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The Real Russia. Today. Arkady Babchenko lives, the Putin monument that wasn't, and Russia's invite to Mark Zuckerberg

Source: Meduza

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

  • Arkady Babchenko lives
  • A new monument to Vladimir Putin doesn't pan out like the creators hoped
  • An “HIV dissident” who lost two sons to AIDS dies of pneumonia
  • Russia's Senate wants a visit from Mark Zuckerberg
  • Blaming Russian abuse of Interpol, Bill Browder spends an hour in Spanish police custody
  • Several million dollars of confiscated loot go missing in a case against a corrupt police officer

The “murder” of Arkady Babchenko 🃏

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was not killed on May 29. On Wednesday, May 30, he appeared at a press conference held by Ukraine's National Security Agency, where officials announced the apprehension of the man who planned the murder.

Ukrainian officials explained that Tuesday's reports about Babchenko's murder were part of a special operation designed to flush out the man planning the attack: a Ukrainian citizen recruited by a Russian intelligence agency, who allegedly offered an “Anti-Terrorist Operation” veteran $40,000 to kill Babchenko. Ukrainian National Security Agency head Vasyl Hrytsak said the suspects planned to kill another 30 people in Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko has assigned 24-hour protection to Babchenko.

Speaking at the press conference, Babchenko apologized to his wife and friends for keeping the operation a secret, explaining that he learned about the plot against his life roughly a month ago.

On May 29, journalists reported that Babchenko was shot three times in the back and killed as he entered his apartment building in Kiev.

Commenting on the revelation that Babchenko is alive, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, “It's of course great news that Babchenko is alive. The shame is that this masquerade hasn't worked out in other cases.”

⏳ After the “murder,” but before the big reveal

When Babchenko was still “dead,” Meduza published two obituaries about him. They're moot now, but that doesn't mean you can't still read them, to find out just who this man is.

The Putin monument that wasn't 🗽

Vladimir Putin’s personality cult has reached some spectacular heights over the past two decades. Young women have torn their shirts for him, defrauded apartment owners have addressed SOS messages painted on rooftops to him, and pop musicians have written hit songs about him. This Tuesday, however, the village of Chastoozerye in the Kurgan region apparently went too far when it unveiled “Serving the Fatherland” — a new monument dedicated to Vladimir Putin.

Originally, it was supposed to feature Putin standing at a podium labeled with the presidential coat of arms. Behind him, beneath the flags of Tsarist Russia, the USSR, and the Russian Federation, stood a map of Russia (one that includes Crimea but leaves out Kaliningrad and the Kuril Islands). When the monument was formally unveiled on May 29, however, the 3.5-meter-tall (11.5-foot-tall) Putin statue had vanished.

Read the full story at Meduza: “A Russian village built a monument to Vladimir Putin, but then it removed him from the statue at the last minute”

Dying for the cause ⚰️

An “HIV dissident” in the Oryol region who previously lost two children to AIDS has herself died from pneumonia. Diagnosed with HIV while pregnant with her first child, Sofia Myaskovskaya reportedly died on May 21. Her first baby died in 2015 before reaching the age of two, and her second child died in 2016, before turning one. Both boys were born with HIV, but Myaskovskaya refused to treat them with antiretroviral therapy, believing HIV and AIDS to be a myth.

Russian officials have tried battling “HIV dissidents” by charging them with criminal negligence when they deny their children life-saving medical treatments. As recently as April 2018, police launched a case against a woman in Irkutsk whose four-month-old daughter died from a preventable infection brought on by HIV. Russia’s Health Ministry has suggested administrative fines on “HIV dissident” propaganda, hoping to stop the spread of the philosophy.

Where's Moscow's visit, Mark? 🛬

Russia’s Senate wants what Mark Zuckerberg was kind enough to grant the U.S. legislature and European Parliament: a formal visit. On Wednesday, Chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko said Russia’s Federation Council will invite the Facebook founder for a “discussion about the development of digitization in Russia.” Don’t get too excited about seeing Zuckerberg in Moscow, however. Even Matviyenko immediately expressed doubts that he would accept her invitation.

Bill Browder's sour Spanish hour 👮‍♂️🇪🇸

Venture-capitalist-turned-Putin-critic Bill Browder spent about an hour in police custody in Spain on Wednesday. Spanish officials said they were acting on an expired arrest warrant issued by Interpol. According to the BBC, Interpol rejected the claim, saying, “There is not, and never has been, a Red Notice for Mr. Bill Browder.” On Twitter, Browder insisted that his detention in Madrid “was not an expired warrant, but a live one,” accusing Interpol of being “incapable of stopping Russian abuse of their systems.”

Browder is wanted in Russia on tax fraud charges, which he disputes. After making millions of dollars in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he fell out with the Russian authorities in 2005, culminating in 2009 with the death of Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer hired to audit Browder’s investment fund. Browder has since lobbied several governments to adopt sanctions against Russia in Magnitsky’s name. On Twitter, he said he was in Spain “to give evidence [...] about the huge amount of money from the Magnitsky case that flowed to Spain.”

A few missing millions 💸

Russian investigators are looking into the disappearance of some of the money seized from Dmitry Zakharchenko, a police colonel charged with large-scale bribery. According to REN-TV, between $3.5 million and $5 million has gone missing. The television station also published a copy of a document sent by the authorities to Sberbank, requesting information about the staff who were assigned to recounting the money between April 27 and May 2. The cash was reportedly stored in 44 boxes.

Dmitry Zakharchenko was arrested in 2016 on charges of bribery, abuse of authority, and obstruction of justice. Officials seized his considerable illicit wealth, which included several luxury cars, expensive real estate, and roughly 8 billion rubles ($128.3 million).

Yours, Meduza

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