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Dear friend,

Life in Russia changed forever on February 24th 2022 — and The Moscow Times has felt this to its core. As the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues, sinking Russia further into isolation not seen since the Soviet era, it is more important than ever to keep independent reporting alive.

The Moscow Times has operated from Moscow for the past 30 years. As Russia’s oldest independent English-language media, we have always worked to give the world an unbiased perspective on Russian life and politics.

But as Russia has tightened its grip on the free press — punishing those who call the war “war” with prison — our team has had to leave the country.

Amid the crackdown as well as a flood of disinformation exacerbated by hundreds of journalists fleeing Russia, it is more important than ever to provide the global community with accessible and informative stories about the region and offer a nuanced view free of stereotypes and prejudices.

Despite the unprecedented challenges, The Moscow Times continues to cover Russia – but we need your support.

We hope you will support us on this difficult journey!

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Source: Moscow Times email newsletter, 17 March 2022. Please consider pressing the link to the newspaper’s donations page, above, to support their vital mission. You can use a credit card or PayPal to make your donation. I used the latter, and it took me less than a minute to donate. To remind you of the great work they do, I’ve attached a recent story to this blog — as I’ve done several times over the last fifteen years on this post, especially when their now-defunct sister newspaper in Petersburg was still operating. ||| TRR

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She Signed an Open Letter Calling for Peace. Then Got Fired.
Russians who signed petitions against Russia’s war in Ukraine are losing their jobs.
Jake Cordell
The Moscow Times
March 3, 2022

Yekaterina Dolinina. Photo: Facebook/Moscow Times

Like many people around the world, Yekaterina Dolinina woke up on Feb. 24 to a barrage of notifications and messages on her phone.

“I couldn’t immediately figure it all out. It probably took about 15 minutes to process everything,” the 29-year-old director of two central Moscow cinemas told The Moscow Times.

“But then I realized what it meant. Then the pain came immediately. I felt scared and anxious.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin had just given a pre-dawn address to the nation announcing the start of a “special operation” in Ukraine — an aggressive war on Russia’s pro-European neighbor that has killed thousands, including civilians and children, in its first week.

“I didn’t understand what to do next. How could I go to work like nothing had happened? How could I carry on living my life,” Dolinina said.

The next day, she added her name to an anti-war petition — one of dozens of open letters from different professional spheres addressing Putin and calling for him to back down. Dolinina signed one circulating among cultural and artistic professionals. Similar letters were signed by economists, teachers, doctors and a number of other groups in what has grown into a sizable show of opposition to the war.

On Monday, she was hauled into an early-morning meeting by her employers — the MosKino cinema hall — and given a choice. Make a public statement saying that your name was added by mistake, or quit. If she refused to go of her own accord, she said, her bosses threatened to make her dismissal “very unpleasant.”

MosKino did not respond to a request to comment.

“I didn’t waver over signing it and I don’t regret it. But I didn’t expect that it would result in forced dismissal,” Dolinina said in an interview.

“I knew, as somebody working in a cultural institute connected to the government, that if I was detained at a protest or posted something aggressive on social media I could get fired. But I never guessed it would happen for signing an open letter calling for peace.”

“But that’s a sign of the new world we’re all living in now.”

While the Russian military wages war abroad, the government has stepped up a campaign of censorship and repression at home. Independent media outlets are threatened with being blocked or fined from calling Russia’s war in Ukraine a “war” or “invasion.” Russia’s media watchdog blocked the websites of two leading independent broadcasters — radio station Ekho Moskvy and the Dozhd television channel — for flouting those rules.

A law under consideration in Russia’s parliament — that could be passed as early as Friday — would make publishing what the Russian government deems “fake information” a criminal offense, punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment.

On the streets, anti-war protesters have been met with a tough police resistance, with almost 7,000 people detained in a week of small-scale rallies and demonstrations in cities across the country.

“They said that it wasn’t their choice, that they had tried to protect me. But the order came from above. They couldn’t do anything about it,” Dolinina said of her forced resignation.

In text messages seen by The Moscow Times, her employers wrote in a company-wide chat later that day: “Dear colleagues. Please refrain from making posts about political topics on Facebook, and do not add flags to your profile picture.”

In Russia, forced dismissals are not a new tactic as retribution for political dissent. Last year, the Moscow metro reportedly fired dozens of workers for signing a petition in favor of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

And amid the current war, Dolinina’s case is not unique. Many Russians — especially in the arts and cultural space — have reported being forced to resign in recent days from their work after coming out publicly against the war in Ukraine.

Others are resigning and packing up of their own accord, unwilling to stay in a country at war and facing a devastating economic crisis and unprecedented international isolation.

“I thought about leaving,” said Dolinina. “But even though it hurts to follow what’s happening in our country at the moment, this is a place where I’ve invested lots of love and energy.”

Foreign Agents

Lyudmila Savitskaya • Facebook • December 28, 2021

A year ago, the Russian authorities labeled me a foreign agent. THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) WAS CREATED AND (OR) DISTRIBUTED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA OUTLET PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT AND (OR) A RUSSIAN LEGAL ENTITY PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT. During these 365 days, one of my bank cards was blocked on suspicion of money laundering, I was fined over ten thousand rubles for the Journalist-Foreign Agent LLC that I created by order of the Justice Ministry, and I was deprived of the opportunity to work on certain projects. Antidepressants appeared in my medicine cabinet, and a psychiatrist became one of my friends.

My husband Dmitry Permyakov was turned into a family member of an enemy of the people: as a person affiliated with a “foreign agent” he was summoned for questioning by Center “E” and threatened with torture in prison. And another person close to the police called to solicitously warn us that our home had been bugged. You can read this year’s other sad particulars in my column for Sever.Realii – “Luda, the floor is burning under your feet!” (See the link in the first comment.)

But here you can admire my super agent photo shoot, which was cold but quite a lot of fun. No time to die, happy new year!


Russia Labels Pussy Riot Activists, Satirist ‘Foreign Agents’ • Moscow Times • December 30, 2021

Russia has added members of the Pussy Riot art activist collective, a prominent satirist and an independent journalist its registry of “foreign agents” Thursday.

The designations close a year in which Russia labeled nearly every major independent domestic news outlet, as well as dozens of individual journalists and activists, a “foreign agent.”

Founding Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and fellow member Nika Nikulshina have been added to the Justice Ministry’s “foreign agents” registry.

Tolokonnikova, 32, was among the Pussy Riot members who were sentenced to prison for their 2012 protest performance in central Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral that criticized the Russian Orthodox Church’s close ties with President Vladimir Putin.

Anti-Kremlin satirist Viktor Shenderovich; Taisiya Bekbulatova, chief editor of the independent Holod news website; and art collector and former Kremlin advisor Marat Gelman have also been added to the list.

“These people systematically distribute materials to an indefinite circle of persons, while receiving foreign funds,” the Justice Ministry’s statement said.

The ministry’s registry now includes more than 100 entities and individuals, most of which were added in 2021.

Rights advocates denounce the country’s “foreign agents” law, saying it seeks to silence groups and individuals that dissent from state narratives by branding them with a label that carries dark connotations from the Soviet era.

Labeled individuals and entities must submit regular financial reports and detailed lists of income and spending, as well as prominently display a wordy disclaimer on all articles, social media posts and other publications — or else face criminal charges.

But officials defend the law, pointing to what they say are harsher equivalent laws in Western countries.

On Monday, prominent BBC Russian investigative journalist ​Andrei Zakharov said he left the country two months after being labeled a “foreign agent,” saying he faced “unprecedented surveillance” following his designation.

And Russian courts this week ruled to liquidate the two main structures of Memorial, Russia’s leading human rights group and a key pillar of its civil society, citing repeated violations of the “foreign agent” law.


Alexander Morozov • Facebook • December 30, 2021

After seeing today’s list of “foreign agents,” I thought: is any more proof required that this status is exclusively political, that its legal aspect does not matter at all? These are not foreign agents in the sense of “lobbyists of a foreign state.” They are “agents of the West” (in the broad sense of “the hostile West”). In this respect, their status directly depends on the Kremlin’s conflict with the outside world. The next stage of escalation (which, in my opinion, is inevitable) will automatically mean that, regardless of their legal status as “foreign agents,” the people on the list will be criminally prosecuted. After all, the list is “good to go”: it exists and therefore should be put to work. So the list is no joke at all. Anyone who does not leave the country before the Kremlin’s conflict with the West accidentally escalates will end up behind bars. Therefore, I won’t congratulate people dear to me on having this label conferred on them. It’s a very dangerous and grim business.


Pussy Riot • Facebook • December 30, 2021

THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) CREATED AND DISTRIBUTED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT

two of Pussy Riot, Nadya Tolokonnikova and Nika Nikulshina, were added to the government list of “foreign agents” & required to start every tweet w this disclaimer.

OFFICIAL REACTION:

1. lol

2. we will not label my posts, the government can label their asses if they’d like.

3. we will appeal in court.

4. Russia will be free.


Matvey Ganapolsky • Facebook • December 30, 2021

I want to say what will happen with the Russian media in 2022.

1. Domestic opposition media outlets will be destroyed and gutted. TV Rain and Echo of Moscow will have huge problems, including closure or reformatting, because they broadcast oppositional viewpoints. Neither [Alexei] Venediktov nor [Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry] Muratov will be able to save them.

2. Under various, poorly concealed pretexts, the local offices of Radio Svoboda [Radio Liberty] and the BBC will be closed. Radio Svoboda’s internet broadcasts and podcasts will be blocked, as well as the websites of these companies. VPNs will also be blocked.

3. The West will find itself in a paradoxical situation in which it will be necessary to resume short-wave broadcasting. Russia will respond by jamming them. Young people will run to their grandparents to retrieve old radios.

4. The media situation will be at the level of the late USSR. It will change only with Putin’s departure or death.

Items 1, 3, and 5 translated by the Russian Reader