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The Real Russia. Today. Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Source: Meduza

An explanation for readers who recently couldn’t access our website:

Cyberattackers target Meduza with unprecedented DDoS campaign in effort to disable site

In mid-April 2024, Meduza was hit by the largest DDoS attack in its history. The scale of the attack made it clear that the perpetrators weren’t just trying to interfere with our work — they wanted to make it impossible for anybody to access our journalism. And while we don’t have direct evidence, we believe that this attack, like previous ones we’ve faced, was orchestrated by the Russian authorities. Our technical partners at Qurium Media Foundation have compiled a report using the initial data from the attack.

Russian politics and society

  • ☦️ Forbidden prayers: Russian Orthodox Church head suspends priest who led memorial service for Alexey Navalny
  • 🗓️ Another year without the Immortal Regiment: For the second consecutive year, Russian officials have canceled in-person “Immortal Regiment” commemorations on May 9, when cities across the country mark the USSR’s victory in World War II. Officials say they cannot ensure public safety. The Immortal Regiment began as a civic expression of gratitude to Russia’s Great Patriotic War veterans before the state later coopted the event and incorporated it into cities’ Victory Day schedules. Regiment participants typically march with portraits of relatives who fought or served the country during the war. Russia observed the Immortal Regiment traditionally in 2022 but suspended last year’s marches due to security concerns. During the coronavirus pandemic, marches in 2020 and 2021 were also canceled. 
  • 🍿 Russia’s uncancelable movies: Russian Culture Minister Olga Lyubimova said at an event on Tuesday that her team has decided to permit a theatrical run for any film with a distribution certificate, regardless of potential political controversies surrounding talent behind or in front of the camera. Lyubimova was responding to criticism that Russian officials didn’t stop the release of Michael Lockshin’s adaptation of The Master and Margarita, which has become Russia’s first R-rated movie to gross more than 2 billion rubles ($21.5 million) at the box office. (Lockshin left Russia in 2021 and has publicly condemned the invasion of Ukraine.)
  • 🪖 Self-help entrepreneur's criminal case leads to strange antics from soldier husband: The husband of a jailed self-help guru is petitioning the head of Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee to prevent what he claims would be the illegal termination of his service contract with the Defense Ministry. In a video message shared by his lawyer on Tuesday, Alexey Blinovsky accused officials of planning to boot him from the service. He reportedly joined the military’s drone operations in Ukraine after his wife, Elena Blinovskaya, was jailed, pending trial for tax evasion. According to Telegram channels tracking the story, Blinovsky donned a uniform in an attempt to “rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the authorities” and to try to secure his wife’s release from pretrial detention.

⚔️ Russian political actors and historians on Team Navalny’s new film about Yeltsin’s role in Putin’s rise to power (17-min read)

On April 16, Alexey Navalny’s team, spearheaded by Anti-Corruption Foundation Chairwoman Maria Pevchikh, released the first episode of their new YouTube series Traitors, which delves into the role Boris Yeltsin and his associates played in Vladimir Putin’s rise to power. Reactions to the film have been mixed, with numerous negative reviews from individuals who were firsthand witnesses to the events of the 1990s, as well as from those who’ve studied this period of Russian history. Meduza shares some of the commentary, along with Maria Pevchikh’s responses to the criticisms raised.

🙇 Eight months after his death, Yevgeny Prigozhin has gained a cult following among Russian teenagers (13-min read)

It’s been 10 months since Yevgeny Prigozhin led an aborted rebellion against Russia’s military leadership and eight months since he died in a fiery plane crash near Moscow. To ensure Wagner Group never stages another coup attempt, the Kremlin has consolidated its control and reportedly shifted the group’s focus back to Mali. But while Prigozhin’s name rarely appears in state media or official public discourse anymore, the authorities haven’t banned it like they have pro-Ukraine slogans or symbols associated with opposition groups. As a result, the murderous mercenary leader has become a cult figure among a contingent of Russian teenagers who admire his supposed candor as well as his “memeability.” Journalists from the outlet People of Baikal recently looked into this phenomenon.

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The law and political freedom

  • 👮 One of Russia’s wealthiest security officials in cuffs: Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov arrested for bribery after decade as senior official responsible for major construction projects
  • ✝️ Priest arrested for supporting Ukrainian nationalists: Police in Omsk arrested a priest with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on felony charges of “rehabilitating Nazism” by displaying religious icons depicting Stepan Bandera and other far-right Ukrainian nationalists. The authorities reportedly had a “preventative conversation” last year with the same priest, Igor Maximov, after his parishioners reported him to the authorities for distributing icons depicting Bandera. Maximov reportedly said he was acting on church orders.
  • 📚 A book-banning bureaucracy: Russia’s publishing industry can now turn to a new expert center established through the Russian Book Union. The center brings together representatives from religious, legal, and academic groups, as well as Russia’s federal censor. Experts will review books for compliance with Russia’s expanding speech restrictions, notably violations of so-called “gay propaganda.” (On Monday, one of the country’s biggest publishers said it would stop selling books by Vladimir Sorokin, Michael Cunningham, and James Baldwin due to experts’ concerns about “gay propaganda.”)

As the world turns

🧠 Still hooked on threatening nuclear annihilation, Karaganov sees Russia as a savior to the world and to Europe’s surviving traditionalists

In an interview earlier this year with a local television station in Sevastopol, political scientist Sergey Karaganov welcomed Russia’s war in Ukraine as necessary to create a “cordon sanitaire” against the West’s supposed moral decay and coming descent into “new fascism, new re-nationalization, and so on, down the list.” Karaganov repeated many of the narratives that have become mainstream pro-Kremlin political discourse since February 2022, advocating a bolder, quicker pivot to the east (he even wants to move Russia’s capital to Siberia or the Urals), arguing that Russia serves as the “core” of an uprising by the “global majority” against Western imperialism, and urging Moscow to deter the West in Ukraine (maybe Russia’s “greatest moral duty”) by threatening to use nuclear weapons against Germany, Poland, and Romania. 

Karaganov suggests that much of Europe will even be grateful to Moscow for its confrontation today with the West, given that Europe is “rejecting itself” by jettisoning its “basic values and concepts.” This growing “anti-Europe” could alienate the continent’s more traditional societies to the point that nations like Italy, Slovakia, and Hungary pivot to Eurasia, away from Europe, within 10–15 years, says Karaganov.

Throughout the interview, Karaganov also repeatedly refers to decades-old and even centuries-old history, cataloging the West’s hostility to Russia, Russia’s many heroic services to the world, and the supposed lack of “deep history and memory of statehood” in the poor, unfortunate states bordering Russia (whom Moscow must protect against Western intrusions, naturally). 

  • 🇨🇳 America considers getting ‘potent’ with China: Washington hopes to “stop Beijing’s commercial support of Russia’s military production” with “escalatory” sanctions that could “cut some Chinese banks off from the global financial system,” reports The Wall Street Journal, though it’s unclear “whether even the threat of the U.S. using one of its most potent tools of financial coercion can put a dent in complex and burgeoning trade between Beijing and Moscow.” American officials also reportedly hope to pressure European allies to use its greater “diplomatic sway” with China.
  • 🇺🇸 Aid package heads for Biden’s desk: The U.S. Senate voted 79 to 18 on Tuesday night to give final approval to a $95.3-billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, sending it to President Biden “and ending months of uncertainty,” reported The New York Times. The no votes came from 15 “hard-right Republican senators who oppose aid to Ukraine” and three liberals who object to sending more offensive weapons to Israel during the crisis in Gaza.

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