Russia This Week: Dugin Dismissed from Moscow State University? (23-29 June)

June 27, 2014
Ultranationalist Aleksandr Dugin with Valery Korovin from his Facebook page via

Updated Daily. The Russian finance minister has admitted that the government has raided the pension savings of ordinary Russians to pay for the forcible annexation of the Crimea — and will not be returning the funds. Opposition blogger Alexey Navalny continues to be harassed with libel suits and fabricated criminal cases — as well as a public witch-hunt. A new government program to aggressively combat ill-defined ‘extremism’ under the new anti-terror laws will target civil society — and also enlist citizens’ groups and ethnic associations to educate and displace dissenters, as in the Soviet era.

For last week’s issue on yet another provocation against State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, this one involving an outright fabrication of quotes; prospects for the government’s blocking of Twitter; the killing of two Russian state TV journalists and a debate about reporters’ safety and war propaganda by correspondents embedded with pro-Russian separatists; nationalist and socialist party activists demonstrating on behalf of the Donbass Russian-backed separatists in Moscow, and some protesters responding to vandalism of the Russian Embassy in Kiev with attempts to attack the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow, go here.

For the previous week’s issue on how Kremlin propagandists have targeted the State Department’s spokesperson for ridicule in a social media campaign; surveillance of Internet users and particularly bloggers to increase under new Russian laws; the tracking by Russian independent media of the return of soldiers’ bodies to Russia from fighting in Ukraine, proving that Russian Federation soldiers are present, but the debunking of the FSB connection; and the sentencing of the murderers of prominent investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya have been sentenced, but not the mastermind behind the assassination, go here.

Please help The Interpreter to continue providing this valuable information service by making a donation towards our costs‏.

June 29, 2014

1715GMT: Today, in a post on his Vkontakte page, ultranationalist scholar and Eurasianist ideologue Alexander Dugin continues to maintain that he has been dismissed from Moscow State University (MGU), and called “disinformation” the news reports yesterday from university officials claiming that he hadn’t been fired.

The Interpreter has translated an excerpt:

“I am convinced that the idea of firing me simply could not emerge from the chairman of the Supervisor Council of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, RF President V.V. Putin, and he could not give approval for such a move. There are thousands of other means of expressing disagreement with the civic position of this or that scholar and public figure, all the more, since, according to my observations, on the whole Putin is on the contrary, in agreement with such a position: all my statements are in harmony with what Putin has said about the Russian World, about Novorossiya and about Russian Death in his Direct Line [talk show]. It is no more than an elaborated interpretation and application of his words to the changing, dramatic situation. But at the same time, I am author of a book Putin Against Putin, where I describe in detail that there are two identities to Putin — the patriotic, heroic (solar) and the one inclined toward liberalism and compromises of the West (lunar). Therefore it is impossible to rule out that the decision to dismiss me was taken by one half, obviously the lunar. The solar Putin is the savior of Russia during the Second Chechen Campaign, liberator of Ossetia and Abkhazia, and hero of the Crimea. The lunar…Let everyone himself guess where the lunar is.

But it is still important that this decision was confirmed by Putin himself, even if lunar. Otherwise, it will be deprived of the ideological definition which will emerge from him. In this case, I will accept this decision without reservation. But information has reached me that Putin — and in fact even “lunar” Putin — did not have anything to do at all with this decision, he did not sanction it. On the whole, to turn “friendly fire” against one’s own is rather strange, although it happens in war. When I was deported from the Crimea under Yushchenko, Putin retaliated with an advisor of Yushchenko’s. Therefore, in this situation, there must be some sort of resonance, some sort of balance, some sort of equilibrium. But most likely, it’s all more simple: the sixth column supposedly ‘in Putin’s name’ conveyed to Rector Sadovnichy a non-existent signal. And without figuring it out, he hurried to fulfill it. But the ultra-liberals, Ekho Moskvy, Silver Rain, the Bolotnaya people, the Pussy Riot activists, the defenders of the sexual minorities and activists of the radical opposition who are aiming at Putin himself have long demanded the dismissal of Vladimir Ivanovich Dobrenkov, the dean, and my own from the faculty. Sadovnichy, it seems, has become beholden to them. Clearly, he would not have done this of his own volition, leaving everything as it is. Therefore, something is wrong here…and I decided to dig deeper into this story more attentively.

The panic that emerged yesterday afternoon in the rector’s office, from which placating ‘disinformation’ began to emerge in the vein of ‘no one has fired anyone,’ is evidence that my suspicions are correct: Sadovnichy, realizing that it is all turning into an outrageous scandal, that the liberals and anti-Putin forces were cheering, and the patriots were unhappy, hurried to verify the justification of the positions of those who had intrigued to make a hostile move toward Dobrenkov and myself (after all, Sadovnichy and I are members of the Expert Council of Sergei Naryshkin, Speaker of the Duma — when I have a meeting there, I will definitely ask him — who, respected Viktor Antonovich [Sadovnichy], telephoned you, after all?) And at the other end, most likely they did not pick up the phone. It’s Saturday. Alright, Saturday, Sunday.

And here I began to wonder: tomorrow is Monday then. All of this outrageous story will hardly die down on its own — it is too symbolic an event for people to forget it instantly. And what will happen? Someone will pick up the phone. And…Viktor Antonovich is hoping that this “someone” will be the “lunar” Putin. And what if that doesn’t happen? What if this signal turns out to have no relationship whatsoever to the President and his real entourage? What if someone called, to fulfill the directions that in fact were not obligatory, especially in a tense and dramatic situation in which we are in by virtue of the civil war in Ukraine, where, whether we like it or not, we are deeply and irreversibly involved? Then Sadovnichy will find himself in a complicated situation.”

Dugin says he will keep up the good fight for MGU and “the triumph of patriotic principles” and will see what happens Monday — and he is hoping to expose the official in what he calls “the sixth column” — the timid bureaucrats around Putin that stay his hand from “doing the right thing” in Ukraine.

June 28, 2014

2149GMT: Does Alexander Dugin influence Putin with his ultranationalist Eurasianist ideology? Scholars differ on this issue, and some say that Ilya Ilyin may be a more important and relevant influence.

Ilyin is dead, however, and Dugin is alive, with tens of thousands of followers (more than 19,000 followers and more than 9,000 friends on VKontakte alone). There are other lesser-known figures in his circle and his many students and admirers. And Putin is a shrewd and manipulative tyrant who has stayed in power 14 years and obviously lies about his true agenda as needed. Putin himself will never answer the question about whether a controversial figure is influencing him or not.

But Dugin himself answers this question in a lengthy post about the meaning of Eurasianism on his VKontakte page today. The Interpreter has provided a translation of an excerpt:

“Where is the place of Putin in the ideological scheme? He always preferred to be above the fray of liberals and conservatives, Atlanticists and Eurasianists, spies and patriots, making signals now to one, now to the other. That is his mysterious tactic. Usually Putin himself expresses himself ambiguously, so that he can be interpreted both in the Eurasianist and in the Atlanticists key. Furthermore, loyalty to Putin or the contrary, opposition to him has no ideological coloration; among his supporters and among his opponents can be Russian orthodox Eurasianists and liberal Atlanticists. of course, the overwhelming majority of ideological orthodox Eurasianists are for Putin, and the overwhelming majority of ideological liberal Atlanticists are against Putin.

But Putin himself does not disclose his ideology. He pronounces something evasive, which is immediately interpreted. Not by Peskov, who only confuses things all the more, without explaining anything. If there is a hint of Atlanticisim in the speech, it will be blown up. If the entire speech (such as during “Direct Line”) will be maintained in Orthodox-Eurasianist tones, it will be interpreted “as if not before” – everything that followed after Direct Line was a COMPLETE REFUTATION of Putin’s words by the actions of his own political elite. But to the extent Orthodox Eurasianism rises in Novorossiya and in Russia itself, gradually the figure emerges of the SECOND INTERPRETER of Putin’s statements. Now, everything said by him in the orthodox Eurasianist vein begins to be recorded, since a world-view environment is emerging for that. The chief purpose of the FIRST (liberal-Atlanticist) INTERPRETER is to delay the manifestation of the SECOND or not allow it at all. Thus, the earlier ambiguous statements by Putin or even his unambiguous patriotic declarations (like the Munich speech or [the talk show] “Direct Line”) are interpreted by Russian elites ONLY IN THE LIBERAL-ATLANTICIST vein. The meerkats have cleverly turned even the conservatism of Putin into something liberal. Now these same experienced magicians of black PR and total spoilerism are trying to re-interpret even Novorissya…

Thus it is pointless to ask, who is Putin, who is he with? He is above the fray. He does not want to interpret himself. He has so much entered the part of mysteriously unpredictable Ruler, that he cannot condescend to world-view explanations; he speaks in contradictory self-destructive Koans and does what he does (in critical situations – he always what is correct, from the perspective of Orthodox Eurasianism). But Putin in principle does not object to Orthodox Eurasianism just as, alas, he does not object to liberal Atlanticism, either. The former is close to him, the second is alien; but he tolerates both. But in the elite, until very recently, the liberal-Atlanticists in the ideological and technological sphere have dominated. They have a self-declared monopoly on the INTERPRETATION. And this monopoly is now threatened. The threat comes from Novorossiya (the rapidity of the annexation of Crimea has not enabled the same situation to become as distinct, and now Crimea is plunged into the technical details of survival, overwhelmed by the wave of Russian [Federation] bureaucracy). And the name of this phenomenon is “Orthodox Eurasianism.”

A few notes to decode this statement: “meerkats” in Russian is surokaty, which is likely a reference to the last name “Surkov”, i.e. Vyacheslav Surkov, the Kremlin’s grey cardinal. “Spoilers” are not people who reveal the ends of movies, but political forces that may not be able to prevail on their own, but ruin the chances of others. The Western reader might be confused seeing the term “Atlanticist” as a synonym for “liberal,” as some Western Atlanticists are conservative, and some are supportive of Putin and have tried to steer Trans-Atlanticism in a pro-Moscow direction. There seems to be some confusion between the idealized notion of Novorossiya, a historical Russian imperial term, and the actuality of events in Ukraine, as part of what was supposed to be in Novorossiya, an entity separate from but loyal to the Russian Federation, has now been incorporated back into Russia proper.

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic recently incorporated themselves into the Union of Novorossiya, although they themselves and others continue to refer to their constituent parts, and it is not clear how far their aspirations extend to add more territory.

2002GMT: Moscow State University (MGU) has refuted the story that Eurasianist Alexander Dugin, a vocal proponent of armed separatism in Ukraine, has been fired from the faculty, Interfax and report. Earlier Dugin himself had bitterly lamented his dismissal on his own VKontakte page.

The Interpreter has provided a translation of MGU’s statement:

“Moscow State University is denying the dismissal of Alexander Dugin, head of the Department of Sociology of International Relations.

‘At the present time, the term of the labor contract of Mr. Dugin at the Sociology Faculty has not ended and he continues to work. There have been no dismissals.’

It is noted that Dugin was hired as a professor of the MGU Sociology Faculty on a salary outside the budget by Vladimir Dobrenkov, dean of the faculty, who, meanwhile, is leaving his post.

‘Professor Dobrenkov is leaving the post of the dean of the MGU Sociology Faculty upon his own volition in connection with the expiration of the term of his authorization on 30 June 2014,’ the MGU press office stated.

Meanwhile, it was emphasized that Dobrenkov is not leaving MGU and is remaining to work as a professor and as head of the Department of History and Theory of Sociology.

Earlier, Dugin had stated that he had completed his work at MGU due to ‘the cancellation of the decree on his appointment on a competitive basis to the position of department head.’ According to the professor [Dugin], the relevant decree was cancelled by MGU Rector Viktor Sadovnichy. Dugin had also stated that Dobrenkov was ending his work at the faculty.”

Aleksandr Dugin in South Ossetia in July 2008. Photo: wikipedia

Aleksandr Dugin in South Ossetia in July 2008. Photo: wikipedia

It’s hard to know what’s going on now, whether a misunderstanding by Dugin or a retraction by MGU, but Dugin has no comment yet on his VKontakte page. The Interfax story was posted at 15:26 and at 16:00, Dugin only had a post complaining about a bill in Congress, Russian Aggression Prevention Act 2014, sponsored by Rep. Bob Corker (R-TN), which Dugin dubbed an “Overthrow Putin” bill.

Earlier, he had a lengthy exegesis on the meaning of the term “Eurasianism” and its battle with liberals and the “sixth column” of timid officials inside the Kremlin, and then added this comment on the rector — and it’s not clear whether he is burning his bridges or looking for a possible reinstatement:

“The pluses of Sadovnichy are that he did not allow the liberals to seize power. This is purely reactionary and conservative, but better than the liberals. He fought against the Unified State Exam. He supported the natural faculties. He considered the humanitarian sciences purely institutional nonsense, and paid no attention at all to them. But what is important: it is MGU that can and should become the center for patriotic conservative paradigms in Russian education. It is the best platform for the renewal of full-fledged Russian education with a bulwark for traditions. Sadovnichy is a good guy in that he did not allow MGU to be torn apart. He preserved everything in a conserved state. There is not the slightest sign of spiritual or intellectual life there, but there isn’t death and corruption, which the liberals inevitably bring in along with them (the Higher Economics School is a malicious Russophobic terrarium, like a branch of Ekho Moskvy). Like almost everywhere in the zones of reactionary conservatism. Sadovnichy will soon leave, and his merits, in fact, require, rather a positive evaluation. The most important is what there will be after Sadovnichy. That is the subject of the next stage of the battle for education of the true patriotic elite of Novaya Rossiya [New Russia]. And here the humanitarian sector will be key. Everything is just getting started. The fight for MGU is part of our united battle for the Russian World, for Eurasia, for Novorossiya. I will be back, I hope…True, geopoliticians know almost for certain what is going on and where, but they don’t know when — the timing of the processes are not within our capacity. Such are the rules of the constant (eternal) dimensions, which are Ideas.”

1140GMT: Do you wonder why Western sanctions seem to have little effect on Putin’s behavior in Ukraine (aside from some tactical dodges like his recent renunciation of the docile Russian parliament’s authorization for him to use force — which he doesn’t really require)? And why they seem to make little dent in the Russian economy, so that the Russian stock market continues to do well, whatever losses might have been incurred?

This $2 billion deal today between BP (British Petroleum) and Rosneft, whose CEO, Igor Sechin, is on the US sanctions list, help explain why.

Sanctions are against individuals, not companies, and they do not prevent companies from doing business in Russia. To be sure, a few Russian companies are named in the US Treasury Department’s list of sanctions imposed over Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, but not any major corporations.

Putin, center, attends a signing ceremony of documents on the results of his meeting with heads of the leading energy companies at the economic forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, 24 May 2014, as President of BP Russia, David Campbell, left, and CEO of state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft Igor Sechin sign documents. Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev/Presidential Press Service

Putin, center, attends a signing ceremony of documents on the results of his meeting with heads of the leading energy companies at the economic forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, 24 May 2014, as President of BP Russia, David Campbell, left, and CEO of state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft Igor Sechin sign documents. Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev/Presidential Press Service

From The Wire:

“Russia’s big business is oil and they haven’t been shy about the global power of their energy market. While Europe and the United States debate whether or not to further sanctions into the economic realm, the oil industry is taking a very strict ‘business as usual’ approach. Rex Tillerson traveled to Moscow to speak on a World Petroleum Congress panel aside Rosneft’s Igor Sechin (who is sanctioned) earlier this month, regardless of government officials opposing the trip. Business lobbies in the U.S. have also said they would oppose economic sanctions against Russia, worried they would affect American jobs and revenue streams.

Sechin issued a brief statement earlier this week about the potential negative impact of further sanctions against Russia on Germany’s economy. Rosneft has signed some impressive deals worldwide recently, especially in the regions looking to sanction their homeland. Rosneft is pursuing a multi billion dollar drilling deal with Cuba’s national oil company, they have started drilling on a $900 billion Arctic deal with Exxon and now, they have signed a long term deal with B.P.

The deal with B.P. is instrumental not only because of its size, 12 million tons for around $2 billion, but because of its longevity. Rosneft will supply B.P. with oil and oil products over the next five years. What is more, Rosneft has demanded prepayment. The prepaid amount will be at least $1.5 billion, the majority of the total deal. In the event of economic sanctions, $1.5 billion dollars essentially disappear. B.P. will throw around all of the weight it has in Washington to prevent this from happening.”

0937GMT: Aleksandr Dugin, the prominent Russian nationalist and ideologue of Eurasianism has been dismissed from his post at the Sociology Faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow State University (MGU), reported, citing Dugin’s page on VKontakte.

Dugin, who has been a vehement and vocal supporter of pro-Russian separatists in southeastern Ukraine as we have reported, is said to have served both as an inspiration for Putin’s “Novorossiya” concept driving the Kremlin’s military action in Ukraine — and as a reproach for the Kremlin’s failure to “do enough” to back such separatism. His department has served as a launching pad to recruit direct support for the Russian fighters in Ukraine.

The last straw for the university leadership, however was a call for murder — in an interview with the pro-separatist ANNA news service in Ukraine, reacting to the tragic loss of life in clashes between nationalists and separatists in Odessa in May, Dugin said that there were “terrible people” in Ukraine who must be “killed, killed, and killed.” The interview was also uploaded to YouTube where it gained more than 94,000 views, but then the account was removed by Google.

The video can still be viewed here on Tomsk.FM. Throughout the 23:49 minute video, Dugin calls on Russians and others in the southeast of Ukraine to take up arms and fight the Kiev government to survive. At 17:59, he says “Such people must be killed, killed, killed.

Outraged Russian citizens as well as Ukrainians wrote a petition to the rector of the MGU calling for Dugin’s dismissal; the appeal reached 10,000 signatures and finally prompted action.

Dugin titles his post on VKontakte “The Successes of the Sixth Column. My Personal Payment for Novorossiya,” describing officials in the government around Putin who put a brake on neo-imperialist aspirations as “sixth columnists,” as distinct from the “fifth columnists” in the opposition who are pro-Western and condemn the aggression against Ukraine.

The Interpreter has provided a translation of an excerpt from Dugin’s VKontakte statement:

“Very unpleasant news. With violation of all rules, V.A. Sadovnichny, rector of MGU, has cancelled his decree, on the basis of the Decision of the Scholarly Council of Lomonosov Moscow State University from May 2014 of my appointment on a competitive basis to the position of head of the Department of Sociology of International Relations of the Sociology Faculty of MGU through 2019, which he himself had signed just over a month ago; thus my work at MGU is over. In a conversation with the dean, Sadovnichny stated that this is the reaction “of certain circles” to my position on Novorossiya. He did not specify which. Dean Vladimir Ivanovich Dobrenkov, a Russian patriot, also left his post. What liberals and Atlanticists had been fighting for, for several years, has occurred.

My position on Novorissiya: full and unconditional support of the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) and LPR (Lugansk People’s Republic); harsh opposition to the junta and Ukrainian Nazism which is destroying the civilian population, and the rejection of liberalism and the West, above all, American hegemony, and consistent promotion of the steps of President Putin in his opposition to Kiev and Washington. Which “circles” forced MGU Rector Sadovichny to do this, I can only guess.

The rector gave a terrible justification for this decision; in his words, ‘MGU is a place of scholarship, and not politics, and Dugin, they say, has become too carried away with politics.’ But what comes next is interesting: Zhirinovsky has been nominated to the position of head of the Department of Sociology of International Relations. Apparently Zhirinovsky has no relation to politics at all and is involved in pure scholarship.


My six years of work at MGU were a wonderful time for me. I designed and implemented an entire social political profile of 40 disciplines, created the Center for Conservative Research, defended my second doctoral dissertation(this time, in sociology), published textbooks on International Relations, the Sociology of Imagination, Ethnosociology, Geopolitics, the Geopolitics of Russia, and also monographs on the Sociology of Russian Society; Theories of the Multi-polar World; five volumes on Noomakhia, the Fourth Way, the War of the Continents, two volumes on Heidegger, numerous anthologies and scholarly handbooks — and I won’t even speak of the scholarly articles, there are too many of them. The materials of my lecture course, including the inter-faculty courses can be found at Several PhDs were defended under my direction, the School of International Relations was founded on the basis of multi-polarity, the development of the sociology of gender, and the sociology of imagination was built from scratch, geopolitics was finally institutionalized, a paradigmatic version of the philosophy of politics was proposed and an entirely original system of ethno-sociology was developed. I worked together with some wonderful people, graduated six classes of extremely promising and vital students, and prepared dozens of graduate students. And it is wonderful that Deacon Vladimir Ivanovich Dobrenkov, an exceptional person and a real patriot, gave me the opportunity to implement all these projects at the Sociology Faculty.”

Although Dugin said he would not change his views, and didn’t plan to contest what he called a “legally dubious” decision, he recognized the Russian state’s authority. He also revealed just how much the resources of the state-funded university were exploited to fuel the insurgency in southeastern Ukraine:

“Authority is authority, and in Russia is prevails over the law. Since on the whole, I do not object to this, then I do not object to it even in this specific case when arbitrariness has affected me personally. Well, what of it, this is Russia, and the power vertical is what I accept and support. Including instances when this looks — how to put this mildly — not so well. But this is a matter of principle.

The decision of the rector, I am convinced, brought wild joy and provoked cheering among all liberals, of the fifth and six columns, those who signed the petition of my dismissal — its initiator was the Ukrainian neo-Nazi from Kiev, Sergei Datsyuk (there this is, alas, a small victory for the Kiev junta in ‘the enemy’s rear’), and numerous people who have fought for many years against me and my ideas from all sides. And you know, their joy doesn’t seem repulsive to me; this is the law of politics, the pair of friend/enemy. I am happy myself for the defeats of my enemies and sympathize with the defeat of my friends, just as the opposite, cheer along with my people, when they reach new heights, and get upset when the enemy achieves that success. Today is the moment for their victories.


I have always known this is war. And war for the minds of people, no less intense than the battles which my friends are fighting now, my fellow believers and brothers in the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics. Among them are my colleagues and my students and people close to me whom I taught. Alas, among them are fallen heroes as well.

From my office at the Sociology Faculty, the leaders of the DPR in Moscow gave online conferences, and international congresses of opponents of American hegemony from Europe and Asia, Latin America and the Islamic world took place in our auditoriums. Yes, the Center for Conservative Research was a platform to develop the Eurasian multi-polar ideology and its implementation.” […]

Although Dugin claimed that the flamboyant leader of the ill-named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia was now going to be appointed to the department of sociology of international relations, said they were unable to confirm this claim, although they noted that Zhirinovsky defended a dissertation on “the Russian question” for his PhD in philosophy at this very department in 1998. Zhirinovsky was recently in the news for the shocking call to rape journalists, an outburst for which he tepidly apologized and was never sanctioned by the parliament. And as noted, Zhirinovsky’s views on Ukraine are no less radical than Dugin’s; he considers the southeast to be a part of the Russian Federation.

Also fired on Friday was Vladimir Dobrenkov, who had headed the sociology faculty since 1989, due to repeated complaints of plagiarism, corruption, and the low quality of scholarship at the faculty, which had also drawn constant protests from students.

The post at the state-supported MGU gave Dugin a legitimacy that he would not have had if he were merely in an NGO or newspaper. It was from this perch that he advised Sergei Naryshkin, the conservative speaker of the Russian parliament. Analysts argue about the exact contribution to Putin’s thinking from Dugin, or his actual access to Putin, but the fact is, he has directly supported the separatists whom Putin has unleashed on the new Kiev government and has attracted a wide following of people, some of whom were inspired to go to fight in Ukraine; as we reported, he has frequently been in direct contact with the pro-Russian fighters in the Donbass and repeatedly made calls to support armed uprising.

Some commentators have speculated that the dismissal of Dugin was meant to better position Putin with his Western European critics to sweeten the climate for gas deals, namely the one just signed between BP and Rosneft, and the South Stream agreement still in the works. There’s no visible evidence, however, that EU leaders raised the problem of Dugin’s incitement of violence with the Kremlin leadership, much less Putin’s courting of ultra-nationalist European party leaders in their own countries. More likely, the Kremlin is trying to put some daylight between itself and the separatists it in fact backs to have more plausible deniability in talks with Ukraine and the EU.

June 27, 2014

1649GMT: Not surprisingly, just as Russian workers are finding that their pension savings have been raided to pay for the forcible annexation of the Crimea — and they won’t be returned — so gas bills are going up to pay for a Chinese pipeline conceived to lessen dependency on Europe. The pipeline deal was signed amid controversy last month as Putin sought to deepen relations with the East at a time when relations had soured considerably with the West. His top oligarchs such as Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft and frequent negotiator with the Chinese, have been included in the Western governments’ sanctions list over his aggression against Ukraine.

Photo by Sergei Karpov/ITAR-TASS

Photo by Sergei Karpov/ITAR-TASS

Yesterday ITAR-TASS reported that Andrei Kruglov, head of the financial and economic department of Gazprom, the Russian state gas and oil monopoly, was calling for unfreezing tariffs on gas as a necessity in order to build “Strength of Siberia,” [Sila Sibiri] as the pipeline has been named. He added that a raise in tariffs as well as tax breaks were needed instead of re-capitalization.

Another Gazprom official added that their proposal is to raise the tariff by 2% in 2015 plus inflation, 3% in 2016, and 4% in 2017. A calculation of what this means for the average monthly consumer bill was not provided.

Earlier this month, President Putin spoke of re-capitalization to build the infrastructure in eastern Russia. But Finance Minister Anton Siluanov announced 18 June that his ministry didn’t see any grounds for re-capitalization of Gazprom related to the Chinese contract, ITAR-TASS reported.

At first it seemed as if Putin would not clinch the Chinese deal during his May visit to China, but at the 11th hour, he signed a 30-year contract to deliver 38 billion cubic meters a year, a contract valued at $400 billion, but criticized as having been disadvantageous to Russia.

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, former first deputy prime minister, commented on this latest development on his Facebook:

“It has happened! Gazprom is demanding an increase in tariffs on gas inside the country in order to build the pipeline to China. Putin supporters, rejoice! Thanks to the Chinese caper of your idol, the people will pay one-and-a-half times more for utilities. The $55 billion for the Rotenberg brothers’ contracts will be found in the pockets of state employees and pensioners.

I have written many times that the project with the Chinese will be paid for by the citizens of my country. But I didn’t know that it would start so quickly.”

Nemtsov’s reference is to the contracts that Putin cronies received for building Sochi facilities and infrastructure — the Rotenbergs are also now in the US sanctions list.

One might think Nemtsov would be subdued in criticizing oligarchs, after being threatened with a major lawsuit by Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways, whom he criticized as corrupt in a report on the construction contracts of the hugely over-priced Sochi Olympics.

Interestingly, Nemtsov has been given a reprieve, he writes on his Facebook page. The Arbitrage Court of Moscow has closed the case against Nemtsov and his co-author Leonid Martynyuk regarding “Winter Olympics in the Sub-Tropics,” saying that were violations of the code of procedures for arbitration suits made by Yakunin’s legal team. Nemtsov doesn’t know if they will correct the errors and come back again. It’s hard to know why this occurred, but Nemtsov points to an intriguing news story published by and RBK Daily.

It turns out Yakunin has been waiting for more than two weeks for renewal of his authorization to serve as head of Russian Railways, which must come from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Yakunin was appointed for three years as of 10 June 2011. Natalya Timakova, the press secretary for the government, said: “No documents about the renewal of the contract with Yakunin or signing of the contract with someone else have been signed by the government.”

But a source in the government said that Yakunin, who is also on Western governments’ sanctions list, will remain in his post and Putin will not replace him “out of principle.” Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov has recommended that Medvedev renew the appointment because he claims the situation has “improved” under Yakunin, says Yakunin has had his contract renewed twice before, in 2008 and 2011. A report last year of his resignation turned out to be fake.

June 25, 2014

2142GMT: Another law passed recently by the State Duma that has received less attention than the anti-Internet laws provides harsher penalties for those financing “extremist activity”. As we explained, this is fairly broadly understood in Russia.

Caucasian Knot reports that in February, President Putin signed the law increasing criminal liability for crimes related to “extremist activity. Then on 20 June, several amendments were passed to this law (translation by The Interpreter) for:

“offering or gathering of funds or providing financial services knowingly intended to finance an organization, for the preparation or commission of at least one of the crimes of extremist intent, or support of the activity of an extremist association or extremist organization.”

So given how broadly “extremism” and its related crimes are interpreted, it means that the government can go after just about any political or social or religious group it doesn’t like. Earlier, a law was passed on “public calls for extremism,” for “incitement on the Internet of hatred or enmity,” and also “denigration of human dignity”. In other words, your average tweet. (This is why opposition blogger Alexey Navalny could be found guilty of libel of a certain conservative deputy he said was “on drugs” on his blog and fined nearly $8,000.)

If found guilty of “extremism,” the defendant faces punishment ranging from fines of 300,000 to 500,000 rubles [$8,903-$14,838]to imprisonment from 2-8 years or forced labor for 5 years followed by restricted movement for up to 2 years, or arrest for 4-6 months. Any property obtained as a result of the “extremist” crimes will be confiscated.

The penalties are stiffer for the same crimes committed through the use of one’s official position, i.e. up to 6 years of prison.

There’s an additional bit that leaves plenty of room for people to turn into police informants; anyone charged with these crimes can be released from criminal liability if he helps to prevent the crime he financed or also enables the prevention of the actions of extremist associations or organizations.

Presumably collections for humanitarian aid for the Donetsk People’s Republic at Russian nationalists marches in Moscow won’t fit under this new law, nor will all the incitement of hatred for the banderovtsy on Russian state media.

Collection for Donbass relief at 11 June 2014 demonstration in Moscow. Photo by Anton Tushin via

Collection for Donbass relief at 11 June 2014 demonstration in Moscow. Photo by Anton Tushin via

Caucasian Knot reports that in February of this year, Rustam Dzhalilov, a journalist for the publication Kavkazskaya Politika [Caucasian Politics], was charged with “extremism” for his alleged membership in the group Hizb-ut-Tahir. He denied the charges and refused to plead guilty, and was fined 130,000 rubles [$3,858].

An FSB agent at the trial who works at an anti-extremist monitoring center testified that Dzhalilov had made a contribution to a Hizb-ut-Tahir group and attended their meetings, and provided a videotape, in which he claimed to identify Dzhalilov. The prosecutor admitted that the visual identification was not conclusive, but said that Dzhalilov was recognisible by his voice. He was given a fine rather than imprisonment because he was a “first-time offender” and had two minor children.

1743GMT: When the independent radio and news site Ekho Moskvy was threatened with blockage by Roskomnadzor, the state censor, over alleged “extremism” in some opposition blogs, it had to sacrifice syndicated blogs from opposition leaders like Alexey Navalny, Boris Nemtsov and others to get the block lifted.

Today, it has risked republishing one blog post from Navalny, on the story that is dominating the headlines today — the pension grab.

In a post , “Everything Has Gone to Crimea or ‘No One Intended to Return These Funds,” Navalny provides a very stark graphic image titled, “How Much Russian Citizens Suffer from Pension Robbery”

Pensions in Russia. Graphic by

Pensions in Russia. Graphic by

The image shows from left to right, “Population of Russia” at 145 million; working population at 76 million; and then workers born in 1967 or later — 46 million. Of these, 25 million chose the non-governmental pension funds and mandatory savings plans for those pensions.

Navalny says he had complained about this stark reality before in a separate web site action which generated 26,000 appeals, when the Russian Duma [parliament], led by the ruling party, United Russia voted (248-145) back in November 2013 to fund the state budget from these pension savings accounts.

At the time, he warned workers that if they made 40,000 rubles a month [$1,187] (45,970 [$1,363]after taxes), and had a 6% forced savings plan of 2,750 [$82] a month or 33,000 rubles [$979] a year, they would be losing this amount (and he supplied a calculator on his “pension action” website).

At the time, deputies reassured Navalny and his followers that money would be found from “somewhere” to cover the gap later — but now they’ve been siphoned off to the Crimea. It’s clear they’re gone.

Naturally, Navalny is now recalling some of his other exposes not only of the large salaries and perks of United Russia Duma deputies, but the even larger salaries of Russian officials. For example, he had once calculated the salary of Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin at 5 million rubles [$148,357] a day — Sechin is on the US sanctions list now in retaliation for Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.

Journalists at Ekho have also dug up a statement from Putin in October of last year in which he said pension savings would never be confiscated.

“Such an option is not even discussed,” Putin said at an investment forum titled “Russia Calls!”. The Interpreter has provided a translation:

“The government is not discussing the confiscation of these savings, God forbid, they are not going anywhere. Moreover, the system of pensions saving is not being closed as a project. That is not the issue, the issue is that we must guarantee savings depositors their deposits to private pension funds, their integrity, their reliability and the effectiveness of their use.”

1558GMT: Remember those leaflets that were circulated right before the hastily-called referendum in the Crimea about Russian annexation? Here’s what they promised — triple the Crimean pensions of the time (translation by The Interpreter)

Leaflet widely circulated before Crimean referendum about annexation.

Leaflet widely circulated before Crimean referendum about annexation.

“Answer YES to the first question, NO to the second question and we will go into Russia, we will have the pensions and wages of Russia. The average wage of Russians is 6000 hryvnia [$500], and the size of the pension is 2400 hryvnia [$200]. Mighty Russia will protect our families. As a part of a mighty, multi-national country, our culture and traditions will be protected.

If you answer NO to the first question and YES to the second, we will once again return to 1992, when the Ukrainian neo-Nazis through blackmail and bribery gradually stripped us of everything. Already starting in April of this year, residents of Ukraine will face a price hike of double for gas and 40% higher for electricity, and an increase in the pension age by 3 years. All benefits and supplements are being liquidated.”

Well, the funds for increasing pensions had to come from somewhere — and it looks like they came from the pension savings of ordinary Russians, as we have reported.

But even before this bad news got out, Russian human rights advocates were reporting back in April that in the Crimea, not everything was turning out as promised.

At the time, there was so much focus on a misrepresentation of what this report, issued by the Presidential Council on Human Rights , actually said about participation in the referendum that the news of other difficulties got overshadowed.

First, there was the question of Ukrainian citizens who lived in Crimea who instantly had their pensions halted — and were supposed to then get them from the Ukrainian government. Kiev announced that all pensions and social assistance would be continued, but there was the issue of payment, given the disruption of banking relations between the territory now occupied by Russia and Ukraine. “The great concern is payment and receipt of funds from deposits opened in Ukrainian banks by citizens who have acquired citizenship in Russia,” said the report.

As Svetlana Gannushkina, one of the authors of the report, recounted in a separate article translated by Rights in Russia, the banking system and passport registration system was in chaos with huge lines and confusion. Gannushkina also found out anecdotally that prices were going up and were higher than Crimean residents had expected. They were also learning the news that Russian pensions weren’t “triple” their previous pensions under Ukraine’s system; a woman reported a pension of 4,800 rubles per month in Crimea [$142], and Gannushkina explained that people received 6,000 rubles in Russia’s regions [$178] per month, and a bit more in Moscow.

The New York Times cited RIA Novosti’s statement that the average pension in Russia was 10,000 rubles or $285 per month. Meanwhile, in Ukraine, it was the equivalent of $160; Medvedev was cited at a cabinet meeting as saying $1 billion was needed to meet the needs for increased pensions in Crimea.

A reason for the discrepancies in these debates is that people do not always factor in what the actual pension package is, including free transportation cards and medicines and other discounts.

But whether the average pension in Russia’s regions is $285 or closer to $178, the reality is, the Crimeans are going to be getting what’s at the lower end of the scale — and they will require Russian passports to get it. Many are still waiting in the queue.

Reuters reports that Russia now spends some 10 percent of gross domestic product on state pensions – above the OECD average of 7.5 percent – and the figure is only growing larger as more Russians retire from the workforce than enter it.

1415GMT: Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has announced that there are no funds in state coffers to return frozen pension savings for 2014 — they’ve been used to pay for Putin’s forcible annexation of the Crimea, ITAR-TASS and reported. The Interpreter has provided a translation:

“There are no sources for this [repayment]. No one intended to return these funds, because these funds went to the Crimea, on taking anti-crisis measures. Now while that resource exists, most likely it will go to supporting a program of social-economic development of the Crimea and Sevastopol. To simply say that we will return these funds is a proposal not contemplated, which was not discussed.”

Siluanov added that there was no question of freezing pensions in 2015.

The minister’s statement followed an interview by Vedomosti with Aleksey Ulyukaeyv, Russia’s minister of economic development, who said that the pension savings frozen this year should be returned to non-governmental funds which had been corporativized and inspected by a regulator. But a source in the Finance Ministry told Vedomosti that this idea could not be implemented

“In the fall of 2013, at the suggestion of Olga Golodets, deputy chair of the government, instead of being sent to non-governmental pension funds, Russians’ pensions savings went to cover current pension payments. As a result, the money in the government’s pension fund was reduced and the anti-crisis reserve was increased to 243 billion rubles ($7.2 billion). The Gaidar Institute has calculated that as a result of the freezing of the savings portion of pensions in 2014, the average customer would lose 22,000 rubles ($652).”

The bill for the annexation of the Crimea is huge; the cost of constructing a bridge across the Kerch Bay is estimated at 283-249 billion rubles [$8.3 to $10.3 billion]. The federal program for development of Crimea through 2020 calls for sending between 800 billion and 1 trillion rubles [$23.7 to $29.6 billion] to the occupied territory. Sergei Aksyonov, the self-proclaimed leader of the Republic of Crimea, announced 25 June that the federal project would cost 825 billion rubles [$24.4], of which 695 million [$20.6] were to come from the federal budget.

So far, only opposition leaders have spoken out against the move, and ordinary pensioners haven’t staged any pickets, as they have in 2012 and previous years when pensions were not indexed to inflation or were delayed. But social issues figure strong in every street demonstration, planned or unplanned, and usually attract older people from the National Socialist movements and Communist Party.

June 24, 2014

1915GMT: Opposition politician Alexey Navalny’s libel sentence goes into effect after Moscow’s Babushkinsky District Court rejected an appeal filed by his lawyers, RAPSI, the legal news wire reported:

“Judge Alexander Glukhov has thus upheld a Moscow magistrate court’s order to fine Navalny 300,000 rubles ($8,752). The sentence has taken effect.

Lisovenko stated that even though Navalny was under a house arrest and restricted from using the Internet, he addresses his followers through twitter and accused him of being a drug addict.

Lisovenko was pleased with the court’s decision mentioning that Navalny had removed slanderous statements from his Twitter account.”

In separate, but likely not unrelated news, Navalny reported that an appeal of a decision to register the newspaper of his newly-registered Party of Progress was also rejected.

Translations provided by The Interpreter.

Translation: Complete lack of arguments from Roskomnadzor [state censor], iron-clad arguments of the party: Judge Smolina ruled to reject the regional newspapers of the Party of Progress.

Navalny has been subjected to a barrage of court cases and hostile state media attacks in recent months, ever since he garnered 30% of the vote in the Moscow mayoral elections last year.

One of the more bizarre forms of this witch-hunt was a huge billboard that appeared today with the very sketch that Navalny and his aide are now incriminated with obtaining unlawfully after an early-morning search of his apartment last week:

Translation: A postcard for Alexey Navalny and the group of comrades from Lenin Avenue.

The artist who drew the art work — a janitor who displays his sketches for free on fences in his free time — went from saying he didn’t care if people swiped them to suddenly, cooperating with both state TV and the Investigative Committee in pressing charges. An announcement appeared on the website of the Investigative Committee on 20 June stating that at the complaint of the painting’s author, a criminal case under Art. 158-2 (theft) had been opened. The sketch depicts a “bad” and “good” man with various traits including “Internet” for the bad and “Family” for the good — and the billboard asks “What is bad or good?”

A reader asked, regarding the appearance of the billboard:

Translation: I wonder about COPYRIGHT? or did that old fellow the artist sell himself to the Investigative Committee for this PR?

1613GMT: We have focused quite a bit on the elements of the Kremlin’s new “anti-terrorist” legislation that will affect bloggers and social media, requiring registration of those with more than 3,000 readers and storage of customer data on Russian territory.

But it’s important to look at the ostensibly main purpose of this Internet-related legislation — anti-terrorism — and how broadly that will be construed and how it might impact all of civil society.

Kommersant, the Russian business daily, has obtained a document that outlines the strategy for combating extremism in the Russian Federation through 2025. The Interpreter has translated an excerpt:

“The Internet is called in it the chief channel for disseminating ‘destructive information.’ The draft document presupposes suppression not so much of aggressive ‘manifestations of extremism’ as ‘ideologies,’ including with the help of creating a system of monitoring and counter-propaganda. The Presidential Council on Human Rights — whose leadership [Mikhail Fedotov] believes that ‘extremism is a reality’ is supposed to provide comments today.

The drafting of a strategy to combat extremism and in particular its ‘ideologies’ was stipulated in an instruction from the government dated 15 July 2013. Responsibility was assigned to the Interior Ministry and other ‘interested agencies.’ The work was to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2014 and the document is approved by a decree from Vladimir Putin. According to a Kommersant source in the Council on Human Rights, the draft strategy was submitted to the council already ‘at the final stage of discussion.’ Vladimir Kolokoltsev, head of the Interior Ministry and chairman of an inter-agency commission asked to review the document and provide comments on its text, the source said.”

learned that the drafting of the strategy is being done by the secretariat of the inter-agency commission on combating extremism in the RF, which consists ‘of representatives of 16 ministries and agencies’ and the draft was discussed with the participation of representatives of the academic community, including the Presidential Council on Inter-Ethnic Relations.

The chief concept of the document, the Interior Ministry says, is “to fundamentally raise the effectiveness of the counteraction to radical ideology in the context of preserving and strengthening the law-enforcement component of combating specific extremist manifestations, to create reliable barriers in the path of its penetration into the public awareness.'”

Legislation passed in 2002 talks about the practical struggle against extremist activity. But the new strategy goes further to define “the goals and instruments of state policy to unite all the institutions of government and civil society to strengthen the unity of the Russian [Federation] people,” says Kommersant.

The concept of the threat is also broader: “direct or indirect destructive consequences of extremist activity concern all the fundamental spheres of public life, political, economic and social.” The threat of “destructive forces” is now seen as anything aimed at “the destabilization of the social and political situation in the RF” — as defined by the Kremlin.

“‘The chief instrument of radicalization of society’ in the draft is the involvement of the population in ‘protest actions which are transformed into mass disorders.’ But the ‘chief channel of disseminating destructive, including extremist ideology’ is deemed the Internet (which also serves as a means of ‘communication, recruitment and self-recruitment of new members’ of extremist groups). ‘Extremist ideology’ is a term that is not in the relevant legislation. Law-enforcers understand this to be ‘views and ideas propagandizing enmity and hostility for ethnic, racial, religious, social and political reasons’. Aleksandr Verkhovsky, a member of the Council for Human Rights, fears that ‘the concepts have been formulated too broadly’ and also ‘will migrate to the normative acts’ [internal regulations].”

Authorities plan to tackle extremist group by monitoring the Internet and mass media for signs of ‘propaganda of the ideology of extremism’ and are contemplating a ‘unified register’ of banned sites. They also hope to incorporate ‘the institutions of civil society and Internet providers’ in their counter-propaganda program — so thematic NGOs and ethnic associations will come increasingly under pressure to police their own and spread state ideology.

The plan the Interior Ministry has for this counter-propaganda effort sounds like the already-existing but shadowy Kremlin troll army which aggressively tries to oppose or block criticism of the Kremlin on social networks and news forums. Now this will be institutionalized more formally:

“‘The discreditation of extremists, the clarification of the essence of their unlawful activity’ begins with educational institutions. The Interior Ministry proposes ‘restoring the system of training youth in the spirit of the moral and patriotic values proper to Russian culture’. Journalists, starting with the relevant universities, are proposed to be trained in their ‘professional duties’ with highlighting of the problem of combating extremism and terrorism. Authors of the strategy hope for ‘ideological support’ from the media and civic organizations.'”

If some might be quick to draw a moral equivalence to this sort of government effort and a similar although far smaller and less ambitious program at the State Department to counteract jihad sites –as was already done by the Washington Post on the “Kremlin troll” topic — the difference is this: the Kremlin’s notion of extremism is far more broad, and can include anything from LGBT lifestyles to programs of liberal Westernizers to booklets and videos of conservative religious groups outside the state’s control even if not promoting violence. It’s also a moveable concept that shifts with the Kremlin’s needs — and is hardly likely to include denunciations of the ideologies of the pro-Russian separatist “Donetsk People’s Republic” or the ultranationalists like Aleksandr Dugan and Aleksandr Prokhorov who have gained increasing access to state TV and followers on social media.

Given that the draft concept anticipates “the creation of a national government system of monitoring, prevention and interception of extremist manifestions” and “targeted preventive action on persons most subject to the influence of the ideology of extremism,” another member of the Council, Igor Borisov, has expressed concern that the “concept is harsh, and some colleagues have proposed softening it.’

He has published a “special opinion” — the Russian expression used for dissenting opinion — on the website of the presidential council in which he urged that a focus be kept on the original intent of the legislation, which was “mass calls to disorder” and the role of social media in such calls, but such as to preserve the international obligations for freedom of speech.

The main comments of the group as a whole can be seen here, in which they propose reducing some of the harsh penalties, i.e. providing a grace period for Internet sites to remove specific offending material rather than an instant shut-down if they are found in violation. They also urge that a more precise definition be provided for the customer data demanded by authorities, given that SORM-2, the Internet filtering system already in place is already gathering information, and they urged that privacy of communications under the Russian Constitution be upheld and be accessed only with a court order.

They also called for a removal of the total identification system for Internet users, as they believe this violations international human rights norms protecting privacy.,

As Paul Goble reports in Windows on Eurasia
, the elements of this concept are already in action, as a government grants program has already posted a request for funding of one state-controlled Circassian group to displace others viewed as less “tame.”

Verkhovsky has called the “anti-extremist application of law extremely politicized” and the proposed programs too diffuse “to expect good results”.

June 23, 2014

1455GMT: Twitter Vice President for Global Public Policy Colin Crowell is in Moscow today negotiating with Russian government officials on the fate of Russians’ access to the micro-blogging platform, as we reported last week. But what exactly is going on?

Roskomnadzor, the state media monitoring agency that serves as censor, seems to have declared victory, causing concern of Andrei Soldatov, a leading journalist and cybersecurity expert who has written on the threats to Runet, the Russian Internet.

And if we look at the Russian newspaper of record, Rossiyskaya Gazeta [RG] at that link, indeed the government seems to claim it has obtained what it wished, symbolized by Twitter’s apparent agreement to block the Ukrainian ultranationalist group Right Sector not only in its Russian-language variant for Russians, but in the Ukrainian language from Ukraine. The Interpreter has provided a translation of the quote from Alexander Zharov, head of Roskomnadzor

“‘I hope that the information of a number of extremist blogs will be removed. It is not important where the blog is registered. What is important is that it is run in a language understood by the residents of Russia and on the territory of Russia. It’s a question not only of Russian [Federation] users. Even if an account is registered on the territory of Ukraine, that information is still extremist. The Twitter leadership has heard us, and I hope in the coming days the accounts will be removed,’ Zharov told Russian news agency.

If this is the case, it would considerably up the ante from an existing Twitter policy of censorship-by-country at that country’s request, to recognizing vague spheres of influence like Putin’s “Russian World” concept, where all speakers of Russian (or Slavic languages), let alone ethnic Russians, who are located outside of the Russian Federation, can be ruled by the Kremlin to “protect” them — and that this policy can be imposed on outsiders like Western social media companies.

Russia’s new blogging law, under which anyone with more than 3,000 readers must register as a mass media outlet, will be applied to Twitter, so that anyone with more than 3,000 followers would have to comply with more onerous restrictions under Russia’s voluminous press law.

RG made other claims in the article, that Crowell had agreed to designate an interlocutor from Twitter for the Russian government out of Twitter’s Dublin office.

But all of this is now being denied by Crowell himself, according to Max Seddon at Buzzfeed:

“Twitter is denying a senior Russian official’s claim that the service will block accounts on the government’s request, made after he met a senior Twitter executive in Moscow on Monday.

Alexander Zharov, head of Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor, said that Colin Crowell, Twitter’s vice president for global public policy, had agreed to block ‘about ten’ accounts on the government’s request that prosecutors deemed “extremist,’ Russian news agencies reported.

‘That claim is inaccurate, as we did not agree to remove the accounts,’ a Twitter spokesperson told BuzzFeed. Twitter also denied Zharov’s claim that the company had agreed to hire a special representative in Dublin to deal with Russian legal compliance.'”

An annoyance for the Russian government is that no sooner did Twitter block the view for Russians in Russia of Right Sector, anyone who still wanted to see the ultranationalist group’s statements could simply look at their Ukrainian version — or change their location from “Moscow” to any other city of the world and view either account.

Twitter has in fact blocked both individual tweets and accounts at the Russian government’s request in the past, as is noted in their annual “transparency report,” a fact that Russian officials don’t seem to acknowledge as long as their concerns about Right Sector aren’t met. It has been a staple of Russian propaganda that this group, whose militants were recently involved in detention of two journalists from Zvezda and accused of beating them and extracting a confession, represents the face of the “fascist junta in Kiev.” But Right Sector polls in the very low digits in Ukraine, and its people did not win any positions in the mayoral elections last month.

Another big issue is whether Twitter will succumb to Russian demands to place Russian customer data on servers located on Russian territory. As Bloomberg reported, there seems to be some leeway opening up there between the totally draconian prospect of all data, including message content, on Russian soil — which means any foreigners who contact Russians wind up in the hands of the all-seeing FSB as well — and a more restricted grab.

Russian officials clarified that their request for user data would only involve metadata, says Bloomberg:

Russia is also introducing a law requiring Internet companies to locate servers handling Russian traffic inside the country, similar to Chinese rules, and store user data for six months. The legislation, set to become law on Aug. 1, also classifies bloggers with 3,000 or more readers — about 30,000 people — as akin to media outlets, making them and their hosts liable for content and subject to regulation.

That means Twitter will need to keep all Russian user logs — the data on when a user is logged in and to whom he or she sends messages, though not the content of the communications — on servers located in the country, Zharov said.

As a number of top Russian Twitter bloggers like Oleg Kashin (KSHN) and Rustem Adagamov (@adagamov) blog from Western capitals, this opens up the question again whether Roskomnadzor will demand that they be blocked from the view of Russian readers even though they are blogging from other countries.