The Real Russia. Today. Russia's plan to end the open Internet, Kadyrov's latest video intrigue, and Kashin defends himself
Monday, December 17, 2018
This day in history. On December 17, 1959, the USSR created its Strategic Rocket Forces as the main force used for potentially attacking an enemy's offensive nuclear weapons, military facilities, and industrial infrastructure. Today, this is the branch of the Russian military that controls Russia's land-based ICBMs.
- Based on new draft legislation, here’s how Russia would actually build its own, autonomous Internet
- Kirill Martynov says corruption could cripple Russia's ‘autonomous Internet’ plans
- Ramzan Kadyrov's cousin plowed his Mercedes into a family of three and now the victims' relatives are begging Kadyrov not to punish his cousin
- The Russian federal official who wants to beat Alexey Navalny to a pulp has messed up the paperwork in his defamation lawsuit against Navalny
- Andrey Arkhangelsky says Russia's war on rap is part of the state's Soviet-inspired cultural philosophy
- Vladimir Abarinov on Marina Butina's prisoner's dilemma
- Oleg Kashin defends himself against ‘hypocrites’
The supposed story: The Russian authorities are abandoning the global Internet under the pretext of national security, and the country is transitioning to the use of its own domain name system and Internet traffic routing, where only Russian websites will work. The federal media regulator, Roskomnadzor, will be responsible for centralizing the state’s control over this isolated segment of the World Wide Web, and all major Russian tech companies have agreed to the new rules of the game.
This scenario is possible, if federal lawmakers adopt new legislation drafted by deputy Andrey Lugovoy and senators Andrey Klishas and Lyudmila Bokova, which they submitted to the State Duma on December 14.
How everything would work (based on the text of the legislation): Roskomnadzor and the Communications Ministry would develop new requirements and rules for all major organizations that sustain the Internet in Russia:
- Internet providers
- The owners of cross-border communication lines (that cross Russia’s state border)
- The owners of technological communication networks
- The owners of anonymous system numbers (large groups of IP addresses with a single routing policy)
- The owners of traffic exchange points
Under the law, Russia would create a national domain name system and develop special rules for Internet traffic routing. Having its own domain name system (which translates more easily memorized domain names to resources' numerical IP addresses) is supposed to guard against the potential seizure of Russia’s .ru and .рф domains, and developing its own routing system would protect Internet providers against the seizure of the IP-address blocks allocated to them.
All Russian Internet providers would be required to install the technical means to counter threats to the Russian Internet. With their help, the state would independently block all banned online resources in Russia, and monitor compliance with the new traffic routing rules and the use of the new national domain name system. This would free Internet providers from the responsibility of blocking banned resources online, and from any liability for service failures caused by these new “technical means.” The tools needed for this new monitoring system, moreover, would be provided to ISPs free of charge, subsidized entirely by the state.
Russia would also get a traffic-exchange registry, and companies would be forbidden from using traffic exchange points that aren’t on the registry. The exchange points themselves would be banned from connecting to companies that don’t comply with Russia’s Internet rules — both the new regulations and the old regulations (including requirements under “SORM”).
A new federal agency called the Center for Monitoring and Managing Public Communication Networks, created as part of Roskomnadzor’s radio frequency service, would control the new matrix of Internet regulations, collecting the needed information from Russian companies (about their infrastructures, their IP addresses, and so on), operating the traffic-exchange registry, and — when necessary — adjusting the country’s traffic routing.
According to the draft legislation, the government would refine this system’s efficiency through regular drills (participation in these exercises would be mandatory).
How the bill’s co-authors justify this initiative: In the draft law’s explanatory note, the co-authors name the United States as Russia’s main Internet threat, arguing that Washington has “directly and baselessly” accused Moscow of carrying out hacker attacks on the U.S. “In these conditions, we must take protective measures to safeguard the long-term and stable operation of the Internet in Russia, and to improve the reliability of Russia’s Internet resources,” the lawmakers say.
Roskomnadzor likes this legislation: Alexander Pankov, Roskomnadzor's deputy director, told the website Vzglyad that “improving the reliability of this strategic infrastructure is an extremely important task.” Speaking to Gazeta.ru, Pankov said, “Initially, the Internet was a medium for toys and communication, but now financial transactions, business, telemedicine, and a lot more are all tied to this network. If the Internet were to ‘crash’ today, it would be a real catastrophe.”
Pankov, incidentally, says the term “autonomous systems” (which appears in the draft legislation) is “not connected to the separation of the Russian Internet from the rest of the world.” “It’s a bit much to say autonomy is tantamount to ‘separation’ in this case,” he claimed.
In an op-ed for Novaya Gazeta, columnist Kirill Martynov says the new legislation is designed to “self-isolate the Russian Internet in advance,” in order to “avoid Russia’s future isolation from the global Internet.” Martynov thinks this threat is a hoax invented by Russia’s intelligence agencies, arguing that the U.S. would never shut off Russia from the Internet because it would senselessly cost the American economy billions of dollars. The Russian government, on the other hand, has several practical reasons to acquire expanded censorship controls over the Internet.
Why are lawmakers proposing this initiative now? Martynov believes Russian censors are done licking their wounds after miserably losing their fight against Telegram, and the new legislation will serve as the legal framework for a new wave of attacks on the Internet.
What might save the Russian Internet? Corruption! Martynov says the same obstacles that have frustrated implementation of the infamous “Yarovaya” anti-terrorist laws could complicate the implementation of the new Internet-isolation legislation. Specifically, he identifies the crippling effects of embezzlement and spending cutbacks. “It won’t be easy to create modern censorship at the current level of corruption,” he observes.
Relatives of the victims killed in a recent traffic collision in Grozny involving Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov’s cousin have recorded a video appeal to Kadyrov, begging him not to punish his cousin for the tragedy, according to Mediazona. On December 5, Kadyrov’s cousin, Shalinsky District head Turpal-Ali Ibragimov, steered his Mercedes at high speed into an oncoming Zhiguli carrying a family of three. The mother and daughter died instantly, and the father later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.
On December 13, the victims’ relatives met with Adam Shakhidov, Kadyrov’s adviser on religion, and recorded a video message in Chechen, asking Kadyrov several times not to dismiss Ibragimov from his post. The relatives say they traveled from Kazakhstan to meet with Shakhidov, who confirmed that it was Ibragimov behind the wheel of the Mercedes (not his second cousin, as local police reported initially).
Moscow’s Lublin District Court has delayed the hearing of a defamation lawsuit brought by National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov against anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, finding that Zolotov’s paperwork is incomplete. The pugilistic federal official has until January 9 to fill in the blanks, or the court will throw out the case.
The 1-million-ruble ($15,000) lawsuit relates in part to Navalny’s corruption allegations against the National Guard’s leadership involving property holdings. The activist faces a second defamation lawsuit filed by the “Friendship of the Peoples” company, which Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has accused of having personal connections to Zolotov and selling food products to the National Guard at inflated prices.
The peanut gallery 🥜
In an op-ed for Republic, journalist Andrey Arkhangelsky says the December 15 meeting of Russia’s Presidential Culture Council demonstrates the government’s backward commitment to cultural policies established in the USSR, designed to support and showcase Soviet ideology (rather than expand creative freedom, like arts subsidies in the West). “Defining the boundaries of culture is the same as trying to command the sea,” Arkhangelsky warns, arguing that Russian officials rely on the “cultural infrastructure” and “cultural services” inherited from the “totalitarian system” built in the 1960s to promote “harmoniously developed personalities” through laws and regulations.
Relating these ideas to current events, Arkhangelsky says Russia’s ongoing police crackdown on rap is “symptomatic” of the state’s “failure to accept reality” and “real” popular culture.
What are Russian state officials saying about rap? Meduza studied remarks by Putin, First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergey Kiriyenko, Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergey Naryshkin, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, Interior Ministry Drug Control Main Directorate Interdepartmental Director Vitaly Khmelnitsky, and Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova. Here’s the gist of what they’ve been saying: banning the genre is stupid and impossible, but the music is dangerous and based on sex, drugs, and violence — especially drugs. The state should use federal grants and contests to encourage the “right kind” of rap.
In an op-ed for The Insider, journalist Vladimir Abarinov argues that Maria Butina’s plea bargain puts her between a rock and a hard place, as she decides to what extent she will cooperate with U.S. investigators before her sentencing on February 12. Telling the Americans everything (whatever that entails) would reduce her punishment and possibly win her a speedy return to Russia, but such actions could also be a possible, once she’s back home in Russia. In a standard prisoner’s dilemma, Butina also has to remember that Paul Erickson (one of her accomplices) will be questioned, as well, and his testimony will be checked against hers. Abarinov speculates that the main thing Butina and Erickson might be able to corroborate is that some of the National Rifle Association’s $30-million contribution to the Trump campaign was knowingly from Russian sources.
In a statement published last week at Dozhd, columnist Oleg Kashin defended himself against criticism following his appearance on state television, where he made hawkish remarks about the imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. (Read more about Kashin’s scandalous week here.) Kashin says “Sentsov isn’t a terrorist,” but he faults Russian liberals for prioritizing the cases of Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia over Russian political prisoners in Ukraine, such as RIA Novosti Ukraine chief editor Kirill Vyshinsky.
The “hypocrisy” of Russia’s liberal intelligentsia bothers Kashin a lot, and he also accuses many of his critics of hypocrisy for repeatedly expressing disappointment in his punditry, pretending that he’s finally overtaxed their faith in him with each latest op-ed. (Kashin compares this performative disillusionment to the way some pro-Kremlin bloggers regularly claim to have lost faith in Alexey Navalny.)
So why did Kashin appear on Rossiya 1’s “60 Minutes”? For starters, he says he likes the show and “always watches it.” Kashin also describes the appearance as a way to spurn his critics, explaining, “I wanted to look at these people [his critics] not through my monitor on social networks, but from the cockpit of a bomber, and in our conditions today the state television airwaves are roughly the same as a bomber’s cockpit.”