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The Real Russia. Today. Expedited Russian citizenship in Ukraine's separatist region, shortlisted for the 2019 Pushkin House Book Prize, and restoring Moscow’s Stone Flower Fountain

Source: Meduza

Thursday, April 25, 2019

This day in history: 12 years ago, on April 25, 2007, Boris Yeltsin was laid to rest in the first funeral for a Russian head of state to be sanctioned by the Russian Orthodox Church since Emperor Alexander III was buried in 1894.
  • Thanks to Putin, Donbas residents now have an expedited path toward Russian citizenship. What could go wrong?
  • Six thrill rides through Soviet history shortlisted for 2019 Pushkin House Book Prize
  • The restoration of Moscow’s Stone Flower Fountain cost more than a billion rubles. Why?
  • Khodorkovsky's investigative journalists say advisers hired by ‘Putin's chef’ spent a year trying to save Sudan's longtime dictator
  • High-ranking Russian FSB official arrested on suspicion of taking large bribe
  • Belarus estimates revenue losses from low-quality Russian petroleum at $100 million
  • Yekaterinburg building evacuated due to bomb threat during LGBTQ roundtable
  • Russian Culture Ministry recommends delaying screenings of film on clerical sexual abuse until after Orthodox Easter

Thanks, Putin? 🛂

Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed an order allowing for an expedited citizenship process for residents of the self-styled Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (the DPR and LPR), which form Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Residents of the two breakaway regions may begin receiving Russian passports in the near future, and Putin’s move has drawn criticism and renewed calls for sanctions in Kyiv and the West. We asked how issuing passports to residents of the DPR and LPR aligns with Russian and Ukrainian law and what problems might arise as Russia begins accepting new citizens from both regions.

Read Meduza's story here: “Donbas residents now have an expedited path toward Russian citizenship. What could go wrong?”

The 2019 shortlist 🏆

The 2019 shortlist for the Pushkin House Book Prize, which honors English-language nonfiction about the Russian-speaking world, was announced today in Moscow. This year’s shortlist is a boon for Soviet history buffs, with every finalist shedding light at least in part on the events of the mid- and late 20th century.

Find complete list of shortlisted titles here: “Six thrill rides through Soviet history shortlisted for 2019 Pushkin House Book Prize”

“A roughly painted, cheap fake” 💰

In early April, photos of the newly renovated Stone Flower Fountain began popping up on social media. The Moscow landmark is one of four historic fountains located in the VDNKh exhibition park, and a total of almost three billion rubles ($46.3 million) were spent to restore all four. Local activists expressed frustration at the fountain’s “coarse” new look, and restoration specialists advised the public to wait a few years for the elements to return the flower to a more natural-looking state. The company that renovated the fountain has won almost every major restoration contract in western Russia in recent years — and it has been involved in a string of corruption scandals. The company even offered to help the French government restore the Notre Dame cathedral.

Read Meduza's story here: “The restoration of Moscow’s Stone Flower Fountain cost more than a billion rubles. Why?”

News briefs

  • 🌍 According to data from Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s investigative news project Dossier Center, as reported by the former oligarch’s website MBKh Media and the American TV network CNN, businesses linked to the Russian catering tycoon Evgeny Prigozhin spent the past year trying to save Omar al-Bashir’s regime in Sudan. Read the story here.
  • 👮 Kirill Cherkalin, who leads a branch of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), has been arrested after accusations that he accepted a large bribe, TASS reported. Two former employees of the same branch, Dmitry Frolov and Andrey Vasiliev, were also arrested on suspicions of major fraud. The FSB did not release any additional information about the purported crimes.
  • 🛢️ Vladimir Sizov, the deputy chair of the Belneftekhim trust, said that Belarusian companies have sustained about $100 million losses after they received subpar Russian petroleum that was unfit for processing and export. Sizov also said that Belarus partially renewed its exports of light petroleum products to Poland and Ukraine on April 25. Read the story here.
  • 🏳️‍🌈 The Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg was evacuated on April 25 due to a bomb threat, Znak.com reported. The threat reached the building a few minutes after a roundtable on LGBTQ issues had begun inside it as part of a long-term project called Bye-Bye, Stigma! Read the story here.
  • 📽️ François Ozon’s Grâce à Dieu (By the Grace of God) won the Jury Grand Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. However, because it depicts a court battle between Catholic priests and victims of sexual abuse, the film’s distributor told Meduza, Russia’s Culture Ministry has requested that screenings be delayed until after Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter. Read the story here.

Yours, Meduza