The Nobel Peace Prize Acknowledges a Dangerous Era for Journalists

The co-winner, Dmitry Muratov, is the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, which has lost more journalists to murder than any other Russian news outlet.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/the-nobel-peace-prize-acknowledges-a-dangerous-era-for-journalists
When I asked Muratov what he thought he got the prize for, he told me, instead, who he thought the prize was intended for: the investigative journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin, poisoned in 2003; Politkovskaya, who was shot in 2006; the investigative journalist Igor Domnikov, beaten to death in 2000; the lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who represented the paper in the Domnikov case, shot in 2009; the junior reporter Anastasia Baburova, who was shot together with Markelov; and the journalist Natalia Estemirova, who was kidnapped and killed in Chechnya in 2009.

How Investigative Journalism Flourished in Hostile Russia

A new wave of news outlets has used conventional, and unconventional, methods to pierce the veil of Putin’s power.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/21/business/media/probiv-investigative-reporting-russia.html
But the one that blows my mind is “probiv.” It’s drawn from the word that means “to pierce” — or to enter something into a search bar. Today, it refers to the practice by which anyone can buy, for a couple of dollars on the social media app Telegram or hundreds on a dark web marketplace, the call records, cellphone geolocation or air travel records of anyone in Russia you want to track. Probiv is purchased by jealous spouses or curious business partners, and criminals of various sorts. But it has also been used recently, and explosively, by journalists and political activists, overlapping categories in Russia, where the chief opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny, often makes use of the tools of investigative journalism.

China Censors the Internet. So Why Doesn’t Russia?

The Kremlin has constructed an entire infrastructure of repression but has not displaced Western apps. Instead, it is turning to outright intimidation.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/21/world/europe/russia-internet-censorship.html
More broadly, the question of how to deal with the internet lays bare a dilemma for Mr. Putin’s Russia: whether to raise state repression to new heights and risk a public backlash or continue trying to manage public discontent by maintaining some semblance of an open society.

The Haunted House of Soviets Gets a New Life

Residents of Kaliningrad, Russia’s westernmost region, search for meaning in a building many see as an egregious architectural mistake. “It’s ugly, but it’s ours.”

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/16/world/europe/kaliningrad-russia-soviet-union-house-of-soviets.html
The protruding balconies are eyes, above which looms an oversize braincase of office space intended for Communist Party functionaries who would guide the economy. They never settled in because of the structural flaws.

Navalny’s Long-Running Battle with Putin Enters a New Phase

The jailed opposition leader is creating a model of guerrilla political warfare for the digital age.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/navalnys-long-running-battle-with-putin-enters-a-new-phase
The story line has a both cinematic and ghoulish arc: the charismatic protest leader poisoned by the secret police manages to miraculously survive. As he recuperates abroad, he investigates the details of his own attempted assasination, luring one of the ham-fisted would-be killers into admitting his guilt. And then, resurrected from the dead, he returns home, where his immediate arrest at passport control is live-streamed.

FSB Team of Chemical Weapon Experts Implicated in Alexey Navalny Novichok Poisoning - bellingcat

A joint investigation between Bellingcat and The Insider, in cooperation with Der Spiegel and CNN, has discovered voluminous telecom and travel data that implicates Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in the poisoning of the prominent Russian oppositi

Link: https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-europe/2020/12/14/fsb-team-of-chemical-weapon-experts-implicated-in-alexey-navalny-novichok-poisoning/
This investigation has unearthed large volumes of data implicating Russia’s preeminent security agency, the FSB, in tailing Navalny over a long period of time using operatives that have specialized training in chemical weapons, chemistry and medicine – a skillset inconsistent with regular surveillance practices. These operatives were in the vicinity of the opposition activist in the days and hours of the time-range during which he was poisoned with a military-grade chemical weapon. They were in the vicinity of Navalny on at least one other occasion when a family member felt inexplicable symptoms consistent with a non-lethal, accidental dosage of the same toxin. They had previously tailed the opposition figure on over 37 trips in the last four years. Given this implausible series of coincidences, the burden of proof for an innocent explanation appears to rest purely with the Russian state.

The Life and COVID Death of a Revered Siberian Doctor

In a chaotic and overwhelmed hospital, a physician received the kind of indifferent medical care he spent his life trying to overcome.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/the-life-and-covid-death-of-a-revered-siberian-doctor
Perhaps the most macabre proof of the dysfunction in Tomsk came when, according to local media, a family picked up the body of their beloved aunt, who, as they had been told, died at Medical-Sanitary Unit Number Two. Just before burying her, they wanted to say a last farewell, and opened the lid of the casket—only to see that it was not their aunt at all but, rather, the body of an elderly woman whom they did not recognize. They rushed back to the city morgue, where administrators argued with them that a person can change in appearance after death—before eventually admitting their mistake. The family’s aunt was alive and being treated back at Medical-Sanitary Unit Number Two. They found her in a room, flipping through some magazines.

In Nagorno-Karabakh Peace Deal, Putin Applied a Deft New Touch

The iron-fisted tactics used against Georgia and Ukraine seem to have fallen out of favor, replaced by a more subtle blend of soft power and an implicit military threat.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/01/world/europe/nagorno-karabakh-putin-armenia-azerbaijan.html
“What else is to be done?” Mr. Mikaelyan asked, after taking another look at the blown-out hotel room door, the TV ripped off the wall, the trails of blood still stuck to the third floor. “The European Union is doing nothing. The Americans are doing nothing.”

Along Russia’s ‘Road of Bones,’ Relics of Suffering and Despair

The Kolyma Highway in the Russian Far East once delivered tens of thousands of prisoners to the work camps of Stalin’s gulag. The ruins of that cruel era are still visible today.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/22/world/europe/russia-stalin-gulag-kolyma-magadan.html
More than a million prisoners traveled the road, both ordinary convicts and people convicted of political crimes. They included some of Russia’s finest minds — victims of Stalin’s Great Terror like Sergei Korolev, a rocket scientist who survived the ordeal and in 1961 helped put the first man in space. Or Varlam Shalamov, a poet who, after 15 years in the Kolyma camps, concluded, “There are dogs and bears that behave more intelligently and morally than human beings.” His experiences, recorded in his book “Kolyma Tales,” convinced him that “a man becomes a beast in three weeks, given heavy labor, cold, hunger and beatings.”

Alexey Navalny Has the Proof of His Poisoning

The Russian anti-corruption activist, who nearly died in August, talks about his recovery and his future.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-new-yorker-interview/alexey-navalny-has-the-proof-of-his-poisoning
Because you think rationally. There are a million ways to isolate someone or kill them, but this is like some trashy thriller. I find myself living inside of a James Bond movie. If you told me that they planned to kill me using Novichok and administer it in such a way that I would die on an airplane, I would say that’s a crazy plan, because there are so many ways for it to fail. It’s like if someone asked me if I believe that I’m at risk for being beheaded with a lightsabre. I’d say no, even if I saw that someone I know is missing an arm and it looks to have been lasered off.

Putin, Long the Sower of Instability, Is Now Surrounded by It

Fueled by the pandemic, uprisings in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan and a war in the Caucasus region are undermining the influence of the Russian leader.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/07/world/europe/putin-belarus-kyrgyzstan-caucasus.html
“For Putin, practically his entire mission and his vision of Russian greatness and success revolve around his foreign-policy agenda,” said Tatiana Stanovaya, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center, a research organization focused on politics and policy. The new series of crises, she went on, “will very much distract Putin from domestic problems.”

The American Prisoner in Russia Trapped Between Putin and Trump

The U.S. President and the bureaucracy reacted slowly to the arrest of Paul Whelan, who was declared a spy and sentenced to sixteen years in a Russian prison colony.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/the-american-prisoner-in-russia-trapped-between-putin-trump-and-thoroughly-soured-us-russian-relations
For all their uncertainty about the exact origins of the case, U.S. officials understood perfectly how the Kremlin wanted it resolved. Russia’s Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, was “unbelievably explicit” in meetings with White House officials, according to the former U.S. official. Initially, Antonov proposed trading Whelan for three Russians in U.S. prisons: Maria Butina, a woman who had grown close to Republican operatives and National Rifle Association officials, and was convicted of acting as an unregistered Russian agent, in April, 2019; Viktor Bout, a notoriously prolific arms trader who was apprehended in a sting operation in Thailand, in 2008, and convicted by a U.S. court three years later; and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot serving a twenty-year federal sentence for a drug-smuggling plot.