Journalists from the investigative website Proekt say they began receiving threats after they started looking into the operations of Russian mercenaries and political strategists in Africa and the Middle East. Proekt says it has reason to believe the combatants and consultants in question may be working for Evgeny Prigozhin, the Russian catering magnate who has been linked to businesses that produce “Internet trolls” and online fake news, as well as the “Wagner” private military company.
Novaya Gazeta, an independent Russian outlet known for its investigative journalism, has released a report arguing that massive purges have shaken the Chechen ruling elite since August 2019. Local sources told Novaya Gazeta that high-ranking government officials in the Northern Caucasian republic have been arrested extralegally and sent to secret prisons in a wave of repressions. The bodyguards, relatives, and allies of those officials have also been targeted, the sources said. Novaya Gazeta reported that victims have been held for days, weeks, or months while their property is confiscated. Those who have been released from the secret prisons have been forced to donate millions of rubles to the Akhmat Kadyrov foundation, which was founded by Chechen government head Ramzan Kadyrov to commemorate his father.
Russia’s federal Justice Ministry has submitted a lawsuit demanding that the country’s Supreme Court shut down the nonprofit organization “For Human Rights.” The suit argues that the organization, which is headed by 78-year-old human rights veteran Lev Ponomaryov, repeatedly violated Russian law and the Russian Constitution. The violations cited include numerous charges made under Russia’s law on “foreign agents.” The law places operational restrictions and a social stigma on organizations that operate in Russia but receive foreign funding.
The Levada Center, a prominent independent Russian polling organization, has found that Russians’ attitudes toward Ukraine have steadily improved since the most recent Ukrainian presidential election. In a new survey that was conducted in late September, 56 percent of respondents said they have a positive opinion of Ukraine. That figure marks a record high since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Levada Center experts wrote that the change likely stems from Russians’ sympathetic attitudes toward Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who won Ukraine’s presidential election in April of 2019.
A new Russian Finance Ministry regulation has separated Russian businesses and entrepreneurs targeted by foreign sanctions into their own legal category. According to a copy of the proposal posted on the Russian government’s regulations website, this would allow “special legislation” in areas like currency control and confidentiality to be created and then applied separately to those companies and individuals.
On the morning of October 15, Russian law enforcement launched another series of nationwide raids on Alexey Navalny’s regional headquarters. According to the website OVD-Info, police searched offices in Ufa, Samara, Saratov, Yekaterinburg, Yaroslav, Chelyabinsk, Krasnodar, Biysk, Novokuznetsk, Novosibirsk, and Vladivostok. Anti-Corruption Foundation director Ivan Zhdanov also reported raids in Belgorod, Voronezh, Izhevsk, Kemerovo, Cheboksary, Stavropol, Rostov-on-Don, and Arkhangelsk. Some activists, for example in Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk, were also brought in for questioning by state investigators, after the searches. Police officers also searched the foundation’s national headquarters in Moscow.
In late September, protests broke out in Elista, the capital of Russia’s Republic of Kalmykia. Elista’s residents were angry that Dmitry Trapeznikov, who formerly led the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic in Ukraine, had been appointed their city’s acting manager. Hundreds of demonstrators have taken to the streets so far, and local opposition activists have applied for a permit to hold a larger protest on Sunday, October 13. Meduza special correspondent Andrey Pertsev reported on how a pro-Russian politician from eastern Ukraine turned up in a southern Russian republic and why his appearance has put a stop to what seemed to be the glorious political rise of former world kickboxing champion Batu Khasikov.
On October 11, Alexei Leonov passed away at age 86. Leonov was the first human being in history to spend time in outer space outside of a spacecraft. He was selected to join the very first group of Soviet cosmonauts in 1960 and made his first flight on the Voskhod-2 spaceship five years later. Here’s how Leonov’s historic mission, led by team commander Pavel Belyayev, played out on film.
On October 11, the value of shares in the Russian tech company Yandex plummeted on the Moscow Stock Exchange, falling roughly 18 percent over the course of the day. The company’s shares suffered similar losses after trading opened on the Nasdaq in the United States. Yandex’s total capitalization losses are estimated at 100 billion rubles (almost $1.6 billion), echoing market fluctuations a year ago, when Sberbank was reportedly close to buying part of Yandex.
On the evening of October 10, police in Saratov located the body of a murdered nine-year-old girl named Liza Kiselyova, who went missing on her way to school, the previous morning. Her remains were discovered in a garage in the city’s Kirovsky District. Several hundred volunteers from the local community and the “Liza Alert” organization had mobilized to find the missing girl.