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The Real Russia. Today. Zolotov challenges Navalny to a ‘duel,’ Russia will ban soldiers from social media, and Poklonskaya throws down

Meduza
18:57, 11 september 2018

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This day in history. On September 11, 1971, Nikita Khrushchev died in Moscow of a heart attack at the age of 77. Roughly seven years earlier, he was ousted in a conspiracy led by Leonid Brezhnev, after serving as first secretary of the Communist Party for 11 years. Brezhnev would go on to rule as general secretary for nearly two decades.
  • The director of Russia's National Guard challenges Alexey Navalny to ‘a duel’ (a fist fight)
  • Challenging a top Kremlin critic to a ‘duel,’ the head of Russia's National Guard broke all the rules of dueling
  • Now we'll know less: Russia is about to ban soldiers from posting about themselves on social media
  • New survey from state pollster says Russians' fears of terrorism are at a record low
  • The Kremlin reportedly wants to cut loose Khahassia's governor
  • Putin pins a medal on the cop who investigated Boris Nemtsov's assassination
  • Russia's ruling political party may have bitten off more than it can chew with Natalia Poklonskaya
  • Russia is reportedly the main suspect in the ‘attacks’ that caused brain injuries to U.S. personnel in Cuba and China

The duel of the century ⚔️

Viktor Zolotov, the director of Russia’s National Guard and Vladimir Putin’s former longtime head of security, says he wants to beat Alexey Navalny into a bloody pulp. Responding in a YouTube video to recent allegations by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, Zolotov has challenged the opposition leader to a fight.

“You have made me the subject of insulting, defamatory remarks. It is not customary among officers simply to forgive. From time immemorial, scoundrels have had their faces smashed and been called to duels. Mr. Navalny, no one is stopping us from reviving at least some of these traditions, by which I mean a challenge. I simply challenge you to a duel — in the ring, on the judo mat, wherever, and I promise to make good, juicy mincemeat of you,” Zolotov said in a video shared on YouTube.

Zolotov also admitted that corruption does exist in Russia’s National Guard, but he stressed that the agency is confronting the problem.

What does the Kremlin say about this madness? Commenting on Zolotov’s remarks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday, “Sometimes, when confronting brazen slander, you can fight by any means — when there’s brazen slander that is nothing other than a violation of existing laws. Of course, it’s better to shut down such slander at the root.” Asked if he thinks it’s appropriate for a high-ranking federal official to talk openly about beating up a private citizen in a “duel,” Peskov refused to comment, saying only that the Kremlin doesn’t consider Zolotov’s remarks to be a physical threat aimed at Navalny.

On August 23, the Anti-Corruption Foundation published an investigative report about evidence of corruption in the National Guard’s food-supply procurement contracts. Researchers found that prices on basic foodstuffs nearly tripled after the agency’s only supplier became the “Friendship of the Peoples“ Meatpacking Plant LLC, which is owned by Boris Kantemirov, the former head of the Interior Ministry’s Central Archive of Internal Troops. Formed in 2016 by Vladimir Putin’s executive order, Russia’s National Guard was built primarily from staff and resources pulled from the Interior Ministry.

Alexey Navalny is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence for staging an “illegal protest” in January 2018. Navalny's lockup kept him off the streets on September 9, when his supporters staged nationwide protests against the government's plan to raise the country's retirement age.

Is this how dueling works? No. It isn't. In a special comment for Meduza, historian and dueling expert Yakov Gordin explains how Zolotov completely bungled the rules of this “officers' tradition.” Read it here.

Shut up, Bellingcat 🤳

The Russian government has drafted legislation that would prohibit members of the armed forces from sharing on the Internet any information about themselves, their fellow soldiers, or the military itself. The bill has already been submitted to the State Duma for consideration by federal lawmakers. Russia’s Defense Ministry has long advocated similar measures, in response to information shared on social media that prompts public discussions of military actions that the authorities would prefer to keep a secret. Here are a few examples: the Syria campaign, fighting in Ukraine, hazing, and military exercises. Read the special report here.

Terror defeated? ✔️

A new national survey by the state-run pollster VTsIOM shows that Russians are more confident than ever in their government’s ability to protect them from terrorism. According to a poll conducted over the phone on August 31, eighty-five percent of respondents said they believe the state will keep them safe from terrorists, with just 12 percent voicing any doubts.

VTsIOM says Russia’s current “Fear of Becoming a Victim of a Terrorist Attack” index is the lowest ever recorded, standing at 34, on a scale of 10 to 90. This figure has fluctuated between 37 and 55, since Vladimir Putin first entered the Kremlin. Expressed in percentages, this means about 45 percent of Russians say they believe they or their loved ones could be hurt in a terrorist attack. Another 11 percent of respondents say they are extremely worried about this. Forty-two percent say it’s not a concern, and two percent refused to answer the question.

When asked to list the top terrorist threats facing Russians, an equal number of respondents (17 percent) named the United States and the terrorist organization ISIS. Ukraine came in third place at eight percent.

Hit the road, Vic 👉

The Kremlin is supposedly urging acting Khahassia Governor Victor Zimin to drop out of his reelection race, after he failed to win a first-round election on September 9. Sources close to the Putin administration told the newspaper Vedomosti that the situation in Khakassia has become “unmanageable,” complaining that the regional government has run out of money to pay civil servant salaries and needed outside intervention. “Let anyone take over, so long as it’s not him,” a source said.

Denying the rumors, Zimin told the radio station Govorit Moskva on Tuesday that he expects to win the runoff vote.

In Sunday’s election, Communist Party candidate and Abakan city councilman Valentin Konovalov surprisingly outperformed Governor Zimin, 44.81 percent to 32.42 percent.

What are these runoff elections?

United Russia candidates failed to win more than half the votes in four of Sunday’s gubernatorial contests. According to Vedomosti, acting Primorsky Krai Governor Andrey Tarasenko can count on the Kremlin’s endorsement, while “there are some doubts” about the Putin administration’s support for the incumbents in the Khabarovsk and Vladimir regions. Russia’s Central Election Commission has scheduled these runoff elections for Sunday, September 23.

Heckuva job, Kolya 🎖️

Vladimir Putin has awarded Russia’s Order of Courage to Nikolai Tutevich, the head of the team that investigated the February 2015 assassination of former Deputy Prime Minister turned opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Five Chechen men were later sentenced to between 11 and 20 years in prison for carrying out the murder, but police never identified the person responsible for ordering the attack, though lawyers for the Nemtsov family believe it was Ruslan Geremeyev, the deputy commander of the “Sever” Chechen battalion.

Russia’s Order of Courage recognizes selfless acts of valor in protecting public order, rescuing people, and fighting crime.

  • Nikolai Tutevich took over the Nemtsov case investigation in May 2015, replacing Igor Krasnov, who headed the Federal Investigative Committee’s major case squad. Tutevich reportedly specializes in crimes committed by Chechens. He led the investigation into the murder of Chechen State Duma deputy Ruslan Yamadaev — another case where the perpetrators but not the mastermind were identified and apprehended.
  • In July 2017, after a Moscow court sentenced the five men convicted of killing Nemtsov, Meduza shared five unanswered questions about the case. Read them here.

Frankenstein's monster 👹

Russia’s ruling political party is learning that it won’t be easy to silence Natalia Poklonskaya, the former Crimea attorney general now serving in the State Duma, and the only United Russia deputy to vote against controversial draft legislation that would raise the country’s retirement age.

Hours after a news report on Tuesday claiming that the party is planning to remove her from the State Duma’s Committee on Security and Countering Corruption, Poklonskaya made her own announcement: her other committee (which monitors lawmakers’ incomes) is auditing five United Russia deputies and one Just Russia deputy for potential involvement in undeclared “business entities,” including enterprises based abroad.

In mid-July, United Russia passed a first reading of unpopular legislation that would raise the retirement age from 55 to 60 for men and from 55 to 63 for women. United Russia was the only party to support the bill, but its super majority in the parliament carried the measure with 328 votes in favor and 104 opposed. Poklonskaya was the only member of the party to reject the legislation, though another eight United Russia deputies abstained. She said on September 11 that she will try to add her own amendments to a second reading of the legislation.

Known for her devout religiosity and culturally conservative views, Poklonskaya has been one of the State Duma’s most visible deputies, thanks in part to her previous role as Crimea’s first post-annexation attorney general, which brought her international media attention.

Oh yeah, one more thing 🧠

“Intelligence agencies investigating mysterious ‘attacks’ that led to brain injuries in U.S. personnel in Cuba and China consider Russia to be the main suspect, three U.S. officials and two others briefed on the investigation tell NBC News.” Read the story here.

Yours, Meduza