Vladimir Putin: Lord of the (Super Bowl) Rings

This article was originally published on Global Voices here.

Did Vladimir Putin steal New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl ring when they met in 2005? Many Russian bloggers are asking that very question, after Kraft claimed in a June 14, 2013, New York Post interview that he had in fact not given the ring as a gift. Kraft’s announcement (which the Patriots’ spokesperson later called a joke) contradicts his own public statement from 2005, immediately following his meeting with Putin, when he said he’d gifted the $25,000 ring to Russia’s president “as a symbol” of “respect and admiration.” (Even then in 2005, however, there were media reports [ru] that Kraft had not intended to give Putin the ring.) Continue reading ‘Vladimir Putin: Lord of the (Super Bowl) Rings’ »

Orphaned in US, SOPA Finds Home in Russia

This article was originally published on Global Voices here.

America’s controversial Stop Online Piracy Act is back—and it’s poised to become law in a matter of weeks. SOPA, however, isn’t coming to the United States, where a wide coalition of Internet companies, human rights organizations, and concerned citizens defeated the legislation with a massive protest campaign in January 2012. Orphaned by its American parents, SOPA is on the cusp of finding a home in Russia, where it is called “Bill № 292521-6 [ru]: Amendments to the Russian Federation’s Laws Protecting Intellectual Property Rights on Information-Telecommunications Networks.” The media, understandably, is just calling it “the Russian SOPA.” Continue reading ‘Orphaned in US, SOPA Finds Home in Russia’ »

PRISM Infects Russia with Cyberwar Scare

This article was originally published on Global Voices here.

Brace yourself. The cyberwar is coming.

Since last week, when the world learned about PRISM, a vast and secret American electronic surveillance program, Russian state officials have expressed renewed concerns about foreign social networks posing a national security threat. One day after news of the U.S. program broke, on June 7, 2013, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told [ru] reporters that websites like Facebook and Twitter are elements of a larger American campaign against Russia: Continue reading ‘PRISM Infects Russia with Cyberwar Scare’ »

Pavel Durov Is Not Going to Prison (For Now)

This article was originally published on Global Voices here.

It looks like Pavel Durov can finally return to Russia without a prison sentence threatening from overhead. That, for the moment anyway, seems to be true, now that St. Petersburg detectives have closed their inquiry [ru] into Durov’s alleged involvement in an April 5, 2013, traffic accident that left one police officer with minor injuries. Despite finally establishing that it was indeed Durov driving the car, investigators today announced that they have been unable to find evidence that he acted with malicious intent. Accordingly, they have reduced [ru] the criminal charges to a misdemeanor, and sent the case to a local police branch for a decision about the appropriate penalty. Continue reading ‘Pavel Durov Is Not Going to Prison (For Now)’ »

The Moscow Mayoral Election Will Test Russia’s Internet Culture

This article was originally published on Global Voices here.

When Moscow’s civil society exploded after national elections 18 months ago, pouring tens of thousands of protesters into the streets and electrifying a nascent class of Internet-connected “creatives,” it seemed to the world that the Putin regime was for the first time faltering. Demonstrators gathered throughout the country, but only Moscow proved capable of sustaining a truly mass movement. As the weeks passed, Russians shifted their attention to the March 2012 presidential election, which Vladimir Putin won handily, sapping the protest movement of its momentum. In the months since then, the much-hailed Snow Revolution has dissipated, absent a catalyst like the December 2011 parliamentary elections. Continue reading ‘The Moscow Mayoral Election Will Test Russia’s Internet Culture’ »

All Hail Russia’s Heroic Cop-Killers?

This article was originally published on Global Voices here.

A group of unknown assailants is killing police officers in Russia’s Rostov region. In the last seven months, authorities have linked the same stolen weapons to the slayings of five officers [ru] (two active, three retired), in attacks that resemble a wave of cop-killings [ru] that swept Rostov in 2008 and 2009 and claimed twelve lives. Authorities report that the murderers employ guerilla tactics, often laying traps for their victims and firing from cover. The criminals’ pattern—targeting cops, attacking by surprise, and stealing their weapons—has led many to compare them to the infamous Primorsky Partisans, a self-declared “guerilla group” of six men who terrorized the police of Russia’s Far East in early 2010. Continue reading ‘All Hail Russia’s Heroic Cop-Killers?’ »

The “Brave” Democrats of Russia’s Growing Civil Society

This article was originally published on Global Voices here.

As Vladimir Putin “turns the screws” on Russian public life in his third presidential term, Russian civil society is increasingly a repository for the ideologists and movers-and-shakers of an earlier age of Kremlin statecraft. Weeks ago, after the ouster of Vladislav Surkov (Moscow’s “grey cardinal”), observers from all over the globe proclaimed the end of an era in Russian politics. Last week, on May 22, 2013, when Surkov-ally Alexey Chesnakov quit United Russia and publicly criticized the party, few in the English-speaking world noticed, but the event could just as easily represent an important moment for Russian society. Continue reading ‘The “Brave” Democrats of Russia’s Growing Civil Society’ »

Laughing at Russia’s Eurovision Shooting Spirit

This article was originally published on Global Voices here.

In 1945, following a visit by the USSR’s Dynamo soccer team, George Orwell wrote that sports are “war minus the shooting.” He also said that “serious” sports have “nothing to do with fair play.” Earlier today, May 21, 2013, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seemed to echo this spirit, when he commented on his country’s fifth place finish in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Continue reading ‘Laughing at Russia’s Eurovision Shooting Spirit’ »