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The Naked Pravda

The Naked Pravda

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Meduza?s English-language podcast, The Naked Pravda highlights how our top reporting intersects with the wider research and expertise that exists about Russia. The broader context of Meduza?s in-depth, original journalism isn?t always clear, which is where this show comes in. Here you?ll hear from the world?s community of Russia experts, activists, and reporters about issues that are at the heart of Meduza?s stories and crucial to major events in and around Russia.

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What if Russia uses nuclear weapons?

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When announcing a draft to reinforce Moscow?s invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin accused the West of ?nuclear blackmail,? claiming that ?high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO countries? have endorsed the ?possibility and admissibility? of using nuclear weapons against Russia. In the same remarks, Putin vowed to use ?all available weapon systems? to defend Russia?s ?territorial integrity? ? a precarious position now that Moscow has annexed four more Ukrainian regions without even controlling the territories militarily.

In his annexation speech on September 30, Putin focused mainly on the evils of the West: centuries of European colonialism, decades of American militarism, progressive values that he described as Satanism, and what he called the U.S.-created precedent of twice attacking Japanese cities with nuclear bombs.

Considering that the Kremlin has repeatedly described its victory in Ukraine as essential to Russia?s existence, there are rising concerns about how the Putin regime will respond if its troops continue to lose ground in the war. Will he order a nuclear strike? The Naked Pravda asked two experts in nuclear weapon strategy and nuclear crises.

Timestamps:

(3:52) Dr. Olga Oliker, program director for Europe and Central Asia at the International Crisis Group in Brussels and cohost of the podcast ?War & Peace? (16:18) Dr. Mariana Budjeryn, senior research associate with the Project on Managing the Atom at the Harvard Kennedy School?s Belfer Center and author of the forthcoming book ?Inheriting the Bomb: The Collapse of the USSR and the Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine?
2022-10-01
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What if Vladimir Putin dies tomorrow?

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As acting president, elected president, prime minister, and then president again, Vladimir Putin has now ruled Russia for almost 23 years. And it doesn?t look like he plans to retire any time soon. Following amendments to the Russian constitution in 2020, Putin is now able to run in two more presidential elections. This means he could potentially remain in power until 2036, at which point he?ll be turning 83. 

Putin is indeed getting old, and ever since he ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, there's been a lot of speculation about his future. With his seventieth birthday coming up on October 7, reports and rumors about the state of Putin?s health abound. But death by old age is probably years (if not decades) away for a man whose physical survival is one of Russia?s greatest national security priorities.

Of course, no one lives forever, and just like Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Elizabeth II, Vladimir Putin will one day pass away. But what if he dies suddenly, while still in office? What happens then? The Naked Pravda turns to three experts for insights into the potential domestic and global consequences of Putin?s death.

Timestamps for this episode:

(6:08) Fabian Burkhardt, a post-doctoral Research Associate at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, on how Putin?s death would impact Russia?s domestic politics ? and political elites ? in the short term.  (16:04) Ronald Grigor Suny, the William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History and a Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, on the death of Stalin and the Soviet Union?s transfer of power problem.  (25:06) Domitilla Sagramoso, Senior Lecturer in Security and Development in the Department of War Studies at King's College London, on Putin?s foreign policy legacy and what it means for the future trajectory of Russia?s relations with the wider world. 
2022-09-23
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Season three trailer

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Meduza?s only English-language podcast, The Naked Pravda, returns for a third season tomorrow on Friday, September 23. Throughout the new season, each show explores a hypothetical event and its potential consequences for Russia and its relationship with the rest of the world.

On upcoming episodes, Meduza asks journalists, scholars, and other experts about the context and possibilities behind the questions that keep people up at night: What if Putin dies tomorrow? What happens to the Ukraine war if China invades Taiwan? What if sanctions against Russian commercial aviation lead to a disaster in the air? What happens to Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov if Russia loses in Ukraine?

The Naked Pravda?s ?What If?? season is all about the big and unanswerable questions that animate the public?s interest in news stories and tease our imagination about what comes next. The first episode will be available tomorrow.

2022-09-22
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Kadri Liik explains ?Putin?s archaic war? and the Russia we lost

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Meduza welcomes European Council on Foreign Relations Senior Policy Fellow Kadri Liik for a discussion about her recent article, ?Putin?s Archaic War: Russia?s Newly Outlawed Professional Class ? And How It Could One Day Return,? where she argues that the invasion of Ukraine is ?effectively de-modernizing Russia? and derailing processes that could have put the country on a less aggressive, more professional path.

A specialist in Russian domestic and foreign policy and in relations between Russia and the West, Liik joined The Naked Pravda to address the issues she raised in her essay.

Timestamps for this episode:

(2:07) How does the invasion of Ukraine trigger the ?de-modernization? of Russian society and foreign policy? (4:36) How does Soviet foreign policy compare to the diplomacy Moscow practiced before and since launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine? (5:58) What are the ?modern? aspects of Russia?s recent and current foreign policy in Syria and Africa? (9:14) How long will the war?s de-modernization plague Russian society and policymaking? (11:23) To what degree is Russia now ?de-modernized? and ostracized globally (not just in the West)? (15:00) What will it take for the West to come to a consensus with the Global South about Russia?s invasion of Ukraine? (16:47) How does the ?decolonization? debate in Western academia and activism fit into all this? Does this perspective have traction inside Russia? (21:46) What are the ?needs? that fueled Russia?s ?homegrown? democratization potential before the February invasion?
2022-07-09
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Russian film and television before and since the invasion of Ukraine

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After Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, five Hollywood giants ? Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Sony Pictures, and Paramount ? all stopped releasing new films in Russia. Netflix, which was producing multiple shows in Russia for the domestic market, has also suspended all service there. Amazon Prime has halted streaming in Russia, too. All this comes just as the entertainment industry was hoping to rebound from two years of pandemic shutdowns and concerns. Russian movie theaters are now on the verge of collapse, and the country?s streaming services ? seemingly poised for a major expansion before the war ? are scrambling to keep subscribers by restocking their catalogues and hoping for success with original programming.

To find out where Russians will find their future entertainment, Meduza turned to three experts in the nation?s television and film industries.

Timestamps for this episode:

(2:48) AR Content Creative Executive Ivan Philippov breaks down what trends in Russian entertainment (9:01) Kinopoisk podcast host and former editor-in-chief Lisa Surganova explains the current state of Russia?s streaming services (16:00) Filmmaker and film and television researcher Egor Isaev weighs the loss of coproduction deals with Hollywood studios and U.S. streaming services (23:02) Surganova explains how TV and cinema funding work in Russia (29:14) Philippov looks at the struggling movie business from the Kremlin?s perspective
2022-06-25
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How sanctions against Russia reshape the world

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Earlier this week, the European Union passed a landmark agreement banning most Russian oil imports into the region by the end of the year, though the embargo features a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline in order to overcome opposition from landlocked Hungary. In late May, the U.S. Treasury declined to extend a license that allowed Russia to make payment on its sovereign debt to U.S. holders, possibly accelerating the prospect of Russia defaulting on its government debt.

To discuss these major developments and more happening in the sanctions campaign against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, The Naked Pravda welcomed back Dr. Maria Shagina, a political risk analyst and sanctions expert who works as a Diamond-Brown Research Fellow for Economic Sanctions, Standards, and Strategy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Timestamps for this episode:

(1:48) What?s the significance of Russia?s current account surplus? (6:15) Has Western unity on economic sanctions against Russia peaked, or is the EU and U.S. capable of more? (7:52) What determines the divisions inside the European Union when it comes to confronting Russian aggression? (11:11) What are the main drivers of a potential global food crisis? (12:28) Does the West risk alienating large parts of the world by forcing higher energy costs on the Global South? (19:05) How have the sanctions against Russia affected the push for greener energy sources? (23:25) Have economic realities now put Russia definitively on an eastward trajectory? How fundamental is this to the country?s future development?
2022-06-04
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Genocide in Ukraine

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Through speeches by political leaders and in television broadcasts that have blanketed the country (as well as new territories recently seized by force), the Kremlin has argued breathlessly that Ukrainian statehood is a historical accident weaponized by Russia?s enemies. This rhetoric, which essentially denies the existence of an independent Ukranian identity, has reached not only millions of civilians but also the Russian troops now in Ukraine, where journalists, the local authorities, and international observers have been documenting and cataloging these soldiers? acts of violence against noncombatants.

As the world learns more about the atrocities committed against the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian law enforcement and officials throughout the West have begun the process of investigating, designating, and prosecuting these acts.

For a better understanding of this work and its challenges, The Naked Pravda spoke to four experts about war atrocities in the context of Russia?s invasion of Ukraine, focusing particularly on genocide as it?s understood both legally and in terms of history and politics. The scholars who joined this discussion:

Erin Farrell Rosenberg, an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati?s College of Law, and an attorney specializing in international criminal law and reparations Eugene Finkel, an associate professor of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University, and the author of ?Ordinary Jews: Choice and Survival during the Holocaust? Dirk Moses, a professor of Global Human Rights History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the author of ?The Problems of Genocide: Permanent Security and the Language of Transgression,? and the senior editor of the ?Journal of Genocide Research? Maria Varaki, a lecturer in international law at the War Studies Department at King?s College London, and the co-director of the War Crimes Research Group

Timestamps for the main sections of this episode:

(4:15) The legal terms used to designate mass violence and crimes in warfare, and genocide?s special legacy (36:11) How war crimes and genocide are prosecuted, establishing genocidal intent, and upholding justice (1:04:21) The politics of genocide allegations, and the consequences of taking them seriously
2022-05-22
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Resist and rebuild: Civilian life in wartime Ukraine

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The past nine weeks of all-out war have completely upended civilian life throughout Ukraine. After withdrawing from around Kyiv and Chernihiv in late March, Russian forces are ostensibly refocusing their invasion on taking Ukraine?s eastern and southern regions. With many cities, towns, and villages already in dire humanitarian situations, civilians living in these areas are faced with the difficult choice of attempting to evacuate or bracing themselves for an escalated offensive. Meanwhile, residents of the Kyiv region are clearing the wreckage Russian forces left behind and trying to adjust to a ?new normal.?

For insight into civilian life in some of Ukraine?s most wartorn areas, Meduza turned to two Ukrainian experts who have been reporting on the ground throughout the war. 

Timestamps for this episode:

(1:38) Maria Avdeeva, research director at the European Expert Association, on documenting Russian war crimes to combat disinformation and the critical humanitarian situation in Kharkiv.  (12:30) Journalist and Public Interest Journalism Lab co-founder Nataliya Gumenyuk on the atmosphere in Kyiv, how local leaders and civilian volunteers keep Ukrainian towns running, and the humanitarian situation in Ukraine?s eastern and southern regions.  (23:45) Avdeeva on why the local government in Kharkiv is clearing debris and planting flowers while still under attack.  (25:42) Avdeeva and Gumenyuk on rebuilding Ukraine after ? and during ? the war.  (31:00) Gumenyuk on what makes reporting on this war different and what she wants international audiences to know about Ukraine.
2022-04-30
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The Russian North Caucasus during the Ukraine War

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The Russian North Caucasus has played a special role in the invasion of Ukraine. Journalists estimate that at least 60 men from Dagestan died fighting for Russia by March 23, indicating that this republic had lost more soldiers, by far, than any other region in Russia. In terms of public messaging, Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov has been one of the loudest cheerleaders for the ?special operation,? rattling his saber at every opportunity and declaring the seizure of Ukrainian territories before it?s actually happened.

Across the North Caucasus, one of the most crucial factors when it comes to military service is the absence of alternatives. Unemployment is higher in this region than anywhere else in Russia. It?s the highest of all in Ingushetia, where it exceeds 30 percent.

To find out more about the war?s impact here, The Naked Pravda turned to Ingush journalist and activist Izabella Evloeva and independent political and security analyst Harold Chambers. (Also, Meduza extends a special thanks to journalist Katie Marie Davies for her assistance with dubbing parts of this episode.)

Timestamps for this episode:

(3:26) How does unemployment affect support for the war? (4:37 and 9:15) How regional leaders have responded to the invasion (6:39) The felony ?disinformation? case against Izabella Evloeva (11:11) The colonial relationship between Russia and Ingushetia (12:13) Popular attitudes about the war (13:54) Could the war go so badly for Russia that it creates unrest back home? (15:00) Ramzan Kadyrov?s changing public image
2022-04-18
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Independent journalism in Russia after the fall of the free press

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Following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian authorities imposed military censorship in all but name, annihilating the entire domestic free press. Within a week of Moscow?s ?special operation in the Donbas,? the television station Dozhd and radio station Ekho Moskvy both shut down, ending 12 and 32 years, respectively, of independent journalism. In late March, after a 28-year run, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta suspended all reporting until the end of the war, citing warnings from the federal censor. Many of the journalists who worked for these outlets have already fled Russia, but they continue their work at new platforms, on their own channels at YouTube, Telegram, and elsewhere.

For a better understanding of this new guerilla reporting, The Naked Pravda spoke to two independent journalists now operating from outside Russia to find out how they?re managing this job: Farida Rustamova (who uses Telegram and Substack) and Ekaterina Kotrikadze (on Telegram and YouTube).

Timestamps for this episode:

(2:43) Did Russian independent journalists lose the fight against Kremlin propaganda? (10:23) How has military censorship damaged the quality of reporting and information available from Russia? (18:55) Rustamova?s path to Substack. (26:52) Kotrikadze on TV Rain?s plans for the future. (36:23) Did Kotrikadze see the full-scale invasion coming?
2022-04-09
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A Russian journalist in Ukraine?s besieged city of Chernihiv

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This week?s guest is Meduza special correspondent Lilya Yapparova, who just spent several days in Chernihiv, reporting on how the Russian invasion has destroyed local families and upended residents? lives. She managed to leave the city just before Russian troops besieged it again. Now back in Kyiv, still reporting on the war, Lilya joined the podcast to talk about her latest article, ??Mom, please make it stop?: Meduza special correspondent Lilia Yapparova was in Chernihiv in the final days before Russian troops cut it off from the outside world. Here?s what she saw.?

Timestamps for this episode

(4:37) What would you ask Zelensky or Putin? (8:39) On the nature of war reporting (10:55) How does a journalist engage people who are caught in the horrors of war? What was it like to visit Chernihiv and report on events there? (15:47) Do Ukrainians treat Russian journalists as ?aggressors?? Is there anti-Russian hostility from ordinary Ukrainians? (18:17) The return of the barter economy, and the greatest true romance story ever told (21:38) What are some of the internal conflicts among the Ukrainians defending the cities now under Russian onslaught? (26:14) Will Ukrainians ever forgive the Russian people for this war?
2022-04-02
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Telegram and the future of Russian Internet freedom

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We?re now more than three weeks deep into Moscow?s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and many are asking the question: What information is still reaching Russians? Unless you?re using a VPN to tunnel beneath the state?s censorship, Instagram is blocked, Facebook is blocked, Twitter is blocked, and YouTube is probably next. The independent news media is in tatters, and it looks like the main social networks left standing will be domestic services like Odnoklassniki and Vkontakte, which enforce the Kremlin?s political censorship ? and then there?s Telegram.

For a better understanding of what this means for Russia?s information space ? focusing particularly on Russians? increased reliance on Telegram ? The Naked Pravda welcomes back Dr. Tanya Lokot, an associate professor in Digital Media and Society at the School of Communications at Dublin City University in Ireland, and Dr. Mariëlle Wijermars, an assistant professor in Cyber-Security and Politics at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The two scholars recently coauthored an article published in the journal Post-Soviet Affairs, titled, ?Is Telegram a ?Harbinger of Freedom?? The Performance, Practices, and Perception of Platforms as Political Actors in Authoritarian States.?

Timestamps for this episode:

(4:02) Is Telegram a ?harbinger of freedom?? (5:05) How does Telegram?s lack of moderation potentially endanger vulnerable groups? (8:10) How vulnerable are Telegram users to government snooping? (11:06) Why do users stick with Telegram if there are serious security concerns about the service? (13:16) On Telegram head Pavel Durov?s mixed messages in Ukraine (17:30) Are the U.S. social media giants any better? (20:32) Revisiting Telegram during the 2020?2021 Belarusian protests (21:11) What content is available on Telegram during Russia?s invasion of Ukraine? (26:36) That year between 2018 and 2019 when Russia ?blocked? Telegram (31:10) What?s next for the RuNet?
2022-03-20
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Russia?s looming financial collapse ? a return to the 1990s or 1918?

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In the days since Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Western world has imposed crippling economic sanctions on Russia designed to force extreme costs on the Kremlin for its aggression. In the Biden administration?s words, the measures will ?weaken the Russian defense sector and its military power for years to come and target Russia?s most important sources of wealth.?

Russian economy expert and Foreign Policy Research Institute fellow Maximilian Hess says he worries that the looming financial collapse in Moscow could resemble 1918 more than the 1990s. He joins this week?s episode of The Naked Pravda to explain what he means.

Timestamps for this episode:

(4:25) How bad could this get? (8:03) Floating currency and frozen stock trading (11:01) The return of a planned economy? (12:41) Shortages of critical products (15:32) What?s the message behind the sanctions? (19:58) Russia?s retaliatory options
2022-03-07
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Putin vs. Ukrainian history

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On February 21, Vladimir Putin delivered a nearly hour-long televised lecture on Soviet history, describing what he clearly believes are the flimsy foundations of Ukrainian statehood and arguing that the government in Kyiv owes its territory today to the supposed generosity of the Bolsheviks, particularly Vladimir Lenin.

To assess this presentation of Ukrainian and Soviet history, Meduza spoke to Dr. Faith Hillis, a professor of Russian history at the University of Chicago, where she specializes in 19th and 20th century politics, culture, and ideas, exploring specifically how Russia's peculiar political institutions ? and its status as a multiethnic empire ? shaped public opinion and political cultures. Her most recent book, ?Utopia?s Discontents: Russian Exiles and the Quest for Freedom, 1830?1930,? is the first synthetic history of the Russian revolutionary emigration before the revolution of 1917.

Timestamps for this episode:

(3:21) Why history is almost irrelevant to what is happening on the ground in Ukraine today (7:57) Moscow?s ?gifts? to Ukraine (12:08) How the Bolsheviks reconstituted the empire (19:08) Ukrainian civic identity and ?code-switching?
2022-02-26
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Thirty years of U.S. ambassadors in Moscow

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Meduza spoke to the two hosts of a special project organized by the Monterey Initiative in Russian Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. In roughly 16 hours of interviews, ?The Ambassadorial Series? features in-depth conversations with eight of the living former U.S. ambassadors to Russia and the Soviet Union, each featuring personal reflections and recollections on high-stakes negotiations, as well as discussions about a range of geopolitical issues that still dog today?s relations between Moscow and Washington.

The Naked Pravda asked the two women who hosted the interviews, Jill Dougherty (an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, a fellow at the Wilson Center, and CNN?s former Moscow bureau chief) and Dr. Hanna Notte (a senior research associate at the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non?Proliferation), what they learned from talking to the ambassadors who represented America in Moscow over the past three decades.

Timestamps for this week?s episode:

(3:06) How ?The Ambassadorial Series? came together. (4:49) What sets apart 1990s U.S.-Russian diplomacy. (11:39) Key inflection points over the past 30 years. (18:45) Lessons that stand out in U.S. ambassadors? recollections. (23:00) The death and rebirth of Kremlinology in the Information Age.
2022-02-12
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The contemporary cultures of Eastern Europe?s breakaway states

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Three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Eastern European breakaway states of Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia exist in a sort of geopolitical limbo. Born out of wars that ended in deadlocks in the early 1990s, these self-governing regions remain unrecognized by most of the world and dependent on Russia?s backing. This isolation presents a unique set of challenges for cultural creatives living and working in these regions, as well as for journalists trying to help them tell their stories to the wider world. To find out more about the evolving contemporary cultures of Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia, The Naked Pravda turns to Calvert Journal features editor Katie Marie Davies. 

Timestamps for this week?s episode:

(2:19) Summarizing recent analysis and expert opinions from Michael Kofman, Leonid Bershidsky, Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrey Kortunov, Alexander Baunov, and Vladimir Denisov. (7:11) The Kadyrov regime?s war on the Yangulbayev family in Chechnya. (9:18) A new documentary film about Alexey Navalny, and Russia?s continued crackdown on the imprisoned opposition leader?s anti-corruption movement. (10:47) After German regulators pull the plug on Russia Today, Moscow responds by kicking out Deutsche Welle. (12:02) Calvert Journal features editor Katie Marie Davies discusses the challenges faced by creatives building new cultures in Eastern Europe?s breakaway states. 
2022-02-05
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Everyday life under Kremlin brinkmanship

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January 2022 kicked off with a flurry of tense diplomatic talks between Russian and Western officials. Moscow is seeking wide-ranging security guarantees in Europe, while simultaneously massing upwards of 100,000 troops along its Western border. The buildup has provoked international concern that Russia plans to escalate the long-simmering conflict in the Donbas into a full-fledged war, leaving the United States and NATO scrambling to deter a potential re-invasion of Ukraine. 

With both Russia and Ukraine making international headlines daily, and the conflict in the Donbas entering its eighth year, Meduza speaks to two journalists, one in Ukraine and the other in Russia, about how ordinary people in these two countries view the prospect of an all-out war.

Timestamps for this week?s episode:

(2:29) Journalist and media manager Angelina Karyakina, head of news at UA:PBC and co-founder of the Public Interest Journalism Lab, answers questions about the mood on the ground in Ukraine amid the looming threat of increased Russian aggression. (19:36) Moscow-based freelance journalist Uliana Pavlova discusses her experience reporting on the complex question of how the Russian population views the Kremlin?s brinkmanship. 
2022-01-22
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Russia's peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan and security demands in Europe

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In the past two weeks, Russia has demonstrated its capacity to project military power at different corners of its periphery, sending troops to Kazakhstan for a small but symbolic peacekeeping operation and pressing sweeping security demands in Europe, where the West has accused the Kremlin of plotting a war of aggression against Ukraine. The Naked Pravda reviews three essays by political analysts in Russia about the nation?s evolving geopolitics and speaks to two experts about the events in Kazakhstan and changing dialogue between Moscow and Washington.

Timestamps for this week?s episode:

(5:22) Reviewing National Research University Higher School of Economics International Relations deputy director Dmitry Novikov?s January 9, 2022, essay on how many in Moscow already see Joe Biden as a lame duck president. (6:44) Reviewing Russian International Affairs Council director-general Andrey Kortunov?s January 4, 2022, essay about the fundamental ?discrepancies? today between Russian and Western worldviews. (9:24) Reviewing PIR-Center consultant Alexander Kolbin?s January 12, 2022, essay on Russia?s struggle against ?self-censorship? and fight for a ?legitimate basis? for its own ?cultural, economic, and military expansion.? (13:09) EurasiaNet Central Asia editor Peter Leonard answers questions about the CSTO peacekeeping mission in Kazakhstan and about how the nation?s political system compares to Russia?s. (25:44) Russia in Global Affairs editor-in-chief Fyodor Lukyanov discusses the logic behind Moscow?s grievances in Europe and the tensions still escalating in Ukraine.
2022-01-14
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The best English-language journalism and scholarly work on Russia in 2021

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On this week?s show, The Naked Pravda looks back at some of the journalism and scholarly work in 2021 that made significant contributions to our knowledge about Russia. These nine articles feature incredible fieldwork, insights into how power works in Russia, and compelling stories that you might have missed over the year. Meduza spoke to the authors of three of these articles ? Julia Ioffe, Pjotr Sauer, and Maria Danilova ? and we asked historian Sean Guillory of The SRB Podcast for his five favorite scholarly books on Russia and the Soviet Union released in 2021.

Timestamps for this week?s episode:

(3:15) ?A Black Communist?s Disappearance in Stalin?s Russia: What Happened to Lovett Fort-Whiteman, the Only Known African American to Die in the Gulag?? by Joshua Yaffa (The New Yorker) (6:25) ?Climate Change Is Melting Russia?s Permafrost ? and Challenging Its Oil Economy? by Ann Simmons and Georgi Kantchev (The Wall Street Journal) (8:58) ?On a Pacific Island, Russia Tests Its Battle Plan for Climate Change? by Anton Troianovski (The New York Times) (11:51) ?The Great Russian Oil Heist: Criminals, Lawmen, and the Quest for Liquid Loot? by Sergei Khazov-Cassia (RFE/RL) (15:47) ?Inside Wagnergate: Ukraine?s Brazen Sting Operation to Snare Russian Mercenaries? by Christo Grozev, with contributions from Aric Toler, Pieter van Huis, and Yordan Tsalov (Bellingcat) (21:48) ?Lyubov Sobol?s Hope for Russia? by Masha Gessen (The New Yorker) (28:05) Meduza speaks to Julia Ioffe about her story, ??These Bastards Will Never See Our Tears?: How Yulia Navalnaya Became Russia?s Real First Lady? (Vanity Fair) (45:22) Meduza talks to Pjotr Sauer about his investigation, ?A Royal Mark Up: How an Emirati Sheikh Resells Millions of Russian Vaccines to the Developing World,? coauthored with Jake Cordell and Felix Light (The Moscow Times) (54:07) Meduza asks Maria Danilova about her report, ?Russia Has an Opioid Crisis Too ? One of Untreated Pain? (Vice) (1:04:11) Sean Guillory discusses ?Cold War Correspondents: Soviet and American Reporters on the Ideological Frontlines? by Dina Fainberg (1:10:09) Sean talks about ?Utopia?s Discontents: Russian Émigrés and the Quest for Freedom, 1830s-1930s? by Faith Hillis (1:14:05) Sean recommends ?Navalny: Putin?s Nemesis, Russia?s Future?? by Jan Matti Dollbaum, Morvan Lallouet, and Ben Noble. (1:18:32) Sean recalls why he loved ?Flowers Through Concrete: Explorations in Soviet Hippieland? by Juliane Fürst (1:22:05) Sean ends his list with ?The Things of Life: Materiality in Late Soviet Russia? by Alexey Golubev (1:24:03) Closing remarks and a reminder to contribute to Meduza if you?re not already doing so!

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-12-29
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Human rights law in Russia

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The lawyers and journalists who worked with the Team 29 project specialized in Russia?s most hopeless political prosecutions ? the treason case against journalist Ivan Safronov, the extremism charges against Alexey Navalny?s Anti-Corruption movement, and dozens more indictments all but doomed to convictions. Earlier this year, the project was forced to disband after Russia?s federal censor started blocking its website. In November 2021, the Justice Ministry designated Team 29?s former members as ?foreign agents? and many of those people subsequently fled the country. Valeria Vetoshkina, today?s guest on The Naked Pravda, is one of those people. 

Timestamps for this week?s episode:

(0:00) Filmmaker Alexander Sokurov lectures Vladimir Putin about Russia?s ?constitutional crisis? (4:23) Analysts and experts battle in op-ed columns and online over the right strategy in Ukraine (6:46) Moving closer into the Kremlin?s orbit than ever, the social network Vkontakte gets new owners (11:02) The head of Russia?s Federal Investigative Committee has no sense of humor and no patience for exoneration (13:21) Human rights lawyer Valeria Vetoshkina, a former member of the now dissolved Team 29 project, describes her education in law school and the state of her field in Russia today

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-12-12
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Russia?s ASAT missile test

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Earlier this week, events in space flirted with a real-life adaptation of Alfonso Cuarón?s 2013 motion picture ?Gravity? when the Russian military blew up an inoperative Soviet satellite that had been orbiting the Earth since the early 1980s. Moscow insists that the debris didn?t get within 40 kilometers (25 miles) of the International Space Station, but NASA says the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard ISS were awakened early and ordered to retreat to their docked spacecraft in case an impact prompted an evacuation. U.S. officials say they?ve tracked 1,500 pieces of orbital debris caused by the Soviet satellite?s destruction, but there are likely ?hundreds of thousands? more smaller pieces that also endanger anything or anyone in their path. According to NASA, this trash will circle the Earth for decades, posing a constant threat to the operations of all spacefaring nations. Russia says the Americans are a bunch of hypocrites.

To shed some light on Russia?s weapons test, independent analyst and disarmament expert Pavel Podvig to returns to The Naked Pravda.

Timestamps for this week?s episode:

(6:09) Standup comedy in Russia: reviewing Denis Chuzhoi?s new special, and Vera Kotelnikova weighs the usefulness of speaking up for persecuted colleagues (10:17) Corruption news: Crimea arrests its potty-mouthed culture minister, Mediazona investigates two possibly wrongfully jailed police officers outside Rostov, and Novaya Gazeta unearths an honest judge in Chelyabinsk (13:47) Pavel Podvig joins the show

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-11-19
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Russian gas in Europe

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Our main story this week is Russia?s place in Europe?s energy crisis. Political risk analyst Nick Trickett, the author of the OGs and OFZs newsletter, joins the podcast to explain what consumers want from Moscow, why being a ?swing producer? is inherently political, and how inflation endangers ordinary Russians.

Timestamps for this week?s episode:

(3:28) Law enforcement news: Hooded thugs disrupt a film screening at Memorial, and police arrest a prominent university administrator (9:46) Culture wars: Parents in St. Petersberg oust a biology teacher for using Instagram to share sex ed, and comedians in North Ossetia apologize in tears for a suggestive joke about ?thigh pie? (13:48) Nick Trickett breaks down Russia?s place in Europe?s energy crisis, focusing on gas deals and inflation

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-10-16
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The arrest of Russian cybersecurity titan Ilya Sachkov

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Our main story this week is the treason case against Ilya Sachkov, the 35-year-old CEO of the cybersecurity firm Group-IB. On Wednesday morning, September 29, hours after officials raided the company?s Moscow office, a local court jailed Sachkov for the next two months, pending trial. That will likely be extended several times, as the authorities collect more evidence. The Naked Pravda explores why Sachkov may have been arrested and asks what his case means for Russia?s cybersecurity industry and Moscow?s troubled cooperation with the United States against cybercrime.

Timestamps for this week?s episode:

(2:12) Developments in Russia?s expanding regulation of ?foreign agents? (7:57) A blogger?s scandalous offense, plus RT enlists the might of Russia?s federal censor in its battle with YouTube (13:00) Dr. Josephine Wolff, an associate professor of cybersecurity policy at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (16:58) Dr. Julien Nocetti, an associate fellow at the French Institute of International Relations (19:45) RFE/RL journalist Mike Eckel

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-10-02
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The clash over Moscow?s electronic voting

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Earlier this month, Moscow was one of just a few regions in Russia to offer electronic voting in three-day parliamentary elections. In the capital, multiple opposition candidates led in-person voting but ultimately lost when electronic votes were added late to the final tallies. In the week since the voting ended, the campaign teams for several losing candidates have compiled and presented evidence that they say proves voter fraud in the online ballots. 

The Naked Pravda returns for its second season with interviews featuring economist Dr. Tatiana Mikhailova and BBC Russia reporter Liza Fokht in an episode devoted to assessing the opposition?s claims of electronic voter fraud.

The show begins with a roundup of news stories from the week (cases of censorship in Russia and commentary in the Russian media about life in the West). Dr. Mikhailova joins the podcast at 13:31 and Liza Fokht?s remarks begin at 22:32.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-09-25
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Returned to Chechnya and paraded on TV: Khalimat Taramova?s story

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Khalimat Taramova is only 22 years old, but she?s been through a lot, especially in the past two weeks. Kept under lock and key at home in Chechnya, her family beats her and even forced her to undergo so-called ?conversion therapy.? Taramova identifies as bisexual. Last month, she reached out to a prominent LGBT rights group begging them to help her reach safety. On June 6, when she got to a women?s shelter in Dagestan, a couple of hours outside Chechnya, it seemed like she was finally safe. She wasn?t. 

For a better understanding of Taramova?s case and its broader context in Chechnya, The Naked Pravda spoke to human rights professionals Veronika Lapina, executive advocacy and international litigation advisor to the Russian LGBT Network, and Vanessa Kogan, the director of the Russian Justice Initiative.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-06-18
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A Russian ad agency?s war on the Pfizer vaccine

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Last week, investigative journalists at Meduza and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty revealed that a Russian marketing firm recently tried to recruit European bloggers in a secret media campaign to smear Pfizer?s coronavirus vaccine. To find out more about these solicitations and to learn how this fits into Russian politics, The Naked Pravda spoke to Meduza investigations head Alexey Kovalev and RFE/RL journalists Mark Krutov and Carl Schreck.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-06-04
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What?s treason in Ukraine today? The case against Viktor Medvedchuk

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On May 13, a Ukrainian court placed pro-Kremlin oligarch and lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk under round-the-clock house arrest pending trial for high treason. The country?s Prosecutor General had signed off on the charges two days earlier, indicting not only Medvedchuk, but also his closest ally and fellow lawmaker, Taras Kozak, in connection with three episodes of illegal activity. 

Both politicians belong to Opposition Platform ? For Life, a pro-Russian opposition party that holds 44 seats in the Ukrainian parliament. But Medvedchuk is perhaps best known for his murky business dealings and personal ties to Vladimir Putin (the Russian president is said to be the godfather of Medvedchuk?s youngest daughter). 

The treason charges came a few months after the Ukrainian authorities imposed sanctions on Kozak and Medvedchuk for allegedly financing terrorism. As part of these sanctions, Kozak?s three pro-Russian television channels were taken off the air. The Ukrainian authorities also sanctioned Medvedchuk?s wife and froze the couples? assets for three years.

Medvedchuk has denied all of the allegations, claiming that the charges are politically motivated. That said, prosecuting Medvedchuk coincides with other steps the Ukrainian government is taking to combat corruption and oligarchic influence. Moreover, this is happening at a time when President Volodymyr Zelensky appears to be changing his stance on Russia and his approach to resolving the conflict with Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine?s east. 

To discuss Viktor Medvedchuk?s Kremlin ties and his place in the Ukrainian political landscape, as well as what the Zelensky government is doing to combat oligarchic influence in Ukraine, ?The Naked Pravda? turned to independent journalist and disinformation researcher Olga Tokariuk, a freelance correspondent in Kyiv for the Spanish EFE news agency.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-05-15
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?Foreign agents? in Russia and the United States

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As you may have learned from the crowdfunding banners now adorning this website, the Russian authorities designated Meduza as a ?foreign agent? on April 23. Our new status in Russia has chased away advertisers and deprived us of revenue, endangering Meduza?s continued existence.

That?s the sad truth of our situation right now, but what does it mean to be a ?foreign agent? in Russia? How does it change life and daily business for individuals, NGOs, and media outlets? Russian lawmakers argue that these regulations are Moscow?s response to similar rules and restrictions in the United States, but does that comparison stand up to scrutiny?

To answer these questions and more, ?The Naked Pravda? turned to Middlesex University London Associate Lecturer in Journalism Dr. Sasha Raspopina, Higher School of Economics Associate Professor Dr. Dmitry Dubrovsky, ?Memorial? Human Rights Center lawyer Marina Agaltsova, and journalist Casey Michel, whose forthcoming book, ?American Kleptocracy,? is due out this November.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-05-08
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Spies, student journalists, and life behind bars: A blowup in Moscow?s relations with Prague, the felony case against ?Doxa,? and conditions in Russian prisons

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A lot has happened this month. On the world stage, Russia?s relations with the Czech Republic started unraveling on April 17, when officials in Prague accused Russian military intelligence agents of destroying ammunition depots seven years ago in explosions that killed two people. Three days before that bombshell dropped, police officers in Moscow raided the newsroom of the student journal Doxa, as well as the homes of four editors, who are now under house arrest, pending felony charges that could land them in prison for three years. Meanwhile, one of the biggest domestic news stories of the last week was Alexey Navalny?s hunger strike and his health status in prison.

This week?s episode of ?The Naked Pravda? takes on all three of these stories, turning to a different guest for each subject. Bellingcat Research and Training Director Aric Toler explains what we know, so far, about the Russian spies? activities in the Czech Republic; Doxa editor Mstislav Grivachov describes what his student journal does and why the Moscow police have come for its staff; and Ksenia Runova, a junior researcher at the Institute for the Rule of Law at the European University at St. Petersburg, illustrates what it?s like to end up incarcerated in Russia.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-04-24
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?Sweeping new authority?: What it means to sanction Russia?s sovereign debt

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This week, the Biden administration rolled out the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Russia, slapping Moscow (yet again) with a series of targeted measures to punish the Kremlin for alleged election meddling, hacking, and military aggression. The U.S. Treasury Department identified a few dozen persons and entities, freezing any of their assets in the United States and banning Americans from doing business with them. Russia soon followed suit with its own set of countersanctions, while simultaneously launching an effort to liquidate Alexey Navalny?s nationwide anti-corruption apparatus.

Acknowledging the diplomatic significance of these decisions, arguably the most important aspect of these new measures is the expansion of U.S. restrictions on the market for Russian sovereign debt. To find out exactly how American sanctions can affect Russia?s macroeconomic financial flows, ?The Naked Pravda? turned to Maximilian Hess, a political risk expert and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and Dr. Maria Shagina, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Eastern European Studies at the University of Zurich and a member of the Geneva International Sanctions Network at the Graduate Institute.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-04-17
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The quiet game: How scientists in Siberia tried to conceal pollution research

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Last month, the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences decided to withhold public access to new research on atmospheric and soil pollution in cities throughout the region. The discussion about burying the ?alarmist? report was streamed on YouTube, however, and the academy?s effort to purge the footage from the Internet only drew the public?s attention.

To try to understand why a group of prestigious scientists would question open-source data about pollution levels in Siberia, Meduza turned to science writer Elia Kabanov and physicist and environmentalist Yaroslav Nikitenko. (Please note that Nikitenko refers to the Russian Academy of Sciences at one point in the show as a federal agency. In fact, the academy is now a federal budget organization. Meduza apologizes for the confusion.)

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-04-10
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Transnational Repression 101: How Russia goes after its citizens abroad

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When it comes to carrying out repressions, the Russian government?s reach isn?t limited by its own borders. The Kremlin is known for going after perceived enemies abroad ? especially former ?insiders? and members of the political opposition. In recent years, high-profile assassinations linked to Russian agents have made headlines around the world, and Moscow has developed a reputation for abusing the Interpol notice system.

At the same time, those who flee Russia?s Chechen Republic are particularly at risk. Under regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov, this sub-national regime has carried out a unique and concerted campaign to control the Chechen diaspora. Moreover, asylum seekers from the Russian North Caucasus who seek refuge in European countries are now faced with rising xenophobia, as well as tightening migration policies that threaten to send them back to Russia.

To find out more about how the Russian ? and Chechen ? authorities carry out repressive activities beyond Russia?s borders, ?The Naked Pravda? spoke to Nate Schenkkan, director for research strategy at Freedom House, and Kateryna Sergatskova, the editor-in-chief of Zaborona Media.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-03-27
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Putin the Killer: What Joe Biden?s pronouncement means in U.S.-Russian diplomatic history

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In an interview published on March 17, U.S. President Joe Biden said he considers Vladimir Putin to be a ?killer,? prompting the Russian president to respond a day later with a schoolyard retort that translates loosely to the phrase: ?Look who?s talking!? In what sounded more like a threat than a salutation, Putin also wished his American counterpart good health.

Pretty strong language for the leaders of the two greatest nuclear powers on Earth! But how does this rhetoric compare to recent and Cold War history? Is this the worst thing an American president has ever said publicly about a Russian leader? If so, does that mean the relationship between Moscow and Washington has never been worse? How does it compare to the days when the United States and the Soviet Union used to point thousands of nukes at each other? 

For answers, Meduza turned to Sergey Radchenko, a professor of international relations at Cardiff University and an expert in Soviet and Chinese foreign policies, atomic diplomacy, and the history of Cold War crises. Dr. Radchenko argues that things have certainly been worse between Russians and Americans, but politicians on both sides seem to have lost something that sustained smoother relations in those more troubled times.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-03-20
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Russia?s failed Twitter throttle

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Russia and Twitter haven?t really gotten along for years now. In fact, since 2017, federal censors at Roskomnadzor (RKN) have filed more than 28,000 takedown requests with the social network, and the agency complains that Twitter still grants Russian users access to 3,168 of these materials containing supposedly illegal information. In retaliation against this insubordination, RKN started throttling local Twitter traffic on March 10, 2021, leveraging the country?s growing arsenal of deep-packet-inspection systems to reduce the bandwidth available to Twitter in Russia. The policy has failed to disrupt the service for many Russian users, however, adding to RKN?s list of unsuccessful censorship efforts against major foreign companies.

For a better grasp of what happened and what went wrong, Meduza turned to Tanya Lokot, an associate professor in digital media and society at Dublin City University?s School of Communications, and Mariëlle Wijermars, an assistant professor in cyber-security and politics at Maastricht University and a visiting researcher at the University of Helsinki?s Aleksanteri Institute.

2021-03-13
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Xenophobes and xenomorphs: A look back at Cold War science fiction

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In a time when intergalactic superheroes dominate global box offices and capture the imaginations of millions of people around the world, what do we see when we look back at the science fiction of the Cold War? What is gained and what is obscured by comparing the films and literature created by the two superpowers of the early Space Age? And what did it feel like to watch those movies and read those books back then? What?s the legacy of these remarkable creations?

To explore this subject and attempt some answers, ?The Naked Pravda? turned to Anindita Banerjee, an associate professor of comparative literature at Cornell University, where she chairs the humanities concentration in the Environment and Sustainability Program and wears several other academic and administrative hats. Dr. Banerjee explained the pitfalls of Americans? Hollywood obsession and described her own introduction to Alexander Belayev?s 1928 science fiction adventure novel, ?Amphibian Man,? which Soviet filmmaker Vladimir Chebotaryov later adapted into the 1962 Soviet blockbuster motion picture. Journalist Slava Malamud, who?s entertained and educated mass audiences on Twitter with long threads about Soviet themes in cinema, also returns to the podcast to recall his experiences as a viewer of domestic and Hollywood sci-fi movies in the USSR in the 1980s.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-03-05
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Under pressure: The evolving Belarusian opposition movement versus Lukashenko?s embattled regime

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Belarus has seen ongoing protests since August 2020, when election officials declared that Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) had won his sixth consecutive presidential term. The mass demonstrations were met with a violent police crackdown, and several members of the opposition were thrown in prison.

Pressure and threats from the authorities drove other opposition figures to flee the country, including Svetlana Tikhanovskaya (Svyatlana Tsikhanousakaya), who emerged as Lukashenko?s main political rival during the 2020 campaign season. Tikhanovskaya is now living in exile and leading the unified opposition from Lithuania, and her role both Belarusian and international politics has changed significantly in the last six months. 

Back in Belarus, the authorities have been carrying out widespread repressions, targeting independent media and civil society organizations. At the same time, police brutality and the onset of winter has led opposition protesters to adopt new tactics for expressing their discontent. And although some analysts maintain that the opposition movement has stalled, others are predicting the return of large-scale demonstrations in the spring.

To find out more about how the opposition movement in Belarus has evolved and how Lukashenko?s regime has managed to withstand six months of protests, ?The Naked Pravda? talked to Belarusian journalist Hanna Liubakova, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council think tank, and Maryia Rohava, a doctoral researcher at the University of Oslo, whose research focuses on symbolic politics and identity in post-Soviet autocracies.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-02-26
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Arms control treaties aren?t for friends: The difficult diplomacy of today?s U.S.-Russian negotiations

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Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden recently had their first presidential phone call ? a conversation that paved the way for a renewal of the New START Treaty (the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty reached in April 2010 between presidents Obama and Medvedev). But most other arms control agreements between Moscow and Washington have expired or collapsed in years past, so what?s the future of these diplomatic efforts going forward?

For answers, ?The Naked Pravda? turns to two experts in this field: Olga Oliker, the Director of the International Crisis Group?s Europe and Central Asia Program, and Pavel Podvig, an independent analyst based in Geneva, where he runs his research project, ?Russian Nuclear Forces,? and works as a senior research fellow at the UN Institute for Disarmament Research and as a researcher with the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-02-13
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Fighting the ?crooks and thieves?: Alexey Navalny?s anti-corruption politics

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For the last six months, Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny has been making headlines both in Russia and abroad. His near-fatal poisoning in August 2020 provoked international outcry and his immediate arrest upon returning to Russia after spending months recovering in Germany sparked a wave of protests that brought people to the streets countrywide. 

With Navalny in jail, his supporters and associates sprang into action. The day after his arrest, his Anti-Corruption Foundation published an investigation about a billion-ruble palace allegedly built for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, his ?Team Navalny? offices in cities across Russia worked to organize the demonstrations calling for his release.

Nevertheless, on February 2, a Russian court sentenced Navalny to nearly three years in prison ? as Meduza recorded this show, law enforcement in Moscow and St. Petersburg were detaining protesters opposing his sentence en masse.

To assess the broader impact of Navalny?s anti-corruption work and his influence on politics in Russia, ?The Naked Pravda? spoke to Ilya Lozovsky, a senior editor at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and Yana Gorokhovskaia, an independent researcher focusing on politics and civil society in Russia.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-02-06
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Putin?s people: Money in the bank and a palace by the sea

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In December 2010, a St. Petersburg businessman named Sergey Kolesnikov penned a nifty four-page open letter to then-President Dmitry Medvedev, outlining how a glorious palace built for Vladimir Putin came to be. The details of this seemingly ancient document are now familiar again thanks to a massive investigative report released this week by the opposition figure Alexey Navalny, who survived an attempted assassination last year only to be jailed last weekend after returning home to Moscow.

As Meduza recorded this show, cities across Russia were hours away from planned protests in support of Navalny, who timed his investigation into Putin?s palace to land exactly as the world watches to see how his movement mobilizes against his incarceration.

To learn more about how the Kremlin?s slush funds operate in Russia and abroad, how Vladimir Putin allegedly amassed a fortune in secret, and how the president?s early days in KGB still influence Russian politics, ?The Naked Pravda? turned to Catherine Belton, a special correspondent at Reuters and the author of the 2020 book ?Putin?s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West.?

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-01-23
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How Russia is ruled: Debt and vertical control across towns and industries

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Thanks to Russia?s recent constitutional amendments, local self-government has effectively lost its independence. State officials at all levels are now accountable, one way or another, to the president. Dramatic as these changes seem on paper, the reforms, in fact, formally recognize what has long been true in reality: appointed ?city managers? have largely replaced the country?s elected mayors. But Russia?s ?power vertical? relies on more than just political appointments.

To learn about the other levers at the Kremlin?s disposal, Meduza turned to Yuval Weber, the Bren Chair of Russian Military and Political Strategy at Marine Corps University?s Krulak Center and a Research Assistant Professor at Texas A&M?s Bush School in Washington, DC. Dr. Weber is the author of a forthcoming book, titled ?The Russian Economy,? about how economic reform efforts in Russia follow similar trajectories even among different types of government.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2021-01-01
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Revisiting the poisoning of Vladimir Kara-Murza

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There have been major breakthroughs in the investigative reporting surrounding the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, whom the Federal Security Service allegedly tried to assassinate in August 2020. As Meduza has reported previously, Navalny?s case is part of a long, grim trend in Russia. In recent weeks, thanks to investigative work by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalists Mike Eckel and Carl Schreck, there is also new information available involving another apparent poisoning victim in Russia, the oppositionist Vladimir Kara-Murza.

In December 2015, six months after Kara-Murza?s first hospitalization, he filed a police report claiming that someone had tried to kill him using poison. Two years later, after he was hospitalized a second time with another sudden and mysterious illness, the FBI in the United States, where Kara-Murza lives, got involved, but the bloodwork results based on samples provided by Kara-Murza?s family were classified. Kara-Murza is still trying to obtain these records through litigation in America.

To learn more about the case, ?The Naked Pravda? asked RFE/RL journalists Mike Eckel and Carl Schreck some burning questions about their investigation.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-12-25
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Follow the money: What monetary policy and banking say about Russian politics

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Even if you follow news in Russia regularly, you might be unaware or only vaguely aware that Russia?s Central Bank printed an enormous sum of money over the past decade in a sweeping campaign to restructure the country?s major banks and liquidate smaller failing financial institutions. In a recent joint investigative report, Meduza and its media partners spoke to sources and obtained testimony from witnesses who described major abuses of authority by banking executives and senior regulatory officials.

For further discussion about these events, and for more background and context about Russian monetary policy, ?The Naked Pravda? turns to two experts: Tom Adshead, the director of research at Macro-Advisory Ltd. (an independent strategic advisory and macro analytics firm), and Stephanie Petrella, the editor-in-chief of BMB Russia and Ukraine and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute?s Eurasia program. 

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-12-12
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Maia Sandu?s win and what it means for Moldova

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On November 15, Moldovan citizens at home and abroad came out in record-breaking numbers to cast their ballots in the run-off vote of the country?s 2020 presidential elections. In the end, former Prime Minister Maia Sandu defeated incumbent President Igor Dodon, becoming Moldova?s very first woman president-elect. 

Taking place amid the coronavirus pandemic, the campaign season was plagued by divisive political rhetoric and fake news. Meanwhile, international media framed the race as a battle between a pro-EU, anti-corruption candidate (Sandu) and a corrupt, pro-Russian incumbent (Dodon). But was this election really about the country?s geo-political direction?

To fill in the backstory and find out what we can expect from Maia Sandu during her presidency, ?The Naked Pravda? talks to four experts on Moldova about the country?s socio-political landscape, the 2020 vote, and the future of Chisinau?s foreign policy.

Gina S. Lentine, Senior Program Officer for Europe and Eurasia at Freedom House, on how the pandemic impacted the Moldovan elections.Journalist Alina Radu, CEO and co-founder of the independent, investigative weekly Ziarul de Garda, reflects on investigative reporting under lockdown and the fight against fake news.  Ana Indoitu, Director of the Chisinau-based non-profit INVENTO, discusses the main candidates? attitudes towards young people and civil society. Assistant Professor Ellie Knott from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) argues that geopolitics is often a veil for transnational corruption. 

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Fridays (or sometimes Saturdays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-11-28
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Is it Putin or is it Russia? The causes of today?s bad vibes between Moscow and the West.

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Back in early October, Meduza learned about a whole archive of transcripts between members of the Clinton administration and Vladimir Putin, dated between 1999 and 2001 ? records that were first declassified and published by the Clinton Digital Library in August 2019. We wrote three feature stories based on these archives, highlighting and contextualizing some of the more memorable exchanges between Moscow and Washington. Comparing these conversations to the rhetoric that?s common now, the radically different flavor of today?s diplomacy is apparent.

For a better understanding of how this relationship soured so dramatically, ?The Naked Pravda? turns to three experts on Russian foreign policy and international relations:

(3:13) Stanford University political scientist and former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul describes meeting Vladimir Putin almost 30 years ago and watching his ideology evolve over the decades. (9:58) Cardiff University International Relations Professor Sergey Radchenko argues that there?s more continuity between the Yeltsin and Putin administrations than some scholars like to admit. (15:39) Dr. Carol Saivetz, a senior advisor in the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, describes how Putin lost faith in the West and democracy itself by trying and failing to get the partnership he expected.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-11-21
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The Nagorno-Karabakh truce: What to expect in the years that follow a bloody six-week war

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A six-week war in Nagorno-Karabakh has ended disastrously for Armenia. Judging by the map, the situation on the ground will revert mostly to the conditions in place before Yerevan?s 1991 war with Baku, leaving Azerbaijani artillery perched just outside the breakaway republic?s capital city and the 50,000 souls who call it home. The big difference this time around is the presence of Russian peacekeepers ? about 2,000 of them ? who will be there to monitor a Kremlin-brokered truce. Not formally part of the trilateral settlement but still very much involved in the conflict is Turkey, which is expected to field its own monitors in Azerbaijan, albeit outside the Karabakh region.

For a better understanding of the violence that took place in this area since late September, and to explore what it means to have won or lost in this war, ?The Naked Pravda? turned to three experts:

(3:15) Neil Hauer, a Canadian journalist based in the Caucasus who's reported extensively on conflicts in Georgia, Syria, and Nagorno-Karabakh, describes the mood now in Armenia and Yerevan?s plans for Karabakh?s future. (8:31) Richard Giragosian, the director of the Regional Studies Center (an independent think tank based in Armenia), argues that everyone involved in the six-week war has emerged a loser, in at least some respects. (16:31) Rob Lee, a former Marine engineer officer and a current doctoral student at King?s College London, explains how drones made all the difference in the latest clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Saturdays (or sometimes Fridays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-11-14
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Keeping Up With Kyrgyzstan

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On October 5, thousands of opposition demonstrators took to the streets of Bishkek to protest the official results of Kyrgyzstan?s parliamentary elections. About a dozen different opposition parties had failed to overcome the seven percent threshold needed to get into parliament and two pro-government parties had won nearly half the seats. The protesters demanded a repeat vote and on October 6 elections officials relented and invalidated the results. 

Since then, Kyrgyzstan?s population has seen a lot more turmoil than the opposition protesters bargained for: parliament appointed a new prime minister, the president stepped down, and election officials scheduled a repeat parliamentary vote only to see it postponed indefinitely. Meanwhile, lawmakers have been pushing through legislation on changing the constitution and the country is planning to hold presidential elections in January.

So how did all of this happen in such a short period of time? ?The Naked Pravda? invited three experts on the show to speak about the lead up to the vote, the ensuing political crisis, and whether or not Russia has anything to do with it:

(2:35) Bektour Iskender, journalist and co-founder of Kloop ? an independent media organization based in Kyrgyzstan, recalls how the post-election protests escalated into an unexpected political crisis. (5:36) Dr. Erica Marat ? an associate professor at the National Defense University?s College of International Affairs in Washington D.C., whose research focuses on violence, mobilization, and security institutions in Eurasia ? explains why Sadyr Japarov?s lightning-fast rise to power can be considered a coup.  (15:30) Colleen Wood ? a doctoral candidate in political science at Columbia University, who researches civil society and identity in Central Asia ? discusses what social media reveals about social and political cleavages in Kyrgyzstan. (39:02) All three guests share their take on the Kremlin?s response to Kyrgyzstan?s political upheaval.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Fridays (or sometimes Saturdays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-10-31
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From Russia With Junk: Why the U.S. Trashed the Ventilators Shipped From Moscow

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In April 2020, Russia shipped 45 ventilator machines to New York City as part of what became a humanitarian exchange with America at the height of the Big Apple?s initial coronavirus outbreak. But what should have been a heartwarming display of cooperation in challenging times quickly became a political boondoggle. American hospitals were unable to use the lifesaving machines due to a lack of adapters to convert their required electrical voltage. Subsequently, a few weeks after the Aventa-M ventilators were delivered, several of the same models reportedly burst into flames at two hospitals in Moscow and St. Petersburg, killing six people and raising concerns about the devices? safety. 

The ventilators also became politically toxic in the United States after U.S. officials completed the equipment exchange with Russia by shipping medical supplies worth several times more than what Moscow sent to New York. Additionally, the Russian machinery?s manufacturer, ?Concern Radio-Electronic Technologies? (a Rostec subsidiary), is currently under U.S. sanctions imposed against Moscow (though White House officials say the sanctions don?t apply to medical supplies).

Just a few days ago, on October 19, BuzzFeed News correspondent Chris Miller reported that the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency ?essentially tossed [the Russian ventilators] in the trash.? To find out more about the U.S. government?s decision, ?The Naked Pravda? spoke to Chris Miller.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Fridays (or sometimes Saturdays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-10-24
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The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

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Armenia and Azerbaijan reached a fragile ceasefire agreement in Moscow on October 10 after nearly a dozen hours in negotiations. The two sides will suspend hostilities so bodies and prisoners of war can be exchanged, while diplomats from Yerevan and Baku debate a more lasting resolution.

Since the late 1980s, the fight for the Nagorno-Karabakh region has killed roughly 20,000 people and made refugees of hundreds of thousands more. Since the most recent escalation that began on September 27, 2020 (already the second resumption of hostilities this year), several hundred soldiers have reportedly died in combat, along with several dozen civilians.

?The Naked Pravda? asked four experts to explain what fuels the longest-running war on former Soviet soil:

(3:50) Thomas de Waal ? a senior fellow at Carnegie Europe, the author of ?Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War? (2003), and more recently the coauthor of ?Beyond Frozen Conflict? (2020) ? explains why the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is more dangerous than many people realize. (8:19) Jeffrey Mankoff, a distinguished research fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at U.S. National Defense University, discusses what?s happened on the ground Nagorno-Karabakh this September. (12:05) Journalist Arzu Geybulla describes growing up in Azerbaijan and falling out of favor with the government. (23:07) Kevork Oskanian, an honorary research fellow at the University of Birmingham and the co-author of ?Fear, Weakness, and Power in the Post-Soviet South Caucasus? (2013), breaks down the local political pressures in Armenia and Azerbaijan.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Fridays (or sometimes Saturdays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-10-10
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Stephen Cohen?s legacy

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The historian Stephen Cohen died on September 18 at the age of 81. Though he became something of a pariah among American Russianists in his final years, particularly after 2014 (thanks to his views on the Ukraine conflict, which often dovetailed with Kremlin talking points), Cohen was perhaps best known professionally for his 1973 biography about Nikolai Bukharin, the Bolshevik revolutionary he believed represented an alternative path for Soviet socialism that derailed into collectivization and mass violence because of Joseph Stalin. Cohen had similar misgivings about Boris Yeltsin undoing Mikhail Gorbachev?s Perestroika.

This week, Meduza published an obituary for Cohen written by Ivan Kurilla, a professor of history and international relations at European University at St. Petersburg. For another perspective on Cohen?s legacy among Russia scholars, ?The Naked Pravda? turns to historian Sean Guillory, the digital scholarship curator in the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh and a fellow podcaster.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Fridays (or sometimes Saturdays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-09-26
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Belarusian propaganda: From courting the West to taking Russia?s cues

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About a decade ago, after a temporary falling out with Vladimir Putin, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko tried to pivot his country to the West. In this endeavor, he had help from a British PR firm called ?Bell Pottinger? that once employed some of the most influential spin-doctors in the world. The campaign was a complete failure: the consultants left empty-handed and Lukashenko became an international pariah once again. In August 2020, after workers at state television and radio broadcasters in Belarus started walking off the job in protest as the police brutally dispersed opposition demonstrations, a handful of independent journalists and activists reported that whole brigades of ?strikebreakers? from Russia arrived to replace these employees.

Meduza investigative editor Alexey Kovalev researched both of these stories, discovering that the oligarch Boris Berezovsky bankrolled Lukashenko?s attempt to win over the West, and that Russian journalists now in Minsk aren?t so much replacing Belarusian journalists as they are reshaping the local media?s approach to propaganda.

Meduza also spoke to Alex Kokcharov, a country risk analyst who focuses on Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, and the Caucasus, to learn more about younger Belarusians? media diets.

?The Naked Pravda? comes out on Fridays (or sometimes Saturdays). Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at [email protected] with the subject line: ?The Naked Pravda.?

2020-09-19
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