approved by the Russian public between June 25 and July 1. The amendments were controversially bundled into a single yes-or-no vote. Some of the major amendments included a ban on same-sex marriage, and enforcing "patriotic education" in public school curricula.

Human Rights Watch has stated that this reform for primacy in the Russian legal framework will further isolate Russia. In 2015, the Russian Constitutional Court ruled that any judgment made by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will be null and void if it contradicts Russian law. The rationale behind the decision was to prevent "skillful western rival manipulators and international legal mechanisms" from eroding Russian values. Critics have argued that this law has been brought after attempts by the Russian government to criminalise LGBT pride events were blocked by the ECHR.

Russia has been party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties since acceding as the Soviet Union in 1986. The Vienna Convention is described by legal scholars as a "treaty on treaties," and it bars governments from enacting domestic legislation as a way to circumvent international obligations. The Russian government has reassured that it will continue to uphold any ongoing international obligations, even though this new law purports that international treaties are only valid in Russia if they align with the Russian Constitution. (Jurist)

Russia's pseudo-anti-Nazi resolution: don't fall for it

Amid all this, Russia has again sponsored a UN resolution condemning the "glorification of Nazism." RT is crowing about how it passed the General Assembly despite several abstentions and "No" votes by the US and Ukraine. The RT account cynically singles out Germany's abstention as ominous, when in fact the European Union abstained as a bloc.

This is very crafty propaganda for Putin, aimed at cementing the perception of Ukraine as an inheritor state to the Nazi legacy and thereby (ironically) justifying Russian aggession against it. Arguably, Kiev played into Moscow's hands by voting "No." But it is worth looking at Kiev's official statement explaining its vote. It complains that the resolution makes no reference to Soviet totalitarianism, genocide, and pact with the Nazis—history that Putin's Russia is today actively attempting to suppress or sanitize: "Today's Russia in every possible way tries to justify the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which untied the hands of the Nazi and communist regimes to implement their aggressive plans... In addition, Russia continues to stubbornly deny recognizing the Holodomor famine of 1932-1933 as an act of genocide of the Ukrainian people, as well as the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people of 1944 and other peoples."

The US statement explaining its "No" vote rather weakly invokes "freedom of speech" but more astutely says that the resolution is "a document most notable for its thinly veiled attempts to legitimize longstanding Russian disinformation narratives denigrating neighboring nations under the cynical guise of halting Nazi glorification." (One senses this was written by "deep state" elements of the State Department acting without Trump or even Pompeo involvement.)

This has become something of a yearly ritual. The first time Putin introduced the resolution, in 2014 (in the immediate aftermath of his seizure of Crimea), Lithuania's foreign minister said  it was "insulting" that a country "that is conducting aggression against neighboring states, in a brutal way" could put forward such a resolution. As Politico noted, it was also immediately after Putin had defended the Soviet Union’s partition of Poland with Nazi Germany in 1939 under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. "Serious research has shown that such methods were part of foreign policy at that time," he said. "The Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Germany… What is wrong here if the Soviet Union did not wish to fight? What is wrong with this?"

It also came immediately after Russia passed a law criminalizing "distortion of the Soviet Union's role" in World War II—which seems to mean dissenting from the official "distortiion" that would justify the Hitler-Stalin Pact, or excize it from historical memory.

This is a textbook case of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Please don't fall for it.

Putin signs laws expanding immunity for ex-presidents

Vladimir Putin signed a law Dec. 22 that will grant presidents expanded immunity from prosecution after leaving office.

Currently, Article 91 of the Russian Constitution provides immunity to a president only while they are in office. The new law will provide broad immunity after they step down, immunizing them not just from criminal charges but also detention, arrest, search or interrogation. They would be immune in their person as well as their personal effects, correspondence, residence and offices.

The bill provides that the Federal Assembly may only strip a former president of immunity on the basis of an accusation of high treason or other serious crime, and it would require a two-thirds vote of both chambers. The vote to deprive a former president of immunity must be brought within three months of being accused.

Putin signed another law that day that changes the manner of formation of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Federal Assembly. It is currently composed of two representatives from each "federal subject" (republics, oblasts, krais, etc.). The new law will allow a president to appoint 30 additional representatives, as well as to personally join the council after leaving office.

These changes follow a July referendum that altered the constitution to allow Putin to run for two additional terms of office. His current term ends in 2024. (Jurist)

Russia adds rights activists to 'foreign agents' list

The Russian Ministry of Justice on Dec. 28 added veteran rights activist Lev Ponomaryov and four other individuals to its list of media "foreign agents." This is the first time that individuals have been added to the list of "foreign agents," as the legislation has previously been used primarily against media outlets.

The "foreign agent" law requires foreign entities such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to label themselves as foreign agents when entering, communicating or interacting with citizens of the country. The law was amended in 2019 to include those who communicate with foreign media outlets. (Jurist)

Russia passes laws to restrict US social media influence

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed multiple laws to restrict the influence of US social media companies, like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The first law signed allows Russia to block internet sites found to discriminate against Russian media, while the second imposes a substantial fine for social media companies that fail to remove content banned by Russia. The third law prohibits leaking of information on Russian security officers, and the fourth imposes a two-year prison sentence for online slander. The final law allows for Russia to name individuals as "foreign agents" and imprison them for five years if they fail to properly report their activities. The country has since added human rights activists and journalists to its foreign agent list. (Jurist)

Russia initiates criminal case against Alexei Navalny

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation announced that it has initiated a criminal investigation against Alexei Navalny, a prominent leader of the opposition. According to prosecutors, Navalny, as head of various non-profit organizations used donations to fund personal expenses. (Jurist)

Russia adds women’s rights NGO to 'foreign agent' list

The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation added prominent women's rights organization supporting domestic violence victims, Nasiliu.net (No to Violence), to its "foreign agent" list under a controversial law aimed at restricting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from operating freely. The "foreign agent" status subjects NGOs, the press, and individuals to higher levels of bureaucratic scrutiny, and requires NGOs to report the status in their published materials, along with all funding and expenses from other countries.

Nasiliu.net director Anna Rivina wrote that the organization is "very angry," adding that it plans to "do more in 2021...more loudly, transparently and boldly." (Jurist)

Russian intel support of US far right: more documentation

Far predating the Trump era, American white nationalists began to view Russia as a natural ally. In 2016, prominent extremist Richard Spencer even called Russia “the sole white power in the world.” In 2004, David Duke, longtime patriarch of the American racist right, characterized Russia as the “key to white survival.”

Rinaldo Nazzaro, a former Pentagon contractor who was the head of a violent neo-Nazi organization called “The Base,” now lives in Russia. He is currently calling for “re-establishing secretive paramilitary training across the US,” in an effort to cultivate potential terror cells. Even Nazzaro’s own allies in the US were suspicious about who was supporting him and “joked he was part of the FSB… suspecting he had orders to meddle with the American political landscape through the terror group,” writes Vice. (Axios, Just Security)

Matthew Heimbach, one of the foremost white nationalists in the United States, has long been trying to construct links with Russian nationalists. At the 2015 launch of his Traditionalist Worker Party (TWP), Heimbach hosted Alexander Dugin, Russia’s neo-fascist polemicist—although Dugin, due to the United States’ sanctions regime, could only appear via video. Last year, Heimbach announced his intentions to travel to Russia’s World National Conservative Movement conference, but his travel plans eventually fell through. In 2017, however, it appears Heimbach finally had his tete-a-tete with a member of one of Russia’s more notable ultra-nationalist movements. Heimbach revealed that he had spent time earlier this month in both Washington DC and Gettysburg, Pa., with a representative from the Russian Imperial Movement. The meeting appears to be the first summit on American soil between one of the leaders of the white nationalist movement in the United States and an official representative from a Russian nationalist organization. (ThinkProgress)

Russia: thousands arrested in mass protests

Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in protest on Jan. 23 to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, braving the threat of mass arrests in what were some of the largest demonstrations against the Kremlin in years.

From the port city of Vladivostok in the east to the capital of Moscow seven time zones away in the west, protesters swept across the country in open defiance of warnings from Russian authorities that the demonstrations have been deemed illegal.

Mass demonstrations had been widely expected in the aftermath of Navalny's arrest on Jan. 17 upon returning to Russia from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a near-fatal poisoning. German doctors said that Navalny was poisoned with a variant of the Soviet-era nerve agent known as Novichok. (NPR)

The Navalny-Putin feud is, alas, just a falling-out within the Russo-nationalist right. But this does point to widespread discontent and cracks in Vladimir's authoritarian order. The current demonstrations recall last summer's protests in Khabarovsk krai over the arrest of a dissident governor.

Mass protests continue across Russia

Chanting slogans against President Vladimir Putin—including "Down with the czar!"—tens of thousands took to the streets across Russia Jan. 31 to demand the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, keeping up nationwide protests that have rattled the Kremlin. More than 4,700 people were detained by police, with many beaten. (AP)

Russia expels European diplomats over Navalny protests

Russia will expel diplomats from Sweden, Poland and Germany over their alleged participation in recent "unauthorized" rallies in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the Foreign Ministry said Feb. 5. The expulsions come amid European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell's visit to Moscow, where he lamented to his counterpart Sergei Lavrov that ties between Europe and Russia had fallen to new lows over Navalny's poisoning and imprisonment. (Moscow Times)

Russia convicts activist on 'undesirable organizations' law

A Russian court convicted political activist Anastasia Shevchenko on Feb. 18, finding that she had violated the country’s “undesirable organizations” law through her involvement with a pro-democracy group. Shevchenko was given a four-year suspended sentence. Prosecutors sought five years in prison.

Officials first brought the case in January 2019, when the government contended Shevchenko violated Article 284.1 of the Russia Criminal Code, which is also recognized as the "undesirable organizations" law. The statute enables the Prosecutor General's Office to ban international organizations deemed "undesirable" to Russia's security and national interests. Further, Russian citizens who participate in the activities of such groups may be found criminally liable.

Open Russia Civic Movement (ORCM) is an organization aimed at promoting democracy and the rule of law in Russia. The government found in 2017 that the group meets the criteria under the "undesirable organizations" law. Shevchenko was found to be involved with ORCM, including standing with an anti-Putin banner at a protest, causing the court to find her in violation of the law.

Before the hearing, Shevchenko spoke out against the law, expressing that she "strongly oppose[s] the article on undesirable [organizations], because… the Prosecutor's Office cannot illegally prosecute Russian citizens without any grounds." She further emphasized her support for human rights and governance without political repression.

Human rights activists assert that the case was a violation of Shevchenko's right to freely associate and express her point of view. (Jurist)

Russia increases protest fines

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation that increases fines for violations committed during political demonstrations. Protesters who disobey the new laws could be fined up to 4,000 rubles, an increase from the previous 1,000 rubles fine. Repeat offenders could pay up to 20,000 rubles for such conduct. (Jurist)

Moscow police raid opposition forum

Russian police on March 13 broke up an opposition conference and detained 200 attendees sand leaders. The weekend forum on upcoming elections had just opened at a Moscow hotel when police burst in. Authorities said coronavirus rules were being broken, and the event was being held by an "undesirable organization."

The "undesirable organization" was named as Open Russia. Accused by the authorities of breaking a Russian law which prohibits foreign groups from participating in politics, Open Russia was established in the UK by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch turned opponent of President Vladimir Putin. Khodorkovsky spent 10 years in prison on charges his lawyers dismissed as fabricated before being pardoned by Putin and going into exile. (BBC News)

Putin signs law allowing him to retain presidency until 2036

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law April 5 allowing him to run for an additional two terms, meaning that Putin could retain control of the Russian presidency until 2036.

Putin first served as President of the Russian Federation from 2000 until 2008, then stepped down to serve as Prime Minister from 2008 until 2012, at which time he regained the presidency. Putin's current term is set to expire in 2024, and the newest amendment to the Russian Constitution would allow Putin to run for two additional six-year terms. (Jurist)

Ukrainian president to attend opening of Babi Yar synagogue

Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s first Jewish president, is set to attend a formal ceremony opening a synagogue at Babi Yar, the site of the massacre of over 33,000 Jews over a two-day period in September 1941. (Haaretz)

But Putin's propagandists would have us believe the "Nazis" took over in Ukraine in 2014. Utterly post-truth.

Russia designates independent news site as 'foreign agent'

Russia designated the independent online news site VTimes a "foreign agent" on May 14, placing the media company under increased scrutiny by the Kremlin as part of a wider crack-down on independent media critical of the Russian government.

VTimes is the second media outlet to be added to the list in less than a month. They join the Meduza Project, another popular independent news site, as this year’s additions. There are now 20 parties on the list of "foreign agents" including Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, and five Russian citizens.

The list also includes the Dutch company which administered the domain name to VTimes despite the company not being registered as a media outlet.

Groups on the list have to report their activities and finances, and face increased fines for auditing violations. Under Russian law, any media group receiving funding from a foreign entity can be designated a "foreign agent"; the legislation was modified in 2020 to allow the inclusion of individual journalists. 

Meduza says the designation has crippled their ability to do independent journalism and destroyed their business model; advertisers allegedly scattered once the designation was placed. The designation risks cratering the site’s advertising budget as the label is seen as a signal of the Kremlin's ire. Meduza plans to fight the label in court and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to recoup some of the advertising losses.

VTimes was created by an exodus of journalists from the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti after accusing the newly appointed editor of introducing pro-Kremlin censorship. Vedomosti is, nonetheless, widely believed to be one of the few high-profile publications not under direct control of authorities or businessmen associated with the Kremlin. (Jurist)

Russia human rights organization liquidates

Russian human rights organization Team 29 (Komada 29) announced July 18 it is liquidating. The move comes amidst fears about the country's "foreign agents" law.

Russian authorities have recently taken a number of actions targeting Team 29. On July 16, the organization's website was blocked after the Prosecutor-General's office found Team 29 has connections to the Společnost Svobody Informace (Freedom of Information Society). This is a non-governmental organization based in the Czech Republic which is listed as an "undesirable organization" under Russia's foreign agents law.

Team 29 called the authorities' conclusions "arbitrary and far-fetched." (Jurist)

Ukraine approves bill punishing acts of anti-Semitism

Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passed a bill defining anti-Semitism and establishing a punishment for transgressions. The law prohibits, among other things, the "denial of the right to self-identification"; "justifying the killing or harm of person of Jewish origin"; making "false, stereotypical, hateful and offensive statements about people of Jewish origin"; and the "denial of the persecution and mass extermination of Jews during World War II." The bill now moves to President Vladimir Zelenskiy, who has Jewish parents, to be signed into law. (Jurist)

Russia investigates Netflix for violating anti-LGBTQ law

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs is investigating a complaint by Olga Baranets, the Commissioner for the Protection of the Family against the depiction of LGBTQI themes on television series streamed by Netflix under the 16+ label.

Currently, Russian law treats LGBTQI themes as "deviant content" and mandates that they are broadcast with a +18 rating. Article 6.2.1 of the controversial Anti-Propaganda Law of 2013 prohibits "promoting non-traditional sexual relations to minors." (Jurist)

Russian human rights organization under threat

Russian prosecutors are trying to shut down Memorial International, the country's most prominent human rights organization. Memorial opened its first branches in 1989; today there are dozens across the country. A pillar of Russian civil society, the organization archives Soviet-era crimes as well as campaigning for human rights. Now, the organization is under threat.

Two court hearings this week may decide Memorial's fate. Moscow's City Court will consider allegations that Memorial’s Human Rights center "justifies terrorist activities" because it included members of imprisoned religious groups on its list of political prisoners. Russia's Supreme Court will take up charges that Memorial International, which houses the group's archive, violated a draconian "foreign agent" law. (PRI, NYT)

Memorial has faced state persecution under Putin for years.

Imprisoned Pussy Riot activists begin hunger strike

Radio Free Europe reports Dec. 25: 

Two jailed members of the Pussy Riot protest group in Russia have begun a hunger strike at the prison near Moscow where they are currently serving sentences for online posts they made several years ago, Russian media said.

Maria Alyokhina and Lyusya Shtein are demanding that they be placed in one cell and allowed to communicate with each other, the activists’ lawyer was quoted as saying on December 25.

The Tver district court in Moscow sentenced the two activists on December 17 -- Alyokhina to 15 days in jail and Shtein to 14 days -- after finding them guilty of propagating Nazi symbols online. The two women had been detained a day earlier.

The charge against Alyokhina stemmed from a picture she posted on a social network six years ago of Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka with Nazi swastikas on it, comparing him with "fascists."

Shtein, who is also a Moscow municipal lawmaker, was sentenced over a caricature showing her in a hat with swastika on it that was posted on a social network in 2018.

Prosecuting them for use of Nazi iconography is transparently cynical, when they were using such iconography to mock authorities that really are increasingly fascistic. 

And as for the inevitable complaints about the source... You don't like Radio Free Europe? The fact that they are the only ones covering this is precisely the problem. Where is your precious Amy Goodman? Where is The Nation? Mother Jones? The Progressive?

Russia: Gulag historian gets prison

A Russian court has increased the prison sentence of Gulag historian Yury Dmitriyev to a total of 15 years on charges his supporters say are retaliation for his work exposing Stalin-era crimes. Dmitriyev is also the local head of Memorial, the country's most prominent rights group, which may be shut down by the courts this week.

Last year, a court sentenced Dmitriyev to 13 years on a controversial child sexual abuse charge. This month, prosecutors requested that the sentence be extended by two years. On On Dec. 27, a court in the city of Petrozavodsk granted that request.

Dmitriyev was initially arrested in 2016 and charged with possessing child sexual abuse images over several nude photos of his adopted daughter that he said he took to monitor her growth. A court acquitted him in 2018. But on a surprising turn-around, the verdict was overturned by a higher court and Dmitriyev was put back on trial. (The Guardian)

Russia imposes fines on Google and Meta

Russia imposed heavy fines on Google and Meta for their failure to take down illegal content. A law passed earlier this year obligates social media entities to remove content deemed illegal under Russian law. Meta was fined 2 billion rubles and Google was fined 7.2 billion rubles. This is the first time a Russian court has imposed a revenue-based fine under the new amendments to the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses. (Jurist)

Russian supreme court orders liquidation of Memorial

The Russian Supreme Court ordered the liquidation of Memorial International, one of Russia's oldest and most respected human rights organizations, which was established in the late 1980s to document crimes committed by the Soviet regime, including the victims of dictator Josef Stalin's political purges, as well as World War II-era atrocities.

The order to liquidate Memorial International was handed down by Judge Alla Nazarova. The court cited Memorial International’s systematic violations of the law on "foreign agents" as the reason for liquidation.

The controversial "foreign agent" law was first introduced in Russia in 2012, but has since been modified. In its present form, the law requires nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who receive foreign donations and engage in political activity to formally register and identify themselves as "foreign agents," a term that in Russian bears Cold War-era connotations of espionage. The law has previously been used by the Russian state to pressure NGOs to disband. (Jurist)

Russian court deals another blow to Memorial rights group

A court in Moscow ordered the closure of the Memorial Human Rights Center on Dec. 29, in the latest blow to Russian civil society groups. The center was charged with multiple violations of Russia's "foreign agent" law and "justifying terrorism and extremism" in its publications. The decision comes a day after Russia's Supreme Court ordered the closure of its sibling group Memorial International. (CNN)

Kremlin critic Navalny gets eight years

Kremlin critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was handed an eight-year prison sentence after being found guilty of fraud on March 22. Prosecutors accused him of embezzling millions of roubles in donations to his anti-corruption organizations and of "contempt of court" during one of his previous hearings. Navalny is already serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence for a previous fraud conviction. He says both cases are fabricated in a bid to silence him. (EuroNews)

Russia lawmakers submit bill to expand 'gay propaganda' law

Russian lawmakers have submitted a bill to the State Duma to expand the country's 2013 law prohibiting the "promotion" of "non-traditional sexual relations" to minors. The bill would ban “the propaganda of denial of family values and non-traditional sexual relations,” and apply irrespective of age. (Jurist)

Russia passes expansion to 'gay propaganda' ban

Russian lawmakers passed legislation Nov. 24 imposing steep fines for LGBT "propaganda." The new bill bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" aimed at any age group —not just toward minors, as was prohibited under the country's controversial 2013 law. The bill also codifies new offenses such as "propaganda of pedophilia" and encouraging minors to undergo a sex change.

"The decision will allow us to protect children and the country's future from the darkness spread by the United States and European states," Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, wrote on social media.

Under the newly passed amendments, spreading propaganda for "non-traditional sexual relations" among both minors and adults is punishable by a fine of up to 5 million rubles ($82,500). (Moscow Times)

Russia enacts expanded 'gay propaganda' ban

President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 30 signed the amended LGBT "propaganda" bill into law. The amendments significantly expand the scope of the previous legislation. Last week, the amended legislation passed unanimously in the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, and it faced no opposition in the Federal Council, the upper house. (Jurist)

Russia arrests gay couple for depicting relationship online

Russian authorities on April 5 arrested a publicly out gay couple, Haoyang Xu and Gela Gogishvili, for their alleged breach of the country's "gay propaganda" law. According to a statement from their lawyer, the two men are accused of violating the law because of videos uploaded to the couple's YouTube and TikTok accounts. The two men are particularly active on social media, where they amassed a large following by chronicling their experiences in Russia as a gay, non-Slavic couple.

Independent human rights monitor OVD-Info reported that a Russian criminal court charged the two men with violating Russia's law prohibiting all public expressions of same sex attraction and relationships. 

After the arrest, a Russian court ruled to deport Xu, a Chinese citizen, back to China. Gogishvili, an ethnically Georgian citizen of Russia, was released from police custody but ordered to return to court later this month.

Xu and Gogishvili started dating in 2021. According to an interview they gave in March to the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, they immediately experienced harassment after they began uploading videos documenting their experiences as a gay couple in Russia. Xu stated that many people threatened to report him and Gogishvili to the authorities, including one of his college professors. These threats came to fruition on Wednesday, when the couple was arrested in the city of Kazan.

The "gay propaganda" law, first introduced in 2013, makes it a criminal act in Russia to publicly release material depicting same-sex relationships. The law was recently reformed to include harsher penalties, and expanded to prohibit any depiction of LGBTQ relationships or identities on all platforms, including social media accounts. (Jurist)

Feminists to be designated 'extremists' under Russian law

Putin ally Oleg Matveychev has introduced legislation in the State Duma that would recognize the fight for women's rights as an "extremist ideology." Matveychev’s draft legislation comes after Russian media claimed Daria Trepova, the woman accused of killing a famous Russian propagandist with a bomb disguised as a statue, was a supporter of radical feminism. (Daily Beast)

Russian shrinks to target gay 'disorders'

Russian clinics will soon be staffed with sexologists to help patients "overcome" homosexuality and various sexual "mental disorders," a Health Ministry order said, in the latest Kremlin attack on what it calls "non-traditional lifestyles." (Reuters)

Russia bans gender reassignment surgery

Russia's lower house of parliament has passed a new law banning gender reassignment surgery, in the latest attack on LGBT rights in the country. The State Duma approved the bill, which will also ban people changing their genders on state documents, on July 14. It now needs approval from the upper house and President Vladimir Putin, moves normally seen as formalities. Speaker of the Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said the bill would "protect our citizens and our children." (BBC News)

Human rights groups condemn Russian anti-trans legislation

Human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released statements July 14 condemning Russia's newly adopted bill that targets transgender people. The legislation states that citizens who have already changed their sex will be prohibited from adopting children, and their marriages will be annulled. It also prohibits gender-reassignment surgery and hormonal therapy, as well as gender changes in documents. (Jurist)

Russia Supreme Court labels LGBTQ+ movement 'extremist'

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk condemned on Nov. 30 the Russian Supreme Court's decision to outlaw the LGBTQ+ movement in the country and label proponents of the movement "extremists." (Jurist)

Russian police raid Moscow gay bars

Russian security forces raided gay clubs and bars across Moscow Dec. 1 Police officers searched venues across the Russian capital, including a nightclub, a male sauna and a bar that hosted LGBTQ parties, under the pretext of drug raids.

Witnesses told journalists that patrons' documents were checked and photographed by the security troops.

The raids come less than 48 hours after Russia's Supreme Court ruled that "the international LGBT public movement and its subdivisions" are now considered extremist and face a ban on their activities. (Al Jazeera)

Russians fined, jailed over rainbow-colored items

The first publicly known cases have emerged of Russian authorities penalizing people under a court ruling that outlawed LGBTQ activism as extremism, Russian media and rights groups have reported, with at least three people who displayed rainbow-colored items receiving jail time or fines.

On Feb. 5, a court in Saratov, a city 453 miles southeast of Moscow, handed a 1,500-ruble (roughly $16) fine to artist and photographer Inna Mosina over several Instagram posts depicting rainbow flags, Russia’s independent news site Mediazona reported.

Last week, a court in Nizhny Novgorod, some 248 miles east of Moscow, ordered Anastasia Yershova to serve five days in jail on the same charge for wearing rainbow-colored earrings in public, Mediazona reported. In Volgograd, 559 miles south of Moscow, a court fined a man 1,000 rubles (about $11) for allegedly posting a rainbow flag on social media, local court officials reported, identifying the man only as Artyom P. (AP)

Russia opens investigation into Duolingo for 'LGBT propaganda'

Russia media regulator Roskomnadzor as opened an investigation into the alleged spread of "LGBT propaganda" by the language learning application Duolingo under the federal law "On the Protection of Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development." (Jurist)