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Edward Snowden: "Vladimir Putin must be called to account on surveillance just like Obama"


Vladimir Putin during the nationwide phone-in in Moscow. Photograph: RIA Novosti/Reuters

Today's question-and-answer session on Russian TV between NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not go as Snowden had hoped. "I questioned the Russian president live on TV to get his answer on the record, not to whitewash him," Snowden says in an op-blog in the Guardian:

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Snowden asks Putin about surveillance in Russia on televised call-in show (video)

So, this happened.

“I’d like to ask you,” NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asked Russian leader Vladimir Putin on a televised call-in show, “does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?” Putin, a former KGB agent and head of Russia's intelligence service, spoke about what they had in common: spycraft.

“Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent,” the president replied. “I used to work for an intelligence service. Let’s speak professionally.”

“Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law,” Mr. Putin said. “You have to get a court’s permission first.” He noted that terrorists use electronic communications and that Russia had to respond to that threat.

“Of course we do this,” Mr. Putin said. “But we don’t use this on such a massive scale and I hope that we won’t.”

“But what is most important,” Mr. Putin concluded, “is that the special services, thank God, are under a strict control of the government and the society, and their activities are regulated by law.”

More in this New York Times report.

Russia Today anchor Liz Wahl quits on air

Russia Today anchor Liz Wahl resigned during her broadcast, explaining that she wanted no "part of a network that whitewashes the actions of Putin."

Wahl began her comments by referencing her colleague Abby Martin, who took time at the end of her show earlier this week to condemn Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Wahl explained that her personal background informed her decision: her grandparents fled from the Soviets during the Hungarian revolution, her father was a U.S. veteran, and her partner is a physician on a U.S. military base, where he sees “the ultimate prices that people pay for this country.”

Russia Today Anchor Liz Wahl Resigns Live On-Air Over “Whitewashing” of Putin’s Actions in Ukraine

Pussy Riot use footage of cossack horsewhipping in new music video

One day after a video of Pussy Riot being horsewhipped by cossacks in Sochi went viral, the band had released a new music video in which the footage is heavily featured, amid anti-Putin rhetoric.

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Putin on 3D specs

Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin spaces out at a Moscow planetarium; April marks the 51st anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic first human space flight. Photo: Alexsey Druginyn

In Russia, tiny protest sparks big police response: LEGO minifigs, South Park dolls, and Wall-e demonstrate for democracy


(Photo above: RFE-RL; below, Ivan Krupchik.)

Authorities in Russia are investigating the legality of a "doll demonstration" demanding "clean elections" in the Siberian city of Barnaul, and looking for the humans responsible.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti reports that Russia's police "[arrest] anyone, young or old, who takes part in an "unsanctioned" opposition rally"—so, some citizens in Barnaul created a protest tableau composed of dolls, instead.

Lego minifigs, South Park ("Team America"?) characters, stuffed dollies, Shreks, gnomes, elves, and Wall-e robots carrying protest placards were placed on an icy ledge in the town's center on January 7 and 14. This act followed police crackdowns on two protests by normal-sized people back in December. The focus of all the protests, large and small? Political corruption, and the results of Russia's parliamentary elections.

From RIA Novosti:

Most of the figurines held up little signs affixed to toothpicks with satirical messages on them, such as "146%", in reference to a southern region where state television inadvertently reported a 146 per cent turnout in recent elections. Other toys held caricatures of the Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, and President Dmitry Medvedev.

The victory of Mr Putin's United Russia Party in last month's parliamentary polls, amid allegations of fraud, brought tens of thousands of protesters onto Moscow's streets. The government seemed to realise it could not take the usual repressive action against the demonstrators in the capital, but in Barnaul authorities "did everything possible" to block protests, Andrei Teslenko, one of the organisers, said.

That's when the activists set up the toy protests. "The authorities are blocking our constitutional rights to peaceful protests, but they haven't yet got as far as limiting the rights of toys," he said.

Photographer Ivan Krupchik has an extensive series of photos up on his LiveJournal (including the Wall-e shot above, and the LEGO detail below in this post).

More: MSNBC News, Radio Free Europe,Independent (UK), UK Guardian.

(thanks, Martin Hodgson)