LIVE UPDATES: Yandex announced that media that is not registered with Roskomnadzor, the state media monitoring agency will see its stories disappear from the front page of Yandex News as well as regional and subject pages
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:
Anna Politkovskayaâs Last Interview to the Regional Russian Press On Day of Her Murder
âThe Dirty Deeds of the Pentagon in Syriaâ: An Example of Russian Propaganda
– What Has Ramzan Kadyrov Been Up To? Quietly Cultivating Regional and Kremlin Officials, Now He Meets with Putin
– RBC Publishes Report Sourced in FSB and Military on Wagner Private Military Contractor with 2,500 Fighters in Syria
Ilya Shelepin, another journalist, reported the searches of Babich’s home on his Facebook page, noting that the Investigative Committee was “organizing yet another trial with defendants who are absent.” Yarosh is in Ukraine, and Skoropadsky is now not likely to return to Russia, he said.
He added that investigators seized Babich’s computer, telephone and other devices as “material evidence”. As she was trying to write a post about the search on Facebook, an officer grabbed the cell phone from her hand and erased it.
Ukraine’s TV 112, where Babich worked as a freelance reporter, said she had been summoned to the interrogator’s office at 11:00 am today Moscow time.
Later, Babich told 112 that interrogators had asked her about her work at Ukrainian television and her relationship to Skoropadsky.
Skorpadsky himself said in a statement on 112 that Babich had nothing to do with either Right Sector or politics.
Babich, who is a Russian citizen, was born in Crimea.
In September, the Investigative Committee opened a case on charges of “extremism” against Dmytro Yarosh, the head of the Ukrainian ultra-right group Right Sector banned in Russia. Also named in the case were Skoropadsky, Andrei Tarasenko, Andrei Stempitsky, and Valery Voronov.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
In a notice sent out to media, Yandex writes (translation by The Interpreter):
“The company has warned that the latest redaction of the law on news aggregators will allow for the preservation of Yandex.News, but the terms of cooperation with the service may change since an automatic news aggregator in principle cannot check hundreds of thousands of reports from external editorial offices.”
To see how this is already working given the censorship laws and procedures in place, we can take the search terms from a recent post by anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, whose blog was censored and blocked in Russia, and is maintained now at navalny.com on an external server. Under the Russian media law, bloggers with more than 3,000 views must register with Roskomnadzor, the media oversight agency, in the same way as online news media.
Today, Navalny posted about gates at the luxury home in Toksovo, Leningrad Region, belonging to Boris Rotenberg, an oligarch and childhood friend of President Vladimir Putin, which are blocking a waterway, and causing local people to protest.
If we post the name “Boris Rotenberg” today in Yandex.News, we won’t get Navalny’s blog, but we will get the returns from sites that are registered and happened to write about Navalny’s post.
But we can’t count on media continuing to be brave (or simply commercially interested in increased traffic from hits by readers interested in the topics Navalny covers). The Russian media has increasingly come under pressure and even editors fired for covering the Kremlin, Putin personally and his relatives and close associates critically.
And not every story will be covered as top news and therefore show up in search results.
Rambler, another Russian service, also says “Unfortunately, nothing was found for your inquiry” and posts ads for Russian business degrees and a Russian TV show about America.
It’s not clear if these services have agreed to block the sites indicated by the Russian government from their search results on those foreign-language versions of their services.
If we go over to Google.com, however, we will have no trouble finding Portnikov’s article in the very first search return.
Search services can return different results depending on the user, as algorithms are set up to monitor the user’s preferences. So others may get different results; try for yourself.
There’s no question that Yandex News has suffered from this law, however, as a number of searches indicate. Yandex itself as well as other Internet service providers opposed the law, but lost the battle. Yandex’s very existence as a company is at stake; when Putin criticized Yandex in a speech in 2014, accusing it of foreign sympathies because of foreign members of its board, its stock plunged.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick