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Thousands of Russians protest against internet restrictions (reuters.com)
250 points by rumcajz 13 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments

Russian here. I live in Moscow. I've just came back from the rally. Interned at an IT company in Switzerland and US. My Digital Ocean VPS IP address was blocked in Russia due to this crazy thing going on with the Internet here. Even though it was a private service that is not exposed to the global network. AMA.

So what exactly are they doing? Just cutting off random IPs? The actual IP was blocked or is it only DNS based? How about tor traffic?

Right now, we have a legislation (this one existed since 2012) that requires to ban certain IP addresses. All ISP's are being monitored by the authority called Roscomnadzor and allowing access to a banned IP will lead to fines. Unfortunately, this doesn't really work because people here learned how to use VPN's, proxies and Tor. Moreover, with cloud providers you can easily switch IP addresses. Telegram messenger was banned here but it still works. I guess that they frequently change IP addresses and use multiple cloud providers. When Roscomnadzor tried to ban the messenger, they added significant number of IP subnetworks (I think that the largest blocked subnet was used by AWS). This lead to all sorts of different problems because it turned out that some banks and large companies were paralysed for months as their websites were blocked.

After a year of of trying to block the messenger, they just decided to pass this law. All ISPs that handle inter-counties exchange must install a government backdoor that could shut down all outgoing and incoming connections outside from Russia.

Also, some websites now are blocked by their DNS record, not by their IP. This lead to other problems. Imagine there was a website X that was blocked in Russia. The X company decides to change the domain and abandon X. Now, someone else buys the banned domain and adds any IP addresses to the DNS (like, government authorities websites). Whoala! These websites are banned in Russia as well. This happened multiple times and lead to Google, YouTube and other websites being inaccessible here.

The legislation proposes a separate national DNS system that differs from the ICANN one. Similarly to how North Korea does this in their country. This way no-one could buy an abandoned blocked website and add a bunch of valuable and valid IPs there.

They claim that this will increase the stability of the Russian Internet. People in our government believe that the Internet was designed in the US to control the world. They also believe that they could shut down the Internet in any country at this point of time. They say that this has already happened in Syria once and we need to prepare for this.

They don't actually explain that the thing that happened to Syria was possible only because they had a single ISP. And their centralised system was hacked.

I believe that if we decide to install a backdoor to all of our ISPs, then someone else from the outside could pull the switch.


That's a tough stance for a government to take. I guess using proxies, VPNs (w IPSec), and overlay networks like Tor and i2p would be made illegal too?

DNS based blocking is easy to get around: It is known to not work effectively. Content based blocking can be done away with TLS. And... IP based blocking wouldn't scale [0], one would think, and def isn't reliable because of ElasticIPs offered by Cloud Providers like AWS, like you point out.

This might push them to take desperate measures like force ISPs to stop peering with the internet backbone altogether (or worse, nationalise ISPs), which might set a dangerous precedent for other powerful countries to follow.

This doesn't sound good, at all.

[0] With 5G/WiMax around the corner looking increasingly likely that it'd be exclusively on IPv6 ...

I bet the next thing Russian (and many other oppressive ones) will try is forcing government-issued root certs on client devices with mandatory mitm. Sure, some devices might not be capable of importing new root certs, but for sufficiently dictatorial regime it's not a problem.

Strict CertifcatePinning can thankfully prevent this from working [0] as intended, although on the flip-side it also introduces a significant problem for deep-packet inspection for malware/intrusion detection and privacy enthusiasts who would like to re-map certain kinds of traffic on the client-side [1].

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10727649

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19172038

Thanks for a detailed explanation.

That seems pretty radical. I mean, because of technology progress (mainly crypto improvements, but also cheaper hardware development) I only see two outcomes in the future: (it's a global issue, not just related to Russia)

1. We have a complete freedom of information exchange. It's a powerful thing. It's not only free speech, but also easily available all illegal digital content and ability to transfer money anonymously. In such scenario, it's inevitable that governments role will diminish. Well, they are huge and powerful, they can still retain a huge influence (and already do * ) by manipulating people, the software they use etc.

2. The Internet as we know it today ceases to exist. Basically what you wrote above and much more. Pretty dark scenario. I always hoped that enough big players (who are able to influence gov) depend enough on the way the Internet currently works, that it would be very hard push this. Maybe not as hard as I thought. Because note that most people, majority of users, simply don't care. Leave top 100 websites working (power law traffic distribution) and most people won't notice the difference.

*. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOTYgcdNrXE&feature=youtu.be...

Nope, it's not radical. DNS system is controlled by US company and if you rely on it your country's infrastructure is vulnerable. So if US decides to cut Russia from DNS national services including government sites should continue to function.

People panic without understanding the reasons behind this law.

I would understand if you were talking about certificates, but DNS? It should not be trusted by default.

Could you end up with competing DNS services in different nations that direct users to different IPs? Now that could be a mess.

Doesn't Russia operate the authoritative servers for .ru ?

TLD servers are useless without root ones. There are several replicas of K-root in Russia, but they are under control of RIPE (EU organization).

How are they useless in terms of "if US decides to cut Russia from DNS national services including government sites should continue to function"

What TLD are these sites hosted on?

TLD servers for .ru zone can answer questions like “who should I ask where kremlin.ru is?”, but before that there is a question “where .ru zone DNS servers are”, and that’s what root servers are supposed to answer. If - hypothetically - all root servers will answer “oh, .ru zone is served by that guy in Washington DC”, no DNS resolver would ask “real” .ru servers because list of root servers is effectively hard coded and changing it on all clients is a lot of work.

> People in our government believe that the Internet was designed in the US to control the world.

Maybe it wasn't designed with this objective in mind, but it is definitely used this way. And the fact that Google and Facebook are de-facto monopolies doesn't help.

And I'm not from the government. I'm just another little guy that sees tons of that propaganda every day.

For example, I watch mostly videos from conferences on YouTube. Why YT displays rusophobic videos in the recommendations list instead of more videos related to the conference? Even after I clicked hide button on them multiple times?

And all those rusophobic comments under every video about Russia? Who writes them? Sometimes I see exactly the same comment from different nicknames. I even made a screenshots of such instances, only to find out that nobody cares.

Another example: on one of facebook groups I regularly see posts from a person regularly bashing Russia. Under every post he leaves derogatory comments. Sometimes he posts derogatory posts although the facebook group is not about Russia at all.

Just recently he had shared a meme picture from some of the "opposition" groups (Alexei Navalny or his friends) stating that Russia has the highest suicides rate in the world (of course, because we're poor and doomed and Putin eats our children for breakfast).

I didn't believe it and went to several official sources (including international) to verify. Of course, we're very far from the first place in the list of suicide rates. I've commented this on the post and received zero reaction. Moreover, the post was liked and shared further by several members of the group.

This is all you need to know about our "opposition".

And there're many persons like this disseminating fake news in facebook groups and other communities. I have no evidence, but I strongly believe that they're on a payroll from some non-Russian agency or NGO.

For what it is worth, Wikipedia places Russia as number 3 in suicide rate (when standardized for age) behind Guyana and Lesotho. This is based on WHO numbers. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_r...)

> This is all you need to know about our "opposition".


> they're on a payroll from some non-Russian agency or NGO.

At this point, I would be incredibly surprised if any country in the world wasn't engaged in some sort of online trolling/fake news dissemination on either the global (e.g. Russia vs US vs China) or local (internal politics) scale. It's the best way to spread propaganda while making it seem as real as possible.

And once you propagandize the population successfully enough, they'll carry on without you

Yes... "don't create weapons you don't want your opponents to use", is an excellent maxim. Unfortunately, governments do it all the time.

Extra note, Roscomnadzor also writes non Russian companies hosting content they have issues with and request that non .ru providers take it down to “protect” Russians.

What kind of internet regulation would you tolerate? What are your thoughts about current situation in Russia where literally millions of our citizens wholeheartedly agree with any crazy internet policy? And in general believe in what is told though TV

Yeah, i live here too.

I think that the Internet as a decentralised system doesn't require any regulation. This a self-regulatory system.

On the second question though... I don't see any future for me in Russia. Thankfully, it will be relatively easy for me to emigrate.

I wonder about when people emigrate their way out of a problem country, doesn't it just leave behind people who are too complacent, too poor or too uneducated to enact real change?

Yeah, welcome to Eastern Europe. Everyone who can, leaves, then they badmouth the country for not changing/advancing enough. Who tf is supposed to do that? The farm workers left behind? Or the politicians who have zero interest beyond their own pockets?

And risk ending up in jail, murdered or dying poor? One may love their country but loves their life/family more.

I don't know where you're from but if you're from postsoviet countries you should know how freaking difficult it is to oppose the system and, in case of Russia, also dangerous.

Much the same can be said about America's own heartland. I got out as soon as I could afford enough gas to make it across the physical, ideological, and mental borders.

Somebody else can stay and "advance" things. Life's too short.

It would seem many have tried to enact change in Russia in the past, often with less than positive outcomes. Sometimes the only reasonable thing you can do for your life is leave.

That's what the "brain drain" idea is about. These days, it's not just about the problems caused when doctors, scientists and the like emigrate, it's also about what happens when civics-literate people, activists, journalists etc. decide to throw in the towel as well.

YOLO. It takes too much time to change something in the whole country. Almost no one wants to trade a decade of their own lives to fight windmills.

> I think that the Internet as a decentralised system doesn't require any regulation. This a self-regulatory system.

First, this is not true, as there are already several regulations in place regarding the operation of several aspects of the Internet, such as the DNS. Second, I don't think anyone who cares about, say, copyright law, would agree with your statement.

Frankly, in real world, if you are responsible for even a small network, you'll soon discover there is someone who wants to abuse it, and solving the problem by technical means is not always optimal.

Root DNS is controlled by US company. It's strictly regulated.

in german there is a saying: "vote with your feet".

The unfortunate part about this is that there's a lot of really talented network engineers who are from Russia (or Ukraine, or Belarus, or other former soviet states). The high quality of math education is part of it, totally subjective personal theory of course...

A lot of the most talented Russian network engineers don't want to work for an autocratic regime. I've met at least a half dozen that now work for international ISPs you would see on a top-30 list for CAIDA ASRank, none of which are Russian ISPs. They're living outside Russia, enjoying actual free speech and human rights, and making a better salary.

Intresting fallout from our bigger client. They have been slowly migrating to aws over the last year but because russia started bloking whole blocks of aws IPs, they now stopped migration and are going to keep their own infrastructure up. I havent heard yet but I am sure they are considering moving away from cloud providers, we'll see what they decide, because Russia is huge market.

Huge market for what goods/services? What is your client selling / providing?

couldn't they just maintain a separate proxy indipendent of aws?

And things like this make the educated and ambitious young move abroad.

Good for the economies of Western Europe but not so good for Russia.

And bigger salary and bigger projects have nothing to do with it.

No, Russians do love their country very much. Just their government doesn't love them back.

Aww, that's so romantic :)

As a software developer you can get salary in range of $3000 - $5000 per month on the top level. You can make even more if you are good and work remotely/contracting. With this salary moving to Europe won't give you a rise, you are likely to make less in most EU countries. Moving to US will give you a rise in salary but not radical. People I know moving to EU/US not because of money, they move because of health care, education, crime, corruption and perceived lack of a better future.

>Moving to US will give you a rise in salary but not radical.

My colleagues working in SV and particularly at Google would disagree.

>they move because of health care, education, crime, corruption and perceived lack of a better future

Okey, replace salary with quality of life. I doubt that intangible political motives alone would've been enough.

>It seeks to route Russian web traffic and data through points controlled by the state and proposes building a national Domain Name System to allow the internet to continue functioning even if the country is cut off from foreign infrastructure.

The first part just seems like a forced MITM situation whilst the second makes some sense - in a cyber warfare scenario; however, that runs under the assumption that the DNS servers and/or entries didn't get poisoned before they're "cut-off" from foreign infrastructure. Doesn't really seem all that worthwhile, unless you create recovery points to ensure that you have records to recover with; otherwise, what's the point...?

(Of course, I could be entirely misunderstanding the premise of the law because it's not referenced in the article and I can't speak/read Russian for feck-all...)

I think the answer to the question what's the point is to notice that there's a bit of a rhetorical trick going on. Notice how they say (in passive voice) proposes building a national Domain Name System to allow the internet to continue functioning even if the country is cut off from foreign infrastructure. So you're trying to analyze this as if a foreign country tries to cut Russia off from the internet. The Russian government has an interest of its own in cutting itself off from the internet to control its own citizens' speech on the internet, it's just that it's a little bit cynical to imagine it and it wouldn't be balanced to mention it explicitly in a news article.

"So you're trying to analyze this as if a foreign country tries to cut Russia off from the internet."

Well, Russia has been threatened to be cut off from SWIFT. At about the same time several Russian banks has been cut off from VISA and MC and after that Russia has built nation payment processing and forced VISA and MC use it for intra-Russia payments.

Being cut off from the internet is more far fetched but given the increased role of the internet in Russian economy and state services it is something that cannot be completely ignored.

Another possibility is that Russia cuts off itself after the multitude of crippling Stuxnet-like attacks via internet on targets of significant economical and industrial value.

> Russia has been threatened to be cut off from SWIFT

Do you have a link for this claim? All I get when googling "russia cut off from swift" is a bunch of rt/zerohedge/tass stuff (wtf is TruNews?), followed by some clear denials in ft/bloomberg. Is there more to this than just the Russian government saying stuff?

I most certainly do.

13. Recalls that the restrictive measures taken by the EU are directly linked to the Russian Federation’s violation of international law with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine, while the trade measures taken by the Russian Federation, including those against Ukraine and other Eastern Partnership countries which have recently concluded Association Agreements with the EU, are unjustified; calls for the EU to consider excluding Russia from civil nuclear cooperation and the Swift system;


Was this seriously considered, or is it just the European Parliament saying things? When I google this stuff, I can't find anything to support it like an actual plan or something.

Around the time when politicians were discussing the ban, a Russian banker joined SWIFT board. This was not a political move but a purely technical one, board members are selected based on the number of messages sent over the last year.

Still funny that media did not report it at the time although this was made public.

Not a true Scotsman?

According to Bloomberg, the U.K. plans to propose blocking Russia from the SWIFT banking transaction system, a move analysts say would effectively cut off Russian businesses from the rest of the world's financial system. U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron will put forward the proposal during a meeting with E.U. leaders in Brussels on Saturday.


A quick google search reveals they apparently have their own SWIFT now.¹ It is ran side by side with SWIFT, not as a competitor, so the claim that it is from fear of sanctions or other actions from the US seems accurate.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/23/russias-central-bank-governo...

Every country with an independent financial system has a so called RTGS,a real-time gross settlement system. It happens that Russian RTGS is similar to SWIFT as far as data structures are concerned. This makes it easier to extend RTGS to other kinds of uses.

The U.S. did cut Russia off during midterms last year didn’t we? It’s not a what if.

Citation? I am unaware of even a single Russian ISP that has been cut off from a traffic exchange point in Western Europe.

This would make news in the internet infrastructure community if it occurred.

This is what he is referring to:


Saying the US, "cut Russia off" is a massive overstatement, but something did happen.

We haven't noticed it here in Russia :)

Network engineer perspective: It looks to me like the Russian government wants to be able to cut itself off from the ICANN DNS roots, not because there's any actual threat of western european nation-states or ISPs cutting off its transport links to places like the DE-CIX, but because the Russian government wants the ability to cut things off in an emergency situation.

Theoretically, an "emergency" that might be something like a civil uprising against autocratic rule.

If you were to look at the top 50 largest ASes in Russia and their IP space, and IX presences, they already peer with each other over IXes and PNIs extensively entirely within Russia. Things that are truly hosted entirely within Russia like servers for vkontakte and others would probably continue to function.

Take a look at the Russian ISPs which are members of the DE-CIX for a decent overview of which ASes are big enough to have established major POPs in Western Europe.

The .ru government does know where all of the long distance terrestrial fiber cables are, going in and out of Russia, and licenses each international link for various telecoms and ISPs.

US has waged several wars recently and Russia is in top 3 list of USA enemies - right after ISIS and ebola as far as I remember. It makes Russian government to worry about things...

The US has gone to war with poor desert nomads. Its totally ridiculous to think the #1 nuclear power would fathom... what, a land invasion? of the #2 nuclear power.

Russia and the US have been antagonistic of one another ever since the Bolsheviks deposed the US backed monarchy. That doesn't mean either are delusional enough to end the human race in total nuclear annihilation trying to go to war with one another. That's completely obscene fearmongering.

> The US has gone to war with poor desert nomads.

Okay, so... The "But iraq has WMD lies" that were used to justify the 2003 invasion resulted in a ground war, but not with poor desert nomads.

Saddam Hussein and the Baathist party were the urban elite of the country. In terms of positions of power, financial resources and such, they were the 1% of Iraq.

The insurgencies that formed from "poor desert nomads" came afterwards, after they had defeated the Iraqi army and the paychecks stopped coming for the majority of the Iraqi army and police forces.

The US defeated the Iraqi military in three weeks. While an incredibly costly endeavor to begin with, the ~15 years of occupation and guerilla warfare since have immensely eclipsed the formal war against Sadam's government.

The stated purpose has little to do with real intent, which is information control over Russian subjects. Russia will eventually corral ordinary citizens off the real net into its small OK/VK heaven.

I've been following Russian news on the matter pretty closely for the last couple of years (I do speak Russian). Most of these laws are absurdly nonsensical, people who are responsible for them (Yarovaya and co) have very vague understanding of technology and I don't think it's about technology in the end.

US has Yarovaya style system for ages in NSA.

> The first part just seems like a forced MITM situation whilst the second makes some sense - in a cyber warfare scenario; however, that runs under the assumption that the DNS servers and/or entries didn't get poisoned before they're "cut-off" from foreign infrastructure.

Not only that, you don't need a separate DNS for this. Presumably the .ru TLD is already controlled by Russia. All they would need is to operate their own root server, which wouldn't even need to return invalid data for other TLDs, just not return invalid data for the .ru TLD.

Russian here. Few points:

- Root DNS and most of the cloud providers are in US jurisdiction. US declared Russia as top 3 enemy and applies random 'sanctions'; - Russian (and EU) laws require companies to store citizen's personal information locally; - many lazy developers and service providers relied on AWS/GCP thus breaking the law.

Telegram blocking attempt has shown that even some government resources are hosted outside Russia. In case of severe confrontation escalation US/NATO will cut DNS or will engage in cyberwarfare operations against Russia. So Russian government wants to make sure that Russian infrastructure will continue to function properly.

This is not PRIZM or Great Firewall of China type of system or regulation. There are no plans to cut off internet. There's a group of people that spread FUD and hype around this initiative.

No plans to cut off from the internet? This was in the news a few days ago:

"Russia plans to test a kill switch that disconnects the country from the internet" https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/11/russia-internet-turn-off-d...

To be fair that article says pretty much what the OP says. They want to ensure the country keeps functioning if it is cut off from the internet.

On one level I sort of understand. My own country would stuffed for a short while if DNS in particular went down. It's not just the internet - the phone system, a lot of TV and god knows what else would be in real trouble.

But on the another level, fixing it would just require DNAT'ing a bunch of IP's. If it happened (and it seems like a big if) it would be mostly over after 24 hours of mad scrambling. If you were paranoid enough to want to have everything in place you could try doing the DNAT on small sections, see what broke and what it didn't effect because packets will still flying out, and fix it without inflicting a worse case cyber war outcome on the entire country.

From a western perspective, the cost / benefit of what they are proposing seems way out of kilter. Maybe it is politicly reasonable thing to do in Russia, but in the west a whole sections of society (business, sporting associations, professions) would be willing to put in a few dollars to ensure whosever idea it was would never hold the reigns of power again.

I agree, Russian Government is doing this because US and its allies are threatening all legitimate governments around the world. They want to impose their puppets. Look at what's happening in Venezuela. People in Venezuela is suffering beacuse of US sanctions and war threats, but the news are always that "the Dictatorship don't let people eat".


You can't attack another user by insinuating shilling without evidence. This is in the site guidelines, and we ban accounts that do it. Please don't do it again, regardless of how strongly you disagree with someone.

Years of moderating this highly international forum has taught us that when people convince themselves that someone is faking their view, it's usually projection.


Comment rating systems are purposefully gamed by "paid" actors -- fake accounts, likes, etc. They aren't foolproof for preventing misinformation as such.

Also, it's rather also disingenuous to write off an entire comment as a "paid actor". That poster just makes the claim (which I believe you contest), that Venezuela is a "legitimate government"? Just say you disagree with the claim and explain why. It's something that would promote meaningful discussion.

Cause really, although I'm a bit of a novice in Central/South American history -- the USA has indeed done some shady stuff in the recent past.

I just took a 30 second look at the English language websites of TASS, RT and Sputnik.

Unsurprisingly, there is no mention whatsoever of these protests.

These websites are controlled (directly or indirectly) by the Russian government. They usually don't mention opposition meetings. I think that they don't want anyone to know even about their existence.

Can you reference any significant 'opposition' meeting (such as this) that was not covered by RT for less than justifiable reason? E.g. - in this event the organizers prohibited RT from covering the event, which is a pretty decent reason for the lack of coverage!

What you say may be correct, but is it your position that these news sites are not Russian government propaganda machines, that they give good, objective coverage of what is right and wrong with the country and its government?

And what is your own view of the Russian government?

First as a little update it turns out they did try to provide English language coverage of the protests, so much as possible [0].

As for your question, I think that's clearly a false dichotomy. I do think the issue of propaganda is important, especially in today's times. So let's consider an incident. Some weeks ago you probably read about Maduro's government, in Venezuela, setting one of the US aid trucks on fire. This was covered extensively. CNN stated that "a CNN team saw incendiary devices from police on the Venezuelan side of the border ignite the trucks" [1] while describing the images of the trucks as sickening and repeating numerous calls for stronger action as a result of such things. If that page should change in the near future, the internet archive [2] is your friend. This was repeated by most other media sources as well.

The problem is that it was a lie. The aid truck was undoubtedly set on fire by anti-government forces. This is now being covered by the NYTimes [3] citing "unpublished video" and dutifully pondering 'how we got here'. The Intercept has also done a phenomenal piece on this event, here - showing how it was played out as propaganda and the entities that pushed it hardest. [4] Of course I haven't mentioned RT once yet, so what gives? This [5] gives. That's an article from RT. What you might notice is that they have an embedded video, literally the "unpublished video" from the NYTimes demonstrating that it was an anti-government protester setting the truck on fire. And it was published weeks ago, as soon as the information came to light while most western media continued to simply beat the war drums.


This is also not an isolated incident. I point this out not to claim that RT is amazing. If the roles were reversed and it was a very serious event such as Russia trying to foment a coup in another nation, I certainly would not expect RT to run timely articles indicating that actions being used as propaganda were, in fact, not the fault of the targeted government. You're not going to find any single source that provides "good, objective coverage" when it comes to issues that align with, or run against, their interests. So I find it important to expose yourself to a wide array of media and particularly to sources that are more like to challenge your viewpoints than affirm them. Nietzche might not approve, but in the end we're surrounded by nothing but abysses.

[0] - https://www.rt.com/russia/453483-internet-freedom-rally-mosc...

[1] - https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/24/americas/venezuela-pompeo...

[2] - https://web.archive.org/web/20190301142504/https://edition.c...

[3] - https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/10/world/americas/venezuela-...

[4] - https://theintercept.com/2019/03/10/nyts-expose-on-the-lies-...

[5] - https://www.rt.com/news/452326-venezuela-us-aid-truck-protes...

It's often unwise to draw assumptions based on what is likely an extremely biased view. You might find this information [1] surprising (Google translate will work fine). The organizers themselves chose to ban a number of media organizations from covering or attending the rally. Among these were RT/Ruptly.

[1] - https://russian.rt.com/russia/news/609659-rt-miting-moskva

Ruler needs to give his subjects bread and circuses. The circus part is increasingly happening in the Internet.

If I was Putin, I would make sure that you can stream or torrent movies and have good access to game servers, cat videos and mindless entertainment like my life depends on it.

You overestimate tech literacy of the majority of Russian population. Very small percentage is engaged with playing videogames or knows how to use torrents.

People are given lots of distractions though - so many controversial, absolutely absurd laws have been introduced in the past few years everybody talks about (about fighting homosexual propaganda, forbidding adoption for foreigners, blasphemy laws and so on). Internet restrictions are like a drop in the sea of craziness and not even the most relevant one for the majority, or controversial, or loud.

The real power in Russia is within two cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. It's the urban and relatively highly educated population in these two cities that decides the fate of Russia, not the majority.

I might be pessimistic because I am in close contact with that demographic (lots of my friends are young, educated, comparatively well-off guys from Moscow working in tech) and, pardon my French, they decide shit. Oligarchs decide the fate of Russia.

Yet the oligarch’s power plays and Russia’s tough posturing seems popular among the population. Or at least tolerable to the average person.

How do you account for that?

For one thing, Putin controls the media so they have been propagandized. That's why he is so afraid of the internet.

Beyond that, due to Russia's sad history, the population has pretty low standards and expectations for its leaders.

Huh? Whoever likes oligarchs in Russia?

If you mean the popularity of Putin then propaganda and general low level of education of populace.

That's really just a symptom, while the disease is the dictatorship which can do whatever it wants disregarding the people.

Please don't take HN threads further into political or nationalistic flamewar.

What's flameable here? It's all factual and not the matter of dispute. And the point is that fixing symptoms won't help until the root of the problem is fixed. And I'm not saying protesters are wrong or anything. It's just that the problem is a lot deeper.

It was far from "all factual", and clearly in dispute since someone immediately disputed it.

If you post strong political claims using pejorative language like "disease", "dictatorship", and "disregarding the people" (which in fact is almost all of what you said), you're going to take threads like this further into flamewar whether you mean to or not. That's bad for thoughtful discussion and therefore off topic here.

Most of us are living in contexts where our strongly held political/national views feel obvious and unobjectionable. But the minute you open up to a much broader context, such as a highly international forum like HN, it becomes painfully clear that this is not the case.

Who disputed it? The only ones who "dispute" the autocratic nature of power in Russia are government backed trolls. That's not considered dispute by any means.

And trying to be neutral or "soft" about these kind of things ends up in whitewashing it. It sounds strong, because the problem is serious.

The commenter who replied to you disputed it. Jumping to "government backed trolls" is exactly the mentality I was just trying to describe. That's just a form of assuming your conclusion, you have no evidence for saying it, and in fact it explicitly breaks the site guidelines to insinuate it. (Please see https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.)

The range of legit opinion is much wider than most people think. That has become very obvious to us, looking at the data left by millions of readers, voters, and commenters.

The beauty of the network and hyperconnection. It's like you can try and maintain a hierarchical structure with all the energy and resources you have. But the more the nodes within your hierarchy are connected to external networks the less chance you ever have of maintaining the integrity of the hierarchy.

There is a threshold of contentedness above which it doesn't matter one bit what the hierarchy does to maintain integrity. China will stay separate for longer because they disconnected much earlier, but their anxiety over the trade deal just shows how hard it is. Britain too is going to pay a price. Putin is waking up too late. The Network will assimilate all. The thresholds have been crossed long ago.

You highly underestimate power of totalitarian state

There aren't any models from history of what happens to totalitarian states when their population is connected to a much larger external network.

This is the first generation of totalitarian leaders that has to figure out how to handle the "connectedness". They will do the obvious thing and try to disconnect. There is nothing to suggest it will result in anything but a loss to the state and to them.

In case of Russia those in power don't care about that loss they need enough people to do resource extraction and to serve in military and that's about it. Their families live in London and Miami and don't have to contend with whatever crap this will result in.

> There is a threshold of contentedness above which it doesn't matter one bit what the hierarchy does to maintain integrity.

If that's true, then the threshold for suffering is dramatically high. I don't think we need to list all of the oppressive states that have existed or still do exist where millions have died.

Unfortunately, it's getting easier for fewer people to monitor and control more.

>The protests in Moscow, the southern city of Voronezh and Khabarovsk in the far east had all been officially authorized.

How subversive.

Prior authorisation is actually required in many westerm democracies if you're going to block roads and the like.

I don't know where you live, but is it not the same (i.e. you need official approbation to plan a protest) in most countries?

Yes. Except that in Russia this works a little bit different. You need a permission (not approbation) from the authorities for any political gatherings. Otherwise, everyone gathering risks spending 15 days in jail (or $500 fines, median monthly salary after tax $300) for gathering illegally. Usually they forbid them, so that was an exception.

That's not how it works. You don't need permission to rally. You notify local government about the date and preferred place and number of people. If the place is available - you rally there if not you're given an alternative place.

First, you don't always get an alternative place, lately local authorities started just denying the permission. Second, even if they propose an alternative, it's somewhere on the outskirts and/or at extremely inconvenient time. You can find a big bunch of examples of both at [1] (in Russian).

[1]: https://ovdinfo.org/news/2018/04/25/otkazy-v-soglasovanii-ak...

"everyone gathering risks spending 15 days in jail"

Another Russian here.

You are misinformed. The law threatens you with 15 days in jail if you injure somebody or damage property. Likewise, the fines are reserved for things like being drunk or inciting violence.


Nope, see КоАП 20.2 6.1 for example. Also see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19355745

So like in any other country? Except for the forbidding, of course.

Can you name one single other country where attendants are put in jail when attending a rally that was not permitted?

In Russia this might happen if you injure somebody or damage property during unpermitted rally.

That's of course a lie. Both from practical standpoint (police will invent stuff out of whole cloth if needed with courts rubber-stamping it) and from legal one, too. КоАП РФ [1] article 20.2 6.1, "unsanctioned gatherings leading to interruption of… pedestrian flow… up to 15 days of detention" (do I need to explain that any gathering is in practice an "interruption"?). Moreover, УК РФ 212.1 [2] says that breaking the previous one twice in a half year is punishable by up to 8 years in jail. I'd also like to remind you about the case of Ildar Dadin [3], who got thrown in jail for 3 years for one-person pickets. Sure, he was released when the case got widely publicised, but the laws and court system that did it are still in place.

I reckon you have a very… optimistic and cursory knowledge of Russian laws in that area.

[1]: https://ru.wikisource.org/wiki/Кодекс_РФ_об_административных...

[2]: https://ru.wikisource.org/wiki/Уголовный_кодекс_Российской_Ф...

[3]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ildar_Dadin

"That's of course a lie."

That was rude and unnecessary.

According to [1], you are right and this article is used as you described against targeted political activists.

At the same time, it is not how it is used in general case [2].

Moreover, if you look, for example, at the preceding article (20.1 - disorderly conduct in public places) [3] you must conclude that in Russia people are jailed for 15 days for saying 'fuck you' to somebody in a public place. Which, of course, is not happening because the degree of punishment, while at the judge's discretion, has to be proportional.

[1] https://ovdinfo.org/codex/ch-61-st-202-koap

[2] https://dogovor-urist.ru/%D1%81%D1%83%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%B1%D0%B...

[3] https://www.consultant.ru/document/cons_doc_LAW_34661/747542...

The proper US response to the 2016 meddling would have been a NATSEC law that said no US based social media company could allow for 5 years any Russian IP address to connect to their services, or they would suffer massive fines. Facebook and Twitter for their role in the attack would be fined $5 Billion Dollars each and forced to provide policies within 1 year to prevent this from happening again, or face the threat of becoming regulated by the US government. All user accounts that belonged to Russian citizens as well as the Russian oligarchs and politicians were to be frozen for 5 years. US and EU Banks would be required to sanction Russians Oligarchs and Putin's interests.

Basically you would have instantly made Russian life a living digital hellscape for 5 years, at which point things could be lifted provided there were signed binding treaties and assurances that the type of attack in 2016 would never happen again. If attacks resumed the next round would last 10 years and be twice as severe.

If we're going to destroy net neutrality and impart government fascism, or have bizzaro government rulings that get throw out in court, this is how we should have done it, and this is the cause we should have done it for.

Is this possible technically? The story is about trying to block Telegram and finding out that is impossible because of VPNs, IP changes(tech details) why do you think you can prevent Russian trolls to post on social media with a law? You block eh innocent people that are not technically sophisticated at best

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