Monthly Digest: professor confesses to killing fiancee and Russians want more freedom according to new survey4 min read

 In News, Politics, Russia

– On November 4th, the former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev gave an interview to the BBC in which he said that nuclear weapons must be destroyed to “save the planet and ourselves.” In 1987, Gorbachev signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the then-President of the USA Ronald Regan. This pact reduced the amount of nuclear missiles both superpowers were able to develop and store, and continued until earlier this year, when both Russia and the US pulled out of the agreement. When asked about the current situation between Russia and the West, Gorbachev said it was “chilly, but still a war” in reference to the Cold War that began in the 1960s. 

Leader of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov. Image Source

– On November 7th Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov caused controversy by saying that Internet users who spread rumours and ‘violate harmony’ should be ‘killed, imprisoned and scared’. The speech, which was recorded by the Chechen state television Grozny was held in Chechen. The spokesperson of Kadyrov’s cabinet, Almi Kamirov has stated that the BBC, who originally picked up the story, mistranslated it. Yet, no other translation has been offered. The Kremlin has refused to condemn Kadyrov’s words. A translation of the speech can be read here

– On November 9th police in St Petersburg pulled Oleg Sokolov, a history professor at the University of St Petersburg out of the Moyka river, where he had been attempting to discard the dismembered body parts of his 24 year old fiancee Anastasia Eshchenko. Confessing to the crime at his first hearing on November 12th, Sokolov is to be held in custody for another two months, until criminal proceedings can get underway. While the St Petersburg State University quickly announced his dismissal, many students feel angry that the university did not act sooner. More than 92 000 people have signed a petition demanding that university officials should be held accountable for not firing Sokolov sooner. 

– A report on possible infiltration by Russia into the United Kingdom’s various elections and referendums will be published by the British government after the December 12th general election The document scrutinises how Russian money flows into UK politics, specifically the Conservative party, as well as the murders committed by Russian spies on UK soil. 

– Russia, Lithuania, and Norway took part in a three-way spy swap on November 15th, part of which involved a change in Lithuania’s pardoning laws. The spy swap, which involved two Russians, two Lithuanians, and a Norwegian, happened at the southern border of Lithuania and Russia, in the culmination of weeks of preparation by the countries. The Lithuanian government had to change its criminal code in order for the Russians to be allowed a pardon, after which the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergei Naryshkin, said that they were willing to release Norwegian Forde Berg. The Lithuanians also gained two further spies who had been held in Moscow.

A new book published on 26th November “Crime in Progress” by Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, co-founders of Washington research firm Fusion GPS, claim that the United Kingdom’s intelligence agencies knew of the compromising possible Russia-Trump link at the 2016 Presidential Elections, but chose not to publish the report for fear of upsetting the future President. 

A survey conducted by Levada Centre in October was released on November 21st, and concluded that Russian citizens are demanding more freedoms since the last poll in December 2017, taken shortly before the 2018 Russian presidential election. 58% of respondents cited freedom of speech as their most important demands, a 24% increase since 2017. The right to participate in politics and the right to a fair trial were also listed and had both increased by 14%. The poll saw an increase of concern for both political and social freedoms across the board. 

– In an investigation published by Novaya Gazeta, in collaboration with Mediazona and published on November 25th, women protecting themselves from domestic violence, constitute a majority of women convicted for murder in Russia. The analysis is based on court decisions, which does not only demonstrate the widespread use of domestic violence, but also that courts and law enforcement agencies tend to side with the aggressor. The news broke not long after Russia’s Deputy Minister of Justice Mikhail Galperin had stated that Russia’s domestic violence problem is “significantly exaggerated”. 

– Goar Vartanian, an Armenian-born Soviet spy who helped foil a Nazi plot to assassinate the allied leaders in 1943, died aged 93 on November 26th. Goar was born in Soviet-Armenia and moved to Iran in the 1930s where she joined an anti-fascist group. She has been praised by many, including President Vladimir Putin, who said that “they do not like to be called heroes, they are modest people”. Goar will be buried in Moscow’s Troyekurovskoe cemetery according to a Russian SVR intelligence service spokesman. 

Main sources: BBC (EN), The Guardian (EN), RFE/RL (EN) 

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