04.12.2022

Moscow ‘Stalin Shawarma’ Stand Ordered Closed After Outcry

A Stalin-themed shawarma shop in Moscow has been forced to close shortly after it opened to outcry over its provocative branding featuring the dictator’s portrait and employees dressed in Soviet-era security service uniforms.

Owner Stanislav Voltman told Reuters on Saturday that police had initially forced him to take down the Stalin sign and that later “colossal pressure” from municipal authorities pushed him to close the Stalin Doner shop altogether. Earlier, state media reported that police had taken Voltman to a station after residents filed a complaint.

“There were no legal reasons” to close the stall, Voltman was quoted as saying.

Voltman said he plans to reopen his controversial but lucrative shawarma shop — whose menu featured dishes named after Stalin, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and notorious Soviet security service chief Lavrentiy Beria — as soon as he hires new staff. Two previous employees had quit due to unwanted police attention, the Podyom news channel cited him as saying.

“There are people who are interested, but not everyone is willing to work under the conditions surrounding my poor spot,” Voltman told Podyom.

Conservative estimates say nearly 700,000 Soviet citizens were killed in the “Great Terror” under Stalin’s rule in 1937-38, with millions more imprisoned or sent to Gulag labor camps.

In post-Soviet Russia, Stalin’s image has been gradually rehabilitated from that of a bloody autocrat to one of an “outstanding leader” who achieved victory against the Nazis in World War II. President Vladimir Putin has revived the Soviet anthem, Soviet-style military parades and a Soviet-era medal for labor during his presidency.

A record 70% of Russians approved of Stalin’s role in history in recent polling.

Moscow Bailiffs Visit RFE/RL Newsroom Over ‘Foreign Agent’ Fines

Moscow city bailiffs have visited the offices of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) to take inventory of the news outlet’s equipment, the independent Meduza news website reported Friday.

The U.S. government-funded news outlet has come under increasing pressure in Russia since being added to the country’s “foreign agents” registry in February 2020. By last month, Russia’s communications watchdog had put forward up to 520 administrative fines totaling over $1 million against RFE/RL and its head Andrei Shariy for failing to add the “foreign agent” label to its materials.

The bailiffs’ service handed a legal notice to RFE/RL’s Russian-language affiliate regarding the start of proceedings to collect 5 million rubles ($67,000) in fines, Meduza reported, citing a source close to the outlet.

On Thursday, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court suspended 140 fines RFE/RL faces for violations of the controversial “foreign agent” law. The court upheld another 117 fines totaling 28.8 million rubles ($390,000).

Groups or individuals identified as “foreign agents” in Russia must disclose their sources of funding and label all their publications with the designation or face fines.

Under recent expansions to the law, individuals and entities labeled “foreign agents” can face website closures and prison time. RFE/RL has reportedly offered its Russia-based staff the opportunity to relocate abroad in order to avoid jail sentences.

The outlet plans to appeal against the actions of the Russian authorities in the European Court of Human Rights.

The bailiff visit to RFE/RL’s newsroom came on the same day that Russia added the VTimes news website to its “foreign agent” registry in what critics call a tightening of Kremlin pressure on independent media. Last month, Russia also labeled Meduza a “foreign agent.”

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