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The Real Russia. Today. St. Petersburg's supposed subway bombers, explaining the new direction of the ‘Seventh Studio’ case, and Russia's ‘sweeping victory’ over NATO

Source: Meduza

Friday, April 12, 2019

This day in history: 58 years ago today, on April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to reach outer space. Commemorate the day with these awesome Soviet cartoons.
  • What’s the story with the investigation into St. Petersburg’s 2017 subway bombing? Defendants say they were abducted and tortured at a ‘secret FSB prison.’
  • Defense attorney explains what's changed in case against top Russian theater directors
  • Putin says Russia's draft will be canceled over time. He has been saying this since he took office.
  • Suspected ISIS terrorists reported killed in Siberian city
  • A Moscow court fines Facebook about 50 bucks for refusing to store user data inside Russia
  • Columnist and former diplomat Vladimir Frolov says Russia is a step from a “sweeping victory” over NATO

St. Petersburg's torture/terrorism case ⚖️

More than two years have passed since a terrorist attack in the St. Petersburg subway, when a terrorist detonated a bomb inside a subway car, killing 15 passengers, as well as himself, and injuring roughly 100 people. City officials estimate that the blast caused roughly 108 million rubles ($1.7 million) in damages. The day before the second anniversary, the trial against the alleged perpetrators got underway. There are 11 suspects in the case, all of whom maintain their innocence. Some of the defendants also say they were tortured at a “secret FSB prison.” Meduza special correspondent Pavel Merzlikin explains how the case began, the allegations against federal agents, and how some have defended the government’s interrogation methods.

Read Meduza's special report here: “What’s the story with the investigation into St. Petersburg’s 2017 subway bombing?”

Masliayeva's lies 🎭

On April 8, the Moscow City Court released three defendants in the “Seventh Studio” case from house arrest. Kirill Serebrennikov, Sofia Apfelbaum, and Yury Itin were instead permitted to sign a pledge not to leave Russia until their cases are concluded. On April 11, Moscow’s Meshchansky Court was scheduled to issue a sentence for Seventh Studio’s former accountant, Nina Masliayeva. Special procedures were applied to her trial because she had confessed to embezzlement, reached a plea deal, and given testimony against the case’s other defendants. However, a judge has decided to refer Masliayeva’s case back to prosecutors due to “violations in the plea agreement” and violations of Masliayeva’s right to legal defense. Irina Poverinova, the attorney for Russian Academic Youth Theater (RAMT) director Sofia Apfelbaum, told Meduza about what this new development in Masliayeva’s case could mean for her own client.

Read Meduza's story here: “Defense attorney explains what's changed in case against top Russian theater directors”

The draft's never-ending end

On April 12, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that the time has come for Russia’s nationwide draft to end, though “time and suitable funds will be necessary” to carry out the move. Many media sources quoted Putin’s statement. However, the president has been discussing a transition from mandatory to contractual military service in Russia since the beginning of his regime. In 2001, he even approved a government plan to shift to a contract army by 2010. Here’s what Putin has said about that option at various stages in his presidency.

Follow the timeline: “Putin says Russia's draft will be canceled over time. He has been saying this since he took office.”

News briefs

  • 🚨 Alleged ISIS followers have been killed in the course of a counterterrorism operation in the Siberian city of Tyumen, Interfax reported. During a search conducted on the night of April 12, the suspects attacked security agents, who returned fire and killed them. The number of deaths that resulted from the encounter has not yet been reported. An Interfax source previously mentioned that officials were searching for two suspects. Read the story here.
  • 🥜 A small claims court in Moscow’s Tagansky District has fined Facebook 3,000 rubles (roughly $47) for failing to store Russian users’ personal data on servers located inside Russia. On April 5, a Russian court imposed an identical fine on Twitter for the same offense. The 3,000-ruble penalty is the lowest possible fine allowed by law for violations of Russia’s “data localization” regulations. Not all foreign Internet companies have gotten off so lightly: the Russian authorities have blocked the business and employment-oriented service LinkedIn since 2016 for refusing to store user data in Russia.

Frolov: Russia is a step away from throwing a huge wrench in NATO 🤝

In an op-ed for Republic, columnist and former diplomat Vladimir Frolov says a Russian contract to sell S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey will likely be Moscow’s “sweeping victory” over NATO, weakening the alliance’s southern flank, while netting Russia $2.5 billion. Frolov says the deal has soured relations between Ankara and Washington, leading to events that will effectively drop Turkey from NATO’s military structure, forcing Ankara to rely increasingly on cooperation with Russia for its national security.

Frolov says the Americans oppose Turkey’s acquisition of Russian missile defense systems because they fear it would result in Moscow gaining inside access to the target detection and tracking algorithms used by U.S. F-35 fighters, which is why Turkey will lose the aircraft if it buys the S-400s from Russia. (Frolov says Washington worries that the Russian military will retain secret remote access to the S-400s it delivers to Ankara.)

Why has Recep Erdoğan endangered Turkey’s position in NATO and jeopardized an F-35 manufacturing deal worth $12 billion to his country’s defense industry? Frolov believes Erdoğan acted angrily, retaliating against perceived slights in Syria (where Washington refused to grant a control zone to Turkey), and against America’s decision not to turn over political rival Fethullah Gülen. By cozying up to Russia, however, Erdoğan miscalculated, and now Turkey might face U.S. sanctions for buying arms from Russia.

Frolov says Moscow doesn’t need Turkey to withdraw formally from NATO; it’s enough that Ankara remains in the alliance, disrupting the organization’s cohesion with its “separate position” on Russia and security in the Black Sea.

The Kremlin has managed all this, Frolov notes, without firing a shot, without deploying a single “polite person,” and without activating a single “Internet troll.” And instead of new sanctions, Russia can expect a fat paycheck, in return.

Yours, Meduza