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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia Update: August 14, 2015

Publication: Russia Update
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Independent Russian TV Rain and Villified as 'Guard Dogs' of BBC and British Foreign Office for Their Media Cooperation
A banner was hung from a building in Moscow today with a caricature of two bulldogs labelled as "guard dogs" and the labels "TV Rain" and "RBC" in jackets with the British flag, implying that the two independent media outlets are instructed by -- or even funded by -- the British government.

Translation: Attack dogs of the British regime.

The banner was placed across the street from the offices of TV Rain, the last independent TV station in Russia, Vzglyad reported.

Aleksei Zhuravlyov, a member of the State Duma, is the current head of the Rodina party founded by Vice Premier Dmitry Rogozin which organized the meeting of Russian nationalists and European far right party members in May.

In a series of tweets yesterday, he advocated "import substitution," i.e. an end to foreign broadcasting in Russia and substitution with domestic fare, even as he advocated that Russia steps up its broadcasting abroad to further its interests.

The 10-meter banner was said to be made by an "art community" called "Glavplakat" which translates as a "Main Poster Agency" as if it were a government body.

Simultaneously -- and begging the question of how much art inspiration was involved -- a lengthy article appeared yesterday in Izvestiya, claiming the two independent Russian media outlets were funded and controlled by the British government. The group also published the poster on Facebook and VKontakte.

The poster and article were said to be a reaction to information recently declassified from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on the activity of the British Foreign Ministry, Vzglyad reported.

According to Izvestiya, the document said TV Rain and RBC cooperated with the BBC and "provided information from the Russian audience necessary to the British Foreign Ministry" (translation by The Interpreter):

As the authors of the report state, such a policy of 'soft power' is extremely effective for the advancement of the interests of Great Britain abroad and in this situation, the Foreign Office's grants to finance foreign broadcasting should not be reduced. Representatives of Rain and RBC have stated that their work for the BBC is not compensated, although experts are certain that direct financing is possible. The collaboration between RBC and Rain with the BBC continues to this day -- this is obvious from the programming of the TV channels. Experts are confident: the 'soft power' used by the British authorities is the advancement of national interests under the guise of education and cultural cooperation.

The Izvestiya article did not name the experts or supply any evidence that RBC and Rain received any payment for their cooperation.

Citing the British report, Izvestiya said that the BBC ran a 10-minute news program from Rain during their 24-hour broadcasting cycle.

Mikhail Zygar, editor-in-chief of TV Rain, noted that BBC journalists themselves decide what to cover from Russian television (translation by The Interpreter):

The BBC determines the topic of the broadcasts itself. From our part, there is only one condition: none of our partners can violate the law, and we monitor this strictly. Even if they are in another country, they have to fulfil all the conditions of Russian law.

Izvestiya said they obtained a financial report for the BBC for 2013-2014 which says that  "Russian television broadcast and two partner channels -- Rain and RBC -- function well and weekly reach an audience of 3.2 million viewers." But no indication of any payment was cited.

Aleksei Zuychenko, deputy editor of RBC said he would not disclose the details of the relationship with the BBC since this was a "commercial secret":

"We order some materials from them or simply try to learn the British perspective on an issue, commentators are included for a few minutes and expound on it."

Izvestiya cited a source close to the RBC leadership that said RBC does not receive payment from the BBC for placing British content, and they are glad to have the free, high-quality content to fill up their air time on a tight budget.

A representative from the BBC's World Service told Izvestiya that the BBC has media partnerships all over the world. In 2014, the World Service ceased receiving funding directly from the Foreign Office and is now funded from British television license fees.

Izvestiya also cited an unidentified "top manager of a federal television channel" who said that he did not believe the independent media outlets were not funded by the British government because each year US and British government "spend millions of dollars on the advancement of their ideology in Russia." He also complained about problems that the Kremlin's propaganda station has had in the UK recently.

Another source said that BBC commentators avoided criticism of what he described as British censorship and added that Rain's "chief purpose was the destabilization" of Russia.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Opposition Reinstated to the Ballot for Local Elections in Kostroma
The Kostroma Region Elections Commission has reinstated the opposition party Parnas to the list of candidates for the regional legislature or Duma, Novaya Gazeta reported.

Yesterday, after opposition activists filed a complaint, the Central Elections Commission overturned a July 8 decision of the Kostroma Elections Commission to block opposition candidates and sent it for review. The opposition members said they were certain that Kostroma election officials had improperly disqualified their signatures to get alternative candidates on the ballot.

Translation: Parnas with Yashin has been reinstated in the elections in Kostroma, Volkov has been chosen as campaign head.

Sign: "Free Pivovarov" [jailed campaign worker]

Ilya Yashin, a leader of the opposition's Democratic Commission and Parnas member said (translation by The Interpreter):

The Kremlin's calculation is obvious: to save face, but register us in such a way that there is very little time for campaigning and so that we lose. The Elections Commission did everything to put us on unequal terms with the other parties which have been campaigning for a long time already. But we were able to break through these calculations. We have a fair number of reasons for optimism.

Parnas is last place on the ballot sheet since the challenging of their signatures means that they missed the casting of lots for positions.

Meanwhile, a criminal investigation has been opened against opposition leader Leonid Volkov, who is still on a hunger strike in protest against the blocking of the opposition in the city of Novosibirsk.

Andrei Pivovarov, the former head of the opposition's local campaign headquarters is in pre-trial detention on charges of "unlawful access to computer information" after he went to a police station, where residences are registered, to inquire about claims of incorrect information on some signatures.

Alexey Navalny and Mikhail Kasyanov, leaders of the Democratic Coalition, have put forward their nominations in four regions: Kostroma, Novosibirsk, Magadan and Kaluga.

Translation: Tomorrow morning I am going to Kostroma. Winning these damned elections is, among other things, the best means of getting Pivovarov out of jail.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick