New investigative report explains how the Kremlin conquered Russia’s Telegram channels

In a new investigative report for the website Proekt, journalists Mikhail Rubin and Roman Badanin explain “how the authorities turned Telegram into television” by colonizing and buying out the medium. Rubin and Badanin say Kremlin officials were initially worried about the influence of Telegram channels on Russia’s political system, and in late 2016 they started leaking insider scoops to certain journalists, to see where on the network the information emerged. Instead, the Kremlin quickly discovered that the people behind these channels are generally “scam artists” capitalizing on Russia’s “information shortage” by “creating the illusion that certain informed insiders” would tell the truth behind online nicknames. Ironically, nobody more than state officials themselves wanted this to be true. Meduza summarizes Rubin and Badanin’s report for Proekt.

They say Russia’s crackdown on hip hop concerts today is like something from the USSR. Is that true? Meduza speaks to two Soviet rock musicians about KGB blacklists

“I used to love 80s rock, and I’m having constant deja vu from what’s happening now. It’s all come full circle: again it’s executive committees and bans… It’s a lot like the 70s and 80s,” Miron Fyodorov (better known as the rapper “Oxxxymiron”) said on November 26 from the stage at “Glavclub” during a concert in support of Dmitry Kuznetsov, the rapper “Husky” who spent several days behind bars in Krasnodar, where he defied police and performed for fans atop a parked car. Fyodorov was channeling the frustration felt by many Russian fans of rap and hip hop, among whom it’s become increasingly common to compare today’s banned and disrupted concerts to the crackdown in the early 1980s on underground Soviet rock music. For example, the Federal Security Service’s alleged “blacklist” of contemporary musicians recalls similar lists drawn up by the Soviet police. To find out how close today’s environment really comes to the music scene 35 years ago, Meduza spoke to two musicians whose concerts were broken up by the police in the early 1980s.

Navalny unveils new ‘Smart Vote’ project to rally voters in regional elections to whichever candidates are likeliest to defeat Russia’s ruling political party

On November 28, Russian anti-corruption activist and opposition politician Alexey Navalny unveiled his latest project to undermine the Kremlin’s control over the Russian government. The new initiative, “Smart Vote,” will offer voting instructions in regional elections to maximize the odds of defeating the country’s ruling political party, United Russia. The project will be active for next year’s gubernatorial race in St. Petersburg and Moscow’s City Duma election.

Russian state TV anchor’s British citizenship makes his government ‘public council’ memberships illegal

On November 22, Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation revealed that Rossiya-1 television anchor Sergey Brilev has had British citizenship since at least 2001. A few days later, Brilev verified this information, insisting that he’s violated no laws, saying, “An employee at a federal state unitary enterprise isn’t a state official […] and I have no access to classified information.” In fact, Brilev’s second citizenship means he broke the law twice by illegally joining two public councils, first at Russia’s Interior Ministry and then at Russia’s Defense Ministry.

Until earlier this month, a health clinic in Moscow was offering clitorectomies on religious grounds to girls as young a five

Not far from the Baumanskaya subway station in Moscow, there’s a small two-story building attached to a brick warehouse that dates back to the 19th century. The warehouse was recently converted into lofts, but the annex houses a medical center called “Best Clinic,” which offers a wide variety of services ranging from dentistry and psychotherapy to surgery and cosmetic work.

What we know about the sailors wounded when Russia seized three Ukrainian ships on Sunday

On November 25, Russia’s Federal Security Service border guard fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels at the Kerch Strait. Moscow and Kyiv have since traded allegations that the conflict was staged to shore up the other’s domestic support. In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko signed an executive order imposing martial law for 30 days. In total, Russia captured more than 20 Ukrainian sailors, wounding three men when taking the “Berdiansk” gunboat. Neither Moscow now Kyiv has reported the ranks of these men, but it’s known that they’re currently hospitalized in Kerch, in Russian-controlled Crimea. Meduza reviews what we know about these injured sailors.

‘Russia Today’ chief editor says the Kremlin helped free a rapper from jail

On Monday, November 26, a district court in Krasnodar overturned the 12-day arrest of the rapper Dmitry Kuznetsov, better known as “Husky,” and the performer was promptly released. According to Russia Today chief editor Margarita Simonyan, Husky has the Putin administration to thank: the jail sentence apparently angered “two or three” Kremlin officials, and they intervened in the local courts. A source close to the Putin administration later confirmed this rumor to the independent television network Dozhd.

Russia’s media censor wants to fine Google for refusing to censor search results

On November 26, Russia’s federal media censor announced administrative charges against “Google, LLC” for failing to comply with a law that requires online search engines to purge any hyperlinks to materials that are banned in Russia. Google has also refused to connect to the federal information system where these websites are listed. For violating Russia’s Internet censorship rules, Google faces a fine as high as 700,000 rubles (about $10,430).

How Russia captured three Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea

On November 25, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) border guards fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait area. Kyiv says at least of its six sailors were injured in the gunfire. The seized ships were brought to Kerch, where the wounded men received medical attention. The FSB says the ships violated Russia’s international border.