Russian state TV pundit says he will stage a rap festival at a nudist beach in Crimea next year

State television pundit Dmitry Kiselyov says he will organize a three-day rap music festival at a nudist beach in Crimea in August 2019. “You can’t ban rap anymore than you can ban obscenities. It’s a cultural phenomenon that we face,” Kiselyov told the radio station Govorit Moskva on December 6. The pro-Kremlin pundits says he will stage the concert next summer as a response to the “hype” generated by his December 2 evening TV broadcast, where he defended rappers against Russia’s ongoing police crackdown on live performances.

Police drop embezzlement charges against Russian federal censor’s spokesman

Vadim Ampelonsky is off the hook. On December 5, police dropped embezzlement charges against the spokesman for Roskomnadzor, Russia’s federal censor. In October 2017, he and two colleagues were placed under house arrest on charges of large-scale fraud. Investigators later reclassified the charges to embezzlement (lowering the damages caused from 23 million rubles to six million rubles — almost $90,000), but he still faced up to 10 years in prison. In May 2018, a Moscow district court also seized Ampelonsky’s property.

‘I think there’s a list out there somewhere’. A prominent folklorist and anthropologist in St. Petersburg explains how he was fired and why Russia fears religious sects

On December 3, folklorist and anthropologist Alexander Panchenko announced on Facebook that he was fired from St. Petersburg State University. He says the school’s administration kicked him off the faculty back in August without any explanation. One of Russia’s leading specialists on folk Orthodoxy and Russian mystical sects, Panchenko believes he lost his job because he gave expert testimony in a trial against representatives of a Pentecostal church, “essentially shattering the prosecution’s case.” Meduza spoke to him to learn more about the circumstances of his dismissal and to find out why the Russian state fights against religious groups.

‘The principal tried to intimidate me with the psych ward’. A 10th grader in St. Petersburg talks about his uphill battle to form a student union

On December 3, an activist in the “Pedagogue” inter-regional education trade union named Andrey Demidov wrote on Facebook that a 10th grader in St. Petersburg is trying to form a student union at his high school. When the school learned about the boy’s plans, administrators allegedly threatened to expel him and alert the police. The young man’s name is Leonid Shaidurov, and Meduza spoke to him, to find out more about what he hopes to accomplish with a student union.

Suboptimal optimization. Cutbacks to Russia’s social spending are erasing jobs and childcare in remote towns

On November 20, the website 7×7 published online correspondence between Anna Vlasova, a woman living in the town of Suoeki, and Artur Parfenchikov, the governor of the Republic of Karelia. Vlasova wrote to her governor to complain that her town has no kindergarten, explaining that she has no one to care for her children, while she’s at work. Parfenchikov’s response was harsh: he told the woman to “work something out with the grandmothers” or “hire a nanny, like everyone does.” When these messages found their way to Russia’s news media, the governor rushed to Suoeki to meet Vlasova in person and “solve the problem.” Vlasova’s situation isn’t unusual, however. Thanks to the “optimization” initiative underway in Karelia and other regions across the country, officials are shutting down kindergartens, schools, and hospital wards, and laying off staff. In a special report for Meduza, Petrozavodsk Govorit correspondent Georgy Chentemirov takes a closer look at the fallout from these budget cuts.

Russia’s human rights commissioner has second thoughts about decriminalizing domestic violence

Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova has second thoughts about the February 2017 law that decriminalized some forms of “light” domestic violence. She supported the legislation before Putin signed it last year, arguing that imprisoning “mildly abusive” husbands could leave mothers without breadwinners. Now Moskalkova says she’s in favor of the 2011 Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence.