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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russia This Week: October 27-November 2

Publication: Russia This Week
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The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Doctors Protest Hospital Closures and Pay Cuts in Health System 'Reforms'

Doctors are rallying today 2 November in Moscow to protest recent government decisions to close hospitals, cut staff and reduce pay of medical personnel in the name of reforms.

They're demanding a halt to reforms they say are destroying the health care system and calling for the resignation of Vice Mayor Leonid Pechatnikov, who is responsible for social issues.

By next year, the expenditures of the health care system are to be slashed by nearly 29%.

The livecast can be seen here:

Translation: in Moscow a protest rally of doctors has begun - we are running a liveblog.

Posters: Doctors to Become Orderlies? Bureaucrats Should Become Janitors!

Closed a Hospital? Open a Graveyard!

Translation: Livecast of doctors' rally on the air at TV Rain.

Translation: The largest rally of doctors in 15 years is taking place in Moscow. The most exact poster is in the photo [Money for medicine, not war].


The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
The Value of the Ruble is Falling, Along with the Price of Oil

Here's a tweet that sums it all up:

Translation: With oil at 100 a barrel the rate of the ruble to the dollar was 36.2 rubles; at 90, it's  40.2; at 80  (currently), 45.25. With oil at 70, it's 51.7; at 60, it's 60.3.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Censorship Agency Strikes Ekho Moskvy News Site, Removes Article on Donetsk Airport

Roskomnadzor, the state censorship agency, has struck again, this time against the independent radio station and news site Ekho Moskvy for an interview on the battle for the Donetsk Airport.

The airport has been reduced to rubble as Russian-backed separatist fighters continue to storm it.

The censor's action is leaving people puzzled because they can't tell what is "wrong" with the piece, and why authorities would claim that it supposedly constitutes the sanctioning of war crimes.

The page where the article used to be is now blank with an indication of the authors and a notice "The transcript has been removed at the request of Roskomnadzor."


The notice then links to another page with the official notice from the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media, to which Roskomnadzor, which is the acronym for "Russian Committee for Monitoring" is subordinate.

The notice explains that the article may fall under Russian law banning "extremism," which means aside from an act of censorship, the notice is an official warning of prosecution. If a media outlet gets more than two warnings within a year-long period, it could face closure. This is the first warning of this nature that Ekho Moskvy has received since it began broadcasting in 1990.

The notice is signed by Mikhail Ksenzov, the deputy director of Roskomnadzor, who is the same official who has been involved in censoring other independent publications and also threatening the blocking of Twitter.

TV Rain, the independent TV station, contacted Vadim Ampelonsky, press officer for Roskomnadzor, who could not specify what his agency's exact claims were against Ekho. He said the agency's lawyers examined the content and decided that the interview contained "the justification of war crimes." He refused to say more, disingenuously noting, "As the case has the prospect of going to court, any public statements by officials may have an undesirable judicial consequence."

TV Rain has its own problems with censors -- and spent its last day in its studios at the Red October building today after an early eviction notice from owner Aleksandr Mamut. It is not clear where the station will be broadcasting from next.

Translation: We bid farewell from the live studio right now. Turn on TV Rain.

Ekho Moskvy aired the discussion of the Donetsk Airport battle on its Svoimi Glazami ("Eyewitness") program. Participants included Sergei Loyko, who published a stark portrait of the Donetsk Airport in the Los Angeles Times, as well as Timur Olevsky of TV Rain and Sofiko Shevardnadze and Aleksandr Plyushev of Ekho Moskvy.

Possibly the Russian ministry found that any portrayal of the Ukrainian defense of the airport could be suspect. Russian leaders and state TV have repeatedly accused the Ukrianian military of shelling civilians.

If anything, the war crimes at the Donetsk Airport involve the Russian-backed separatists, who have occupied residential buildings nearby with people still living in them to shoot at Ukrainian positions at the airport, drawing return fire.

Oleg Kashin, the Russian blogger who now lives abroad after suffering a brutal attack for his writings some years ago, placed the whole transcript on his website at
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Reporter Publishes List of 'Most Authoritative Russians' - from Human Rights Heroes to Victimizers

Russkiy Reporter (Russian Reporter) has published a list of the "100 most authoritative people in modern Russia."

Russkiy Reporter (RR),
a publication of the Expert Group that generally hews to a pro-government line, has included news-makers as well as moral authorities who range from Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, notorious for his autocratic regime and punitive policies, to Tanya Lokshina, the Russian Human Rights Watch researcher who reports on human rights violations in Chechnya.

Perhaps the intention is to "humanize" them, but the effect is chilling.


 Kadyrov having tea with his relatives 26 October 2014.

The list has sparked a lot of debate on social media and RR tries to pre-empt some of this by acknowledging that their scope is wide, but their criteria for selection involved determining people who "committed a strong deed in the last year" -- for good or evil.

The first thing that strikes the eye about this list is that Vladimir Putin is not on it. In a world in which recently his top Kremlin aides reverently intoned, "There can be no Russia without Putin" at the Valdai International Discussion Club, and where Putin was voted "the greatest moral authority," it's interesting that he doesn't show up on this list. Evidently the reporters are not afraid.

In fact, Putin is only mentioned in passing in describing some of the other people on the list, such as Ilya Pinigin, an environmental activist who has battled illegal fences, and is famous for breaking down the fence to Putin's dacha at the exclusive Ozero Cooperative.

And he's mentioned in the description of Svetlana Gannushkina, a dedicated human rights advocate nominated for the Nobel Prize in the past, who helps migrant laborers and refugees. On the wall in her office are thank-you letters from Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Mayor Yuri Luzhkov for her service in the Presidential Council on Human Rights.


There are other civic heroes on the list such as Ilya Ponomarev, the lone parliamentarian who voted against the forcible annexation of the Crimea in the State Duma, and who has campaigned for the release of the political prisoners arrested in the Bolotnaya Square anti-Putin demonstrations and taken on other liberal causes -- to the point that now he has left Russia after being targeted with threats and prosecution.


Ilya Ponomarev, arrested by riot police at a demonstration.

There is Lev Shlosberg, the Pskov region legislator who blew the whistle on the Pskov 76th Regiment soldiers sent clandestinely to Ukraine -- some of whom were killed in action. He was attacked by thugs that left him in the hospital with severe injuries, but he has kept up his effort to expose what happened to Russian soldiers.

Genri Reznik, a prominent lawyer who picketed NTV for their hateful broadcasts on "friends of the junta" is included -- in other words, principled liberal Russians who protested the war in Ukraine like Andrei Makarevich, the famous rock musician, who is also on the list.

Maj.-Gen. Sergei Bobrov, the former head of the Investigative Committee in Chechnya who was forced into retirement, is included because he tried to bring to trial Chechen police responsible for the kidnapping and murder of innocent civilians.

But as even RR would concede, the good of including Bobrov and others like him is undone by including Ramzan Kadyrov, who presides over the system that enabled the kidnappings and murders in the first place and forced Bobrov to leave.

So you get the feeling that Russkiy Reporter, while including such  persons who have indeed performed brave civic acts, is not only sticking to what is "safe" but trying to ensure "balance" so that no one will think they are "biased."


Cover of Russkiy Reporter, with stories about finding meaning the meaning of life in a village in the Cossack steppes, "Sochi is Good" and WikiLeaks.

"Balance" doesn't mean equating human rights activists as well as violators, however; it means telling the truth about Russia, which is that there are more of the latter than the former.

Perhaps what's being more discussed is who is left out of the list, not who is included.

Aleksey Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner and political opposition leader who got 30% in the mayoral elections -- isn't in the list. Navalny is under house arrest related to various cases fabricated in retaliation for his opposition activity. RR left him out not because they're concerned about his nationalism tendencies or recent controversial statements saying he would not give back the Crimea.

RR was happy to include Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former YUKOS owner pardoned from his political imprisonment by Putin earlier this year who has also been forced to live abroad. Khodorkovsky also took the position that he would keep Crimea if he were president. (Note: The Interpreter is funded by the non-profit Institute for Modern Russia, run by Khodorkovsky's son.)

And obviously RR included Aleksey Chaly, the "people's governor" of Sevastopol and even chose his picture for the top of the article and featured him first -- and obviously he's the No. 1 fan for the Crimean Anschluss.

Chaly -- who shocked Western observers by appearing at Putin's triumphant ceremony in the St. George Hall without a tie, in a black sweater -- is made to seem almost cuddly. This self-declared ruler who  presided over Russia's forceful takeover of Sevastopol says that the reason he wasn't in a suit and tie is because agents of Moscow came suddenly to pick him up. They didn't tell him where they were going as it was a secret, and he didn't find out that he was to star in a ceremony with Putin until he got to the Kremlin. So who is the mafia here?

REU-UKRAINE-CRISIS_PUTIN-TR.jpgChaly, right, with Putin, center.

RR implies Chaly's sweater is an emblem of modesty and even poverty,  describing his beat-up office without a secretary or a plaque on the door, overflowing with petitioners by saying "you cannot look at it without tears."

No, there's no Navalny -- nor Boris Nemtsov, another opposition leader who exposed the outrageous $50 billion corruption of the Sochi Games, or Ludmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, also vilified on NTV, who has persisted with her criticism of prison conditions and police abuse, or Yevgeniya Albats, editor of the critical Novoye Vremya or Arseny Roginsky, Alexander Cherkassov, Oleg Orlov and other Memorial Human Rights Center leaders who have reported as critically on Russian forces' abuses in the North Caucasus as they have on Ukrainian military in the Donbass. Now Memorial's Human Rights Center has been declared a "foreign agent" and order to submit to further government scrutiny, and Russian Memorial, the national organization has been targeted for liquidation.


Arseny Roginsky

All of these individuals and many more commit brave civic acts every day, but they don't "fit" for RR because they constitute a greater challenge to the regime -- which is why some of them are under investigation or their organizations have been targeted for "liquidation" by the Ministry of Justice.

This is a "nice" list that makes you think the free press might still be alive in Russia. But it includes Galina Timchenko, former editor of, who was also forced abroad to start a new media operation, Meduza -- in Latvia. RR tells us that she "didn't allow the owner to interfere in editorial and personnel policy but quit the post of editor-in-chief. A large part of the editorial collective followed her." But it doesn't tell us where they went -- to Riga.

Pavel Durov -- the social media entrepreneur who fled Russia when he refused to turn over customer data to Russia' intelligence agencies -- is also in the list. Here it is mentioned that it was EuroMaidan's data that the FSB wanted, and RR does say Durov left Russia, but doesn't mention his new projects like a program for mobile phone encryption -- which exist because of Russian state surveillance.

It's great that even a generally pro-Kremlin and "safe" publication still feels bold enough to acknowledge the work of people like Ilya Azar, the former reporter who covered EuroMaidan faithfully and truly.


Or other brave war correspondents like Andrei Babitsky or veteran liberals like Danil Granin or the academic Andrei Zubov, fired for his criticism of the war on Ukraine or Deacon Andrei Kurayev who exposed child abuse in the Kazan Seminary and was dismissed from the Moscow Theological Academy.


Andrei Kurayev

But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Putin's face to the world and chief justifier of the Russian assistance to Syria, who escaped Western sanctions only because he is Foreign Minister and still needs to travel to the West for negotiations; Anatoly Kucherena, the lawyer for fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden who  is not referenced here as sitting on the FSB's civic council; Dmitry Rogozin, the hardline deputy prime minister for the defense industry who is always doing Russia's saber-rattling on Twitter  -- these are not civic heroes who have performed civic deeds, or any deeds outside their routine job descriptions.


Dmitry Rogozin

They defend the autocratic and violent Russian state responsible for undoing most of the good of the few underdogs that RR is willing to admire, Russian-style (Russians love to be most sentimental about people who are clearly Don Quixotes losing at their cause.) They can't even really be described as performing any type of deed -- what was Peskov's deed, for example?

And outright executioners like Col. Igor Strelkov of the "Donetsk People's Republic" who resurrected a Stalin-era law to sign death warrants for people in Slavyansk; Arseny Pavlov, better known as "Motorola," the commander of a battalion in the "Donetsk People's Republic" who marches through civilian areas shooting with impunity -- they are in the list, too. And that lets us know what this is really all about: not just recognizing that some people, even if they do evil, are relevant news-makers and have to be acknowledged as such -- but about the cause of Putin's "Russian World."


 Col. Igor Strelkov (Girkin), former commander of "DPR militia."

That's why RR didn't call this the "newsmakers' list" like chosing the "Time Person of the Year" but stressed that deeds were involved -- mainly civic deeds -- and that they are "the most authoritative" -- they are role models.

The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Conservative Russian Politician Proposes Banning Apple CEO Tim Cook from Russia Because He's Gay

Conservative Russian nationalist Vitaly Milonov wants to ban Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, from entering Russia.

Milonov, a deputy of the St. Petersburg legislature, opposes gay rights in general.

In a statement published in Business Week, Tim Cook announced today October 30 that while he valued his privacy, he wanted to acknowledge his sexuality. He declared he was proud to be gay.

Soon "Tim Cook" was a trending term on Russian-language Twitter.

Meanwhile, Milinov told the Russian news agency FlashNord (translation by The Interpreter):

What can he bring here? The Ebola virus, AIDS, gonorrhea? They all have indecent relations over there. We should ban his entry permanently. He's increasing sales this way. Apple became a popular brand. He is like an artist who  at first builds himself up as an artist and then announces that he is a pederast. Now everyone knows that Apple is made by pederast and everyone begins to change their consciousness -- but he's talented...It's a subtle political move.

Milonov himself has been shown using an Apple tablet so a picture of him with the Apple logo colored in the gay pride rainbow colors is making the rounds of social media.