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The Real Russia. Today. Yevkurov has some explaining to do, Kashin says RIP to S&P, and the GRU functions as a social ladder for Russia's rural poor


Friday, October 12, 2018

This day in history. On October 12, 1964, the USSR launched Voskhod 1 (Sunrise 1): the first space flight to carry more than one crewman into orbit, the first flight without using spacesuits, and the first space flight carrying either a doctor or an engineer into outer space.
  • Ingush leader says his controversial border agreement with Chechnya was signed ‘spontaneously’
  • Russian city councilman's wife who twerked in front of ambulances on the Moscow Beltway is fined 300 bucks
  • Columnist Oleg Kashin says farewell to the anti-Putin nationalist website Sputnik & Pogrom
  • Columnist Vladimir Ruvinsky asks why Russian diplomats have grown more openly anti-Western
  • U.S. astronaut Nick Hague thanks his Russian rescuers
  • Nataliya Vasilyeva visits the backwater towns of Russia's unmasked GRU agents
  • Russia has been cultivating ties with the Taliban to boost influence in Afghanistan
  • Petro Poroshenko is thrilled about the Ukrainian Orthodox Church's growing independence

Signed on a lark 🤝

Ingush leader Yunus-bek Yevkurov is trying to explain why he signed an unpopular border agreement with Chechnya last month. In comments to the magazine RBC, Yevkurov said the motivation to revisit the Ingush-Chechen boundary was “spontaneously” prompted by public backlash to excavation work in the Ingush village of Arshty by the Chechen road-work company “Chechenavtodor.” When the Chechen bulldozer appeared on Ingush territory, Yevkurov says, locals became alarmed that Chechen officials were trying to seize their land.

Despite the “spontaneous” origins of the border agreement, Yevkurov insists that he spent a month drafting it, before meeting with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Yevkurov also says he discussed the plan roughly five times with members in the Ingush parliament and local government.

Since Yevkurov signed the border deal with Chechnya (amid resistance from the republic’s parliament and Constitutional Court), thousands of locals have protested in Magas. State officials have agreed to permit the demonstrations until October 15.

Beltway booties 👯‍♀️

Some memories, like delaying multiple ambulances on the Moscow Beltway because you’re twerking in the road with your friends in an amateur music video, are priceless. But even an invaluable stunt like that can cost you — just ask 29-year-old Oksana Yakovleva, aka the performer “Yaxana,” who was fined 20,000 rubles (about $300) on October 12 for shaking her posterior alongside her pals on a busy highway. An entertaining spectacle in its own right, Yakovleva’s dance made headlines in Russia this week because she’s also the wife of a city councilman outside the capital. Her husband, Alexey Yakovlev, told a local television station that he would “have words” with her about the disruptive twerking.

On October 8, Yakovleva shared footage of her highway dance on Instagram. Three days later, traffic police stopped her car and arrested her for failing to wear her seat belt and driving without a license. Yakovleva initially wouldn't get out of her car, and paramedics were later summoned when she “became unwell.” In court on Friday, after spending the night in lockup, Yakovleva refused to confess to blocking the Moscow Beltway during her dance, insisting that her car had broken down, at which point she and her friends supposedly decided to practice their moves, “in order to stay warm.”

After her release, Yakovleva wrote on Instagram: “Freedom… 20,000 rubles and a night in lockup, when they want to charge you with hooliganism, all for loving your art… was it worth it? In my view, any experience is useful.”

Opinion commentaries 💭

⚰️ RIP, S&P

In an op-ed for Republic, columnist Oleg Kashin laments the end of Sputnik & Pogrom, a Russian nationalist website run by Egor Prosvirnin, who announced the website’s closure on October 9. Kashin, who worked as a correspondent for S&P in 2014, reporting from Crimea and eastern Ukraine just as the annexation and war were beginning, argues that Prosvirnin’s project failed to survive in Russia because the state is unable to coexist with grassroots efforts hostile to the Kremlin, even when they strongly endorse Moscow’s foreign policy. (S&P notoriously claimed to have recruited hundreds of Russian volunteers to fight in the Donbass and crowdfunded enough money to buy an armored personnel carrier for the pro-Russian separatists.)

Kashin also says S&P’s heyday was between 2012 and 2014, when the anti-Kremlin political opposition was broader and more diverse, before the Russian-Ukrainian conflict became a wedge dividing liberals and nationalists. Today, Kashin says, the opposition once again has no idea what to make of anti-Putin Russian nationalism, hence S&P’s downfall.

😈 The trolling line

In an editorial for Vedomosti, columnist Vladimir Ruvinsky says Russian state officials have increasingly resorted to openly hostile anti-Western rhetoric, signaling either a new formal mindset at the Foreign Ministry or the collapse of Russian diplomatic messaging into “trolling.” Ruvinsky bases his argument on observations by two experts: Andrey Kortunov, who suspects that career diplomats wouldn’t permit themselves anti-American outbursts if it broke with Moscow’s official line, and Vladimir Frolov, who says Russian diplomats have abandoned their efforts to coordinate foreign policy statements, opting instead to “stick it to the West,” which is a surefire way to please the higher-ups, Frolov says.

Read it elsewhere 📰

🚀 Thanks for all the prayers

“U.S. astronaut Nick Hague thanked Russian rescue teams Friday for quickly reaching him and his Russian crewmate after an aborted launch that led to their emergency landing in the barren steppes of Kazakhstan. The Soyuz rocket that Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were heading off in to the International Space Station failed two minutes after Thursday’s launch, releasing a rescue capsule that carried them back to Earth,” reports The Associated Press. Read the story here.

☝️ Social ladder GRU

“This desolate village, deep in the far northern Arkhangelsk region, is the hometown of one of the suspected GRU Russian military intelligence agents who is believed to have poisoned a former Russian spy in Britain. The other alleged attacker and an alleged military intelligence operative accused of a hacking attack in the Netherlands come from equally dismal places,” writes Nataliya Vasilyeva, who traveled to the logging outpost of Loyga. Vasilyeva argues that the Salisbury suspects’ stories “suggest how important the military and intelligence services are for ambitious young men determined to escape the gloom and poverty of rural Russia.” Read the story here at The Associated Press.

❤️ Tally me banana

Russia has been cultivating ties with the Taliban to increase its influence in Afghanistan three decades after Moscow’s humiliating defeat there helped hasten the Soviet Union’s collapse,” write Missy Ryan and Amie Ferris-Rotman in The Washington Post. “Russia’s inroads with the Taliban represent a striking turnaround 30 years after the Soviet army was beaten by the Afghan guerrilla force.” Read the story here.

☦️ Awesome autocephaly

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is thrilled that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has agreed to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. In televised remarks, the president called it “another act of declaration of independence of Ukraine.” The decision Patriarch Bartholomew I to proceed to the granting of autocephaly to the Church of Ukraine “marked a clear step closer to another remarkable break from Moscow and its reach into Kyiv's affairs,” writes Christopher Miller. “There is still much to be done before independence is granted through a church decree known as a ‘Tomos,’ not least of which is unifying the current Ukrainian Orthodox churches and deciding on a leader for a united autocephalous church of Ukraine.” Read the story here at RFE/RL.

Yours, Meduza