AM News: Russian Long-Range Bombers Strike from Iran; Russians Demonstrate at German Embassy

August 16, 2016
Russian Tu-22M3. Stock photo by RT.

LIVE UPDATES: Russia received permission to use Iran’s Hamadan Air Base and Tu-22M3 long-range bombers have already made strikes on Aleppo.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

Recent Analysis and Translations:

– The Kremlin is Working Hard to Make Donald Trump President
Russian Elections Round-Up: Parnas List Accepted; Party of Pensioners Forced to Remove Candidates
‘What Would Boris Do?” Opposition Struggles with In-Fighting on Eve of September Elections
NATO Got Nothing From Conceding To Russia In the Past, Why Should It Cave To The Kremlin Now?


Former ‘Troll Farm’ Employee’s Lawsuit Reveals Link to Site Leaking Personal Data of Opposition Members and Bloggers Attacked in St. Petersburg

Novaya Gazeta in St. Petersburg reports that in case materials prepared for a court hearing involving an employee against the infamous “Troll Farm,” details have emerged that indicate the involvement of the company in not just Internet trolling but beatings of opposition members and bloggers in St. Petersburg.
As we have reported, the “Troll Farm” at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg has been exposed by Russian journalists and former employees as paying people to troll Internet sites with pro-government comments and also to run several fake sites and blogs attempting to influence public opinion.
In 2014, Olga, a woman whose first name only is given, came to work at Internet Research, the formal name of the company owned by Dmitry Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman and caterer to President Vladimir Putin himself.
She worked for one year, then became pregnant, but when she went to Human Resources to obtain maternity leave, she was told that she wasn’t formally employed, and there was a line for that status, and as such, was denied the leave.
Olga was also asked to take a lie detector test but she refused, citing her pregnancy, which was at an advanced stage. Management then told her to get a letter from her doctor.
She then decided to sue Internet Research, and to prove her relationship with the company, she photographed her IP address on the monitor of her work computer. The number — is the very same that had discovered was the site from which changes were made to the site which had outed the personal data of various opposition people, who then later became the victims of beatings.
Journalists from several publications put together an organizational diagram which linked Prigozhin in theory with the attacks on the bloggers and opposition people.
Meanwhile, even after she filed the suit, Olga remained employed, but then left in late February 2015. She lost her last month’s pay because she was told she would only receive it in exchange for a formal letter of resignation, which would then remove her ability to continue the lawsuit, according to her lawyers. After she refused, she literally had to run out of the building, as administrators tried to force her to sign the paper. Her husband then got a phone call from one of the managers who made veiled but clear threats.

Although she was forced to turn to doctors from the stress, eventually Olga gave birth successfully and continued her suit. She is demanding documentation of her employment, 300,000 rubles ($4,707) for maternity leave and childcare and an additional 50,000 rubles for mental suffering ($784).

Troll factory linked to beating of opposition politicians and journalists

Police denied that there was any systematic plan to attack opposition members, or that it was organized by Prigorzhin, reported. They confirmed that the site was registered outside of the Russian Federation but refused to acknowledge the fact that this site had published the addresses and other personal data of the victims of the attacks.
But as reported, on February 11 Danil Aleksandrov, an activist from St. Petersburg Observers, was attacked near his home, as was Aleksandr Markov, a participant in on online anti-corruption group called Prestupnaya Vlast’ [Criminal Government] on March 31. On April 7, Ruslan Starostin, another St. Petersburg Observers’ activist found his car had been set on fire, but police refused to open up a case. On April 25, Yuliya Chernobrodova, another member of the Observers received murder threats, as did her husband. The police opened a case this time. On May 31, Yuliya  also found her car burned, and this case was linked to the first.
On July 9, Yegor Alekseyev, the administrator of the VKontakte group for Prestupnaya Vlast was beaten. Police are still investigating.

As Fontanka reported, also under attack were journalists from the Agency for Journalist Investigation, Andrei Konstantinov, Yevgeny Vyshenkov and Aleksandr Gorshkov. Fontanka discovered that the reporters were being tailed, including with a radar device placed under Vyshenkov’s car

Fontanka continued its research as we reported in June. was created in late November 2015 by a Kharkhiv IT company. Critics of the Russian government found their personal data was published there, even with scans of their passports, unpublished photos and tax ID umbers.
As British journalist Lawrence Alexander discovered a site with a similar name was found to be part of Prigozhin’s media empire: The site was later blocked by Ukrainian authorities and then moved. Interestingly, at the same time as the appearance of the portal, a site with the name was registered by the same Kharkiv IT company, which reported on Ukraine from pro-Russian positions. 
Fontanka said that the two sites weren’t just similar; they were “prepared in the same kitchen by the same people.” To be sure, the administrators used proxies in order to disguise their association with the site. But cyber security experts nonetheless found that some changes to the “” site had been made from the IP address
This address was registered at the Corinthian Hotel but has no relationship to it. Instead, it was tied to a building nearby rented by the company Glavset’. Glavset’, Ltd was registered by Mikhail Bystrov, former head of the Moscow District Interior Ministry, described by Fontanka as the “latest reincarnation of ‘Internet Rsearch.” In fact, Bystrov was even head of Internet Research for a time. The new company was shown by hackers from Anonymous International to be financed and managed from Prigozhin’s corporation Concord.
After Fontanka published its research, the site at that address was shut down. Fontanka notes that the same IP address was used by a VKontakte user who called himself “Kriv Vetka” who wanted to know the date of birth of Denis Korotkov, coincidentally just after Korotkov came out with his article on the Wagner private military contractors fighting in Ukraine and Syria.

Maksim Reznik, a local legislator, made a formal inquiry to police about the Fontanka’s findings but was told there was no connection between the beatings and the site. During the investigation, the police found IP addresses and mobile phone numbers used to register fake pages in VKontakte, and even used to make threats against opposition members, but said they could take it no further, as disposable SIM cards registered to non-existent people were used.  

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Russians Push For Paralympic Team To Play In Rio Games; Controversial Cartoon Sparks Protests
Last week, Russia’s entire Paralympic team was barred from the Olympic Games in Rio, NRP reported. Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said that Russia’s anti-doping system was “broken, corrupted and entirely compromised” and for that reason suspended the Paralympic team.
The move immediately sparked protest and anger as the International Olympic Committee had not placed a blanket ban on Russia, but had denied some athletes participation and admitted others.
Many of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes were tested for doping at the same Moscow lab implicated in the tampering scandal.
There were reports of recurring cases of “disappearing samples” at the lab, and among these samples were 35 names of Russian para-athletes.
Not just the Russian government but many ordinary people and leading independent media such as Novaya Gazeta were outraged by the decision and urged sports authorities to reconsider the ban on disabled athletes. Novaya Gazeta called on its colleagues in the media abroad to support their demand to reinstate the Paralympics Team.
Novaya Gazeta argued that the Paralympics Team shouldn’t have to answer for the sins of athletes found guilty of doping nor of the sins of the Russian government. They stressed the important role the Paralympics Team played in getting disability rights in Russia, which have been a long struggle since the Soviet era. “Thanks to just one Paralympic athlete, an entire city district with a non-barrier environment appeared,” said Novaya.
Russians are hoping for the Sports Arbitration Court — the same body that overturned the IOC decision to bar other athletes — will reinstate the team by September 7 when the Paralympic Games are to begin.
Vladimir Lukin, the former human rights ombudsman and now the president of the Russian Paralympics Committee, said he was shocked by the decision of the International Paralympic Committee and believed it was “politicized, unlawful, and contrary to human rights,” Novaya Gazeta reported.
Lukin said that while he believed there was indeed a doping problem in Russia and he agreed with the findings of the independent expert Richard Maclaren, he believed nonetheless the issued had been politicized. Even so, he was confident the team would be reinstated.

Sergei Elkin, a Russian cartoonist who publishes his works at Deutsche Welle (DW) and other publications, drew a cartoon of the issue published by DW depicting a disabled figure holding a Russian flag sitting in a wheelchair made up of an Olympic ring, separated from the other Olympic rings. It seemed a straightforward depiction of how the Russian team was being left out of the Olympics and the Olympics were incomplete without it.

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But for some reason, a number of Russians saw the cartoon as insulting. Some protesters held a demonstration in front of the German Embassy in Moscow urging that the cartoon be removed from the Internet pages of DW. Denis Davydov, leader of the Molodaya Gvardiya (Young Guard), who organized the demonstration said the cartoon was “a mockery of sports and the Paralympic athletes in particular,” RBC reported. Said Davydov:
“The leadership of the corporation of Deutsche Welle must finally hear the opinion of thousands of people who at the top of their lungs claim that this is inadmissible mockery of Russian athletes.”
Mikhail Terentyev, deputy head of the State Duma Committee on labor, Social Policy and Veterans’ Affairs, said “the editorial board should apologize for the insult,” and he hoped “corporations and journalists have the courage to do it,” RIA Novosti reported.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Russian Long-Range Bombers Strike from Iran; Russians Demonstrate at German Embassy Over DW Cartoon
The ruble is trading at 63.88, and the euro is trading at 71.97. Brent crude is selling for $48.54.

The following headlines were taken from Gazeta, RT, Novaya Gazeta, RB, Latest News Resource, Govorit Moskva,  and Rosbalt

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