On September 12, 2019, the Russian Federation Council’s Commission on Protecting State Sovereignty and Preventing Foreign Interference met for the first time since nationwide local elections on September 8. As usual, the senators warned that anti-Kremlin opposition leaders and U.S. media companies pose an existential threat to Russia. A rough summary of the most colorful remarks during the 80-minute meeting follows.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has formally appealed to Interpol, following media reports that a missing former Kremlin aide named Oleg Smolenkov is currently living in the United States.
Egor Zhukov, a video blogger and a student at the Higher School of Economics, has been added to a list of extremists and terrorists maintained by Russia’s finance monitoring agency, Rosfinmonitoring. Zhukov was charged with mass rioting in the so-called “Moscow case” after he participated in election protests this summer. Those accusations were later dropped and replaced with charges of calling for extremism. The current case against Zhukov is based on his YouTube videos.
Police have raided local offices operated by anti-corruption activist and opposition leader Alexey Navalny in 43 cities across Russia, says Anti-Corruption Foundation project manager Leonid Volkov. The only Navalny team offices not searched on September 12 were in Samara and Ufa, which police raided two days earlier. In Perm, for example, police officers entered Navalny’s office through the window, while officials in Yekaterinburg opened the front door with their own key. According to Volkov, police raided not only the organization’s offices, but the homes of several coordinators and volunteers. Volkov estimates that at least 1,000 police officers have been mobilized to coordinate more than 150 searches across the country.
Ilya Azar is a special correspondent for Novaya Gazeta and a former special correspondent for Meduza. He also serves as a municipal deputy in Moscow. In early June, he helped organize a march against fabricated criminal cases following the arrest of Meduza correspondent Ivan Golunov. That proved to be only the beginning of a highly eventful summer for Azar. He went on to take part in organizing several demonstrations demanding fair elections for the Moscow City Duma, including the August 10 protest that brought more than 60,000 Muscovites into the streets for the first time since 2012. Meduza correspondent Vladislav Gorin spoke with Azar about the line between journalism and politics and about the shift within Russia’s opposition movements toward spontaneous, democratic organizing tactics.
Last Sunday, as Russians across the country cast ballots in local races, election commission members were attacked at two polling stations in St. Petersburg. Georgy Medvedinsky, a member of the № 1619 precinct commission with a consultative vote, says he was jumped in the street, near his polling station. After the elections were over, the watchdog group “Petersburg Observers” published video footage of another attack inside precinct 1619 itself.
Askold Ivantchik, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told journalists that the leadership of Moscow State University (MGU) has asked him to teach without a salary this academic year.
Judge Irina Akkuratova of Moscow’s Meshchansky Court has refused to rule on the Seventh Studio criminal case, which has sparked widespread opposition among Russian activists and artists since it was opened in 2017. Akkuratova ordered the case to be returned to prosecutors for further development, writing, “The case as it stands cannot be considered by the court.”
The Perm Regional Court has canceled the deportation of Liu Yankun, a Chinese citizen studying for a graduate degree at Perm University. Liu’s attorney, Lyudmila Chegrina, said he was released from the police holding cell where he had been kept in custody since August 31.
Multiple sources close to Russia’s presidential administration told Meduza that the Kremlin is happy with pro-government candidates’ performance in the September 8, 2019, elections. Officials are especially pleased in the State Council’s Department of Affairs, which is managed by Alexander Kharichev, a close associate of Sergey Kiriyenko, President Putin’s deputy chief of staff and “domestic policy curator.” Responsible for overseeing Russia’s gubernatorial races, Kharichev’s office had a clear task: don’t allow any second-round votes. The Kremlin was eager to avoid a repeat of 2018, when the Putin administration’s candidates couldn’t win first-round elections and lost runoffs in four gubernatorial contests — including elections in the strategically important Primorsky and Khabarovsk regions.