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The Real Russia. Today. On the ground at the Listvyazhnaya disaster site

Source: Meduza

Thursday, December 2, 2021

  • International: Nikolaus von Twickel says Russia has ‘de facto’ annexed the Donbas, and Ilves and Kramer respond to Charap’s op-ed on U.S. options in Ukraine
  • Law and order: Photos from the Listvyazhnaya coal mine disaster site, plus Lyubov Sobol gets another reason not to come home
  • Public policy: Team Navalny’s new investigation, the Komi Communists’ libertarian leader, GitHub and Etsy run into trouble, and Usmanov hands over the keys to VK to Kovalchuk


📌 Opinion: journalist studying Donbas war says region is on its way to being ‘de facto annexed’ by Russia (Nikolaus von Twickel says Moscow’s recent efforts to boost economic integration with Ukraine’s separatist enclaves are an attempt to reduce their burden on Russia’s federal budget)

🛡️ Opinion: Toomas Hendrik Ilves and David Kramer reject Samuel Charap’s recent essay urging concessions to Russia (“A worrisome debate has emerged” about how to respond to a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ilves and Kramer say, arguing that Charap’s “unsavory compromise” is “wishful thinking” that would only embolden Moscow to press for more. They compare the approach to terms reached in Munich 1938 and Yalta 1945 that they say only fed “murderous leaders’ appetites.” They say Biden should refuse to meet with Putin until Russia has withdrawn “all of its forces along the Ukrainian border in a verifiable way.”)

🕊️ Opinion: In a response to Ilves and Kramer’s response, Samuel Charap says the sticking point is whether Putin is ‘bluffing’ (Charap argues that there’s no feasible “coercive package” guaranteed to deter Russia, defends the Minsk II agreement as “all we have,” says Ilves and Kramer oversimplify Putin’s decision-making, and rejects the “no withdrawal, no meeting” mantra as “fanciful”)

Law and order

🕯️ The Listvyazhnaya coal mine disaster: photographer Sergey Stroitelev visits the Siberian town in mourning (10-min read)

On November 25, Russia experienced its deadliest mine accident since 2010. A methane explosion at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine in Siberia’s Kemerovo region killed 51 people — 46 miners and five rescue workers. In the town where the Listvyazhnaya mine is located, it’s difficult to find a family that doesn’t have a connection to the industry. The people of Gramoteino have been mining coal for generations. Entire families work in the mines and some continue to dig for coal despite the fact that their loved ones have died underground. For Meduza, photographer Sergey Stroitelev traveled to Gramoteino to talk to surviving miners and local families about how they’re coping in the aftermath of the disaster.

⚖️ Moscow court converts opposition figure Lyubov Sobol’s suspended sentence to real prison time (She fled the country, earlier this summer. Sobol’s supposed crime was intruding on the privacy of an FSB agent who allegedly took part in the poisoning of Alexey Navalny.)

Public policy

🔎 Team Navalny uncovers Russia’s ‘most classified people’ (2-min read)

Working abroad in exile, Alexey Navalny’s team of researchers has released a new investigative report revealing that Russia’s Federal State Register has completely hidden from the country’s Unified State Register of Real Estate all records pertaining to the property holdings of several high-ranking government officials, Federal Security Service officers, and their families. The findings, presented by Maria Pevchikh and Georgy Alburov, were published on Navalny’s website, which is now blocked inside Russia.

🗳️ The rise of Viktor Solovyov: the Communists’ libertarian leader (5-min read)

The Russian Communist Party’s faction in the Komi Republic’s State Council has a new, unlikely leader: Viktor Vorobyov, a 32-year-old politician who is not a party member or even a leftist. Before he started working with the Communists, Vorobyov tried to register a wing of Alexey Navalny’s political party in St. Petersburg, ran for a seat in the State Duma as a Just Russia candidate, and was once a card-carrying member of the liberal opposition party Yabloko. Meduza special correspondent Andrey Pertsev examines how this man with libertarian views and a turbulent political career ended up the leading Communist in Komi’s parliament.

🗳️ Russia’s censorship agency threatens GitHub with fines over failure to delete ‘Smart Vote’ endorsements (the case comes before a judge on December 23)

Russia blocks Etsy, the Internet’s home for handmade, vintage, and craft items (the reason for the domain-wide ban is a single account, since disabled, that sold counterfeit Gucci products)

💰 Alisher Usmanov sells majority stake in Vkontakte’s parent company to Sogaz and Gazprombank, effectively handing control to Yuri Kovalchuk (sources told The Bell that the company’s stock rose because the deal makes VK “practically a state corporation” with large administrative resources)

Yours, Meduza