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The Real Russia. Today. Lawmakers adopt revised draft of Russia's ‘Internet isolation’ law, Michael Calvey is moved to house arrest, and Putin graffiti leads to a blocked website

Source: Meduza

Thursday, April 11, 2019

This day in history: 37 years ago, on April 11, 1982, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published an article denouncing the work of the popular Soviet rock band “Time Machine,” beginning a coordinated public attack against the band. The article prompted a nationwide letter-writing campaign in the group's defense.
  • Russian lawmakers have adopted the final version of new ‘Internet isolation’ legislation. Here’s how it’s supposed to work.
  • Political expert Andrei Kolesnikov says Calvey's house arrest offsets ‘contrasts’ in Russia's law-enforcement image
  • Moscow court releases American investor Michael Calvey from detention center to house arrest
  • Alleged accomplice in Baring Vostok case confesses guilt, testifies against other defendants
  • Russia’s State Duma passes bill penalizing doping in sports with fines of up to 80,000 rubles
  • Russian censorship agency blocks news site that refused to delete story about graffiti insulting Putin
  • Social media content from Alexander Morozov and Irina Biryukova

The day the RuNet stood still

On Thursday, April 11, the State Duma adopted the second reading of draft legislation designed to “ensure the safe and sustainable functioning” of Internet service in Russia. Lawmakers say the law will defend the country against foreign aggression, serving as insurance, in case Russia’s global Internet access is shut off from abroad. The legislation effectively lays out how Russia’s Internet infrastructure would work in isolation from the outside world. Meduza reviews the project’s key features.

The legislation in a nutshell: According to lawmakers, this is a blueprint for what to do “in case of a rainy day.” If someone attacks the Russian segment of the Internet (if they threaten to restrict or disable Russia’s Internet access), Roskomnadzor will seize centralized control of Russia’s Internet. The federal agency will begin filtering all Internet traffic through special override systems that will be supplied to telecommunications providers free of charge. ISPs will have to obey Roskomnadzor’s direct instructions, observing the new traffic routing rules that effectively lock down Russia’s Internet from within.

The highlights:

  • It’s unclear what Russia’s authorities are guarding the Internet against
  • But training maneuvers are already planned
  • The law creates a second Internet censorship system for Russia
  • Service disruptions are expected, but no one will be responsible for them
  • The law creates a separate entity and special communications system for centralized Internet control
  • Roskomnadzor will finally be king of the RuNet
  • The law will take effect before the end of this year

Read Meduza's full report here: “Russian lawmakers have adopted the final version of new ‘Internet isolation’ legislation. Here’s how it’s supposed to work.”

Kolesnikov: Calvey's release dispels concerns that Putin has lost control

In an op-ed for RBC, Andrei Kolesnikov, chair of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program, says the decision to transfer American investor Michael Calvey from pretrial detention to house arrest was partly intended to bring the justice system’s behavior closer into line with President Putin’s calls to ease police practices against businesses. Kolesnikov says the courts and agencies like the FSB generally run on “autopilot” these days, sniffing the air to decipher Russia’s changing “political-atmospheric phenomena” for clues about what is expected of them from the country’s leadership. In these interpretations, it’s simpler to choose brutality over leniency. The dissonance created by the contrast between Putin’s pro-business rhetoric and Michael Calvey’s arrest was so intense, Kolesnikov says, that it seemed to suggest Putin isn’t in control of Russia’s law-enforcement apparatus.

Kolesnikov also says Calvey’s “release” counterbalances a recent display of “harsh justice”: the arrest of former government minister Mikhail Abyzov. “If you add it all up, the balance doesn’t change,” Kolesnikov explains.

News briefs

  • Moscow’s Basmanny Court has approved a petition for Michael Calvey, the founder of the investment firm Baring Vostok, to be placed under house arrest after spending almost two months in a pretrial detention center. Calvey has been charged with embezzling 2.5 billion rubles (almost $38,775,000). Interfax reported that Calvey was released from the control of his guards on the spot in the courtroom. Read the story here.
  • As the American investor Michael Calvey was transferred today from jail to house arrest, news broke that another defendant in the case against Calvey has confessed to the charges against him. Alexey Kordichev, the former head of Vostochny Bank, also gave testimony against those charged with him in the Baring Vostok case, RIA Novosti reported. Kordichev’s admission of guilt came to light when he petitioned to be transferred to house arrest. Moscow’s Basmanny Court approved his petition.
  • The State Duma approved a new bill containing administrative penalties for athletes and coaches who commit or propagate doping. The bill passed its third, final vote on April 11. Using or attempting to use substances that produce an unfair advantage in sports events will be met with a fine of 30,000 – 50,000 rubles ($466 – $776). Giving such substances to others will be punishable by a fine of 40,000 – 80,000 rubles ($621 – $1,242) under the terms of the bill.
  • Representatives for the Yaroslavl-based news site Yarcube wrote on the site’s Telegram channel that the site has been blocked in Russia. The country’s censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, added the site to its blacklist, the journalists wrote. Read the story here.

The peanut gallery

Alexander Morozov, political expert (April 11)

Malofeev is clawing his way back: Commenting on Konstantin Malofeev’s April 10 election as the chairman of the “World Russian People's Council” (which is headed by the Moscow Patriarchate), Morozov says it’s still unclear if the “Orthodox oligarch” intends to run for a seat in the State Duma, but he is apparently regaining favor with Patriarch Kirill, despite the church’s informal policy of distancing itself from anyone involved closely with Russia’s military intervention in eastern Ukraine.

Irina Biryukova, “Public Verdict Foundation” attorney (April 11)

The “propaganda” train’s runaround: A mobile exhibition of spoils from the war in Syria has been traveling Russia’s railways since late February. The project, called “Syrian Breakthrough,” is organized by the Defense Ministry, but nobody in the Military Prosecutor’s Office seems to be able to answer questions about the legality of the “propaganda train,” according to Biryukova, who shared a photograph of a letter she received from Yaroslavl’s deputy military attorney general. “Nobody knows anything, nobody’s involved, and everyone constantly redirects you to another agency,” she complains. In February, Biryukova formally complained that the train exhibition violates laws against propagating hatred in public. (The display features “war trophies” captured from the terrorist group ISIS.)

Yours, Meduza