MOSCOW—Yesterday afternoon, two women—a mother and her 38-year-old daughter—were found stabbed to death in the southeastern city of Kazan. By the time the news reached Moscow this morning, it arrived with a new bit of information: someone had scrawled “Free Pussy Riot” on the hallway wall. In blood. It’s not clear who did this—or, more significantly, why—but two weeks after the three young women of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in jail for singing a “punk prayer” in the main church of the capital, the story continues to roil Russian society.
Today, Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister under Boris Yeltsin and veteran opposition leader under Vladimir Putin, and journalist Leonid Martynyuk did something that all journalists hate to do: report out the super-obvious but extremely succulent story. For about as long as anyone can remember, on-again, off-again president Putin has been rumored to be one of the richest men not only in Russia, but in the world. In 2007, one British journalist estimated his fortune was some $40 billion, about $39,999,900,000 more than Putin makes officially.
On the morning of February 21, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich walked up the steps leading to the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, shed their winter clothing, pulled colorful winter hats down over their faces, and jumped around punching and kicking for about thirty seconds. By evening, the three young women had turned it into a music video called “Punk Prayer: Holy Mother, Chase Putin Away!” which mocked the patriarch and Putin.
IT’S A BREEZY Moscow night, and Maria Baronova has moved on from tea and tom-yam to prosecco. Sitting on the terrace of a bar overlooking the Moscow River, she fishes around in her messy leather purse and shows me the court document charging her with inciting mass riots. “As you can see, I’m the organizer of an intergalactic revolution,” she scoffs and lights another menthol cigarette.
On Monday afternoon, Italian premier Mario Monti and Russian president Vladimir Putin convened a small press conference in the slanting, gold light coming off the Black Sea. They had just met to discuss the European economic crisis as well as energy (Italy is Russia’s second biggest gas client), but they also touched on the deepening conflict in Syria. “We do not want the situation to develop along the lines of a bloody civil war and for it to continue for who knows how many years, like in Afghanistan,” Putin said, standing with his perfect posture in a slate-gray summer suit.
MOSCOW—Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, has been in court for so long that only the hardy, like the wall-eyed man haunting the courthouse in a Che Guevara-style Khodorkovsky t-shirt and the “Free Khodorkovsky” plastic shopping bag, have dared to follow his case. “I’ve spent seven years this way,” says Marina Khodorkovsky, the ex-tycoon’s mother, a bright-eyed former metals engineer. First, there was the year and a half of legal proceedings after her son’s dramatic October 2003 arrest, when special forces stormed his private jet in Siberia.
KIEV–Like many Ukrainian politicians, prime minister and presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko relies on fortune-tellers and TV psychics to bolster her embattled spirit. Several years ago, one such mystical specialist compared birth years, personality types, and other intimate details to confirm what Tymoshenko had suspected since the 1996 release of the movie Evita.
Long before Martin Wolf became the chief economics columnist for the Financial Times, he wrote the newspaper letters--lots and lots of letters. It was the early 1980s, the height of the Thatcher era, and Wolf was running research at a think tank in London that was sympathetic to the government's pro-trade agenda.
Julia Ioffe is a writer living in New York. Russian legislators summering in Sochi got a special visit from President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday when he came into town to introduce a bill that would radically expand his powers to declare war and move troops outside Russia’s borders. The law, as it stands now, is fairly narrow. Russia can mobilize to protect itself from invasion and to fend off aggression. That’s it.