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The Real Russia. Today. Putin's spokesman gets emigration numbers wrong, a troubled sexual-assault criminal case, and Russia's censor activates for a banker

Source: Meduza

Friday, April 5, 2019

This day in history: 28 years ago today, on April 5, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation granted President Boris Yeltsin emergency powers to begin a reform campaign that would lead to the dissolution of the USSR before the end of the year. Yeltsin and Supreme Soviet Presidium Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov were still allies at the time, but the two would clash just two years later in Russia’s Constitutional Crisis.
  • Putin’s press secretary claimed a “far greater” portion of Americans than Russians want to emigrate from their home country. He’s wrong.
  • After confessing to criminal negligence, a former orphanage director avoids further prosecution for ignoring reports about sexual assault foster children. The statute of limitations saved her.
  • Federal censor blocks a thousand websites that mention a prominent banker
  • Court fines Twitter 3,000 rubles for storing Russian users' data outside Russia
  • Health Ministry proposes banning public calls for vaccination avoidance
  • Co-founder of feminist coworking space in St. Petersburg writes that prosecutors asked to question her about ‘discrimination against men’
  • Social media content from Denis Karagodin, Ekaterina Schulmann, and Mikhail Krutikhin

Try again, Kremlin 🛂

On April 5, Russia’s presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov was asked to comment on a Gallup report that showed one in five adult Russians would like to emigrate elsewhere. The figure was the highest recorded since 2007. Peskov responded as follows: “These surveys are carried out by various companies in various countries, and that figure is far from the highest. For example, the number of Americans who want to emigrate from America is far greater than one fifth. Far greater. It’s a typical process. Some people prefer a more mobile way of life, and some people prefer a less mobile one. That makes this an absolutely standard topic for sociological research.”

  • Do Americans want to emigrate more than Russians do?
  • Was Peskov right that Russia’s statistic isn’t the highest?
  • Have Russians begun considering emigration more frequently in recent years?

Read Meduza's report here: “Putin’s press secretary claimed a “far greater” portion of Americans than Russians want to emigrate from their home country. He’s wrong.”

A losing race against the statute of limitations

A St. Petersburg court has closed the criminal case against Natalia Fedorova, the former director of Children’s Home Number 10, which spent more than a decade ignoring reports from children about sexual assault by different adults, including the facility’s deputy director. Fedorova confessed to criminal negligence, but the charges’ statute of limitations has now expired. To learn more about the case, Meduza spoke to Dmitry Geradimov, the defense attorney for some of the abuse victims.

Read Meduza's interview here: “After confessing to criminal negligence, a former orphanage director avoids further prosecution for ignoring reports about sexual assault foster children. The statute of limitations saved her.”

News briefs

  • 🔗 Russia’s federal censor, Roskomnadzor, has blocked roughly 1,000 hyperlinks to different Internet resources mentioning VTB Bank, the bank’s president, Andrey Kostin, and TV news anchor Nailya Asker-Zade. A source at the Internet freedom project “Roskomsvoboda” told Vedomosti that Roskomnadzor is enforcing two court rulings handed down last fall. According to legal records, VTB Bank demanded in multiple lawsuits the deletion of Internet content that mentions Kostin and Asker-Zade at least four times. Read the full story here.
  • 🐤 A Moscow judge ruled Friday that Twitter must pay a fine of 3,000 rubles ($45.90) for storing data about its Russian users outside Russia’s borders, Mediazona reported. A law requiring such data to be stored in Russia has been in effect since September 2015, and a wave of heightened enforcement one year later resulted in the blockage of LinkedIn within Russian borders. Read the full story here.
  • 💉 The Russian federal Health Ministry is developing a bill that would prohibit publicly expressing encouragement for vaccine avoidance, TASS reported. The vice chair of the ministry, Tatiana Yakovleva, said groups that discourage vaccination have “decreased the effectiveness” of the country’s disease prevention efforts to “below their full potential.” According to Interfax, the ministry hopes to enable websites that discourage readers from seeking vaccination to be blocked while introducing administrative penalties for sharing their content.
  • 👮 Leda Garina, a co-founder of the St. Petersburg feminist coworking space Simona, wrote on Facebook that she had been called into a prosecutor’s office for questioning regarding “discrimination against men.” The local outlet Sobaka reported that prosecutors asked whether Garina could meet on April 4, but she declined to be questioned without a warrant. Read the full story here.

The peanut gallery 🥜

Denis Karagodin, researcher (April 5)

🔎 Catching a killer: After eight years of archival research, Denis Karagodin says he’s finally found photos of the NKVD agent he says is responsible for leading the interrogation of his great grandfather, who was executed in 1938 for supposed espionage. “I caught him today!” Karagodin declared on Facebook. While searching for officer Anatoly Zverev, Karagodin says he managed to identify everyone else involved in his great grandfather’s death, as well, including the “firing squad, the prosecutors, the nomenclatura, the prison agents, and others.”

Ekaterina Schulmann, political analyst (April 5)

🕊️ Putin’s next mass amnesty: In a YouTube video, Schulmann films herself speaking to Govorit Moskva radio station, explaining the likely parameters of Vladimir Putin’s probable amnesty declaration next year, in honor of the 75th anniversary of victory in WWII. She says the Kremlin regularly issues mass amnesties in part as a way to correct the excesses of Russia’s legal and investigative system, which rarely acquits defendants. Schulmann says Putin’s 2020 amnesty might also apply to misdemeanor offenses, which would affect many people prosecuted for unpermitted demonstrations. Presidential Human Rights Council Chairman Mikhail Fedotov is likely pressing the issue now, in order to lobby Putin for the broadest possible amnesty, Schulmann says.

Mikhail Krutikhin, RusEnergy consultant (April 4)

🔮 Prognosticating Gazprom’s future: Krutikhin offers five reasons he has a “gut feeling” that serious reforms await the Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom: (1) the company has apparently fulfilled its mission of transferring big money from the state’s coffers to private hands, with its major pipeline projects coming to an end; (2) Gazprom might “unnecessarily” spend billions to buy the assets of its contractors; (3) major figures responsible for “regulating the main money flows,” like Management Committee Deputy Chairman Andrey Kruglov, are leaving the company; (4) the Europeans won’t consent to a monopoly supplier, forcing Gazprom to accept independent pipeline operators; and (5) the company might be restructured to resemble Transneft, with production divided between different companies that fall under the control of certain select individuals.

Yours, Meduza