BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

RUSSIA UNREST

January 24, 2021 Dana Lewis Season 3 Episode 5
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
RUSSIA UNREST
Chapters
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
RUSSIA UNREST
Jan 24, 2021 Season 3 Episode 5
Dana Lewis

It has started. Civil unrest linked to corruption in The Kremlin, and Putin's jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny has combined to ignite protests nation wide. On Saturday Jan 23 there were protests in more than 60 cities from the far east of Russia to St. Petersburg and Moscow.  Police fought with demonstrators leading to the arrests of more than 2000 people who are demanding the release of Navalny and chanted "Putin out".

On This Back Story, Bill Browder whose lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was killed in prison in Russia, the same prison where Navalny is now being kept. 

And, a journalist, Aleysa Marohovskaya who was beaten in Moscow at the demonstration by police.  Aleysa works for iStories media, one of many independent internet news companies Putin can't control. 

Show Notes Transcript

It has started. Civil unrest linked to corruption in The Kremlin, and Putin's jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny has combined to ignite protests nation wide. On Saturday Jan 23 there were protests in more than 60 cities from the far east of Russia to St. Petersburg and Moscow.  Police fought with demonstrators leading to the arrests of more than 2000 people who are demanding the release of Navalny and chanted "Putin out".

On This Back Story, Bill Browder whose lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was killed in prison in Russia, the same prison where Navalny is now being kept. 

And, a journalist, Aleysa Marohovskaya who was beaten in Moscow at the demonstration by police.  Aleysa works for iStories media, one of many independent internet news companies Putin can't control. 

Speaker 1:

First of all, I would say that this is just the beginning of, of a Russian protest movement from, from what I can see , uh, that the Putin has been stealing from the Russian people for 20 years, Alexia Navalny has been the leading voice, challenging Putin's theft and Putin has massively , um, overplayed his hand in a way that he's now created , um, made Navalny into a Nelson Mandela like character.

Speaker 2:

Hi everyone. This is Dana Lewis and welcome to backstory this edition on Russia unrest. It started when the Kremlin decided to take out the main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny with Nova Chuck nerve agent in August Novell , knee unexpectedly survived fast-forward to late January Nevada returned home. He's arrested at the airport in front of the world's media and sentenced on old. He says fabricated fraud charges and his parole, which conditions mandated his reporting to prison authorities routinely. But how do you do that? If you're lying in a German hospital, close to death from nerve agent poisoning. Anyway, Navon these videos showing president Putin's corruption are deeply embarrassing. And one of them giving a tour of Putin's billion dollar palace near the black sea has ignited unrest. Millions of people have seen the video millions more watched Navon these arrest , and they answered his call to go to the street January 23rd and express their anger tens of thousands of protesters across 11 times zones, 2000 people arrested brawls with police from Vladivostok in the far East to big cities, including Novosibirsk ear Coots St Petersburg and Moscow, 60 cities in all on this backstory, the dangerous work of being a journalist in Russia. And should there be more sanctions to pressure Putin to release Navalny who prosecutors now want to jail for 13 years, the unrest has just started in Russia.

Speaker 3:

All right, joining me now is bill Browder, who is the CEO of Hermitage capital management. And bill has a long, long history , uh, in Russia. And in fact , uh, tragically, his lawyer at one point was jailed and died in a Russian prison bill . There are some scary parallels with what , what happened to Mr. Magnitsky and what's happening now to Nevada.

Speaker 1:

So Sergei Magnitsky was my lawyer. He uncovered , uh , a massive corruption scheme and he was taken to prison , uh , in retaliation for uncovering it and slowly tortured and killed in prison on November 16, 2009, 11 years ago, that prison is [inaudible] prison, which is translator translated into sailor's silence prison. And that's the same prison that Alexei Navalny is sitting in today. Another anti-corruption activist , um, and another thorn in the side of Lennon Rakuten,

Speaker 3:

Let , let's talk about what's happening in Russia right now. I mean, there are demonstrations across some 60 cities unprecedented, what we've seen today.

Speaker 1:

Well, the first of all, I would say that this is just the beginning of, of a Russian protest movement from, from what I can see. Uh, the Putin has been stealing from the Russian people for 20 years. Alexia Navalny has been the leading voice, challenging Putin's theft and Putin has massively , um, overplayed his hand in a way that he's now created , um, made Navalny into a Nelson Mandela like character. He provided, he provided him an international platform by, by , um, poisoning him with , uh , with , uh , chemical weapons and, and not succeeding and killing him. And so the entire Western world is now fully aware of, of Alexian of Olney , and then Putin sealed his own fate by threatening Navalny with arrest of , he returned to Russia, hoping that Navalny was stay out. But in fact, Navalny , um, uh, has risen to the challenge. And by showing that he's neither afraid of poison or prison , uh, he's put Putin in a terrible position because he's shown himself to be stronger than Putin could ever be. And he's, he's made himself a very attractive figure for, for young Russians all over the country.

Speaker 3:

The Valley was poisoned with Nova chalk , a nerve agent, which no doubt was held by Russian authorities because you don't buy it just at any drug store . I mean, this is an illegally produced , um, uh , nerve agent, which under, by the way, Russia is a signature to the, to the ban on chemical, biological weapon production. But so they violated that they, they no doubt. And you and I spoke before , um, this is not some rogue operation by the FSB, the federal security service, because to poison somebody as high profile as Nevani within the country, surely it had Putin's consent.

Speaker 1:

No , no , no, no, they wouldn't. It wasn't , it's not like they said, Hey boss, can we have permission to do this? This is Putin's directive know nobody touches Navalny , nor did they touch Boris Nimsoft , um , who was murdered in front of , uh, another opposition figure who was murdered in front of the Kremlin. I mean, there've been so many people who have challenged Putin's legitimacy who have been killed. Um, it's , uh , you know, the list goes on and on and on Putin is a , um, a murderous , uh, sort of, you know, kind of a serial killer if you will. And , um , he needs to be stopped .

Speaker 3:

All right. I mean, a lot of people would doubt what you were saying a year ago. Um, but suddenly I think this is different now inside Russia, because this has spread like wildfire on social media. There are tens of millions of views of the arrest of Nevada, the case of Nevada, the G the jailing of Nevada County , and then his corruption video , uh, which he put out, which basically accuses Putin of, of being a little more than, you know, a gang land , um, mafia, state , uh , controller who was pocketed hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars and built this incredible palace near the black sea .

Speaker 1:

Yeah . The movie is incredible. Um, it's, I I'm, I'm a , um , expert on Putin's corruption. I've studied it for the last 15 years, but even as an expert, I learned a lot of new things in the movie and , and it really makes your blood boil to see this , to see the, the, the, the extent of the luxury and the lavishness that Putin , um, has as given to himself at the expense of the Russian people. You know, the average Russian can't even get medicine in a hospital. And Putin has a , um, you know, vineyards and , and underground parking garages and underground skating rinks and , and unbelief arbitrary items , and just all sorts of crazy stuff at this, at this , um, this palace that's like 60 times the land is 60 times the size of Monaco . It's just, it's just disgusting.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Don't forget the , uh, pole dancing disco. And, and I might add that some of the protesters were carrying these brushes that you clean toilets with today, because apparently, you know, the brushes in that mansion were purchased for something like $800 each. So they were carrying them as a symbol of corruption. So, so bill look, what is motivating the demonstrations? Is it, is it just Nevada County or is it tough economic times w with a pandemic, basically the suspension of democracy there , the extension of Putin term until 2036, potentially there just a lot of things feeding into this now creating a perfect storm.

Speaker 1:

Well, ma mainly is , I mean, Putin has been ripping off the Russian people for, for the last 20 years. The main, the main thing that that's , um, that's fueling this is , is there the , the attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny, his arrest, and then Alexa finally , um, uh, calling people to go out into the streets specifically to free him. And that then the enough is enough. And the Putin took a step too far in this case.

Speaker 3:

Do you think this is going to end quickly? Or do you think this is the beginning because they have already called for more demonstrations next week?

Speaker 1:

Uh , this is , this is going to be like Belarus, and it's gonna , it's gonna more people when people see that, see what happened this week, more people will come out next week and that's Putin's worst nightmare. Sure.

Speaker 3:

He'd be releasing Nevani now to put the fire out or are we ,

Speaker 1:

There's no way he can do that. You cannot in Russia, it's like a prison yard. You can't show weakness. He put in his now a prisoner to his own actions at this point.

Speaker 3:

Why did they stupidly arrest him when he arrived back?

Speaker 1:

They had no choice when they threatened him with arrest to try to keep him away. Um, they th that, that was the moment that, that they made. That was their big mistake because by having him come back, they could not arrest him, but by arresting him, they'd set off, they've lived the fuse on this situation, which is spinning out of control for them.

Speaker 3:

Will you just look down the road and tell me how you think that this, how this unfolds now, how the future goes now in Russia? Because a lot of people have always said, if there's a spark , uh, Russia can burn , uh, in terms of people reaching their end of patients with Putin and the Kremlin, do you think this is ,

Speaker 1:

You know, I don't know, Alexian of only doesn't know, and Vladimir Putin doesn't know it it's it's, anything could happen. How many, you know, what are the Russian people do? What does the international community do? What does Putin do? It's all very uncertain. It's a totally dynamic situation. Um, uh, but, but what I can say is that , um, this is a mess of Putin's own making.

Speaker 3:

Last question. What should the international community do? Because we talked about sanctions before.

Speaker 1:

It's very clear for the last 10 years. Um, I I've been advocating for a law called the Magnitsky act named after my lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, who was murdered in Russian prison, Magnitsky act, imposes , visa, sanctions, and asset freezes on human rights, violators Alexia, Navalny , um , was one of the , um, uh, many Russian , uh, figures who supported the Magnitsky act along with Mikhail Khodorkovsky and another , uh, Russian opposition figure, Gary Kasparov, or a Samsung led American or Mirza. All the major Russian opposition have realized this is the tool to be used. And this is the tool now, which should be used 31 countries have the Magnitsky act, and it should be applied to the billionaire bankers and enablers of Vladimir Putin who are funding his regime and allowing him to do this terrible stuff real broader . Thanks. Good to talk to you. Thank you.

Speaker 3:

All right. Joining me now from Moscow is Alicia Mara whole sky. Hi Alysia. Hi, Dana . You're a journalist working for ice stories. Media. Yeah, that's correct. So what is I stories media before we talk about what happened on the street? I mean, it seems that there's, there's now a lot of independent digital media that's out there.

Speaker 4:

Uh, I used use media, it's kind of new media in Russia. It's new project. Uh, it was founded by a really famous in Russia, investigative reporters, like , uh , Roman [inaudible] , uh, and the Roman history Knauf . Uh, there are , uh, made some great investigations. There was part of team who was working on banana papers, paradise papers, and , uh, stories , uh , like that , uh,

Speaker 3:

Panama was a very, a very hot topic on money laundering and secret accounts overseas. But so essentially media in Russia has been controlled traditionally by the Kremlin. When you take a look at the mainstream television channels, the main newspapers, there has been very little room for , um, opposition or neutral media. That's not controlled. How do you stay under the radar and , uh, and report without being controlled?

Speaker 4:

So it's our choice , uh, to be , uh , uh , small and independent media in Russia , uh, because , uh, as you said, we couldn't , uh, be , uh , professional journalism on the other medias . So we just choose this way. And , uh, that's why we are in internet. Uh, and , uh, here gremlin , uh, could not control everything. Uh, so we have a YouTube channel, our sides and , uh, some space in social media and we just doing our job , uh, and , uh, sometimes , uh, it's, it's kind of dangerous, but , uh, I think that every investigative reporter in Russia , uh, realized that , uh, she or he has opportunity to be jailed , uh, beaten or something like that. But , uh, it's, you know, it's a kind of , it's , it's part of our job in Russia and , uh , we are ready to face some problem from authorities. So it's like , uh, our normal life.

Speaker 3:

Are they trying to control digital media?

Speaker 4:

Uh , you mean our media ? Yeah , no,

Speaker 3:

They're not trying to control it because they're trying to control the internet now because they understand that so many people are getting their news from the internet.

Speaker 4:

They couldn't do it because we use the social media in South America . So if you want control us, you need to control , uh, Facebook , uh, telegram or YouTube. So it's , uh, it's , it's hard to do it. So they couldn't, they , uh , they made some lows , uh, for example, the last one is , uh , against people who , uh , texting something in social media, for example, or , uh, insights , uh, and , uh, have , uh , for infinity station. So you , uh, became a foreign agent , uh, and , uh, you have to pay

Speaker 3:

Kind of how we know how that law goes in Russia, because anybody that doesn't agree with the Kremlin will be accused of being a foreign agent, even if they're not.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, yeah. For this purpose service law was me .

Speaker 3:

Tell me about these demonstrations. You were in the middle of these yesterday. Were you at the , uh, Pushkin plushy where you at Pushkin square? What happened there and what, and how did you come to be attacked by the police though?

Speaker 4:

Uh, it was a peaceful form of protest, Gil , just , uh , students , shoulders slogans, and how boasters in support of Alexander Valley, who was jailed , uh, illegally , uh, or against corruption. So, and , uh, even before he shall start affection, police officer began to detain people , uh, in the square. People just were stained . People just choose to be respond. They took them. And , uh, sometimes , uh , uh, if any of the protesters refused to go along with the police, they went , the officers took him by force. They could beat them , uh, and sometimes , uh, such on gum detentions force, everyone else to fight back with the police. Uh, and , uh, it was like local strikes. So I was working there , uh, like journalists and I was fuming , uh , uh, some single beating of people. And , uh, uh, I was from one side and I didn't see how another group of police and protestors was back in me. And , uh, I think that policemen just probably didn't see that I was a journalist and he put twice in the back and the neck with the , uh, his , uh, arm , uh, and , uh, I had a beach with a breast guard , but I think he didn't see it. So he just decided it was , uh , just protesters and try to keep me where you hurt. Of course it was hurt when you just felt it's , it's very, it's very hard, but now I'm okay.

Speaker 3:

Tell me how unprecedented this is in Russia. I mean, this is not about a ruse where we've seen rolling demonstrations week by week by week, since the election in the summer. It is not very often. We see these huge crowds in Russia taking to the streets and just not in one city, but I mean, dozens and dozens of cities yesterday, it was unbelievable.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. But , uh , if you want to compare, [inaudible] , uh , kind of different protests , uh, because , uh, in the Russia , people was fighting against the police. So, but , uh, tomorrow , uh, yesterday I was, I was , um , uh, I was seeing how people fight back with police and , uh, it was a kind of unusual scene because in Russia, you know , uh , it's, it's very scared, so fight with police because they have no , they can beat you very, very hard. So, and I saw , uh , substance, then people try my back and it was really, really scared, but , uh , I think it's , uh , not enough to compare , uh, Russia with Russia . So we more peaceful in this form of protest.

Speaker 3:

Well, not so peaceful in some of the scenes in St . Petersburg and other places, but what, what is happening? Why are people angry? Why are people really motivated? Because it takes a lot. I mean, I was based in Russia for over a decade. It takes a lot to get Russians to go to the street like they did.

Speaker 4:

I think , uh, people really , really tight , uh, because of corruption , uh, because , uh, 4g can make, can make everything with every person in this country. And , uh, you , uh, kind of know you , you can feel , uh, that you're in safe in this country and you have to do something because an extended one is very famous people, not only in Russia, but in the world, but , uh , by the way, he in jail, he in jail right now. And , uh, uh, he not safe. And I think people way understood that they're gonna say too , and they have to do something . Yes. Uh, it's , it's, it's really hard to say we are not, I think it's no continue, but I don't know. Uh , would it be regressive or not? So , uh, right now we are waiting for , uh, rejection for we're waiting for a situation when people will go to prison for yesterday's meetings . So , uh, we will see the reaction.

Speaker 3:

What do you think the Kremlin will do? Do you think there'll be tougher or do you think they'll release Navalny ? I don't think that they'll release him because traditionally they just feel it's a challenge and they like to meet challenges head on, and they tend to be tougher rather than listening to people.

Speaker 4:

Uh , I think they , uh, will keep nobody in prison. Uh, I think , uh , hero , uh, he'll stay in here. So for awhile , I don't know for , for [inaudible] , uh , in the prison, but I think , uh , he will , uh , uh , Kremlin wheel , uh , uh, make some , uh , good decision about him because he he's in Russia right now. So it was his choice. Uh, and I think he realized if he can he'll come in Russia, he'll present. So

Speaker 3:

Do you know, the Kremlin will come out this week and say that these were just a few hooligans and thugs and that the majority of the population supports Putin.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. That's their position all the time. What's the reality , uh , reality, you mean , uh,

Speaker 3:

What do people really think, do you think is Putin now with this video of this corruption in Putin's palace , um, the jailing of Nevada County , um, the referendum in the summer, which extends Putin's term to 2036, potentially , um, just, you know, generally economic hardship and people are not feeling very happy. What , what is the reality in terms of Putin's popularity?

Speaker 4:

You know , uh, it's a really , uh , strange situation, but in Russia, lots of witching supporters, lots of they can , uh , very bad , uh, about living in Russia. They really poor, but they still support teaching . And if you ask them, how is your life is going , uh, baby , uh, tell lots of, really , really sad story about his life. But if you will ask , uh , wanting to think about Putin, they , uh, will say you put in is a great leader. Well , not everybody, not everybody, of course, but , uh, as I think the majority , uh, we will support Putin, Putin. It would be tired, you know, they could be tired , uh, of corruption. They could be tired for life or something like that, but , uh, they kind of scared change , uh , 4g in the old country. And , uh, they tried to keep his life in , uh , in, in common way, you know, just okay, I'm leaving right now. I have some money. Uh, I have some legal opportunity. Okay. I have no rights, but , uh, when , uh, people in Russia have rights . So , uh , they choose Putin because they called it stability, you know? Uh, and , uh,

Speaker 3:

That's the older generation. Right. And I think the younger generation, you're part of a new generation. You obviously think different and people on social media who went to the streets this weekend obviously are beginning to think differently.

Speaker 4:

Yeah. Lots of people thinks differently, but if you talk about majority, I think majority area where say what I said, like just now , uh, and , uh, yeah , uh, lots of young people, teenagers. So they disagree with this position and they don't want to be people who are happy, just about, have some little money. And , uh , and it's all, they want to be a person with , uh , human rights. They want to choose , uh , what we want to choose that Richie in their own country. So Veda won't leave the corruption. Of course they are different and they will. They just , uh , show with , I guess is

Speaker 3:

Last question. I know you're writing stories. Um, how will your stories be different than the main channels controlled by the Kremlin about yesterday, about this weekend's demonstrations? What would I see in your journalism that I wouldn't see on the main Kremlin control channel? How is it going to be different?

Speaker 4:

Uh, because , uh, it would be different, but , uh, I was just feeling what is going on, you know , uh, and , uh, it's kind of through , uh, we will show with scene of violence from the police. And , uh, I think the , uh, pro government media, they view , uh, talk about , um , you know, provocation from , uh, people who was in the square and , uh, that , uh, they just did a police and then police should react , uh, on these sections, but it was a kind of , uh, you know, different, but they will take this

Speaker 3:

Tomorrow hope sky from ice stories . Great to talk to you, stay safe, be careful. And , uh, we hope to talk to you again, thank you for your time.

Speaker 2:

Thank you very much. And that's our backstory on Russia and unrest. Please subscribe to our newsletter at sub stack. I'm leading you through the news of the day, every few days. And if you can please subscribe to this podcast and share it. I'm working hard on this, and you can help me make it grow. I'm Dana Lewis. Thanks for listening. And I'll talk to you again.