Putin showers Russia’s military spy agency in praise, celebrates its ‘unique capabilities’ on 100th anniversary

Vladimir Putin gave a speech on Friday at an event honoring the 100th anniversary of Russia’s “legendary Main Intelligence Directorate” — the same organization that has humiliated Moscow internationally over the past several months, as evidence accumulates that this spy agency is responsible for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, England, and numerous hacking efforts targeting Western institutions.

Who’s got more? It’s Russia vs. America, baby.

Lately, Americans can’t shut up about “Russian hackers and trolls.” In Russia, meanwhile, they can’t stop moaning about U.S. sanctions, dirty dirty dollar bills, and even American oil. In all this bickering and competition, do you know which country has more of what? This quiz is designed to gauge your grasp of the standoff that is [don’t call it the New Cold War]. P.S. the button below says “Pass the Test.” (Just click it.) Also, after each question, there will be another button written in Russian that says “continue.” (Again, just click it.)

The Real Russia. Today. A Russian-Chinese island case study, Finland’s mysterious raid, and Galeotti on Putin’s Brexit blowback

Located near the city of Khabarovsk, at the confluence of the Ussuri and Amur rivers, Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island has long held strategic importance for Russia. In 2004, Moscow reached an agreement with Beijing to share the island (known as Heixiazi Island to the Chinese), dividing it roughly in half. Four years later, the new arrangement was fully in effect, and each country was free to do with its piece of the island what it liked. China transformed its side of the island into a nature reserve, attracting more than 600,000 tourists every year. On the Russian side, there are about 100 people trying to survive in ramshackle homes, and all development plans have failed to secure the necessary funding. Journalist Ekaterina Vasyukova traveled to Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island to learn more about life in a land shared with China.

Two countries, one island. Russia and China divided up an island in the Far East in 2004, and here’s how life there has changed

Located near the city of Khabarovsk, at the confluence of the Ussuri and Amur rivers, Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island has long held strategic importance for Russia. In 2004, Moscow reached an agreement with Beijing to share the island (known as Heixiazi Island to the Chinese), dividing it roughly in half. Four years later, the new arrangement was fully in effect, and each country was free to do with its piece of the island what it liked. China transformed its side of the island into a nature reserve, attracting more than 600,000 tourists every year. On the Russian side, there are about 100 people trying to survive in ramshackle homes, and all development plans have failed to secure the necessary funding. Journalist Ekaterina Vasyukova traveled to Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island to learn more about life in a land shared with China.

The Real Russia. Today. Photos of an abandoned Soviet biological weapons lab, a suicide bomber targets the FSB, and Vkontakte faces a lawsuit

Until the 1940s, the only thing on Vozrozhdeniya Island in the Aral Sea was a small fish processing plant. That changed when the Soviet government decided to open a top-secret biological weapons research and test site, transforming the quiet town of Kantubek into the closed military city Aralsk-7. From the 1960s to the late 1980s, the island was home to roughly 1,500 people — mostly scientists working at the laboratory, testing different viruses and bacteria on animals. In 1992, Moscow decided to relocate the entire “Barkhan” complex to Kirov, inside the new Russian Federation. Since then, Kantubek has been a ghost town, and the shrinking Aral Sea (once the fourth-largest lake in the world, drained by Soviet irrigation projects) has receded so dramatically that Vozrozhdeniya Island is now a peninsula connected to modern-day Uzbekistan. Meduza presents photographs by Elyor Nematov from the ruins of Aralsk-7.

Russian activist files first-ever lawsuit against Vkontakte for sharing user data with the police

Liliya Chanysheva, an activist who works at Alexey Navalny’s headquarters in St. Petersburg is suing the social network Vkontakte for disclosing users’ personal information to Russian law enforcement. According to Chanysheva’s lawyer, police have tried to justify the information collection by citing two federal laws, though both these laws limit law enforcement’s information-gathering powers to “exclusively within the scope of their authorities, or in relation to misdemeanor or felony investigations.”

Dozens of religious groups affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church win presidential grants

At least 47 organizations (monasteries, parishes, and so on) affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church won federal money in the second contest of the year held by the Presidential Grants Foundation, according to the newspaper Vedomosti. The groups received a total of 55.3 million rubles ($840,000) for dozens of different small projects. The foundation’s general director told reporters that the religious groups’ success is no mystery, given their experience in the “Orthodox Initiative” competition.