Russia and the U.S. are racing to negotiate with Islamists. So far, they’re neck and neck.

Russian-mediated negotiations between the Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah are scheduled to conclude in Moscow today. The negotiations took place amid rumors that the White House is preparing a “deal of the century” to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and may make its plan public this spring. In the last several months, Moscow and Washington have taken part in a lively contest to assert their influence in Middle Eastern conflicts, often by entering talks with parties that are widely considered extremist or terrorist groups. Here, Meduza reports on the most important episodes of that ongoing diplomatic game.

The quiz star versus the nobody. Popular Russian game show is rocked by cheating allegations

Ilya Ber, the chief editor behind the television game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” has accused “What? Where? When?” veteran contestant Alexander Drouz of trying to cheat his way to a large cash prize. In his show’s LiveJournal community, Ber wrote that Drouz contacted him ahead of taping in November 2018 and asked him for an advance copy of the questions and correct answers in exchange for a share of the 3-million-ruble ($45,630) winnings.

Creeped out by Facebook’s algorithms? Just wait until you see this new facial recognition tool released by anonymous Russian programmers.

On February 11, Russian Internet users discovered a website, searchface.ru, that allows anyone to search the massive social media network VKontakte using a single image. The site’s functionality was simple: after uploading a photograph that included someone’s face, users could see a list of links to VKontakte pages with photographs that may depict the same person. On February 13, after the social media network announced that it would sue SearchFace for “gross violations of [VKontakte’s] rules,” the algorithm’s creators removed profile links from the site’s search results but retained the rest of its functions.

Russian government begins charging young activists for including minors in protests

Russia’s State Duma approved a bill in mid-December that created administrative penalties for those charged with involving minors in unsanctioned protests and rallies. Now, 18-year-old activist Ivan Luzin has become the first protester to be charged under the new law. Luzin volunteers for the national opposition politician Alexey Navalny in the city of Kaliningrad and is also a volunteer for Russia’s Libertarian Party.

Following recent jail sentence, prominent human rights activist’s organization is blacklisted as ‘foreign agent’ for second time

Russian human rights icon Lev Ponomarev’s organization has been labeled a “foreign agent” for the second time after what Russian news sources called an “unplanned document check.” The nonprofit “For Human Rights” had been classified as a foreign agent in December 2014, but Russia’s Justice Ministry removed the designation a year later.

Can Russian children get vaccinated without their parents’ permission?

In late January, the writer Andrea Phillips pointed out that children in the United States had been posting frequently on Reddit to ask how they could receive immunizations without their parents’ permission. U.S. law on the matter varies from state to state, but it typically prohibits children under 18 from requesting health care on their own. In some cases, exceptions can be made. For example, some states allow doctors to determine whether they believe a child is mature enough to make decisions about their own treatment.