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The Real Russia. Today. HBO's ‘Chernobyl,’ a Russian man buys F-16 fighter jet manuals on eBay, and Yekaterinburg's cathedral war

Source: Meduza

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

This day in history: 64 years ago, on May 14, 1955, the Soviet Union and seven Eastern Bloc satellite states signed the Warsaw Pact collective defense treaty, following the integration of West Germany into NATO.
  • ‘Chernobyl’: Yegor Moskvitin reviews HBO’s poignant depiction of a Soviet disaster
  • A Russian video game developer bought F-16 fighter jet manuals on eBay. He might face up to 10 years in a U.S. prison.
  • On the ground for night one of protests in Yekaterinburg against the construction of a new cathedral
  • On their second day of anti-cathedral protests, Yekaterinburg residents toss fencing into ponds and try to avoid arrest
  • Arrested Yekaterinburg protester receives fine in court, is immediately arrested again
  • Putin examines a missile system immediately before meeting the U.S. Secretary of State. Coincidence?
  • Yaroslavl resident who photographed and shared anti-Putin graffiti gets hit with 30,000-ruble fine
  • Entrepreneur arrested in major oil contamination case complains that prosecutors are looking for ‘enemies of the people’

Chernobyl: the show 📺

Liam Daniel / HBO / Amediateka

A co-production of HBO, the British network Sky, and the Russian media company Amediateka, the five-part miniseries Chernobyl premiered in the United States and the United Kingdom this month. After the first episode’s release on May 6th (episode two premiered on May 13th), the series garnered a higher critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes than Game of Thrones. Although much of what is depicted in the series will be familiar to Russian viewers, Chernobyl is not a purely documentary work. Critic Yegor Moskvitin discusses the 1986 disaster and its Anglo-American dramatization. 

Read Meduza's review: “HBO’s poignant depiction of a Soviet disaster”

eSmuggling ⚖️

Russian video game developer Oleg Tishchenko is being tried in the United States. He worked on high-precision flight simulators for 15 years and purchased documentation about various airplane models online to better understand his models. Now, Tishchenko faces criminal charges for one of those purchases. Among other crimes, he has been accused of conspiring against the United States. If convicted, he may face a sentence of more than 10 years in prison.

Read Meduza's report: “A Russian video game developer bought F-16 fighter jet manuals on eBay. He might face up to 10 years in a U.S. prison.”

Yekaterinburg's cathedral war

The first night of protests

A fence appeared overnight on May 13 in October Square in downtown Yekaterinburg, near the regional drama theater. This is the site where the Russian Copper Company (RMK) and the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company (UGMK) intend to build “St. Catherine’s Cathedral” before 2023, when the city celebrates the 300th anniversary of its founding. The project has been approved, and arts patrons at the “St. Catherine’s Cathedral LLC” have leased the land. The construction has the support of the governor, City Hall, and the Russian Orthodox Church’s Yekaterinburg Diocese. Local activists and political oppositionists, however, don’t want to lose public space to the church, and past demonstrations already led to the cancellation of previous plans to build St. Catherine’s Cathedral on an artificial island created in the city pond. The new fence in October Square has provoked a full-scale confrontation, with sit-ins, sieges, and some violence. Meduza journalist Dmitry Andreev spent the night with the protesters, and witnessed the clashes firsthand.

Read Meduza's report: “On the ground for night one of protests in Yekaterinburg against the construction of a new cathedral”

👮 Day two

A spontaneous protest against the destruction of an open square to build a new cathedral in central Yekaterinburg stretched from the evening of May 13 into the early morning. Police officers left the square around midnight without dispersing protesters. On the evening of May 14, the square’s defenders — and their opponents — went face-to-face again.

Read Meduza's report: “On their second day of anti-cathedral protests, Yekaterinburg residents toss fencing into ponds and try to avoid arrest”

👮 Catch and release, and catch

A Yekaterinburg court has fined Nikolai Bogdanov, who participated in protests against the construction of a cathedral in place of one of the city’s open squares, 1,000 rubles ($15) for small-time hooliganism. Police officers claimed that Bogdanov was drunk at the protests and used explicit language, which he himself denies. After his verdict was announced, Bogdanov was not released. Instead, police officers immediately arrested him again; he will reportedly be charged with another administrative violation. 

Just one stop before Pompeo 🕊️

Vladimir Putin has begun a series of military visits. On May 13, the president visited the Kazan Aviation Factory, where he examined Tu-160, Tu-95MC, and Tu-22 airplanes as well as a Mi-38T helicopter. On Tuesday, he will visit a Defense Ministry flight test facility in Akhtubinsk, where he will tour, among other things, a Kinzhal hypersonic missile system. Afterward, the Russian president will travel to Sochi for negotiations with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, called on the American government to look past that timing. He said the military visits were planned long before “a small window opened up in the president’s schedule that allowed him to welcome the U.S. Secretary of State.” 

News briefs

  • 🖕 A Yaroslavl court fined Kirill Poputnikov 30,000 rubles ($461.55) under a 2019 law that bans insulting the government online, 76.ru reported. Poputnikov posted a photograph on Facebook that showed graffiti whose message can be translated as “Putin is a fag” on the façade of the local Internal Affairs Ministry building. Poputnikov said that his intent in photographing the graffiti was to attract attention to an act of vandalism. Read the story here.
  • 🛢️ After organochloride contamination in the Druzhba oil pipeline left millions of dollars in Russian exports unusable, the leaders of a company called Nefteperevalka who were connected to the node where the contamination took place are facing criminal charges. Read the story here.

Yours, Meduza