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The Real Russia. Today. A purge at the FSB, police raid the parents of a suspected Telegram blogger, and Russia's dubbed version of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ changes a scene's gay overtones

Source: Meduza

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

This day in history: 52 years ago, on April 30, 1967, Philipp Kirkorov was born in Bulgaria. He is now one of Russia's most recognizable pop singers, and famously spent 11 years married to Soviet music icon Alla Pugacheva.
  • Russia's FSB reportedly purges dozens of officers following arrest of top colonel for bribery
  • Nobody is sure who writes one of Russia’s most popular political Telegram channels, but police may have just raided his family’s home in Dagestan
  • Russia's dubbed version of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ changes Marvel's first ‘gay moment’
  • 86 percent of the people living in Ukraine's separatist-controlled region reportedly want Russian citizenship

A purge at the FSB 👮

Following the arrest of FSB Colonel Kirill Cherkalin, who faces up to 15 years in prison on major bribery charges, Russia’s Federal Security Service has fired 27 officers who worked with him, a source in law enforcement told the website Znak.com. “So far, they’ve established that all together they were pulling down about a billion rubles [$15.5 million] every month. These guys just didn’t know when to stop,” the source said.

According to the newspaper Kommersant, Cherkalin works in the FSB’s “Department K” economic crimes unit, managing the second branch that oversees Russia’s banking sector. Sources told Kommersant that he comes from a family of intelligence officers, and is a “highly respected person” and a “significant figure not only in the intelligence community but perhaps also in the country’s whole financial sector.” He’s reportedly close to Ivan Tkachev, the head of the FSB’s Department K.

A popular Telegram channel's apparently unwanted police attention 👮

With more than 300,000 subscribers and each post averaging an audience of 184,000 views, StalinGulag is one of Telegram’s most popular politics channels in Russia. The author responsible for the content, which is often highly critical of the state authorities, remains a mystery. In July 2018, the magazine RBC reported that the channel belongs to Makhachkala native Alexander Gorbunov. (StalinGulag denied this claim.) There have been other theories about who runs the channel, as well. For instance, Vasily Prozorov, a former official in Ukraine’s National Security Service, said in March 2019 that Ukrainian intelligence officers are the ones behind StalinGulag.

Nine months after RBC’s article about Alexander Gorbunov, police raided his parents’ home in Makhachkala. StalinGulag, incidentally, was the first media outlet to report the incident. “Investigators and armed men are bursting into apartments and looking for Sanya [Alexander] from Dagestan,” the Telegram channel announced on April 27, adding that Gorbunov is suspected of calling in bomb threats. “He supposedly used his own phone number (!) to call about bombs across Moscow.” According to StalinGulag, the police also interrogated Gorbunov’s mother for six hours and searched the homes of his relatives in Moscow.

Read Meduza's report: “Nobody is sure who writes one of Russia’s most popular political Telegram channels, but police may have just raided his family’s home in Dagestan”

The date that wasn't 🏳️‍🌈

The Russian release of the Hollywood blockbuster “Avengers: Endgame” features some tweaked dialogue in an early scene that could constitute censorship intended to avoid conflicts with Russia’s ban on so-called “gay propaganda.”

Warning: light spoilers ahead for the film “Avengers: Endgame.”

Early in the movie, one of the two Russo brothers (who directed the film) plays a gay character who attends a support group with Steve Rogers (Captain America). The scene is brief in a movie that’s three hours long, but it marks the first time an openly gay character has appeared in a Marvel film.

“So, I went on a date the other day. First time in five years,” the character says, before adding later, “He cried as they were serving the salad. [...] But I’m seeing him again tomorrow.”

According to the website TJournal, Russia’s dubbed version of “Endgame” changes the character’s lines to diminish the overt romantic overtones. In the Russian version, Joe Russo’s character says, “I was recently at dinner. First time in five years. [...] He cried over a plate of salad. [...] Tomorrow I’m meeting him again.”

Two weeks before its premiere, Disney revealed that “Avengers: Endgame” would not be screened anywhere in Russia in English with subtitles. Tatiana Shorokhova, the editor-in-chief of the website Kinoafisha, has speculated that Disney may have reached this decision because of the scene where Joe Russo’s character talks about dating another man.

In 2017, Russia’s Culture Ministry gave the live-action version of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” a PG-16 rating because of a similar “gay moment” at the very end of the film. TJournal says the movie studio may have changed the dialogue in “Avengers: Infinity War” (which is also PG-16 in Russia) to avoid another conflict with the government.

86%* 🛂

Eighty-six percent of the people living in Ukraine’s separatist-controlled Donbas region want Russian citizenship, according to Kirill Alizinov, the spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry’s Central Office for Migration, citing a new sociological survey.

On April 24, Vladimir Putin signed an executive order simplifying the process of receiving citizenship for people living in the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, arguing that the Ukrainian government has abandoned the region’s residents and made it too difficult to receive civil-servant salaries and pension payments.

Ukrainian President-Elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy says the Kremlin’s decision to simplify citizenship for Donbas residents means that Russia has effectively recognized its responsibility as an “occupying power” in the region, which Moscow has denied since the beginning of hostilities in 2014.

Yours, Meduza