Episodes

  • Kevin continues his interview series with professionals in the field of Russia expertise. Today's guest is Dr. Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague and the coordinator of its Center for European Security.

    Check out Dr. Galeotti's latest book: “The Vory: Russia's Super Mafia,” released this May by Yale University Press
    https://www.amazon.com/Vory-Russias-Super-Mafia/dp/0300186827

    In this interview, Kevin asks Mark several big questions, like what are the most important developing events and stories in Russia today? Will Putin stick around past 2024? Should we keep thinking about the Kremlin in terms of towers and clans? And Mark also talked a bit about himself, how he got into “the Russia game,” what was so special about his introduction to Russia, and how he manages to juggle so many different roles, while maintaining a sane private life.

    Follow Mark on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/MarkGaleotti

    Support this very podcast here:
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

    Music:
    “Polyushka Polye” by The Red Army Choir, www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2YlbiyiuMc
    Олег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQ

  • On today’s show, Kevin continues his series of interviews with journalists working on Russia. This episode features Carl Schreck, a senior correspondent for RFE/RL and a veteran reporter who’s worked in Moscow, from the States, and from Prague, where he’s based now. Carl and Kevin talked about what makes good news stories, how you break into this field, what it’s like to cut your teeth on Russia’s crime beat, and much more.

    Follow Carl here on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/carlschreck

    Subscribe to his feed at RFE/RL here:
    https://www.rferl.org/author/93650.html

    Support this very podcast here:
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

    Music:
    *“Polyushka Polye” by The Red Army Choir, www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2YlbiyiuMc
    *Олег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQ

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  • On today’s show, Kevin welcomes back Aric Toler to learn more about the August 31 assassination of Alexander Zakharchenko, the separatist leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, or DNR. What path led Zakharchenko to this grisly end, and who planted the bomb that killed him? An open-source intelligence expert at Bellingcat and the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, Aric Toler follows eastern Ukraine’s separatists as closely as anybody.

    Follow Aric at Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/AricToler

    Contribute your hard-earned cash to this podcast:
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

    Music:
    “Polyushka Polye” by The Red Army Choir, www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2YlbiyiuMc

    Олег Анофриев, Бременские музыканты, “Говорят, мы бяки-буки,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-3wC7gkMDQ

  • On this episode of The Russia Guy, Kevin talks to freelance writer and Russia watcher Dustin Giebel, who was recently the target of a defamatory blog post by a #resistance freedom fighter named Jay McKenzie. The screed was posted on Medium and promoted by information-warfare darlings like lobbyist Molly McKew and former CIA agent John Sipher — two public figures Giebel has criticized in the past.

    Geibel talked about life as a Russia watcher at a time when strangers are happy to pick apart your biography and harass your family, all in the name of “winning the fight.”

    Read the screed:
    http://archive.is/1iklQ

    Read Giebel's response:
    https://medium.com/@DustinGiebel/join-us-or-your-russian-controlled-assets-9df9b26897d

    Follow Giebel on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/dustingiebel

    Contribute your hard-earned cash to this podcast:
    https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

    Music featured in this episode:
    “Serial Killer“ by John Bartmann, http://freemusicarchive.org/music/John_Bartmann/Public_Domain_Soundtrack_Music_Album_One/serial-killer

    “Building Tension” by eddy, http://freemusicarchive.org/music/eddy/srs_1647/03_Building_Tension_1270

    “Polyushka Polye” by The Red Army Choir, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2YlbiyiuMc

  • Kevin reads the full text of a new investigative report by Meduza’s Daniil Turovsky about how Russia’s war in Georgia sparked Moscow’s modern-day recruitment of criminal hackers. The story is timely not just because we’re currently marking the 10-year anniversary of the Russo-Georgian war, but also because we’re still living in a world dominated by news about Russian election interference, cyber-threats, and more. This is an important story, but most of the reporting has happened in the United States, where the victims are located and the fallout has occurred. Turovsky’s new report is worth reading because it offers some insight into the other side of things: the world of the hackers who were likely mobilized for Moscow’s efforts in 2016.

    Read the text for yourself here, and share it with your pals:
    https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/08/07/it-s-our-time-to-serve-the-motherland

    If you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

    Opening music: Assmack by Podington Bear
    http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Podington_Bear/Haplessly_Happy/Assmack

    Closing tune: Бременские музыканты (1969), Олег Анофриев

  • On today’s show, Kevin talks to to Anastasia Karimova, a former activist and journalist in Russia. Today, she’s a graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in the United States. Anastasia’s personal history is fascinating in its own right, but it's especially interesting now, in the aftermath of the arrest of Maria Butina.

    Kevin asked Anastasia about finding her way into and out of Russian opposition politics. What were the old days like? What’s the world of protesting become today? She also talked about working for “Kommersant” and losing faith in Russia’s news media. And finally she talked about studying in the U.S. as a Russian person, putting Maria Butina’s alleged activities in some context.

    If you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • Today Kevin will look at the criminal charges against Maria Butina, announced on July 16 by the Justice Department. What are the charges? What kind of dirt does the FBI have on this woman? What's Butina’s history in Russia? Why is she a foreign agent and not a “spy”?

    Read Meduza's deep dive on Butina: “Meet Maria Butina, the FBI’s Russian gun nut undeclared foreign agent”
    https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/07/18/meet-maria-butina-the-fbi-s-russian-gun-nut-undeclared-foreign-agent

    Follow Darina Gribova (who kindly voices Maria Butina in this episode's transcript readings) on Twitter at https://twitter.com/darina_gri

    If you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • On the evening of July 4, 2018, Russian Internet users realized that the search engine Yandex had been indexing a surprising array of information stored on Google Docs, including files containing passwords, credit card numbers, and corporate documents. Yandex’s press service says the company’s actions were perfectly legitimate, but within hours of Wednesday’s discovery the search engine stopped producing any hyperlinks to Google Docs.

    In this episode of the podcast, Kevin considers the following three questions: How could this leak have happened? Is anybody at fault here? What kind of information was leaked?

    Read the whole story at Meduza: “Dirty public secrets: Yandex leaks internal Google Docs apparently shared by Russian banks, state officials, and Internet trolls”
    https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/07/05/dirty-public-secrets

    If you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.
    https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • Today’s show addresses the recent events surrounding the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, better known as “Shaninka,” which just lost its state accreditation, following an inspection by Russia’s Federal Education and Science Supervision Agency (Rosobrnadzor). Inspectors claim that the school is in violation of several state education standards. The agency’s report says Shaninka’s undergraduate and graduate programs fail in many areas to maintain “professional competence corresponding to the designated professional activities.”

    In this episode, Kevin speaks to three people familiar with the school and Russia’s social sciences: Grigory Yudin, the codirector of Shaninka’s MA program in political philosophy; Armen Aramyan, a student in Shaninka’s political philosophy department; and Olga Zeveleva, graduate of the Higher School of Economics, PhD researcher in sociology at the University of Cambridge.

    Read Meduza's coverage of this story:
    ‘This whole farce would make a decent hands-on course of its own’: Shaninka’s social sciences dean discusses the school’s loss of Russian accreditation
    *https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/06/22/this-whole-farce-would-make-a-decent-hands-on-course-of-its-own
    Regulators have revoked their accreditation of the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, one of Russia's last major private colleges
    *https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/06/22/regulators-have-revoked-their-accreditation-of-the-moscow-school-of-social-and-economic-sciences-one-of-russia-s-last-major-private-colleges

    If you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.
    https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • On today’s show, Kevin reviews the pension reform proposal slipped into Russia’s news agenda last week, just as the country’s attention turned to a certain soccer tournament. After summarizing the proposed reforms, Kevin gets some feedback about the plan from a very special guest, his eight-year-old daughter.

    So what are you going to learn about on today’s show? The Russian government wants to raise the country’s retirement age (from 55 to 63 for women, and from 60 to 65 for men), but how do they intend to do that? How are the authorities communicating this policy initiative to the public? Where’s Putin in all this, and what have the masses had to say about this momentous reform proposal? And what does an eight-year-old American girl think about all this?

    Catch up on Meduza's coverage of Russian pension reform here:
    *https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/06/18/officials-vow-to-raise-the-retirement-age-the-kremlin-fears-protests-and-labor-unions-are-fuming-this-is-russia-s-pension-reform
    *https://meduza.io/en/cards/russia-is-raising-its-retirement-age-how-and-why

    If you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.
    https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • Howdy, folks! It’s Wednesday, June 13, and we’re hours away from the kickoff of the next FIFA World Cup, which is being hosted in Russia this year. The next month will turn much of the world’s attention to Russia, which means this is a good opportunity to shine a light on the country’s social issues. The last time a sporting event did this was the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and back then many in the United States suddenly cared very deeply about LGBT rights in Russia. This year, it’s more of a buffet for haters, with Crimea, Syria, eastern Ukraine, and so much more from which to choose.

    So what are you going to learn about on today’s episode of the podcast? First, Kevin talks about a recent scandal to hit Facebook where a prominent bank executive shared her controversial hiring tips. Then he reviews the practice of “Slavs-only” hiring and housing policies. He looks at cases of ageism, homophobia, and sexism, and wraps up with a summary of the legal challenges to proving discrimination in Russia.

    This podcast episode is based on a report by Anna Valtseva published by Meduza. Read it in English here:
    https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/06/12/slavs-only

    If you enjoy this podcast, please consider making a pledge at Patreon, where you can send Kevin money for all his grand efforts. Many thanks to the listeners already ponying up.
    https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • This episode of The Russia Guy takes place a week after the staged murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was dead to the world for almost 24 hours, from May 29 to May 30, until he was gloriously resurrected by Ukraine’s National Security Agency, which revealed that his killing had been a hoax apparently designed to obtain a hit list with the names of 47 prominent Ukrainian and Russian journalists. The hired hitman was in on the sting operation, and the man arrested for hiring him — Boris German — says he was actually working for Ukrainian counterintelligence.

    This episode isn’t about the investigative drama behind Babchenko’s murder hoax, however, but the consequences of lying to the public and the media about the death of a prominent journalist. To learn more about the significance of this deception, Kevin spoke to Natalia Roudakova, a cultural anthropologist working in the field of political communication and comparative media studies. Natalia is the author of a new book called “Losing Pravda: Ethics and the Press in Post-Truth Russia.”

    So what are you going to learn about on today’s episode of The Russia Guy? Kevin asked Natalia to put the Babchenko murder hoax in the context of Ukraine and Russia’s Soviet legacy. She explained what truth in journalism actually is — how it’s constructed and understood in different societies. And she discussed why many journalists in Russia and especially Ukraine feel betrayed and manipulated by the Ukrainian authorities’ decision to lie about Babchenko’s murder.

    Check out Roudakova’s book, “Losing Pravda: Ethics and the Press in Post-Truth Russia,” at Amazon:
    https://www.amazon.com/Losing-Pravda-Ethics-Post-Truth-Russia/dp/1316629775

    If you enjoy this podcast, please consider showing your support with a pledge at Patreon, where you can contribute as much or as little as you like. I’d like to thank those in the audience who are already pitching in.
    https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • Kevin's guest in this episode is Nikita Kulachenkov, one of the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s full-time investigators.

    What are you going to learn about on today’s episode of the podcast? Kevin asked Nikita about Russia’s possible criminalization of appealing to foreign governments for sanctions against Russian citizens, and he asked him what impact this legislation could have on the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s activities. They also discussed the ongoing police crackdown on the organizers of the May 5 anti-Putin protests, and Nikita described the tactics city officials use to suppress political rallies and he explained the Navalny campaign’s mentality when staging these demonstrations in the first place.

    Read more about how Russia plans to criminalize either observing or facilitating foreign sanctions at Meduza:
    https://meduza.io/en/cards/the-russian-authorities-want-to-jail-people-for-observing-or-even-promoting-western-sanctions

    You can follow Nikita Kulachenkov on Twitter @nekulachenkov:
    https://twitter.com/nekulachenkov?lang=en

    If you enjoy this podcast, please consider showing your support with a pledge at Patreon, where you can contribute as much or as little as you like. I’d like to thank those in the audience who are already pitching in.
    https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • Today’s episode of The Russia Guy welcomes back Aric Toler from Bellingcat, which together with The Insider has just released a new report that contains some pretty amazing revelations about the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine almost four years ago. All 298 people on board that plane were killed, and Bellingcat has led the way in open-source intelligence gathering when it comes to tracing this back to Russia, and Aric has been one of the group’s key researchers.

    So what are you going to learn about on today’s episode of The Russia Guy? Aric explained the mystery behind Oleg Ivannikov, the Russian military officer whose voice we now know appears in radio transmissions intercepted by the Ukrainian authorities immediately after the MH17 disaster. Aric also talked about how Bellingcat and The Insider tracked him down and built its evidence, which it turns out was a marvelous blend of Bellingcat’s trademark OSINT, or open-source intelligence, and shoe-leather journalism by reporters from The Insider.

    Read Bellingcat’s new report on Oleg Ivannikov:
    https://www.bellingcat.com/news/uk-and-europe/2018/05/25/mh17-russian-gru-commander-orion-identified-oleg-ivannikov/

    And here’s Meduza’s summary:
    https://meduza.io/en/feature/2018/05/25/oh-hello-mr-oleg-orion-ivannikov

    If you’re at all interested in what’s possible with OSINT in eastern Ukraine, you definitely want to be following Aric on Twitter at @AricToler:
    https://twitter.com/arictoler

    If you enjoyed this podcast, please consider making a contribution at Patreon. No pledge is too small or too large. Many thanks to all the listeners already pledging. Your assistance helps me pay for the audio recording and hosting expenses of this podcast.
    https://www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • Kevin’s guest today is Keith Gessen, a novelist, journalist, literary translator, and assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Gessen has written about Russia for The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine, where he recently published a fascinating story, titled “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio,” where he examines the historical and philosophical landscape of today’s Russia expertise in the United States.

    So what are you going to learn about on today’s episode of the podcast? This interview is devoted to Keith’s “Quiet Americans” story in The New York Times Magazine. Here’s a list of the questions, preceded by the times in the episode that they appear: (2:50) Why write this story now? How did it come together? (8:45) Did anything about this story surprise you? (13:14) What do you say to critics who accuse you of speaking only to “like-minded” Russia hands? (15:34) Do Russia domestic politics matter here? Did you leave them out of your story intentionally? Do you think they’re not important to understanding what shapes and divides America’s “Russia hands? (22:05) How did NATO expansion become a litmus test for American Russia experts? (29:53) What’s the influence of the U.S. news media on America’s Russia hands? (35:23) How should the U.S. media improve its Russia coverage? (36:48) Is this mainstream aware that it’s living in an echo chamber? (38:55) Why is realism so unpopular in American thinking about Russia? (43:28) You’ve written about the Russia experts, but what about the Russia grifters?

    Read “The Quiet Americans Behind the U.S.-Russia Imbroglio”
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/magazine/the-quiet-americans-behind-the-us-russia-imbroglio.html

    Follow Keith Gessen on Twitter at @KeithGessen
    https://twitter.com/keithgessen

    Pre-order his new book, “A Terrible Country: A Novel” (available July 10, 2018)
    https://www.amazon.com/Terrible-Country-Novel-Keith-Gessen/dp/0735221316

    If you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • On this episode of The Russia Guy, Kevin’s guest is David Filipov, a journalist who’s reported from Moscow, Chechnya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and New England. David spent years with The Boston Globe, where he contributed to the newsroom that won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for covering the Boston Marathon bombing. He also won the 2014 Edward R. Murrow Award for Continuing Coverage as part of a team of Globe videographers, he was awarded the 2003 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism for his contribution to a series on deaths from preventable diseases, and he won the Overseas Press Club Hal Boyle Award for his reporting in 1999 from Chechnya. David has also reported for The Moscow Times and The Washington Post, for which he was Moscow bureau chief until very recently.

    So what are you going to learn about in this episode? David described what it was like to visit Moscow in the 1980s and work there as a journalist in the 1990s, as Communism fell. He recalled the enormous hopefulness of the immediate post-Soviet period, and the hard fall that followed. He talked about becoming a war correspondent and the lives journalists lead when taking on this kind of work. And he described the nature of reporting on Russia in Moscow today, where Americans have renewed but narrowed interests, and Russians have soured on the prospects of engaging the wider Western world.

    Follow David at Twitter at @DavidFilipov.
    https://twitter.com/davidfilipov

    If you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • Kevin’s guest today is Natalia Antonova, who as many listeners already know is a prolific writer, and a journalist who’s worked in Moscow, Kiev, and soon Washington, D.C., where she’s accepted a position at the Voice of America. Natalia was deputy editor at The Moscow News before it was liquidated in the collapse of RIA Novosti, and she’s been published all over the place, including The Washington Post, Politico, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Newsweek, and many other fine outlets. Natalia is also a playwright and a poet, and she’s working on a fiction book right now.

    So what are you going to learn about on today’s episode of the podcast? Natalia and Kevin discussed her recent move back to the United States, and her new job at Voice of America. They also talked a lot about her experience in the Moscow art world, and she helped Kevin get some perspective on the “Seventh Studio” criminal investigation that has targeted acclaimed stage director Kirill Serebrennikov. She described what it was like editorially under pressure from the state when The Moscow News went under and while working at Russia Beyond the Headlines. And she and Kevin talked about her upbringing in Kiev and North Carolina, and how life brought her the Middle East, then back to the former Soviet Union, and finally again to the United States.

    You can follow Natalia on Twitter at @NataliaAntonova
    https://twitter.com/NataliaAntonova

    Natalia is also the co-founder of the Anti-Nihilist Institute nonprofit, which you can find @NoToNihilism on Twitter
    https://twitter.com/NoToNihilism

    If you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • In this episode, Kevin's guest is Emily Parker, a writer who's worked for The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Previously, she was a member of the policy planning staff at the U.S. State Department, where she advised on Internet freedom, digital diplomacy, and open government. Today, Emily writes about tech and foreign affairs, and she works at a blockchain startup.

    So what are you going to learn about on today’s episode? Emily Parker you through some of the differences between “blockchain,” “cryptocurrency,” and “initial coin offerings” (or ICOs). She and Kevin talked about what governments like and fear about these technologies, and they discussed how companies and particularly social networks are trying to implement them. Kevin also asked Emily to put Telegram’s $1.7-billion ICO into context, and they shared their ideas about what a Telegram cryptocurrency could mean politically in Russia.

    In 2014, Emily Parker authored a book called “Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices From the Internet Underground,” where you can read stories about Internet activists in China, Cuba, and Russia. Find it here on Amazon:
    https://www.amazon.com/Now-Know-Who-Comrades-Are/dp/0374176957

    And read all Emily's work by following her on Twitter:
    https://twitter.com/emilydparker

    If you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • The past three episodes of The Russia Guy have been devoted to the technical details surrounding Russian Internet censorship, but today’s show focuses on one of the organizers of Monday’s Internet freedom rally in Moscow. Kevin spoke to Mikhail Svetov, a member of the Russian Libertarian Party’s federal committee.

    So what are you going to learn on today’s episode? Mikhail told me how Monday’s Internet freedom rally came together, and explained the organizing role his political party played. We talked a bit about the Russian Libertarian Party and its relationship with Telegram founder Pavel Durov and opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Mikhail also summarized his speech at Monday’s demonstration, explaining what he’s all about politically. And finally he shared his expectations for Internet freedom in Russia, which he says has only grim prospects, if the protest movement now beginning in Moscow doesn’t get smart or get lucky.

    You can find Mikhail Svetov on Twitter at Msvetov. Mikhail tweets and video blogs mostly in Russian, but as you’ll hear he speaks marvelous English.
    https://twitter.com/msvetov

    If you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock

  • In this episode, Kevin discusses three stories: (1) the structure of Russia’s pension system and the ongoing problems with keeping it funded, (2) two reports by different media monitoring groups that study traffic on Telegram, and finally (3) why it is that the Russian authorities have failed to keep so many Russian Internet users from accessing Telegram.

    For more on these issues, see the following articles:

    “The Russian pension system's 2018 deficit will be twice as big as predicted”
    https://meduza.io/en/news/2018/04/25/the-russian-pension-system-s-2018-deficit-will-be-twice-as-big-as-predicted

    “Media monitoring website says traffic to Telegram channels dropped 76.5 percent after Russia blocked the app”
    https://meduza.io/en/news/2018/04/25/media-monitoring-website-says-traffic-to-telegram-channels-dropped-76-5-percent-after-russia-blocked-the-app

    “Russia is trying to block Telegram, but it's failing. Why?”
    https://meduza.io/en/cards/russia-is-trying-to-block-telegram-but-it-s-failing-why

    If you enjoy this podcast, consider pledging a little dough to help with sound recording, editing, and hosting costs:
    www.patreon.com/kevinrothrock