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Exclusive: Russian Journalist Oleg Kashin On Putin’s Politics, Anti-Gay Laws And Sochi Olympics



  In this exclusive interview, well-known Russian journalist Oleg Kashin, who was nearly beaten to death in 2010, talks with The New Civil Rights Movement about Vladimir Putin, Russian politics and Russian attitudes toward gays


Oleg Kashin, formerly a special correspondent and blogger for the Russian daily newspaper and media company, Kommersant, is well known for his bold reporting on Russian politics and business. Kashin was nearly beaten to death in 2010 over his political reporting. Kashin now travels to Russia frequently and occasionally writes on Russian affairs, but resides in Switzerland with his wife. Kashin was a Paul Klebnikov Civil Society Fellow at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute in 2012.

This is part one of a two-part interview conducted August 13-15, 2013.

Domi: Oleg, in your role as a journalist in Russia, you reported on the politics of the new opposition, when you were nearly beaten to death in 2010. Your experiences of opposing Putin’s politics were told through the documentary film “Putin’s Kiss,” about the Nashi youth movement, which was pro-Putin (see trailer below). How did your life change after the release of the film?

Kashin: The film was not screened in Russia and only those who already knew about me and my work watched it on the Internet, so I can tell you with certainty that it didn’t affect my fate in any way. The Nashi Movement portrayed in the film, no longer exists—it was dissolved. The film’s heroine, Masha Drokova, now works for a hi-tech company owned by a Russian businessman in Singapore. The other members of the movement and the people associated with it have moved on to work for private companies or political institutions—including the opposition—and  try to forget their participation in it. The attack on me has not been investigated and, most likely, will not be investigated. I no longer have any doubt about this.

Domi: Oleg, what are you doing now and why are you living in Switzerland?

Kashin: I’m in Russia at least once a month. When Alexey Navalny (a leading opposition leader to Putin) received his verdict on the Kirovles charges in Kirov, I was sitting in the courtroom. A few days ago, I returned from Kaliningrad, and next week I’ll return to Moscow. Whenever my presence in Russia is necessary for either business or personal matters, I am in Russia. My wife works in Switzerland and there’s no political intrigue involved.

Domi: Since Putin entered public life more than a decade ago, hundreds of journalists have been murdered. To date, very few, if any of those who have were murdered, have had the circumstances of their deaths investigated, solved and prosecuted. Do you think the dangerous environment for journalists in Russia is a contributing factor in the government’s ability to control the public discourse in Russia?

Kashin: It goes without saying that it is a very advantageous situation for the government, when, upon going to bed, no one knows whether they will live through the next day. The coercive atmosphere that has existed since 2000, (when Putin entered public life,) has been cultivated by the Russian government—this is easy to determine from the public appearances of Vladimir Putin and his colleagues, and from the general tone of public discourse. It wasn’t like this before in Russia, but now it’s considered the norm to physically threaten your opponent for anything deemed inappropriate by a representative of “the powers that be.” That’s what the new anti-LGBT laws are geared toward.

Out of principle, I don’t place journalists in a separate category in terms of risk susceptibility. Today, the risk of being killed, beaten or imprisoned is evenly distributed among all Russian citizens, including regime loyalists. No one is immune to death by violence, brutality, or imprisonment in Russia today.

Oleg KashinDomi: Since the New Russia opposition seemed to come out onto the streets in demanding increased accountability and less corruption by the political class last year, there seems to have been an orchestrated crackdown, including arrests, prosecution and imprisonment of members of the Pussy Riot rock and roll band, for example and Alexey Navalny, who was prosecuted and found guilty of embezzlement.  Why is the government, and the authorities cracking down now? With the Olympics in Sochi only six months away, are these the actions of a government that feels that it must exert control of the population? To what end?

Kashin: I believe that no one in Russia today can answer this question. It is widely accepted that the government is using these laws as an attempt to distract the public from what’s truly important—problems with the economy and the social sphere. I don’t believe this. More likely, the government is trying to construct a new nation, guided by totalitarian instincts and a blind deference to power. In their time, the communists tried to create a “new man,” now Putin is creating his. It is much easier to manipulate and control this type of changed society. I really hope that Westerners won’t equate these politics with the interests of Russian citizens. Russian citizens don’t differ in any way from the citizens of any Eastern European state, they have the same interests, needs and values. I hope that Putin won’t succeed in breaking the Russian citizens, and democracy will manage to prevail in Russia.


Domi: So in this politically charged environment, Russian LGBT groups are indeed being targeted by Putin’s government. The first anti-homosexual propaganda laws were adopted in regional cities, and then by the St. Petersburg City Council 2011 and later in the Duma led by United Russia(Putin’s party) politicians who passed a federal propaganda law in 2012. How do Russians feel about the propaganda law and homosexuals in general? Is there a generational distinction–are young people more accepting of the LGBT community? Can you comment on the role and influence of the Russian Orthodox Church with respect to attitudes toward homosexuals?

Kashin: The influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia is fantastically exaggerated. Go to any Russian church from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok—it is always empty except on two days of the year, Easter and Christmas. From a population of 140 million, the number of active Orthodox is estimated to be tens of thousands, at best. Church influence is a myth proliferated and profited from by the Russian government and the Patriarch Kirill, who have successfully turned the church into a political arm of the Kremlin. As for the Russians’ attitude to the problems of LGBT people—as far as I can judge (I travel a lot around Russia and talk to many people), homophobia is certainly a presence in everyday life.


Part two of our exclusive interview with Oleg Kashin will be published on Sunday, August 18. 

Translation of the original Russian into English was contributed by Masha Udensiva-Brenner, Columbia University, Harriman Institute

Images of Mr. Kashin via Facebook

TD_PIX11Tanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement.  She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues. She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.

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Feds Have Trump on Tape Admitting He Kept Classified Pentagon Document of Possible Iran Attack: Report



Federal prosecutors have an audio recording of Donald Trump admitting in 2021 that he had kept a classified Pentagon document about a possible attack against Iran.

CNN, which published the exclusive report, notes the recording undercuts Trump’s “argument that he declassified everything.”

“The recording indicates Trump understood he retained classified material after leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. On the recording, Trump’s comments suggest he would like to share the information but he’s aware of limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records, two of the sources said,” CNN adds.

READ MORE: ‘I Don’t Want Reality’: Senate Republican Explodes Over Origin of Concept of Race – Calls to Teach ‘Jesus Loves Me’ Instead

“Prosecutors have asked witnesses about the recording and the document before a federal grand jury,” CNN also reports. “The episode has generated enough interest for investigators to have questioned Gen. Mark Milley, one of the highest-ranking Trump-era national security officials, about the incident.”

The recording was apparently made in July of 2021 at a Trump golf course. People without security clearances were part of the meeting during which it was discussed.

The damning revelation gives credence to political analysts who pointed to Trump’s recent remarks at the highly-controversial CNN town hall, when he was asked if he had shown classified documents to anyone.

“Not really,” Trump said. “I would have the right to,” he claimed, falsely.

“By the way, they were declassified after,” he also claimed, falsely.

Watch CNN’s report below or at this link.



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‘I Don’t Want Reality’: Senate Republican Explodes Over Origin of Concept of Race – Calls to Teach ‘Jesus Loves Me’ Instead



U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) exploded in a committee hearing on child care on Wednesday after he introduced a book designed to help children understand race, and declared he opposes socialism and wants schools to teach about Jesus Christ instead.

Sen. Mullin, a former U.S. Congressman who once told a House Democrat to “shut up,” began by explaining how expensive it is for private companies to set up child care – the topic of the hearing – but quickly transformed the hearing into one on race, socialism, and religion.

He wove a web that started with his concerns over “federalizing” education, which he declared is socialism. He then attacked the committee chairman, Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who heads the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), for being a “self-declared democratic socialist.” That led to his claim that the book he opposes, “Our Skin: A First Conversation on Race,” would be taught nationwide.

Sen. Mullin said he opposes the book because it teaches young children that the concept of race, especially the white race, was created by white people to place themselves above other people with different skin – which has been documented in numerous studies, reports, articles, and books.

READ MORE: DeSantis Kicks Off Presidential Campaign Tour With Claim Teachers Are ‘Forcing’ Students to Pick Pronouns

Senator Mullin, who supports a federal vigilante “Don’t Say Gay” bill,  tried to get members of the panel to support his desire for schools to teach about Jesus instead.

“I have a book here in here in front of me called ‘Our Skin,'” Mullin told the committee, “and I’m going to read exactly what this book says. You guys might find it interesting. ‘A long time ago, way before you were born, a group of white people made up an idea called race. They sorted people by skin color and said that white people were better, smarter, prettier, and they deserved more than everybody else.’ This would be taught if we socialized our pre-K system, this would be taught.”

“How about we teach Jesus Loves Me?” Mullin demanded. “How about how about this? And teaching ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children.’ The lyrics go, ‘Red and yellow, black and white. They’re all precious in our sight.’ Now, which one would you think would be better? I’ll ask everybody on the panel, which is better to teach? This, that is a story that was made up to teach kids, three year olds who have no idea what race is.”

“Now all of a sudden being taught that white people said this as a truth, someone pointed me that this being a truth, that white people developed race, that white people develop that. That all of a sudden that was our word that we developed. By the way, I’m Cherokee, Native American. I think we have experienced a little bit of racism before in my life,” Mullen said.

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“So I ask everybody on the panel, which one is better to teach? This,” referring to the book he had brought, “or the ‘Jesus Loves Me’ lyrics? Ma’am. I’ll start on here.”

“I think it’s important to teach that all children are seen and valued for who they are,” one panelist told Sen. Mullin. He was not pleased.

Another panelist who appeared to agree with Sen. Mullin on teaching Jesus responded, “It is important that we teach Jesus. Jesus is what we teach. But the reality is –” she said before being interrupted by Mullin.

“I don’t want reality,” Mullin proclaimed, which evoked immediate laughter.

“Got it on tape,” one person announced.

“I misspoke,” Mullin claimed.

Watch portions of Mullin’s remarks below or at this link.


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DeSantis Kicks Off Presidential Campaign Tour With Claim Teachers Are ‘Forcing’ Students to Pick Pronouns



Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off his official presidential campaign tour on Tuesday, traveling to Iowa after announcing last week he was launching a White House run. On Wednesday, the Republican bragged to GOP voters that in Florida he recently signed a bill into law banning teachers from forcing children to pick pronouns, insisting it is happening in other states.

“It is wrong for a teacher to tell a student that they may have been born in the wrong body, or that their gender is a choice,” DeSantis announced.

“We don’t allow this in the state of Florida, and we actually just signed legislation protecting students from having teachers force them to pick pronouns, which they are doing in some parts of this country, at [a] very, very young age. We’re not competing in the ‘pronoun sweepstakes.’ We’re going to have school just like school’s been, from time in memoriam [sic], we’re not going to do all this other stuff,” he declared.

READ MORE: ‘Will Make a Great Trial Witness’: Experts Thrilled Jack Smith Is Investigating Trump’s Firing of Election Security Expert

While DeSantis is insistent that teachers are forcing very young students to pick pronouns, NCRM found no news reports supporting that claim.

We did find several news reports of teachers suing for not wanting to use a child’s preferred pronoun, which are issues for the courts.

We did find one report of a teacher who allegedly insisted on calling a 9-year old girl who identifies as a girl a boy, and the parents are suing.

News12 on Long Island, New York in March reported, “the lawyer representing the girl’s family…says the student was bullied and had suicidal feelings.”

“She says the teacher told the student to ‘try being gay.’ The teacher is also accused of calling the girl a male name.
‘The teacher had some kind of agenda to have these students have alternate sexual preferences or gender identities they may or may not have had,'” the attorney said.

READ MORE: ‘It Has to Be Done’: These Are the House Republicans Open to Firing Kevin McCarthy as Speaker

In April, Colorado’s KRDO reported, “During the last Colorado Springs School District 11’s board meeting, officials tabled a controversial pronoun policy that would prevent educators from asking students their preferred pronouns. While the policy isn’t in effect, some teachers are concerned about how it would hinder them inside the classroom.”

Watch DeSantis below or at this link.


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