The Real Russia. Today. The man in charge of explaining Russian media censorship is now under house arrest; a leading independent radio station comes under fire; and Moscow isn't happy about extra U.S. troops in Poland
Story of the day: the spokesman for Russia's federal censor is placed under house arrest
Vadim Ampelonsky, the press secretary for Roskomnadzor, Russia's federal censor, has been named in a fraud case, a source familiar with the situation told the website VC.ru. On October 12, a court placed Ampelonsky under house arrest. Sources tell the news agency RBC that he is potentially suspected of involvement with fictitiously registering Roskomnadzor employees. Russian officials have not commented on the case, and Ampelonsky’s lawyer says his client denies the charges.
- On October 10, the anonymous Telegram channel OPER Slil claimed that police investigators raided the office of a Roskomnadzor-affiliated enterprise. Two other Roskomnadzor officials are also reportedly named in the criminal case.
Russia's leading independent radio station is accused of facilitating Western political meddling 📻
The Russian television network Rossiya-24 aired a segment this week accusing the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy of working with unspecified “Western nonprofits.” According to the channel’s anchor, “Western nonprofits are conducting propaganda in Russia, organizing the collection of information, and trying to cultivate a pro-Western position” ahead of Russia’s 2018 presidential election. The news segment also claimed that Ekho Moskvy received more than 3 million rubles ($52,000) from its “foreign counterparts” in 2016, listing various large Western media outlets, supposedly for supplying regular comments from liberal experts. Rossiya-24 called this “trading in information weapons.”
- According to the report, part of Ekho Moskvy’s supposed collaboration with the Western media included Orenburg branch chief editor Maxim Kurnikov working with the U.S.-government-funded independent outlet Radio Svoboda, and the participation of several Ekho Moskvy guests and staff on different Western media programs and at some forums.
- The report was published on Rossiya-24’s YouTube channel with the following description: “The closer Russia’s presidential election gets, the more people want to influence the vote. The radio station Ekho Moskvy got caught up in cooperation with Western nonprofits. How much are they paying to destabilize Russian society?”
- Alexander Plushev, one of the Ekho Moskvy journalists named in the broadcast, has accused pro-Kremlin pundit and TV and radio host Vladimir Solovyov of instigating the accusations.
- In July, Pervyi Kanal, another state-owned Russian television network, aired a report alleging that Ekho Moskvy receives funding from the Broadcasting Board of Governors — the independent U.S. government agency that supervises and allocates money to outlets like the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Gazprom-Media, which owns Ekho Moskvy, flatly denied the allegations.
- Earlier in the year, Russia’s federal media regulator ordered Ekho Moskvy to reject all foreign funding by February 15. In April, the radio station announced that it was now in full compliance with Russian media restrictions on funding from abroad.
“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” 📖
What’s former Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev reading while on trial for soliciting a $2-million bribe from the Russian oil giant Rosneft? You guessed it: Franz Kafka’s “The Trial.” He even brought his copy to court on Thursday, according to the newspaper Vedomosti.
A Russian delegation denies NYC its honorable presence 🇷🇺🍎
A Russian civic group based in New York City will have to make due without a visit from four State Duma deputies, after the delegation announced on Thursday that it’s canceling its planned trip, in response to U.S. officials’ decision to remove the Russian flags from atop Moscow’s former consulate in San Francisco.
- American officials shut down Russia’s San Francisco consulate in early September, but the building and real estate are still owned by the Russian government. On October 11, Russian diplomats say U.S. officials “tore down” the Russian flags displayed atop the building, while American officials say they “carefully removed” the flags.
- In late August, “in the spirit of parity involved by the Russians,” American officials ordered Moscow to close its consulate general in San Francisco and two trade missions — one in Washington, D.C., and another in New York City. The new restrictions left Moscow with three consulates in the United States: in New York, Houston, and Seattle.
War games 🎖
Russia’s Defense Ministry is accusing the United States of “quietly” deploying a second armored brigade in Poland, during last month’s Russian-Belarusian “Zapad-2017” military exercises. “And so, contrary to all of the announcements by NATO and the U.S. about the ‘insignificance’ of their troops being concentrated at Russia’s borders, now we see that it’s de facto not a brigade but a mechanized division of the U.S. armed forces within two hours of trained personnel who could be redeployed from the nearest American base in Europe,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
- The Zapad-2017 training exercises took place from September 14 to September 20, officially involving 13,000 troops. Baltic states reacted with particular alarm, and Lithuania’s president worried openly that Moscow was practicing for an invasion of NATO members.
- In late September, Ukrainian officials claimed that most of the Russian troops involved in Zapad-2017 have remained in Belarus. Moscow denies these allegations.
Kaspersky, you've been a bad boy 💻
The Russian government used a popular antivirus software to secretly scan computers around the world for classified U.S. government documents and top-secret information, modifying the program to turn it into an espionage tool, according to current and former U.S. officials with knowledge of the matter. Story by The Wall Street Journal.