The Moscow Times: Russia declared The Moscow Times’ Russian-language partner VTimes a “foreign agent” on Friday amid what critics call the Kremlin’s ongoing crackdown on free speech and independent media. The designation puts the independent news site’s future in jeopardy as it risks cratering its advertising budget and levying steep fines for auditing violations. VTimes was launched last October by former senior editors and journalists from the Vedomosti business daily after the appointment of a pro-Kremlin editor-in-chief sparked an exodus from their previous employer. The news website has vowed to keep alive Vedomosti’s tradition of independent and objective journalism.
RFE/RL: A Russian journalist who believes he was targeted by investigators for his expose on massive oil theft in western Siberia has been convicted on blackmail and pornography charges and sentenced to eight years in prison. A court in the city of Surgut, in Russia’s oil-rich Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District, handed down the verdict and sentence against journalist Eduard Shmonin on May 14, both Shmonin and his lawyer told RFE/RL’s Russian Service, known locally as Radio Svoboda. The Khanty-Mansi regional prosecutor’s office also confirmed the sentence and verdict in a statement.
RFE/RL: Russian intelligence services have spied on and filmed Jehovah’s Witnesses in a bathhouse, in the latest example of persecution against the outlawed Christian group. The snooping, carried out by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), was revealed at a trial in the Urals city of Perm, where five Jehovah’s Witnesses received suspended sentences for “illegal” religious activities. The video of the group’s members in the bathhouse was used as evidence against the defendants in the trial, which has lasted for almost three years. In evidence aired in court, 27 male and female members of the group met in a bathhouse in Perm to baptize new members. The FSB installed video cameras in the bathhouse where the baptism ceremony was taking place. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, baptism is seen as a declaration of faith. Before the coronavirus pandemic, large public baptisms were common among believers worldwide.
RFE/RL: RFE/RL’s bank accounts in Russia have been frozen following a visit by court bailiffs to the U.S. agency’s Moscow bureau. The move came after agents of the Federal Court Bailiffs Service on May 14 initiated enforcement proceedings against RFE/RL’s Russian branch over unpaid fines accrued because of violations of Russia’s controversial “foreign agents” laws. The bailiffs service sent RFE/RL a court resolution authorizing it to search for the organization’s bank accounts and to freeze them. RFE/RL’s Moscow-based bank was ordered by the bailiffs service to seize the agency’s accounts in order to provide payment for the unpaid fines of 5 million rubles ($68,000). The enforcement proceeding pertains to 10 protocols that were confirmed in court and for which the two-month payment period has expired. Earlier on May 14, bailiffs spent about two hours in RFE/RL’s Moscow bureau and initiated an inventory of equipment there. They did not interfere with work at the bureau or detain anyone.
The Guardian: “At 21.50, due to cardiovascular and respiratory failure, Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin died,” intones an announcer. A woman takes off her hat, on the verge of tears. A handsome youth in a military uniform stares stoically at his feet. One middle-aged man glances self-consciously at the camera, as if to check it is still watching him, before looking down again. Again and again, our focus is drawn to faces in the crowds all across the Soviet Union. Not all are reverent. Some people shuffle, chat, chew, smoke, even half-smile. The broadcasters’ praise for Stalin becomes ever more ludicrous: “We knew he was the best on our planet … It’s impossible to take your eyes off this infinitely dear face. Your eyes are full of tears, you hold your breath, you are overwhelmed with sorrow shared by millions, hundreds of millions of people.” But is that right? As the focus keeps returning to individuals, the film asks us to consider how each of them really felt.