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The Real Russia. Today. A Wikipedia conspiracy, FSB bank robbers, and a regime official charged with treason

Source: Meduza

Friday, July 5, 2019

This day in history: 188 years ago, on July 5, 1831, the St. Petersburg Cholera Revolt took place. The city's lower-class residents responded to quarantines imposed from above during the cholera epidemics of 1830 – 1831 by threatening to destroy a centrally located cholera hospital. According to one diary from the period, police claimed that the rioters had been paid off by Polish agitators. (Some things never change.)
  • Wikipedia blocks a pro-regime conspiracy in its Russian edition
  • Seven FSB officers arrested in bank robbery case
  • Advisor for Putin envoy to Ural region arrested on treason charges
  • Two women convicted for killing abusive husbands
  • Russian Culture Ministry fires CEO of major theater following ‘unprecedented’ internal conflict
  • More news briefs: the Russia vs. Google battle continues, and the Kremlin responds to Ivan Golunov's latest work

Revenge of the editors 💻

In February 2019, a Russian entrepreneur who uses Wikipedia in his work began to notice something mysterious: a relatively new user on the Russian-language version of the platform was making regular edits to political articles. While the user clearly attempted to dilute the effect of the edits by making politically neutral changes elsewhere, much of the account's activity was devoted to promoting Russian government figures and adding negative passages to entries about opposition figures. Soon enough, it became clear that a dozen users were all involved in this effort, making it the largest conspiracy Russian Wikipedia had seen since 2010. Our Director of Investigations, Alexey Kovalev, dove into the details of the plot.

Read Meduza's full report here.

A vicious cycle of corruption 💰

Seven employees of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have been arrested in an armed robbery case. Some sources close to the agency told Russian media outlets that the agents worked with bank employees to rob a client attempting to make a large deposit; others said the agents had illegally searched and robbed the bank itself. In any case, the robbery is hardly the end of the story: the band of FSB agents is also under investigation in several other instances of theft. One newspaper even reported that they may have stolen money hoarded by an anti-corruption official who had himself stolen the money from corrupt officials who had themselves stolen the money from other sources.

Read more about the allegations here.

A bad work anniversary 🚔

Alexander Vorobyov was appointed as an advisor to the Presidential Envoy to the Ural Federal District in July 2018. One year later, he has been arrested and jailed as he awaits trial on treason charges. Vorobyov’s government position was not widely known until he announced it himself in court.

Read a brief on his arrest here.

Two more women convicted 🤦

As a grassroots effort to draw attention to family and intimate partner violence in Russia continues to escalate, two women have been convicted in the murders of their husbands. One received a reduced sentence after making a successful self-defense argument on appeal while another's attorneys reported multiple legal violations in her conviction after their self-defense arguments were blocked.

Read about both cases here.

A theatrical drama, resolved for now 🎭

The Russian Culture Ministry has fired Alexey Turkalov, the CEO of Yaroslavl’s Volkov Theater. Turkalov’s appointment in December 2018 escalated a much-publicized controversy in the Yaroslavl region surrounding plans to unify the Volkov with St. Petersburg’s Alexandrinsky Theater. The Culture Ministry also issued a rebuke to Artistic Director Yevgeny Marchelli, Turkalov’s primary rival at the theater.

Read more about the firing here. Read about the controversy behind it here.

In other news

Yours, Meduza