Posts tagged russia

The Russian Public Has a Totally Different Understanding of What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Via The New Republic:

Did you know Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was full of corpses when it took off from Amsterdam? Did you know that, for some darkly inexplicable reason, on July 17, MH17 moved off the standard flight path that it had taken every time before, and moved north, toward rebel-held areas outside Donetsk? Or that the dispatchers summoned the plane lower just before the crash? Or that the plane had been recently reinsured? Or that the Ukrainian army has air defense systems in the area? Or that it was the result of the Ukrainian military mistaking MH17 for Putin’s presidential plane, which looks strangely similar?

Did you know that the crash of MH17 was all part of an American conspiracy to provoke a big war with Russia?

Well, it’s all true — at least if you live in Russia, because this is the Malaysia Airlines crash story that you’d be seeing

…And, mind you, this is not part of a larger debate of could they, or couldn’t they; this is all of Russian television and state-friendly papers pushing one line: The pro-Russian separatists we’ve been supporting all these months couldn’t have done this. Watching some of these Russian newscasts, one comes away with the impression of a desperate defense attorney scrounging for experts and angles, or a bad kid caught red-handed by the principal, trying to twist his way out of a situation in which he has no chance.

About those corpses: The conspiracy goes that what really blew up was the Malaysian flight that disappeared into the Indian Ocean back in March. In this telling, the US had the plane (and the bodies!) and flew it over Ukraine to “dispose” of the evidence. 

Read through for Julia Ioffe’s take on Russian media and what it means for the country’s domestic politics and international relations.

I don’t even know if anyone is reading this anymore.

Russia Blocks Four Opposition Media Portals — (via globalvoices)

Background, via EFF:

Russia’s government has escalated its use of its Internet censorship law to target news sites, bloggers, and politicians under the slimmest excuse of preventing unauthorized protests and enforcing house arrest regulations. Today, the country’s ISPs have received orders to block a list of major news sites and system administrators have been instructed to take the servers providing the content offline.

The banned sites include the online newspaper Grani, Garry Kasparov’s opposition information site kasparov.ru, the livejournal of popular anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, and even the web pages of Ekho Moskvy, a radio station which is majority owned by the state-run Gazprom, and whose independent editor was ousted last month and replaced with a more government-friendly director.

The list of newly prohibited sites was published earlier today by Russia’s Prosecutor General, which announced that the news sites had been “entered into the single register of banned information” after “calls for participation in unauthorized rallies.” Navalny’s livejournal was apparently added to the register in response to the conditions of his current house arrest, which include a personal prohibition on accessing the Internet.

Catching Up with Ukraine
Two quick resources for those trying to follow what’s happening in Ukraine.
Poynter has a growing list of journalists to follow on Twitter to keep pace of with what’s happening in Ukraine.
The Guardian’s live blog demonstrates just how much has happened and changed throughout the course of the day.
Image: A Ukrainian soldier tries to persuade Russian troops to move away from a Ukrainian military base in Balaklava, Crimea on Saturday. Photograph: Anton Pedko/EPA, via The Guardian.

Catching Up with Ukraine

Two quick resources for those trying to follow what’s happening in Ukraine.

Poynter has a growing list of journalists to follow on Twitter to keep pace of with what’s happening in Ukraine.

The Guardian’s live blog demonstrates just how much has happened and changed throughout the course of the day.

Image: A Ukrainian soldier tries to persuade Russian troops to move away from a Ukrainian military base in Balaklava, Crimea on Saturday. Photograph: Anton Pedko/EPA, via The Guardian.

The Olympics Are Coming
Welcome to Russia.
Committee to Protect Journalists: Media suffer winter chill in coverage of Sochi OlympicsIn the run-up to the Sochi Winter Games, official repression and self-censorship have restricted news coverage of sensitive issues related to the Olympics, such as the exploitation of migrant workers, environmental destruction, and forced evictions.
Index on Censorship: A complete guide to who controls the Russian news mediaIn early 2000s various state agencies took financial or managerial control over 70 percent of electronic media outlets, 80 percent of the regional press, and 20 percent of the national press. As a result, Russian media continued to be used as tools of political control but now these “tools” were no longer distributed among competing political parties and businesses, but remained concentrated in the hands of a closed political circle that swore loyalty to President Putin.
Radio Free Europe: Russian Media Tests Boundaries Of State CensorshipIt’s not easy being a journalist in Russia, where attacks against reporters have made it one of the most dangerous places to work, and the government has sidelined much of the free press. Still, some media outlets remain highly critical of the authorities. Their journalists say their main difficulty isn’t so much that they’re not able to report about the country’s problems, it’s that no one’s listening.
Freedom House: 2013 Russia Country ReportAlthough the constitution provides for freedom of speech, vague laws on extremism grant the authorities great discretion to crack down on any speech, organization, or activity that lacks official support. The government controls, directly or through state-owned companies and friendly business magnates, all of the national television networks and many radio and print outlets, as well as most of the media advertising market. Only a small and shrinking number of radio stations and publications with limited reach offer a wide range of viewpoints. In December 2013, Putin abolished the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, which had developed a reputation for objective reporting, and folded it into a new entity called Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), which would be run by pro-Kremlin television commentator Dmitriy Kiselyov and Margarita Simonyan, the head of RT, the Kremlin’s propagandistic international television network. The Kremlin has also increased pressure on formerly outspoken outlets, such as the business newspaper Kommersant, which is now considered to be a progovernment publication.
Image: Cover, The Economist. The Triumph of Vladimir Putin.

The Olympics Are Coming

Welcome to Russia.

Committee to Protect Journalists: Media suffer winter chill in coverage of Sochi Olympics
In the run-up to the Sochi Winter Games, official repression and self-censorship have restricted news coverage of sensitive issues related to the Olympics, such as the exploitation of migrant workers, environmental destruction, and forced evictions.

Index on Censorship: A complete guide to who controls the Russian news media
In early 2000s various state agencies took financial or managerial control over 70 percent of electronic media outlets, 80 percent of the regional press, and 20 percent of the national press. As a result, Russian media continued to be used as tools of political control but now these “tools” were no longer distributed among competing political parties and businesses, but remained concentrated in the hands of a closed political circle that swore loyalty to President Putin.

Radio Free Europe: Russian Media Tests Boundaries Of State Censorship
It’s not easy being a journalist in Russia, where attacks against reporters have made it one of the most dangerous places to work, and the government has sidelined much of the free press. Still, some media outlets remain highly critical of the authorities. Their journalists say their main difficulty isn’t so much that they’re not able to report about the country’s problems, it’s that no one’s listening.

Freedom House: 2013 Russia Country Report
Although the constitution provides for freedom of speech, vague laws on extremism grant the authorities great discretion to crack down on any speech, organization, or activity that lacks official support. The government controls, directly or through state-owned companies and friendly business magnates, all of the national television networks and many radio and print outlets, as well as most of the media advertising market. Only a small and shrinking number of radio stations and publications with limited reach offer a wide range of viewpoints. In December 2013, Putin abolished the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, which had developed a reputation for objective reporting, and folded it into a new entity called Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), which would be run by pro-Kremlin television commentator Dmitriy Kiselyov and Margarita Simonyan, the head of RT, the Kremlin’s propagandistic international television network. The Kremlin has also increased pressure on formerly outspoken outlets, such as the business newspaper Kommersant, which is now considered to be a progovernment publication.

Image: Cover, The Economist. The Triumph of Vladimir Putin.

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of WWII

The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive…. We had to say something, so I began: ‘Greetings, grandfather! We’ve come to visit!’

The old man did not reply immediately…. Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: ‘Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.’

Your crazy longread to take you into the weekend.

Pussy Riot and Massacres: Why We Cover What We Cover
Last week when news broke that a Russian court sentenced members of Pussy Riot to two years in jail, The New Republic’s Isaac Chotiner asked whether the case was getting too much coverage in the Western press.
In his article, Chotiner compared the guilty verdict coverage to the lesser coverage given to 22 Shias pulled off a bus in Pakistan and executed by the Taliban.

I don’t want to undercut the reporters who have chronicled Russia’s long, miserable record on free speech. Locking up a band for criticizing the president, or the church, is terrible. But I can’t help but think there’s something a little off-kilter in the sheer amount of attention Pussy Riot is getting. The coverage is morphing into the human-rights equivalent of the blanket coverage afforded to the lone white girl who goes missing on a tropical vacation.
Of course, you can’t measure every story by whether it is more or less outrageous than the slaughter of 22 bus passengers who happened to come from the wrong religious sect. But the media frenzy does make me think that for many people in the news business, the story of the band is appealing in large part because of its name and the camera-friendliness of its members–not to mention the celebrity of Pussy Riot defenders like Madonna, Sting, and Paul McCartney.

While apples and robots, the critique reminds me of something The New York Times’ Samuel Freedman wrote a week earlier about the killing of six Sikhs near Milwaukee.
In it, he notes that immediate media reaction was that the killings were most likely a case of mistaken religious identity. That the killer, Wade M. Page, thought the Sikhs were Muslim. But then he asks this important question:

Yet the mistaken-identity narrative carries with it an unspoken, even unexamined premise. It implies that somehow the public would have — even should have — reacted differently had Mr. Page turned his gun on Muslims attending a mosque. It suggests that such a crime would be more explicable, more easily rationalized, less worthy of moral outrage.
“Islamophobia has become so mainstream in this country that Americans have been trained to expect violence against Muslims — not excuse it, but expect it,” said Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American writer and scholar on religion. “And that’s happened because you have an Islamophobia industry in this country devoted to making Americans think there’s an enemy within.”
As a Sikh, Vishavjit Singh has found himself wrestling with the subject these past few days. “If this had happened at a mosque, would our reaction be different?” asked Mr. Singh, a software engineer in suburban New York who also publishes political cartoons online at Sikhtoons.com. “I hope not, but the answer might be yes. You’d have the same amount of coverage, but you might have more voices saying, ‘Well, you know, it’s understandable, we’re at war, we’ve been at war.’ That’s an unfortunate commentary on our society today.”

These observations that violence against Muslims is expected, understandable and more explicable — yet, reminder, not excusable — gets to the crux of Chotiner’s Pussy Riot critique.
Again, it’s apples and robots, but the infatuation with the Pussy Riot case is how mundane the original protest is to Western eyes and ears, and how disproportionate the punishment is to the original “crime”. Wouldn’t a simple fine and some community service have done the trick?
The absurdity of the Pussy Riot case encapsulates a wide swath of what’s happening in Russia today. It provides an easy peg to explore the return of Vladimir Putin to official power in Russia’s strange political landscape, the country’s tenuous straddling between East, West and somewhere in between, its desire to still be considered a superpower and the fledgling democracy movement within the country.
Here’s Julia Ioffe, also writing in The New Republic:

[T]he case of Pussy Riot had become an easily consumable image of good and evil: Three young women against an Evil Empire. The heretofore little-known punkettes received such unanimously positive international publicity that one began even to pity the Kremlin and the Church a little: They had clearly and severely miscalculated.
As is so often the case with the Russian government, it was Putin himself who dramatized the pathos. Just before Putin’s departed for the London Olympics—halfway through the trial—London mayor Boris Johnson spoke up for Pussy Riot; upon his arrival, Prime Minister David Cameron broached the issue with Putin in their private meeting. Putin took notice of these slights; as swaggering and rude as he is (he’s been late to meet just about every foreign leader, including the Queen), he very much cares about his image in the West. It is where, after all, all his friends and subjects have their money. It is also important to Putin to be the leader of a world superpower, which is what he thinks Russia still is. He cannot be an Assad or a Qaddafi; it is very important for him to be what the Russians call “handshakeable” abroad. And so, while his instinct is often to hit first and think later, Putin knows it’s in his interest to cultivate the image of a centrist.

And this, I think, makes the continued coverage legitimate. It’s a story that helps us pull back the onion peel that is Russia.
For the unfortunate in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world we aren’t necessarily learning anything “new” by the atrocities taking place. These humanitarian catastrophes have become expected, understandable and more explicable.
Deserving of coverage, always, and certainly, and not ever, excusable. — Michael
Isaac Chotiner, The New Republic. Is Pussy Riot’s Persecution Getting Too Much Coverage? Samuel G. Freedman, The New York Times. If the Sikh Temple Had Been a Mosque Julia Ioffe, The New Republic. How Three Young Punks Made Putin Blink

Pussy Riot and Massacres: Why We Cover What We Cover

Last week when news broke that a Russian court sentenced members of Pussy Riot to two years in jail, The New Republic’s Isaac Chotiner asked whether the case was getting too much coverage in the Western press.

In his article, Chotiner compared the guilty verdict coverage to the lesser coverage given to 22 Shias pulled off a bus in Pakistan and executed by the Taliban.

I don’t want to undercut the reporters who have chronicled Russia’s long, miserable record on free speech. Locking up a band for criticizing the president, or the church, is terrible. But I can’t help but think there’s something a little off-kilter in the sheer amount of attention Pussy Riot is getting. The coverage is morphing into the human-rights equivalent of the blanket coverage afforded to the lone white girl who goes missing on a tropical vacation.

Of course, you can’t measure every story by whether it is more or less outrageous than the slaughter of 22 bus passengers who happened to come from the wrong religious sect. But the media frenzy does make me think that for many people in the news business, the story of the band is appealing in large part because of its name and the camera-friendliness of its members–not to mention the celebrity of Pussy Riot defenders like Madonna, Sting, and Paul McCartney.

While apples and robots, the critique reminds me of something The New York Times’ Samuel Freedman wrote a week earlier about the killing of six Sikhs near Milwaukee.

In it, he notes that immediate media reaction was that the killings were most likely a case of mistaken religious identity. That the killer, Wade M. Page, thought the Sikhs were Muslim. But then he asks this important question:

Yet the mistaken-identity narrative carries with it an unspoken, even unexamined premise. It implies that somehow the public would have — even should have — reacted differently had Mr. Page turned his gun on Muslims attending a mosque. It suggests that such a crime would be more explicable, more easily rationalized, less worthy of moral outrage.

“Islamophobia has become so mainstream in this country that Americans have been trained to expect violence against Muslims — not excuse it, but expect it,” said Reza Aslan, an Iranian-American writer and scholar on religion. “And that’s happened because you have an Islamophobia industry in this country devoted to making Americans think there’s an enemy within.”

As a Sikh, Vishavjit Singh has found himself wrestling with the subject these past few days. “If this had happened at a mosque, would our reaction be different?” asked Mr. Singh, a software engineer in suburban New York who also publishes political cartoons online at Sikhtoons.com. “I hope not, but the answer might be yes. You’d have the same amount of coverage, but you might have more voices saying, ‘Well, you know, it’s understandable, we’re at war, we’ve been at war.’ That’s an unfortunate commentary on our society today.”

These observations that violence against Muslims is expected, understandable and more explicable — yet, reminder, not excusable — gets to the crux of Chotiner’s Pussy Riot critique.

Again, it’s apples and robots, but the infatuation with the Pussy Riot case is how mundane the original protest is to Western eyes and ears, and how disproportionate the punishment is to the original “crime”. Wouldn’t a simple fine and some community service have done the trick?

The absurdity of the Pussy Riot case encapsulates a wide swath of what’s happening in Russia today. It provides an easy peg to explore the return of Vladimir Putin to official power in Russia’s strange political landscape, the country’s tenuous straddling between East, West and somewhere in between, its desire to still be considered a superpower and the fledgling democracy movement within the country.

Here’s Julia Ioffe, also writing in The New Republic:

[T]he case of Pussy Riot had become an easily consumable image of good and evil: Three young women against an Evil Empire. The heretofore little-known punkettes received such unanimously positive international publicity that one began even to pity the Kremlin and the Church a little: They had clearly and severely miscalculated.

As is so often the case with the Russian government, it was Putin himself who dramatized the pathos. Just before Putin’s departed for the London Olympics—halfway through the trial—London mayor Boris Johnson spoke up for Pussy Riot; upon his arrival, Prime Minister David Cameron broached the issue with Putin in their private meeting. Putin took notice of these slights; as swaggering and rude as he is (he’s been late to meet just about every foreign leader, including the Queen), he very much cares about his image in the West. It is where, after all, all his friends and subjects have their money. It is also important to Putin to be the leader of a world superpower, which is what he thinks Russia still is. He cannot be an Assad or a Qaddafi; it is very important for him to be what the Russians call “handshakeable” abroad. And so, while his instinct is often to hit first and think later, Putin knows it’s in his interest to cultivate the image of a centrist.

And this, I think, makes the continued coverage legitimate. It’s a story that helps us pull back the onion peel that is Russia.

For the unfortunate in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world we aren’t necessarily learning anything “new” by the atrocities taking place. These humanitarian catastrophes have become expected, understandable and more explicable.

Deserving of coverage, always, and certainly, and not ever, excusable. — Michael

Isaac Chotiner, The New Republic. Is Pussy Riot’s Persecution Getting Too Much Coverage?
Samuel G. Freedman, The New York Times. If the Sikh Temple Had Been a Mosque
Julia Ioffe, The New Republic. How Three Young Punks Made Putin Blink

Yes, Pussy Riot Faces Seven Years in Russian Jail for This “Punk Prayer”

Via The New Yorker:

The prosecution of the Pussy Riot women is more than an act of absurd injustice and cruelty; it is a sign that the Russian state is increasingly lashing out against those citizens it sees as overly modernized. Vladimir Putin has often said that modernization is the goal of his regime, but its policy is increasingly slipping toward something egregiously anti-modern, obscurantist, even medieval. The Pussy Riot case is a telling illustration of Putin’s political crackdown—and of his increasing reliance on the Russian Orthodox Church as a resort of the most conservative societal forces…

…According to prosecution, there were about a dozen “injured parties,” most of them security guards who happened to be on duty in the cathedral during the seconds that the “blasphemous act” lasted, plus a sacristan and a candle-keeper. Two lawyers representing one of the security guards claim that their client, Vladimir Potan’kin, was so deeply emotionally wounded that he is now suffering from sleeping problems. In an interview with a Russian newspaper last week, Potan’kin’s lawyers called Pussy Riot a “criminal conspiracy.”

If you’re wondering who’s behind the conspiracy, it’s Satan… No, seriously. Read through.

The New Yorker, Putin’s Religious War Against Pussy Riot.

The Trials of Joseph Brodsky

  • Judge: What is your profession?
  • Brodsky: Poet. Poet and translator.
  • Judge: Who said you were a poet? Who assigned you that rank?
  • Brodsky: No one. (Nonconfrontational.) Who assigned me to the human race?
  • FJP: In 1964, the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky was put on trial for being a "literary drone" who had no real work and was therefore a "parasite" on Soviet society. He was sentenced to five years exile from Leningrad with compulsory physical labor.
  • Source: Read more at the New Republic - http://bit.ly/KB6mR3
Earth, 121 Megapixel Russian Edition
Via The Verge:

There’s been a long history of NASA-provided “Blue Marble” images of Earth, but now we’re getting a different perspective thanks to photos taken by the Elektro-L No.1 Russian weather satellite. Unlike NASA’s pictures, this satellite produces 121-megapixel images that capture the Earth in one shot instead of a collection of pictures from multiple flybys stitched together. The result is the highest-resolution single picture of Earth yet. The image certainly looks different than what we’re used to seeing, and that’s because the sensor aboard the weather satellite combines data from three visible and one infrared wavelengths of light, a method that turns vegetation into the rust color that dominates the shot.

A zoomable version of this image is here. A collection of related images is available on the Planet Earth Web site.

Earth, 121 Megapixel Russian Edition

Via The Verge:

There’s been a long history of NASA-provided “Blue Marble” images of Earth, but now we’re getting a different perspective thanks to photos taken by the Elektro-L No.1 Russian weather satellite. Unlike NASA’s pictures, this satellite produces 121-megapixel images that capture the Earth in one shot instead of a collection of pictures from multiple flybys stitched together. The result is the highest-resolution single picture of Earth yet. The image certainly looks different than what we’re used to seeing, and that’s because the sensor aboard the weather satellite combines data from three visible and one infrared wavelengths of light, a method that turns vegetation into the rust color that dominates the shot.

A zoomable version of this image is here. A collection of related images is available on the Planet Earth Web site.

Face Off: Boy vs Russian Police
Via the NY Daily News:

The New Yorker and Foreign Policy magazine correspondent Julia Ioffe snapped the photo with her iPhone during violent protests by anti-Putin demonstrators on the day before Putin’s inauguration, ABC News reports. She tweeted the photo to her more-than-6,000 followers with a reference to Tiananmen Square.
Ioffe was referencing the huge pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square, China in 1989, iconized by a photograph of one man standing still in front of a row of tanks.
At least 20,000 people rallied Sunday at Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in protest of Putin’s election.
Violence erupted as the protesters marched toward the Kremlin and police fought back with clubs, injuring several people and leading to more than 400 arrests, reports the Associated Press.

Face Off: Boy vs Russian Police

Via the NY Daily News:

The New Yorker and Foreign Policy magazine correspondent Julia Ioffe snapped the photo with her iPhone during violent protests by anti-Putin demonstrators on the day before Putin’s inauguration, ABC News reports. She tweeted the photo to her more-than-6,000 followers with a reference to Tiananmen Square.

Ioffe was referencing the huge pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen Square, China in 1989, iconized by a photograph of one man standing still in front of a row of tanks.

At least 20,000 people rallied Sunday at Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in protest of Putin’s election.

Violence erupted as the protesters marched toward the Kremlin and police fought back with clubs, injuring several people and leading to more than 400 arrests, reports the Associated Press.

There was no justification for preventing journalists from covering a political event of this importance. It was their job to cover it. The media should not have to pay the price of the government’s paranoia. The judicial authorities should immediately release the journalists and bloggers still in police custody.

Reporters Without Borders criticizing Occupy Wall Street coverage arrests? 

No, Reporters Without Borders criticizing Russian election coverage arrests.