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The Real Russia. Today. Millions of Russian dollars on Mount Athos, tabloid shenanigans against Yuri Dmitriev, and Olga Oliker on ‘Moscow’s nuclear enigma’

Meduza

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

This day in history. On October 16, 1983, the Soviet rock band “Mumiy Troll” was founded in Vladivostok, lead by vocalist and songwriter Ilya Lagutenko. The group is still active and reasonably popular in Russia today.
  • Russians have reportedly donated roughly $200 million to Mount Athos monasteries in past 13 years
  • The editorial staff at Vedomosti weigh in on the Eastern Orthodox Christian schism
  • Tabloid reporters get their hands on case materials against a human rights activist in Karelia
  • Roskomnadzor throws out copyright infringement charges against Yandex
  • Ingushetia's unsteady unrest continues
  • Olga Oliker parses the bad communication that's aggravating U.S.-Russian tensions on nuclear weapons
  • What happened in the year after a gay man in Chechnya came forward about Grozny's secret interrogation prisons?
  • Officials in Crimea want international flights back, and they hope Syria will oblige

Big spenders 💰

Since 2005, Russians have donated roughly $200 million to monasteries at Mount Athos, a source close to the Patriarchate leadership told the BBC’s Russian-language service. An “Orthodox entrepreneur” and source in Russia’s State Duma reportedly confirmed the claim.

There are about 20 monasteries at Mount Athos that are subject to the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Representatives of the Russian establishment are especially fond of pilgrimaging to this area. Vladimir Putin, for instance, has made two trips.

Earlier this week, the Russian Orthodox Church broke ties with the Constantinople Patriarchate after it agreed to grant autocephaly (independence) to the new church in Ukraine.

Explaining the Moscow Patriarchate decision to suspend Eucharistic communion with Constantinople, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida said on Tuesday that Moscow’s “necessary inflexibility” is not an attempt to “defeat or punish anyone,” but an effort to “restore a disrupted fraternal dialogue.”

☦️ Vedomosti on the schism

In an editorial, the newspaper Vedomosti writes that the schism between the Moscow and Constantinople Patriarchates weakens the soft power of both the Russian Orthodox Church and “secular Moscow.” The Russian authorities are clearly aware of this, which is obvious from their sudden resort to geopolitical rhetoric, when commenting on the news, Vedomosti's editors point out. In fact, Russia’s Security Council even discussed the issue at its meeting on Saturday. Moscow has only itself to blame, however, given that its annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in the Donbass is what renewed Kyiv’s interest in autocephaly, the newspaper argues. Now local churches must decide between the “big and wealthy Russian Orthodox Church” and the “most influential” Constantinople Patriarchate. For Petro Poroshenko, at least, the schism is an unqualified good, as he can finally point to a victory over Moscow, albeit in the absence of “significant political and economic achievements.”

Where'd you get those docs? 👮

Reporters from the tabloid REN-TV showed up at Memorial’s office in Moscow to harass the human rights activists with case evidence from the investigation against Memorial’s branch leader in Karelia, Yuri Dmitriev, who now faces controversial charges that he sexually assaulted his foster daughter. The reporters also demanded to know how Sergey Koltyrin, another Karelian human rights activist who specializes on Soviet-era repressions, ended up working with Memorial. (Earlier this month, police charged Koltyrin with committing “depraved acts” against a minor.) When police finally arrived, the REN-TV reporters filed a report against Memorial staff for allegedly damaging one of their microphones, while Koltyrin filed a report asking police to determine how the reporters obtained copies of Dmitriev’s case files.

Nothing to see here. Please disperse. 🔍

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal media censor, has rejected a complaint by the Internet Copyright Association (AZAPI) against the search engine Yandex. Officials say their inspection of the website did not turn up any hyperlinks to the banned online pirate resources RuTracker and Librusec. On October 12, AZAPI demanded that Roskomnadzor fine Yandex for directing users to stolen content. Under a law that took effect this September, Internet search engines face fines as high as 700,000 rubles ($10,700) for publishing hyperlinks to banned online content.

Calm and stormy in Ingushetia ✊

“[...] what has unfolded over the past two weeks has stunned protestors and outside observers alike, who say that the demonstrations are unprecedented in Putin’s nearly two-decade rule. They also say that the unrest could lead to conflict and that the Kremlin must take urgent measures,” writes Evan Gershkovich from Ingushetia, observing the unsteady calm that still characterizes mass protest in Magas against an unpopular border agreement with Chechnya. Read his special report here at The Moscow Times.

Nuke communication ☢️

Olga Oliker, a senior adviser and director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, takes on “Moscow’s nuclear enigma” in a new article for Foreign Affairs, taking on U.S. fears that it must develop more low-yield nuclear weapons to avoid being “outgunned” in a future war with a resurgent Russia. “The real danger is not a new and more aggressive Russian nuclear strategy,” Oliker writes, “it is the Kremlin’s failure to communicate its goals effectively to leaders in Washington and elsewhere.” Read the article here at Foreign Affairs.

One year and no justice 🏳️‍🌈

In a report for RFE/RL, Carl Schreck provides an update on the fate of Maxim Lapunov, who was pulled off the street by unidentified men and brutally interrogated in the basement of a Grozny police station for 12 days, as part of Chechnya’s unofficial crackdown on gay men. After coming forward with allegations against the Chechen authorities a year ago, the Russian authorities have proved unable and unwilling to help him get any form of redress for his mistreatment, and officials continue to deny Chechnya’s “gay purge.” Read the story here at RFE/RL.

Simferopol: world city ✈️

“The visiting cohort of [Russian] government officials proposed linking Crimea’s capital of Simferopol by air with Damascus, a flight that would allow ‘both the civilian population and those who were at war’ to vacation at a resort,” reports Amie Ferris-Rotman about a new initiative to boost the economy in Russia’s annexed Crimean peninsula. If the Syrians agree, the flights would be Crimea’s first international traffic since Moscow reabsorbed it in March 2014. Read the story here at The Washington Post.

Yours, Meduza