The Real Russia. Today. A brief history of Ksenia Sobchak's political tweets; an American's take on some mind-bending Russian slang; and the culture minister is off the hook for his bogus dissertation

Story of the day: Move over, Trump. A Russian Twitter celebrity wants the nuclear codes, too 📱

Television host and socialite Ksenia Sobchak has announced her intention to run for Russian president next year. She first showed a serious interest in politics in late 2011, as a wave of protests swept Moscow, following disputed parliamentary elections that December. Subsequently, Sobchak’s interest in politics has faded somewhat, but she’s continued to write occasionally about the subject on Twitter, where she has more than 1.6 million followers. Meduza reviewed some of the political tweets of this would-be Russian leader. Read them in English.

Entertainment for the weekend: An American's take on some mind-bending Russian slang 🤠

Kevin Rothrock, the senior editor of Meduza's English-language edition, is hopelessly addicted to Twitter, where he has more than 15,000 followers. Kevin mostly tweets about Russia for a Western audience, but he also interacts frequently with Russian speakers. From time to time, he encounters Russian vocabulary that confounds his American brain, and in these situations he sometimes appeals to his readers for help. In this text, Kevin recalls some of the most memorable words and phrases that have stumped him over the years. Read it here in English.

Russia's culture minister survives to dissertate another day 🎓

The Presidium of the Russian Higher Attestation Commission has refused to endorse claims against the history doctoral dissertation of Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, who personally attended the session where the decision was made on Friday, October 20. The Presidium sided against findings by one of the commission’s own expert council, which characterized Medinsky’s dissertation as “unscientific” and recommended revoking his doctorate. The Ministry of Education and Science will make the final decision on his academic degree.

  • In 2011, after receiving a doctorate in political science, Vladimir Medinsky defended his dissertation on “problems with objectivity in interpretations of Russian history in the second half of the 15th-17th centuries.” In 2016, three historians filed a complaint that Medinsky’s dissertation misused historical sources and failed to provide evidence for many of his claims. Belgorod State University later rejected these allegations.

Prepare your fantasy charts! It's draft season for the Russian government

🚚 The Russian government has introduced a draft law to the State Duma that would quadruple fines on truck drivers who fail to pay fees imposed by the controversial “Platon” highway toll system, which has provoked widespread protests by drivers. If adopted, the legislation would raise nonpayment fines to 20,000 rubles ($350). The law’s explanatory note says the hike is meant to stimulate compliance with the Platon system, not generate more revenue.

  • The Platon system, which imposes tolls on vehicles heavier than 12 tons (13.2 U.S. tons), was introduced in November 2015. Initially, the government planned to fine drivers up to 50,000 rubles (and delivery companies up to 1 million rubles) for failing to pay the tolls.

🚦 The Russian government has prepared legislation that would create a corps of “people’s inspectors,” allowing the authorities to issue traffic violation fines based on video footage submitted by civilians, without any formal police reports. The government’s plan envisions an online portal powered by “special software,” where “people’s inspectors” can register accounts.

  • Since August 2015, a similar project has operated in Moscow, where civilians have submitted evidence of traffic and parking violations that has resulted in roughly 500,000 individuals fines. Another “people’s inspector” program exists in Tatarstan.

Breaking the law, breaking the law

🏢 A court has sentenced Vasily Yurchenko, the former governor of Novosibirsk, to three years probation for abusing his authority by selling land in central Novosibirsk. The former governor was also fined 135,000 rubles ($2,350).

  • Yurchenko resigned in March 2014 after “losing the Kremlin’s trust.” Two months later, the public learned that Yurchenko was a suspect in a criminal investigation into the illegal sale of land in Novosibirsk, where real estate was sold at a reduced price without soliciting competing bids.

🗞 A Moscow district court has rejected a lawsuit by Novaya Gazeta freelance reporter Khudoberdi Nurmatov (who writes under the pen name Ali Feruz) against Russia’s Interior Ministry (MVD). Nurmatov tried to challenge the MVD immigration department’s decision to deny him temporary asylum in Russia.

  • In August 2017, the European Court of Human Rights prohibited Nurmatov’s deportation from Russia, until it can review his case and reach a decision on the legality of his deportation. A Moscow court later ruled that Nurmatov will remain in a special temporary detention center for foreign citizens until the ECHR has reviewed his appeal, or until a Russian court has allowed him to leave state custody.
  • Meduza wrote about Nurmatov’s case in August. Read about it here in English.

📣 After almost two years in prison, the organizer of a rally in favor of greater “federal” autonomy for Russia’s Kuban region has gone free. In December 2015, Darya Polyudova was sentenced to two years in prison for inciting extremism and violations of Russia’s territorial integrity. “I’m going to continue this fight,” Polyudova said, after going free on Friday.

Yours, Meduza

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