Whose Bodies? Whose Selves?

Putin Instructs Government to “Strengthen Financial Interest” of Hospitals in Preventing Abortions 
Mediazona
October 27, 2020

President Vladimir Putin has instructed the government to “strengthen the financial interest of medical organizations” in preventing abortions, as follows from the list of instructions published on the president’s website after an expanded meeting of the State Council’s presidium.

Putin appointed Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Governor of the Novgorod Region Andrei Nikitin as his point men in dealing with the issue.

Together with a State Council working group, they must evaluate the work of doctors in preventing abortions and improve its effectiveness, including ensuring that hospitals cooperate with “social service organizations.”

Thanks to Darya Apahonchich for the link. Translated by the Russian Reader

People attend a anti-government, pro-abortion demonstration in front of parliament, on April 9, 2016 in Warsaw. Photo: WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images via Foreign Policy

Putin Orders Government to Improve Abortion Prevention Efforts
Moscow Times
October 27, 2020

President Vladimir Putin has urged the government to improve abortion prevention strategies in an effort to reduce the number of terminated pregnancies and offset Russia’s population decline.

Putin’s order was made public days after Poland’s top court deemed abortions performed in cases of fetal defects to be unconstitutional. For Poland, which already had some of Europe’s strictest abortion laws, the decision amounted to a near-total ban on the procedure, sparking mass protests in over 150 Polish cities.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and regional heads will be tasked with reassessing Russia’s abortion prevention strategies and developing mechanisms to increase funding for medical organizations that improve their abortion prevention rates, according to Putin’s order published Saturday.

Improving access to legal, psychological and medical assistance through the maternity insurance program is outlined in Putin’s order as a key measure expected to dissuade women from abortion.

Russia, which has one of the world’s highest abortion rates, has named abortion reduction as one of its key demographic policy priorities. In the past five years, pregnancy terminations have decreased by nearly 30%, Deputy Health Minister Oleg Salagai said Tuesday.

Russia’s efforts to improve abortion prevention have largely failed to revert its looming demographic crisis, however, with the country’s population predicted to decline by 352,500 in 2020 compared to a decrease of 32,100 in 2019.

Russia has one of the world’s most liberal abortion laws, with most procedures performed at no cost under the mandatory state health insurance program. Terminating a pregnancy is allowed up until the 12th week, with abortions at later stages only permitted if the pregnancy was a result of rape or for medical reasons.

The Russian Orthodox Church and conservative lawmakers have pushed for an end to state-funded abortions in recent years.

Women’s rights advocates have voiced concern over Russia’s move toward tighter restrictions after the government introduced a mandatory waiting period between the abortion request and the procedure itself in 2011. Some Russian regions also require women to undergo counseling with a priest or a psychologist before the procedure can be performed.

Russian women reported being denied access to free abortions during the coronavirus lockdown this spring when Russian clinics postponed scheduled medical procedures.

The Birthday Party

OVD Info
Facebook
October 8, 2020

On October 7, protests took place in various cities in honor [sic] of President Vladimir Putin’s birthday. Police reacted differently in each case.

📍 In Moscow, members of Pussy Riot held an anti-homophobic protest by hanging rainbow flags on various government buildings. Police detained a journalist during the protest, and two participants later that evening. They were charged the rules for holding a public event. Today, police continued visiting the homes of the activists.

Left Bloc activists left bottles of PVA glue and swimming fins outside the office of the presidential administration. [This was an allusion to the Russian prison slang expression “to glue the fins” (skleit’ lasty), meaning “to die.”] Police detained a journalist who wanted to see how officials reacted to the installation. He was charged with violating the rules for holding a public event and has his electronic devices confiscated.

📍 In Kurgan, supporters of Alexei Navalny held solo pickets, wishing the president a speedy retirement. Afterwards, Center “E” officers attempted to enter the local Navalny headquarters, but were not allowed to enter.

📍 In Novokuibyshevsk (Samara Region), opposition activists picketed on the city’s central square. Police officers took them to the police station, where they questioned them, scolded them for violating social distancing rules, and released them without charge.

📍 In Petersburg, several people in Putin masks staged a protest outside Gostiny Dvor. Six people were detained and taken to three different police stations. They were charged with violating the self-isolation regime.

Activists of the Vesna Movement arranged a birthday spread outside the house where Vladimir Putin lived as a young man. After drinking tea, they pretended to be dead. The police are looking for the people involved in the protest at their actual and registered places of residence.

Photos by David Frenkel. Courtesy of OVD Info and Vesna. Translated by the Russian Reader

Minsk: The March of Justice

March of Justice in Minsk, September 20, 2020. Photo by Yulya Tsimafeyeva

Yulya Tsimafeyeva
Facebook
September 20, 2020

The March of Justice/Марш справядлівасці
Some photos from the 6th Sunday march. Не ведаю, як апісаць тым, хто ніколі не хадзіў на нашыя маршы, што гэта такое. Я пачала пісаць, што гэта і як, але і праўда не ведаю. :) Нерэальна дзіўныя адчуванні: пачынаючы ад дабірання да хоць нейкага месца збору пры зачыненым метро, адмененым руху транспарту, выключаным інтэрнэце і сканчаючы пошукамі бяспечнага спосабу (закрэслена: адступлення) вяртання назад… (І гэтыя загадкі штонядзелі вырашаюць тысячы дарослых людзей.) Але сарцавіна — гэта любоў, адназначна. :)

[Some photos from the 6th Sunday march. I don’t know how to describe what it is to those who have never attended our marches. I started writing about what it is like, but I really don’t know. :) Unreal strange feelings: starting from making your way to at least some kind of gathering place with the subway closed, traffic blocked, and the internet turned off, and ending with looking for a safe way (crossed out: of retreating) of getting back… (And these puzzles are solved every Sunday by thousands of adults.) But the core is love, definitely. :)]

“Put the Court on Trial.” Photo by Yulya Tsimafeyeva

Tens of Thousands Protest in Belarus Capital Against Lukashenko
Tatiana Kalinovskaya (AFP)
Moscow Times
September 20, 2020

Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Sunday despite authorities deploying a heavy police presence.

The protest came a day after officers detained hundreds of demonstrators at a women’s march in the capital.

The opposition movement has kept up a wave of large-scale demonstrations every Sunday since President Alexander Lukashenko won a disputed victory in August 9 polls.

“Anschluss. The Putin Organized Crime Syndicate Is ‘Novichok” for the Independence of Belarus!” Photo by Yulya Tsimafeyeva

People holding red-and-white protest flags gathered at the “March of Justice” that occupied the whole of a central avenue and walked towards the heavily guarded Palace of Independence, where Lukashenko has his offices.

They held placards with slogans such as “Cowards beat up women” and “Get out!”.

Before the march, police and internal troops had positioned military trucks and armored personnel carriers in the city center and set up barbed wire.

March of Justice in Minsk, September 20, 2020. Photo by Yulya Tsimafeyeva

Riot police in black balaclavas sporadically detained protesters carrying flags and signs at the start, while some people took shelter in a shopping mall and in a fast-food restaurant to escape arrest.

The Viasna rights group said at least 16 had been detained in Minsk as well as eight at protests in other cities.

The government ordered a reduction in mobile internet coverage during the event while central metro stations were closed.

Demonstrator at March of Justice in Minsk, September 20, 2020. Photo by Yulya Tsimafeyeva

The mass protest came after riot police cracked down on peaceful women demonstrators on Saturday who were wearing shiny accessories for their so-called “Sparkly March.”

They dragged protesters into vans, lifted some women off their feet and carrying them.

Belarusian interior ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said Sunday that police had detained 415 people on that march in Minsk and 15 in other cities for breaking rules on mass demonstrations. She said 385 had been released.

“Wake up, cities! Our motherland is in distress!” Photo by Yulya Tsimafeyeva

‘Worth fighting for’
The scale of Saturday’s detentions prompted the opposition’s Coordination Council to warn of a “new phase in the escalation of violence against peaceful protesters

Among those detained was one of the most prominent faces of the protest movement, 73-year-old activist Nina Baginskaya, although she was later released.

“From Khabarovsk to Brest There Is No Place for Dictatorship!” Photo by Yulya Tsimafeyeva

The aggressive police tactics prompted an opposition Telegram channel, Nexta, which has more than 2 million subscribers, to publish what it said was a list of the names and ranks of more than 1,000 police.

Protesters have sought to expose the identity of police who appear at demonstrations in plain clothes or in uniforms without insignia or name badges, trying to pull off their masks and balaclavas.

March of Justice in Minsk, September 20, 2020. Photo by Yulya Tsimafeyeva

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory over Lukashenko in the polls and has taken shelter in Lithuania, on Saturday said Belarusians were ready to strip police obeying “criminal orders” of anonymity.

Lukashenko has dismissed opposition calls for his resignation and sought help from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has promised law enforcement backup if needed and a $1.5 billion loan.

“Fear the indifferent! It is with their tacit consent that all evil on earth is committed!” Photo by Yulya Tsimafeyeva

Tikhanovskaya is set to meet European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday as the EU prepares sanctions against those it blames for rigging the election and the regime’s violent crackdown on protesters.

Authorities have jailed many of Tikhanovskaya’s allies who formed the leadership of the Coordination Council or driven them out of the country.

One of her campaign partners, Maria Kolesnikova, has been imprisoned and charged with undermining national security.

She released a message to protesters on Sunday saying: “Freedom is worth fighting for. Don’t be afraid to be free!”

Go to Yulya Tsimafeyeva’s Facebook page to see the rest of her photos from the March of Justice and other dispatches from the events in Belarus. || TRR

Viktor Yerofeyev: There Is No One in Russia to Support Belarus

Minsk, September 6, 2020

There Is No One in Russia to Support Belarus
Viktor Yerofeyev
Deutsche Welle
September 11, 2020

“Why don’t you speak when you can see this proud little nation is being crushed?”

Svetlana Alexievich, a world-renowned humanist writer of Belarus, is surprised that the Russian intelligentsia is silent about Lukashenko’s state terrorism. Who else, if not with a writer, can we talk about the metamorphoses of spiritual values occurring both to the east and the west of the Belarusian borders?

Svetlana, the Russian intelligentsia is silent because it no longer exists. It was not destroyed by either tsarism or the Soviet government, although the latter tried especially brutally to eradicate it, but it rotted on the stalk when political freedoms came to post-Soviet perestroika Russia. Although these freedoms were scanty, they were simply unprecedented for Russia.

The Russian intelligentsia was a remarkable, myth-making caste that fought for freedom, justice, and grassroots happiness. At the end of the twentieth century, it transpired that everyone had their own idea of happiness, justice, and even the grassroots. Russian society is currently in a state of diffusion. It is divided to such an extent that it is nervously, mercilessly at odds with itself, floundering in internal contradictions. Some people will not shake the hands of certain other people, while a second group of people suspect a third group of making deals with the regime. Meanwhile, a fourth group really has sold out to the authorities, and a fifth group has simply left the game. There was no such confusion in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union, where there were the so-called Sixtiers, the Village Prose movement, and the Soviet dissident movement—that is, different forms of joint opposition to the authorities.

Several conscientious middle-aged writers and courageous groups of committed opposition activists who write letters of protest on various occasions will respond to Alexievich’s letter, or have already responded from Russia, and that will be it. Russian TV viewers do not read these letters. Protests against the beating of Belarusian civilians will be drowned in the wild fabrications of Kremlin propaganda, which, like Zmei Gorynych, the dragon in Russian folktales, has several heads and confuses ordinary people with its “versions” of events.

This applies not only to Belarus. Before our eyes, monstrous things have happened to Alexei Navalny. We also haven’t see much support for Alexei from Russia’s cultural and academic figures, Svetlana.

If there is no intelligentsia in Russia, then “the people” [narod] that the intelligentsia invented, a grassroots crushed by the authorities but dreaming of liberation, also does not exist. We have a populace. They may be outraged, as has happened in Khabarovsk, but these are emotions, not political maturity.

Even words of support for Belarus offered by independent Russian figures show that the events in Belarus have taken them by surprise, that they did not expect such a turn of events, and that Belarus and Europe are incompatible things for many Russians. Meanwhile, in the wake of the events in Belarus, we (the Russian post-intelligentsia) are now turning from an older brother, cultured and wise, into a younger one, who has not wised up yet. So let’s set aside our hopes for the best until later.

Meanwhile, around us, above us, and sometimes even inside us, a regime that identifies itself with Russia has firmly ensconced itself, and instead of Louis XIV, who said that he was the state [“L’etat c’est moi”], Russia has a president about whom the head of the Duma has said that he is Russia, and Russia is him. Putin’s cause is alive and well. His system has been maturing and running for twenty years, and its direct impact on Belarus could be militarized, devouring, and fatal.

This system has issued a challenge not only to its rebellious neighbors, but also to the entire west. This system is pushy, quick on its feet, and confident that it speaks for the truth, which has an exceptional spiritual basis (Russia Orthodoxy) and the finest moral and material capacities in the world (which Russian TV trumpets rudely and sweetly).

Oddly enough, the west shies away, as if frightened, from the “flying troika” of the Putin regime. The west manifests outrage, it threatens sanctions and imposes them, and then it splits into groups based on national, economic, anti-American and other interests. Western democracy, which has deep philosophical roots and defeated communism, clearly does not know what to do with Russia, and is outplayed by it when it comes to agility and reckless decision-making. And it is also too painful for the west to part with large-scale joint economic projects.

Russia’s future remains a mystery. A new generation will grow up, and it may follow the Belarusian and European path. Or perhaps the strong-arm techniques, bribery, corruption, and ideological emptiness inherited from the Russian intelligentsia will suggest to Russia a different career: the career of western civilization’s perennial antagonist.

But in any case, dear Svetlana, the peaceful uprising in Belarus is a great historical event, and I bow down to the heroines and heroes of your rebellion.

Viktor Yerofeyev is a writer, literary critic, TV presenter, author of the books Russian Beauty, The Good Stalin, The Akimuds, The Pink Mouse, and many others, and a Chevalier of the French Legion Of Honor.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“Belarus’s increasingly isolated president, Alexander Lukashenko, flew to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin. After attempting to rig elections in August, Mr Lukashenko has faced over a month of protests, responding with violence. Russia has backed him throughout. At the meeting, Mr Putin offered Belarus a $1.5bn loan. While they met, joint Belarusian-Russian military exercises began in western Belarus.”
—The Economist Espresso, 15 September 2020

A Statement from Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Laureate and Chair of Belarusian PEN
Belarusian PEN Centre
September 9, 2020

There is no one left of my friends and associates in the opposition’s Coordination Council. They are all in prison, or they have been thrown out of the country. The last, Maksim Znak, was taken today.

First they seized our country, and now they are seizing the best of us. But hundreds of others will come and fill the places of those who have been taken from our ranks. It is the whole country which has risen up, not just the Coordination Council. I want to say again what I have always said: that we were not attempting to start a coup. We did not want to split the country. We wanted to start a dialogue in society. Lukashenko has said he won’t speak ‘with the street’ – but the streets are filled with hundreds of thousands of people who come out to protest every Sunday, and every day. It isn’t the street, it is the nation.

People are coming out to protest with their small children because they believe they will win.

I also want to address the Russian intelligentsia, to call it by its old name. Why have you remained silent? We hear very few voices supporting us. Why don’t you speak when you can see this proud little nation is being crushed? We are still your brothers.

To my own people, I want to say this: I love you and I am proud of you.

And now there is another unknown person ringing at my door.

One Easy Way Merkel Could Punish Putin for Poisoning Navalny

The Dialogue of Civilizations (DOC) Research Institute, a front used by the Putin regime to co-opt the oddly named international community’s brahmins and bigwigs, is a twenty-minute walk from the Bundestag, and it is surrounded by German ministry buildings. What better way for the German government to express its distress with the Russian government’s poisoning of Alexei Navalny than by shutting the DOC down?

If Angela Merkel actually wants to get tough on Putinist Russia, I can tell her how and where to start: by closing down the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, an extraordinarily well-organized, aggressive “soft power” front for co-opting international opinion leaders, decision makers, policy wonks, public intellectuals, and academics, run by high-level Putin crony Vladimir Yakunin, and located at Französische Str. 23 in the heart of the German capital, a mere twenty-minute walk from the German parliament, the Bundestag.

But of course that will never happen because Merkel is not going to do anything of the sort. Shame on her. \\ TRR

Artemy Troitsky: Putin’s Last Autumn? (Song of the Ordinary Man)

Putin’s “Last Autumn”? (Song of the Ordinary Man)
Artemy Troitsky
Echo of Moscow
August 28, 2020

I’m an ordinary guy, not lacking in simplicity.
I’m just like him, I’m just like you.
I don’t see the point in talking to me —
It’s the same as talking to yourself.

The are the opening lines from Mike Naumenko’s “Song of the Ordinary Man.” Mike Naumenko died on August 27, 1991, twenty-nine years ago, an anniversary that many remembered, especially since in recent years Mike’s legacy has been held in high esteem, and rightly so. However, I’m sorry to say I won’t be talking about my late friend this time, but about something else entirely. I recalled Mike’s song because I am a one-hundred-percent “ordinary man” in Mike’s sense of the term, someone who has neither inside info nor insights, nor political science tricks up his sleeve, nor political party experience, and besides I am absolutely indifferent to conspiracy theories. At the same time, I am quite interested in what is happening in Russia, and I want to get to the bottom of it without resorting to any bells and whistles except for publicly available information and common sense.

For many months, the popular expert and lonely nightingale known as Valery Solovey has been trying to persuade his audience, weary with uncertainty, that this autumn 1) mass protests of unprecedented power will kick off; 2) the authorities will most likely be unable to cope with this “turbulence,” especially since 3) President Putin, due to “force majeure” circumstances, will hardly be able to be involved in this process and generally has been fading away; 4) although Putin has appointed a successor, there is little chance that the Kremlin’s scenario will be implemented; 5) consequently, we will probably be “living in a different country” by 2022. Needless to say, this all appears quite appetizing (to a person with my anarcho-libertarian tastes).

Because I live abroad permanently, I did not attend Solovey’s private lectures. I was too bashful to shout “Give me the details!” over the phone, so I didn’t think it possible to get into a debate or, on the contrary, celebrate our country’s imminent deliverance from the hated regime. But another dear “talker and troublemaker,” Gennady Gudkov, has just made a similar forecast (in an article entitled “Putin is leaving: the transition has already begun”). Gudkov is super-experienced: he’s an KGB officer, a former MP, and a prominent opposition figure. At the same time, like the “ordinary man” that I am, Gudkov does not rely on secret data from the backstreets of the deep state, instead making his conclusions based on news bulletins. And his conclusions, in short, are that Putin is going to leave the Kremlin, either due to unbearably bad health, or because he is just very tired. Accordingly, the people of Russia are going to be transported from one reality to another like a passenger changing planes.

This, unfortunately, is what I would like to argue with.

First of all, I don’t enjoy regularly watching Putin on screen, but from the bits and pieces I have come across, I wouldn’t conclude that he has physically and/or mentally noticeably thrown in the towel. Sixty-eight is a laid-back age: I am sixty-five, say, but I don’t do sports and fitness, I’m not under the care of doctors, I don’t inject Botox and stem cells, I don’t deny myself any “harmful excesses” (except smoking tobacco), and I feel great. And since when did a ruler’s feeble state affect anything in Russia? Let’s remember dear old Leonid Brezhnev, who could barely move his tongue, the zombie-like Chernenko, and late-period Yeltsin. Secondly, it is absolutely impossible that Putin would voluntarily deign to vacate the throne due to fatigue or anything else. He’s only going out on a gun carriage. In my opinion, it is quite clear: this is Lukashenko’s scenario, not F****ace’s. And we should note that the Reset One doesn’t even have Consanguineous Kolenka to fall back on, while iPhone Boy, the Buddhist, and the Reindeer Herder are . . . Even arguing this point is boring.

Nikolai “Kolenka” Lukashenko (far left) and his father, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, at a meeting “in the situation room of Independence Palace” on August 23, 2020. Screenshot from the Telegram channel Pul Pervogo. Courtesy of Mediazona Belarus

Nor do I think that the predictions of mighty grassroots turbulence are more realistic. Why should I? Russians have learned to put up with poverty, and empty store shelves, and “elections,” and the riot police. Russians who haven’t learned to put with these things have left the country and will continue to leave it: as many who can get out will get out as soon as the quarantine is lifted. What happened on Maidan and is happening in Belarus is regarded by the majority of the Russian populace as a nightmare, while the minority sees it as a miracle, an impossible miracle. The only obvious reaction to the events in Belarus has been on the darned social networks. In tiny Lithuania, fifty thousand people turned out for a rally of solidarity with the rebellious people of Belarus; in Tallinn, two or three thousand people lined up in a chain; in Moscow, a couple of hundred young people protested outside the Belarusian embassy on Maroseyka, most of them Belarusian nationals. And what about the Russian city of Khabarovsk? Everyone is, like, amazed at the resilience of the protesters (for the time being it’s as if they’re talking to a brick wall), but only solo picketers come out in support of them in other parts of Russia. Or have I fallen behind the times in my own little corner of Europe, and it’s just the good weather that is to blame for everything? And in the autumn Russians are going to cut loose and go bonkers?

This is how Mike’s song ends:

If you ask me what the moral is,
I will turn my gaze into the misty distance
And I’ll tell you: I’m sorry,
But, by God, I don’t know what the moral is.
We live the way we lived before,
And we’ll live that way until we die,
And if we live like this,
That means that’s how we should live!

Mike always spat out the last line with fury. I don’t know whether this was the desperate rage of a stoic or the impotent rage of a fatalist . . . Let’s hope, in any case, that I’m wrong.

Artemy Troitsky is a well-known Russian journalist and musical critic. Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up. Thanks to TL, VL, NK, and AR for helping me to identify the Belarusian and Russian supervillains mentioned at the end of the fifth paragraph. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Special Op in Omsk (The Poisoning of Alexei Navalny)

Leonid Volkov
Facebook
August 20, 2020

Everything happening now around Navalny (and what is happening is a special op), including not letting his doctor see him, not letting his wife see him, the huge number of security forces [at the hospital in Omsk], the refusal to transport him [to another country for treatment] is aimed at one goal and one goal alone. And it’s not treating the patient, of course.

The goal is concealing traces of the crime, making it impossible to detect the toxin, making sure no one gets access to the biomaterials, so that there is no convincing evidence of what substance was used to poison him and how it was used. So what if this is wreaks havoc with choosing the optimal medical treatment.

But it will allow the Kremlin to play their favorite game, like with the Boeing [shot down over Ukraine by Russian forces in July 2014]: to put forward 300 different hypotheses of any degree of absurdity (except the obvious and true explanation), and to shout “What is your evidence?” in response to the obvious explanation. In fact, they have already started doing it.

Translated by the Russian Reader 

NKVD Captain Yermolai Remizov fights ruthlessly against the Motherland’s enemies. His task force has cracked dozens of cases, eliminating the remnants of the White Guard, and capturing foreign spies and Trotskyist henchmen. From reliable sources, Remizov gets a signal about an upcoming act of sabotage at the Proletarian Diesel plant. The plant is the flagship of its industry, and any accident there would be a serious political statement. Remizov needs to identify the saboteurs urgently. But how? Suddenly, among the plant’s staff, the captain notices a new engineer, who bears a striking resemblance to an acquaintance from the Civil War…

This novel, Chekists, was published yesterday (August 19, 2020) by the major Russian publisher Eksmo, a fact made known to me by LitRes, Russia’s leading e-book service. The burgeoning genre of neo-Stalinist revisionist pulp fiction and the equally flourishing genre of neo-Stalinist revisionist “historiography” that nourishes it are two big parts of the relentless culture war waged by the “Chekists” in the Kremlin to make their flagrant, brutal misrule of the world’s largest country seem natural, inevitable, and historically predetermined. As part of their overall campaign to hold on to power in perpetuity, while bleeding the country dry, it only makes sense that they would turn governance into an endless, gigantic “special op,” in which poisoning “the Motherland’s enemies,” like Alexei Navalny, is all in a day’s work. // TRR


Doctors ‘fighting for life’ of Russia’s opposition leader Navalny after alleged poisoning
Yuliya Talmazan
NBC News
August 20, 2020

Fierce Krmlin critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny is inh a coma as doctors fight for his life after he was poisoned Thursday mo rning, his spokespersoin said.

The 44-year-old foe of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin felt unwell on a flight back to Moscow from tTomsk, a city in Siberia, Kira Yarmysh said on iTwitter.

“The plane made an emergency landing in Omsk. Alexei has a toxic poisoning,” Yarmysh tweeted.

Navalny is said to be unconscious and was placed on a ventilator in an intensive care unit. Yarmysh did not say who she believed may have poisoned Navalny, but said police had been called to the hospital.

The politician is in a grave but stable condition, hospital representative Anatoly Kalinichenko, deputy chief physician at the Omsk Emergency Hospital No. 1., said in a video shared by Yarmysh on Twitter.

Kalinichenko said all possible reasons for Navalny’s sudden illness were being looked at, including poisoning. “Doctors are really dealing with saving his life right now,” Kalinichenko added at a later briefing with reporters.

The spokeswoman said that doctors were preventing Navalny’s wife, Yulia, from seeing her husband. Yarmysh quoted the doctors as saying her passport was insufficient evidence of her identity, instead asking for their marriage certificate which she wasn’t carrying.

Yarmysh told Russian radio station Echo of Moscow there are tests being conducted to determine the nature of the toxin used. She said Navalny only had a black tea at an airport coffee shop before getting on the plane in the morning, and they believe that’s how he could have been poisoned.

She said she was sure it was “an intentional poisoning.”

“A year ago, he was poisoned in a prison, and I am sure the same thing happened here,” she told the station. “It’s different symptoms, obviously a different toxin, but obviously this was done to him intentionally.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said an investigation would be launched if it turned out Navalny was indeed poisoned. Asked if this was a special case because of Navalny’s outspoken criticism of the Russian government, Peskov added, “the current government has many critics,” according to the state-run TASS news agency.

Meanwhile, elements of Russia’s tightly-controlled state media have been exploring the narrative that Navalny may have had a lot to drink the previous night and took some kind of hangover pill today.

An anonymous law enforcement source told TASS that authorities are not yet considering this a poisoning.

“For the moment this version is not being considered,” the official said. “It is possible that he drank or took something himself yesterday.”

Last year, Navalny was rushed to a hospital from prison where he was serving a sentence following an administrative arrest, with what his team said was suspected poisoning.

Doctors then said he had a severe allergic attack and discharged him back to prison the following day.

In 2017, he was attacked by several men who threw antiseptic in his face, damaging one eye.

Pavel Lebedev was on the same plane as Navalny and posted an image of the politician drinking something out of a cup before the flight on his Instagram Stories. NBC News could not confirm that the photo shows the beverage that his spokeswoman believes may have poisoned him.

In a series of videos uploaded to his Instagram, Lebedev said he saw Navalny go to the bathroom after lift-off, and he did not return for a while.

“I heard a commotion and took my headphones off,” he added. “It turned out that there was an emergency landing in Omsk, so I thought someone was feeling ill. Then I turned my head and I saw Alexei lying down.”

Navalny rose to prominence in 2009 with investigations into official corruption and became a protest leader when hundreds of thousands took to the streets across Russia in 2011 to protest electoral fraud.

A few years later, and after several short-term spells in jail, Navalny faced two separate sets of fraud charges, which were viewed as political retribution aimed at stopping him from running for office.

In his only official campaign before his first conviction took effect, Navalny garnered 30 percent of the vote in the race for Moscow mayor in 2013.

Navalny also campaigned to challenge Putin in the 2018 presidential election, but was barred from running.

Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation has conducted in-depth investigations into the highest ranks of Russian political elite, including his most famous investigation into former prime minister and president Dmitry Medvedev.

Alexei Navalny’s brilliant March 2017 exposé of then-prime minister Dmitry Medvedev’s corruption, viewed almost 36 million times

Last month, he had to shut down the foundation after a financially devastating lawsuit from Yevgeny Prigozhin, a businessman with close ties to the Kremlin.

Russia holds regional elections next month and Navalny and his allies have been preparing for them, trying to increase support for candidates which they back.

Yavka

gub_exit_04The turnout (yavka) for last September’s gubernatorial election in Petersburg was a record low of thirty percent. Less than a year later (at the height of summer, in the midst of a pandemic), the turnout for a meaningless “referendum” on amendments to the Russian constitution (which had already been ratified by both houses of parliament and signed into law by Putin) drew a record high turnout of 74% in Petersburg, according to local political blog Rotunda. Graphic courtesy of Fontanka.ru

Rotunda 
Telegram
July 2, 2020

The turnout [yavka] in St. Petersburg for the December 2011 elections to the State Duma waos 55%.

For the presidential election in March 2012, it was 64% (Vladimir Putin took 62% of the vote.)

For the gubernatorial elections in September 2014, it was 39%. (Georgy Poltavchenko won 79% of the vote.)

For the parliamentary elections in September 2016, it was 32%.

Turnout in St. Petersburg for the presidential elections in March 2018 was 63%. (Vladimir Putin took 75%.)

The turnout for the Petersburg gubernatorial election in September 2019 was 30% (Alexander Beglov won with a result of 64%.)

The turnout for the poll on amendments to the Constitution in the summer of 2020 was 74%. (77.6% voted “Yes.”)

Rotunda is a Telegram channel on Petersburg politics run by journalists Maria Karpenko (@mkarpenka) and Ksenia Klochkova (@kklochkova). You can write to them at: rotondaa [at] protonmail.com. Translated by the Russian Reader

No Culture Icons

putin-icon

[File under: You can’t make this stuff up; With friends like these who needs enemies?]

“Though in recent months Putin’s popularity has frayed at the edges, the dearth of comparably powerful and experienced political leaders leaves no doubt that he will continue to be a key political figure. During his tenure as Russia’s President and subsequently as Prime Minister, Putin transcended politics, to become the country’s major cultural icon. This book examines the nature of his iconic status. It explores his public persona as glamorous hero, endowed with vision, wisdom, moral and physical strength—the man uniquely capable of restoring Russia’s reputation as a global power. In analysing cultural representations of Putin, the book assesses the role of the media in constructing and disseminating this image and weighs the Russian populace’s contribution to the extraordinary acclamation he enjoyed throughout the first decade of the new millennium, challenged only by a tiny minority.” (Description of Putin as Celebrity and Cultural Icon, a volume of scholarly essays published by Routledge in 2013; my emphasis.)

Election Observers

election observerArtist, activist and teacher Darya Apahonchich found this “polling place” in the courtyard of her building in downtown Petersburg, across the street from the city’s Dostoevsky Museum. Early voting is under way in a nationwide referendum on 206 proposed amendments to the Russian Constitution. Courtesy of Darya Apahonich’s Facebook page

approvalFilmmaker Andrey Silvestrov took this selfie with his ballot paper at his polling place in Moscow. The question reads, “Do you approve [the] changes to the Russian Constitution?” Silvestrov voted no, of course. Note the fact that none of the amendments in question is listed on the ballot paper. Photo courtesy of his Facebook page

prizesFortunately, Silvestrov’s “no” vote will not, one hopes, disqualify him from entering the “Million Prizes” program, as outlined on a flyer he was given by polling place officials along with his ballot paper. Voters are asked to send a “unique code” in a text message to the number 7377. Winners are promised “gift certificates” redeemable for groceries, sporting goods, and household goods, and for unspecified goods at pharmacies, cafes, museums, theaters, and cinemas. I am going to go out on a limb and predict that the “gift certificates” (if any Russian voters actually receive them) will prove worthless. Photo courtesy of Silvestrov’s Facebook page

lurie precinctPhotographer Vadim F. Lurie took a snapshot of the referendum polling place in the courtyard in a town in the Moscow Region. Courtesy of his Facebook page. While the purported reason for such bizarre ad hoc polling places is ensuring health of voters during the coronavirus pandemic, still raging in many parts of Russia, they provide the added benefit of making it much harder for election observers to ascertain whether the referendum was conducted freely and fairly. Needless to say, “free and fair” is a meaningless concept to the Putin regime.

dictatorship of zerosJournalist and political activist Ivan Ovsyannikov took this snapshot outside Polling Station No. 1641, located on the Petrograd Side in Petersburg. The placard reads, “Our country, our constitution, our decision.” Someone has pasted a sticker on the placard, which reads, “The solidarity of ones will end the dictatorship of zeroes.” This is reference to the fact that one of the proposed amendments, if ratified, will “zero out” Vladimir Putin’s previous terms as Russian president, thus allowing him to run for two more consecutive terms of six years. If this scenario comes to pass, Putin would be able to rule until 2036. His current presidential term ends in 2024.

Konstantin Yankauskas and Alexander Zamyatin, popularly elected municipal councilors in the Zyuzino District of Moscow, discuss what their constituents can do to oppose the referendum under near impossible circumstances (the coronavirus pandemic, a ban on public campaigning against the amendments, evidence that thousands of state sector employees are either being forced to vote yes or hand over their passwords for electronic voting to their supervisors, etc.) They also reflect on why the Russian opposition has been unable to run a nationwide “no” campaign despite the fact that formal and informal barometers of public opinion have shown that Putin’s popularity has been falling and that many Russians are opposed to the constitutional amendments. The discussion was broadcast live on YouTube on June 24, 2020.