‘Damn you, math, we meet again!’. A Russian YouTuber tries his hand at analyzing the country’s pension reforms

The Russian YouTube personality BadComedian recently reviewed a film starring the rapper Basta. The online critic, who typically confines himself to trashing films on the grounds of their own quality, spent the final third of this particular 45-minute review criticizing Basta for his politics. The rapper has publicly supported the Russian government’s pension reform proposal, which includes an unpopular increase in the country’s retirement age. Like Russia’s political leaders and federal TV anchors, Basta has framed the reforms as a difficult but necessary measure, telling those who disagree to “find themselves an economics textbook and a calculator.” BadComedian took up the challenge and tried to use statistics to prove that pension reform was unnecessary. The next day, Basta gave in to the YouTuber’s position and apologized for his political advocacy. However, there are serious flaws in BadComedian’s economic analysis. Meduza asked Maxim Buyev, an economist and leading administrator at Russia’s New Economic School, to analyze the video blogger’s misconceptions and explain why Russia’s pension system really does face a series of slow-acting but serious problems.

German court hands down prison sentence to pro-Kremlin TV pundit’s nephew after he claimed in an interview that he fought with separatists in eastern Ukraine

A court in Munich has convicted Sergey Kiselyov (the nephew of pro-Kremlin TV pundit Dmitry Kiselyov) of undergoing military training in St. Petersburg in August 2014 and planning to join separatist combat operations in eastern Ukraine, and sentenced him to two years and three months in prison. Sergey Kiselyov was found guilty of threatening state security and illegally possessing weapons — crimes punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Investigators open second criminal case following dysentery outbreak at schools catered by Prigozhin-linked business

Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee has opened a second criminal case in response to an outbreak of dysentery in Moscow caused by contaminated food supplied to local schools, according to the news agency Interfax. A source says the new investigation was launched after 67 teachers and students at seven different schools in the city’s Eastern Administrative Okrug suddenly fell ill. The victims consumed meals prepared from food supplied by the “Vito-1” company. An inspection reportedly found that the business violates multiple sanitary regulations.

‘We’re an ordinary Soviet family’. Russian officials seize six children whose father says he’s being persecuted because he believes the USSR never collapsed

Last September, Karelia’s Supreme Court took away the Kiselyovs’ children, after officials concluded that the married couple failed to provide adequate education and living conditions. Over the past several years, the family has been cited a dozen times for different violations. In response to the ruling, the Kiselyovs resorted to “evacuation.” The court then issued an arrest warrant for Lydia Kiselyova, who managed to evade the authorities until mid-January with her five children in tow. On January 17, police finally tracked her down in Moscow, where they pulled her off a bus and seized all the children, whose ages range from four to thirteen. They haven’t spoken to either of their parents since. Anatoly Kiselyov, Lydia’s husband and an activist with the “Union SSR” trade union, says he’s certain the loss of his children is punishment from the local authorities for his controversial political views.

Venezuelan vice president may visit Moscow as soon as this week

On February 27, an anonymous source told Interfax that Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez may land in Moscow for an official visit by the end of this week. The previous week, Venezuela’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Gil said that visits are a regular component of Russian-Venezuelan relations in the latter country’s current crisis and said Rodríguez may visit Moscow very soon.

Widow of Russian media entrepreneur says husband’s death may not have been caused by suicide

Igor Malashenko, a major political figure in contemporary Russian history who founded the country’s first independent television station, died in Spain on February 25. Malashenko’s widow, Bozhena Rynska, wrote on Facebook that day that her husband had told her he did not plan to commit suicide approximately two months before. However, she added, he began expressing increased distress in November due to stress caused by “lawsuits and threats,” Interfax reported.

New Russian bills on Internet speech may avoid automatically censoring users — as long as they censor themselves

Two bills currently under consideration in Russia’s State Duma would introduce administrative penalties for those who share “unreliable information” or criticize the government online. The bills have already been approved after an initial reading and are expected to pass their second and third readings as well. On February 27, the chair of the Duma committee responsible for technology and communication bills, Leonid Levin, announced that new amendments were being added to both bills to give users the “right to make mistakes.”

A tale of resilience and love. Read a sneak preview of one of the biggest runaway bestsellers in recent Russian literature

Zuleikha is the story of a young Muslim woman who is wrenched out of her abusive home and into the Gulag system. The novel is a stark portrait of the Stalinist era, but its focus is on the title character’s sense of hope and resilience: Zuleikha Valieva joins a motley crew of peasants, intellectuals, soldiers, and other displaced Soviet citizens to form an unexpectedly close family in exile. It is no wonder that Zuleikha launched its author, Guzel Yakhina, from her life as a film student to international fame. The book, which is based on the experiences of the author’s grandmother, depicts an often-overlooked slice of history with an optimistic sense of humor and the visual flair of a good movie. Although it was Yakhina’s first novel, Zuleikha won both of Russia’s most prestigious nationwide literary prizes. When Yakhina published her second book last year, it topped Russian sales charts alongside international bestsellers by Dan Brown and Jojo Moyes.