[ARTICLE] Bodyguards Incorporated: the rise and fall of Putin’s presidential guards’ construction empire

In February 2017, the Kremlin quietly appointed a new head of the Caucasus region branch of Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO), the main job of which is to guard President Vladimir Putin, but which until recently ran a secret and highly profitable construction empire.

In April last year this empire collapsed after Russian billionaire Dmitry Mikhalchenko, who had close ties to senior FSO officials and ran the Baltstroy construction company that actually did most of the work, was arrested for trying to smuggle $1mn worth of vintage cognac into the country. The case caused a major scandal. The deputy head of Russia’s Customs Service had to resign and Mikhalchenko was also charged with skimming millions of dollars off the top of renovation work on one of Putin’s country houses.

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Russian State TV’s Regional Correspondents are Writing Secret Reports for the Kremlin, Dojd TV Says

Preventing outbursts of protests in the regions has been one of the Kremlin’s main recent priorities, several news reports have argued over the years. As the 2014 economic crisis lead to rising discontent, authorities looked for ways to get reliable information about what is really going on in the regions. And, according to the independent TV channel Dojd, one of the methods they came up with makes good use of the State’s control over the media: weekly reports sent by the regional correspondents of Russia’s state TV channel “Perviy Kanal” to the Kremlin. Continue reading “Russian State TV’s Regional Correspondents are Writing Secret Reports for the Kremlin, Dojd TV Says”

Presidential Elections: To Raise Turnout, Kremlin May Propose Changing City Names, Sources Say

A year away from the presidential election, the Kremlin’s technocrats are scrambling to find the best way to handle Vladimir Putin a landslide victory and could use “local referendums” to motivate Russians to vote.

Supporters of the president fear voter’s apathy –expressed in last year’s parliamentary elections by a 48% turnout, the lowest the country has seen in its modern history– could give Vladimir Putin a weak standing in what would be, according to the Russian constitution, his last term as President. Continue reading “Presidential Elections: To Raise Turnout, Kremlin May Propose Changing City Names, Sources Say”

Russian Journalists Fear Navalny’s PR is Going the Trump Way

Russian opposition figure and presidential candidate Alexei Navalny has been hailed for its effective use of social networks to circumvent a de facto ban on Russia’s state media. “Navalny at 8.18pm”, a new weekly show broadcasted live on Youtube, has already managed to attract a significant audience. But the deputy editor-in-chief of opposition-friendly radio “Ekho Moskvy” is now complaining that Navalny is also using his platform on social media as a way  to avoid answering questions from journalists. Continue reading “Russian Journalists Fear Navalny’s PR is Going the Trump Way”

Work Protests are on a (Slight) Downward Trend, but May be Moving to the Capitals

The “Center for Social and Labor Rights“, a Russian NGO who defends the right of Russian workers, has released its latest monthly monitoring of work-related protests throughout Russia. And it has a couple of interesting data points. Continue reading “Work Protests are on a (Slight) Downward Trend, but May be Moving to the Capitals”