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The Real Russia. Today. More Internet criminal charges, Pussy Riot protests prison torture, and a second grader's humiliation

Meduza
12:00, 7 august 2018

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

This day in history. On August 7, 2008, just before midnight, the Russo-Georgian War turned hot when Georgian artillery units bombarded targets inside South Ossetia, following at least a week of skirmishes and shellings along the border. Whether Russian troops (not just “peacekeepers”) arrived in South Ossetia before or after the attack on Tskhinvali is still debated intensely today.
  • Former Sobchak campaign manager faces criminal charges over four-year-old Internet posts
  • Three sisters who murdered their abusive father will ask for house arrest
  • Pussy Riot protests torture in Russia's prison system
  • Alabama Congressional candidate says Russian hackers targeted her
  • U.S. officials arrest several Russians on charges of money laundering and fraud
  • St. Petersburg's governor will reportedly seek re-election next year
  • The owner of Forbes Russia is suing his former chief editor
  • Navalny is trying yet again to register a political party
  • Teacher humiliates second grader after mother refuses to pay for classroom's new window blinds

Dangerous cyber-Nazis 💽

On August 7, police in Tuva detained and interrogated Oyuma Dongak, the journalist who headed Ksenia Sobchak’s local presidential campaign headquarters earlier this year. Dongak says she faces felony charges for promoting Nazism because of two WWII-era photos she shared on Vkontakte back in 2014.

In the past several weeks, the public has learned about four extremism cases in the Altai Territory against Vkontakte users who shared memes with satirical overtones on religious themes. On August 6, Mail.ru, the parent company of Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, publicly condemned Russia’s practice of bringing criminal charges against social-media users for likes and reposts. The vast majority of criminal cases against Russian Internet users are filed against users of Vkontakte, which surrenders virtually all personal data, whenever requested by law enforcement, according to human rights activists. The Russian Orthodox Church says criminal punishment is unnecessary whenever a suspect confesses and repents speech that offends religious people.

Three deadly sisters 👨‍⚖️

Lawyers representing the three Khachaturyan sisters will ask a Moscow judge to release their clients on house arrest. The attorneys cite the women’s good grades in school, support from character witnesses, and willingness to cooperate with investigators. On July 27, police detained Maria, Angelina, and Krestina Khachaturyan for the murder of 57-year-old Mikhail Khachaturyan, whose body was discovered with stab wounds to his neck and chest. All three teenagers (ages 17, 18, and 19) have confessed to killing their father, who they say brutalized them for years.

FSIN = GULAG ✊

Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina and her partner in activism and romance, Russian Orthodox activist Dmitry Tsorionov (better known as “Enteo”), have staged another joint demonstration in central Moscow, this time against the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN). On August 7, the two joined with another pair of activists to post a sign outside the agency that read, “FSIN = GULAG.” They also displayed photographs of inmates who have been subjected to torture in Russian prisons. On Facebook, Alekhina wrote, “The FSIN is the GULAG, murders, torture, and slave labor.”

On July 20, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta published a 10-minute video showing more than a dozen guards torturing an inmate at a prison in Yaroslavl. In response, federal authorities have arrested 11 of the guards from the video and placed a 12th official under house arrest. Allegations of prison torture have also emerged in Bryansk, Transbaikal, and Kaliningrad.

America, America this is you

👾 Russkie hackers redux

Tabitha Isner, the Democratic candidate in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District, said Monday that hackers with Russian IP addresses apparently made roughly 1,400 attempts to break into her campaign website in July, around the time of the GOP runoff in the district. Isner, a pastor and business and policy analyst, is challenging Republican Congresswoman Martha Roby, a four-term incumbent, in the midterm election. Read the story at The Associated Press.

Мы русские друг друга не обманываем 🚗

The U.S. Justice Department has revealed the names of five people arrested in New York on fraud charges, at least four of whom are Russian citizens: Maxim Suverin, Stanislav Lisitssky, Alexey Livadny, Nikolai Tupikin, and Kirill Dedusev.

On August 6, the Russian consulate in New York announced the arrest of four Russian citizens on suspicion of money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud. The men allegedly posed as car dealers, fooling clients into transferring payments to a shell company, and then hiding the money in Eastern Europe. The criminal network reportedly stole upwards of $4.5 million. The Justice Department says 25 men participated in the scheme, including seven Russian citizens.

Stick around, Grisha 🗳️

St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko will seek re-election in September 2019, sources tell the magazine RBC. Poltavchenko reportedly has the Kremlin’s support to stay on for a third term, though his office still isn’t commenting officially on his re-election plans.

Governor Poltavchenko has been in office since 2011, when his predecessor, Valentina Matviyenko, left for the Federation Council. In 2014, Poltavchenko won almost 80 percent in a snap election, and his term ends in late 2019. Last October, the television station Dozhd reported that Poltavchenko’s current gubernatorial term might be his last, thanks to mismanagement and delays in the construction of the St. Petersburg Arena sports stadium.

Suit, counter-suit ⚖️

Alexander Fedotov, the owner of Forbes Russia, has filed two lawsuits against the outlet’s former chief editor, Nikolai Uskov, according to the communications director for Fedotov’s holding company, ACMG.

Uskov was fired in June 2018, officially for failing to show up for work. He is suing to be reinstated at Forbes Russia, arguing that Fedotov dismissed him illegally because of a personal conflict. Nikolai Mazurin replaced Uskov as acting chief editor. In late July, the Forbes Russia editorial staff asked state prosecutors to investigate the disappearance of an article about the Magomedov brothers’ family wealth from the outlet’s August issue. Immediately afterwards, Fedotov removed Mazurin from his post.

Here we go again 📝

Alexey Navalny’s supporters are trying yet again to register a political party with Russia’s Justice Ministry. In mid-July, officials halted the registration process for “Russia of the Future,” citing provisions in the party’s charter that supposedly contradicted federal laws. Navalny has been trying to register a national political party since 2012. Each time his supporters submit the necessary paperwork, the Justice Ministry finds excuses to delay or reject the application. On multiple occasions, “spoiler parties” have emerged, stealing the name of Navalny’s party and forcing him to start the registration process all over again.

Brush yo teeth 😬

If you have kids, you’ve no doubt received emails from the PTA or your child’s school, notifying you about the many ways you can contribute to bettering the education environment. Your help would be greatly appreciated, if you’ve the time and money to spare.

It’s not the most subtle pitch, but you’ll thank your lucky stars that it’s all you get, when you hear what happens at a school in the town of Uglovoe, in Russia’s Primorsky Krai. In May 2018, a mother complained that her eight-year-old son was forced to brush his teeth in front of his second-grade class, after she refused to pay for the classroom’s new window blinds.

The boy’s teacher, Lidia Ergina, apparently spent a week complaining about his breath, and eventually summoned him to the front of the classroom, where she forced him to brush his teeth while laughing at him. The brush and toothpaste were even supplied by a member of the PTA, which Ergina gratefully acknowledged on the parents' shared WhatsApp group.

After the boy's mother complained publicly about the incident, which followed her refusal to supply money for new window blinds, the teacher apologized, saying it “was only a game.” On August 7, the district attorney fined the school’s director 30,000 rubles (about $475) and ordered additional disciplinary measures. Lidia Ergina was reportedly fired in late May.

Yours, Meduza