TIME protest

Workers Rally on May Day Across the World

A masked protestor runs away from tear gas during a May Day rally at Okmeydani in Istanbul on May 1, 2015.
Yasin Akgul—AFP/Getty Images A masked protestor runs away from tear gas during a May Day rally at Okmeydani in Istanbul on May 1, 2015.

May 1 regularly sees clashes between police and militant groups in some cities

(HAVANA) — Left-wing groups, governments and trade unions were staging rallies around the world Friday to mark International Workers Day.

Most events were peaceful protests for workers’ rights and world peace. But May 1 regularly sees clashes between police and militant groups in some cities.

International Workers Day originates in the United States. American unions first called for the introduction of an eight-hour working day in the second half of the 19th century. A general strike was declared to press these demands, starting May 1, 1886. The idea spread to other countries and since then workers around the world have held protests on May 1 every year, although the U.S. celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday in September.

Here’s a look at some of the May Day events around the world:

TURKEY

Police and May Day demonstrators clashed in Istanbul as crowds determined to defy a government ban tried to march to the city’s iconic Taksim Square.

Security forces pushed back demonstrators using water cannons and tear gas. Protesters retaliated by throwing stones and hurling firecrackers at police.

Authorities have blocked the square that is symbolic as the center of protests in which 34 people were killed in 1977.

Turkish newswires say that 10,000 police officers were stationed around the square Friday.

The demonstrations are the first large-scale protests since the government passed a security bill this year giving police expanded powers to crack down on protesters.

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CUBA

Thousands of people converged on Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution for the traditional May Day march, led this year by President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. After attending Cuba’s celebration, Maduro was to fly back to Caracas to attend the May Day observances in his own country.

The parade featured a group of doctors who were sent to Africa to help in the fight against Ebola. Marchers waved little red, white and blue Cuban flags as well as posters with photos of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Additional marches were held in major cities around the island, including Santiago and Holguin in the east.

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SOUTH KOREA

Thousands of people marched in the capital Seoul on Friday for a third week to protest government labor policies and the handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago.

Demonstrators occupied several downtown streets and sporadically clashed with police officers. Protesters tried to move buses used to block their progress. Police responded by spraying tear gas. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

South Korean labor groups have been denouncing a series of government policies they believe will reduce wages, job security and retirement benefits for state employees.

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PHILIPPINES

More than 10,000 workers and activists marched in Manila and burned an effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to protest low wages and a law allowing employers to hire laborers for less than six months to avoid giving benefits received by regular workers.

Workers in metropolitan Manila now receive 481 pesos ($10.80) in daily minimum wage after a 15 peso ($0.34) increase in March.

Although it is the highest rate in the country, it is still “a far cry from being decent,” says Lito Ustarez, vice chairman of the left-wing May One Movement.

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GREECE

In financially struggling Greece, an estimated 13,000 people took part in three separate May Day marches in Athens, carrying banners and shouting anti-austerity slogans. Minor clashes broke out at the end of the peaceful marches, when a handful of hooded youths threw a petrol bomb at riot police. No injuries or arrests were reported.

Earlier, ministers from the governing radical left Syriza party joined protesters gathering for the marches, including Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis — who was mobbed by media and admirers — and the ministers of labor and energy.

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GERMANY

Police in Berlin say the traditional ‘Walpurgis Night’ protest marking the eve of May 1 was calmer than previous years.

Several thousand people took part in anti-capitalist street parties in the north of the city. Fireworks and stones were thrown at police, injuring one officer. Fifteen people were detained. Elsewhere in the German capital revelers partied “extremely peacefully,” police noted on Friday morning.

At noon, Green Party activists unveiled a statue at Alexanderplatz in central Berlin of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, considered heroes by many on the left for leaking secret U.S. intelligence and military documents. The statue, called “Anything to say,” depicts the three standing on chairs and is scheduled to go on tour around the world, according to the website http://www.anythingtosay.com/.

In the central German city of Weimar far-right extremists attacked a union event. Police said 15 people were injured and 29 were arrested.

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RUSSIA

In Moscow, tens of thousands of workers braved chilly rain to march across Red Square. Instead of the red flags with the Communist hammer and sickle used in Soviet times, they waved the blue flags of the dominant Kremlin party and the Russian tricolor.

Despite an economic crisis that is squeezing the working class, there was little if any criticism of President Vladimir Putin or his government.

The Communist Party later held a separate march under the slogan “against fascism and in support of Donbass,” with participants calling for greater support for the separatists fighting the Ukrainian army in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

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ITALY

In Milan, police released water from hydrants against hundreds of demonstrators, many of them scrawling graffiti on walls or holding smoky flares during a march in the city, where the Italian premier and other VIPs were inaugurating Expo, a world’s fair that runs for six months.

An hour into the march, protesters set at least one parked car on fire, smashed store windows, tossed bottles and chopped up pavement.

Italian labor confederation leaders held their main rally in a Sicilian town, Pozzallo, where thousands of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia have arrived in recent weeks after being rescued at sea from smugglers boats. Hoping to settle for the most part in northern Europe, the migrants are fleeing poverty as well as persecution or violent conflicts in their homelands.

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SPAIN

Around 10,000 protesters gathered under sunny skies in Madrid to take part in a May Day march under a banner saying “This is not the way to come out of the financial crisis.”

Spain’s economy is slowly emerging from the double-dip recession it hit at the end of 2013, but the country is still saddled with a staggering 23.8 percent unemployment rate.

“There should be many more of us here,” said demonstrator Leandro Pulido Arroyo, 60. “There are six million people unemployed in Spain, and many others who are semi-unemployed, who although they may be working don’t earn enough to pay for decent food.”

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POLAND

Rallies in Warsaw were muted this year after Poland’s weakened left wing opposition held no May Day parade.

Only a few hundred supporters of the Democratic Left Alliance, or SLD, and of its ally, the All-Poland Trade Union, gathered for a downtown rally Friday to demand more jobs and job security.

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BRAZIL

President Dilma Rousseff skipped her traditional televised May Day address, instead releasing a brief video calling attention to gains for workers under her leadership.

In the video, Rousseff says the minimum wage grew nearly 15 percent above the rate of inflation from 2010-2014. Her office said the choice to roll out several short videos via social media Friday was aimed at reaching a younger public.

TIME Music

A Russian Politician Thinks U2’s Album Cover Is ‘Gay Propaganda’

Songs of Innocence cover

Songs of Innocence is apparently not that innocent

Bono-hating iTunes users weren’t the only ones who were mad when U2’s Songs of Innocence album suddenly descended from the Cloud last September. Now add Russian politician Alexander Starovoitov to the list.

According to The Guardian, the member of Russia’s conservative LDPR party has asked his country’s attorney general to investigate Apple, which gave away the band’s latest album to more than 500 million iTunes customers, for distributing “gay propaganda” to the youths of Russia.

The offending material isn’t the music, however, but the album cover—and not the sparse, all-white one that came with the iTunes version, but the one that was released with the physical edition of the record. The image by Glen Luchford depicts U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. hugging the waist of 18-year-old son and, according to the band, shows “how holding on to your own innocence is a lot harder than holding on to someone else’s.” But because neither father nor son are wearing shirts in the image—and, okay, because fathers and sons don’t usually embrace like that—Starovoitov thinks the cover promotes gay sex instead.

If convicted, the report adds—one pro-Kremlin paper even quotes a lawyer who says he’s prepared to sue on behalf of his own son—Apple could have to shut down in Russia for up to 90 days or pay up to some $20,000 in fines. So let’s hope U2 doesn’t get stuck in a lawsuit it can’t get out of.

[The Guardian]

TIME

Why an Out-of-Control Spacecraft Is Bad News for Russia

A resupply craft heading for the space station spins out of control

If you want to get where you’re going (and where you’re going is space) there’s nothing like a Soyuz rocket. The venerable Russian booster was first launched in 1966 and has been flying ever since, reliably delivering cargo and crews to low Earth orbit—except, that is, when it fails. That, alas, appears to be the case at the moment.

A Progress cargo vehicle, destined for the International Space Station (ISS), was launched atop a Soyuz on April 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and while it reached orbit as planned just minutes later, everything since then has been something else entirely. The ship, carrying 2.6 tons of supplies—including propellant, oxygen, water, spare parts, crew clothing and spacewalk hardware, as well as a commemorative replica of the Soviet victory banner raised above the German Reichstag building 70 years ago this May—began what NASA has dubbed a “slow spin,” but which looks, from a video shot from within the spacecraft, like a pretty fast one. No matter how it’s described, any out-of-control spin is a very bad thing.

The vehicle had been launched when the ISS was in position to allow the Progress to rendezvous with it after a relatively quick, four-orbit, six-hour chase. Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has now changed that to a more traditional 34-orbit—or 2.1 day—pursuit, in hopes of opening up enough time to fix what is wrong with the ship.

MORE: See the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year in Space

The problem appears to have been caused by the failure of two radar antennas to deploy as planned. The Joint Spacecraft Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, Calif., reported that it detected 44 pieces of debris in the vicinity of the spacecraft. The significance of that is unclear—the Progress sheds a shroud before going to work in orbit and some debris could have been left behind—but it’s not a good sign.

None of this represents anything close to an emergency for the ISS crew. “The spacecraft was not carrying any supplies critical for the United States Operating Segment (USOS) of the station,” said NASA spokesman Dan Huot in an e-mail to TIME. “Both the Russian and USOS segments…continue to operate normally and are adequately supplied well beyond the next planned resupply flight.”

But the problem comes at an unhandy time for Russia. Even as Roscosmos was fighting to right the Soyuz, a Dragon resupply vehicle, successfully launched by California-based SpaceX, was docked to the station and going through five weeks of unloading. Both SpaceX and the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences—which flies the Antares supply vehicle—are under contract to make cargo runs to the station. Progress has a far longer success record than either of the comparative upstarts, but the current malfunction is the second since 2011, when another Progress spun out of control just 325 seconds after launch and crashed into the Kazakh steppe.

Roscosmos has enjoyed a monopoly on manned space flight to the station ever since the shuttles were retired in 2011, and briefly owned the market for unmanned runs too—at least until the Dragon made its first successful trip in 2012. By 2017, both Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft are supposed to begin carrying crews to the station. That will hurt more than Russia’s ego: Roscosmos charges $70 million per seat for passengers, and Russia—pinched by low oil prices—could sorely use the cash. It’s not as if SpaceX and Boeing will fly folks for free, of course—the transition to private suppliers means someone’s got to make a profit—but SpaceX founder Elon Musk likes to speak about how important it is to “repatriate” the money the U.S. is currently paying Russia. It’s an idea that has special appeal when relations between Moscow and Washington remain chilly.

None of this means anyone should be dissing the Soyuz or the Progress. They’re sweet machines that have been doing their jobs for a long, long time. And the Russian engineers who build and fly them have proved themselves pros. But technology changes, time passes and markets move. Problems with the Progress can only help move them somewhere else.

TIME russia

Russia Jails 3 Women for Twerking Next to WWII Memorial

They were found guilty of "hooliganism" and sentenced to between 10 and 15 days in jail

(MOSCOW) — A court in southern Russia has sentenced three young women to brief jail terms for making a video showing them twerking next to a World War II memorial.

Russia celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Allies’ victory in the World War II next month, an emotionally charged holiday the Kremlin has been using for propaganda purposes.

The sentencing in the Novorossiysk district court of a 19-year-old woman to 15 days in jail and two women in their 20s to 10 days comes after prosecutors launched a probe into a video showing a group of women twerking next to the memorial on the Black Sea. Twerking is a sexually provocative dance involving thrusting of the hips.

Prosecutors said in a statement Saturday that five women were found guilty of “hooliganism” and two of them were spared jail because of poor health. Hooliganism is the charge that sent two members of punk band Pussy Riot to prison for two years for an impromptu protest at Moscow’s main cathedral in 2012.

Prosecutors in Novorossiysk also said they were pressing charges against the parents of one underage girl who was twerking with the others girls for “the failure to encourage the physical, intellectual, physiological, spiritual and moral development of a child.”

This is a second twerking scandal in Russia in less than two weeks.

Investigators last week launched a probe into a dance school in the city of Orenburg after a YouTube video of female school girls dressed as bees and twerking in a sexually suggestive Winnie the Pooh routine sparked outrage. The dance school was temporarily shut down while officials in this southern city not far from the Kazakh border ordered an inspection of all dance schools in the region.

TIME russia

Watch This Slow-Moving Landslide Devour a Russian Road

The landslide was caused by a coal mining accident

A massive landslide moving like molasses downed trees and power lines before inching across a road in Russia earlier this month, and the whole incident was caught on video.

The landslide occurred near Novokuznetsk, which is east of the Ural Mountains, according to National Geographic. In the four-minute video, a mixture of soil and rocks moves with slow but deliberate force across the Russian landscape, dragging down everything that comes in its path. No one was hurt.

The disaster was caused by a collapse of waste material at a nearby coal mine, a coal industry official told local Russian media. Mines can be a common trigger for landslides worldwide.

[National Geographic]

TIME russia

How the Boston Marathon Bombing Hurt Tsarnaev’s Homeland

Dr. Khassan Baiev talks  to a patient and his father at the children's hospital in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, on April 17, 2015.
Yuri Kozyrev—Noor for TIME Dr. Khassan Baiev talks to a patient and his father at a children's hospital in Grozny, Chechnya, on April 17, 2015

A renowned Chechen surgeon who once gave shelter to the Tsarnaev family near Boston tells TIME about the pain of losing Americans' trust

Late last year, as the trial of the Boston Marathon bomber was nearing its conclusion, an old friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s family realized it was time for him to leave his home in Massachusetts and go back to his native Chechnya.

Khassan Baiev, a renowned physician, had spent more than a decade by that point doing charity work around Boston, mostly aimed at bringing American medical care to children in Chechnya and other parts of southern Russia. But after the marathon bombings in 2013, and the subsequent trial of the younger Tsarnaev brother, it was nearly impossible to continue this type of philanthropy.

“People began telling me that they can’t help Chechnya after what happened, or they won’t,” says Baiev. “So I didn’t see a choice. I had to accept that the bonds I had built were broken.”

The strain on Baiev’s ties with American donors began to show soon after the blasts, when police identified the suspects as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, whose father hails from Chechnya. Although the brothers had never actually lived there, the region’s reputation among the American public was so badly stained after the bombings that even raising small donations for its children became a struggle, Baiev says. “It was like the entire nation became associated with terrorism.”

That shift in the American consciousness, he says, has hurt many ethnic Chechens who had nothing to do with the bombings. According to the prosecution, the Tsarnaev brothers, both adherents of a radical strain of Islam, had intended to punish the U.S. for its wars in the Muslim world. The two bombs they detonated near the race’s finish line wounded hundreds of innocent people and killed three others on April 15, 2013, including an 8-year-old boy. Days later, Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with U.S. law enforcement, while his younger brother was arrested, put on trial and finally convicted this month. On April 21, the jury in Boston will consider whether to sentence Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to life in prison or the death penalty.

The 21-year-old has so far expressed no public remorse over the bombings. But whatever suffering he intended to cause Americans, Tsarnaev could hardly have planned to do so much harm to the people of Chechnya, whom he had claimed to love and identified with while growing up in the Boston area. “Most doors are closed to us after what happened,” says Heda Saratova, a leading rights campaigner in Chechnya who has helped many families in the region seek asylum in the West. Since the marathon bombings, she says, it has become far more difficult, and usually impossible, for even the most persecuted and vulnerable people in Chechnya to be granted U.S. asylum.

Few are more vulnerable than the thousands of children born with birth defects in Chechnya, often as a result of the region’s wars with Russia in the 1990s, and many of them have found themselves cut off from the medical care that Baiev’s charity was previously able to provide.

For more than a decade, Baiev had served as a vital link between his homeland and the U.S. medical establishment, which has long held him up as a model of courage and selflessness. While most Chechen doctors fled the region during its wars against Russia, Baiev stayed behind to work as a battlefield trauma surgeon, treating wounded combatants from both sides of the conflict even as his operating room quaked with the thuds of Russian artillery. He often lacked basic supplies, even rubber gloves, but after one particularly ferocious battle, he conducted at least 67 amputations and eight skull surgeries in the course of two days, pausing only once to drink a cup of coffee.

Throughout the wars, his willingness to treat the wounds of Chechen rebel leaders made him a target for the Russian forces, who repeatedly detained him and, he says, subjected him to frequent beatings. He earned no less scorn from many of his fellow Chechens for performing surgeries on wounded Russian soldiers. But his dedication to the Hippocratic oath, which obliges a physician to treat the injured regardless of their politics, made him a hero of the medical profession, and he was granted political asylum in the U.S. in 2000.

Two years later, in the spring of 2002, the 8-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev arrived with his parents at Baiev’s doorstep in Needham, Mass. They were part of the wave of Chechen refugees then seeking asylum in the U.S., and a relative in Canada had given them Baiev’s phone number, suggesting he may be able to help. “I’d never seen or heard of them before they called me that day,” he says. For about a month, he let the Tsarnaevs live with him while they were looking for a place of their own. (Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his two sisters joined the family later that year.)

From the weeks they spent living together, Baiev remembers the young Dzhokhar as a “quiet but willful” boy who found easy friends in the neighborhood. “He was a totally normal kid, loved to play, loved life.” After they found their own apartment in a Boston suburb, the Tsarnaevs never stayed in touch with Baiev, and the doctor was in any case too busy lecturing and campaigning to keep up with all his Chechen friends in the area.

The book he published in 2003 describing his experience during the wars — The Oath: A Surgeon Under Fire — went on to become standard reading for American medical students, and later that year, he became the director of a charity called the International Committee for the Children of Chechnya (ICCC), which soon began organizing trips for American surgeons to visit the region to treat children affected by the wars.

There was never any shortage of patients, he says, because “Chechnya was like a testing ground for Russian weapons. God only knows what they dropped on us.” Although the Russian government has never conducted a public study on the rate of birth defects in Chechnya since 2000, Baiev contends that it is many times higher than the global average, leading in particular to cleft palates and other physical abnormalities.

In the decade before the Boston Marathon bombings, he and his U.S. colleagues provided free treatment to thousands of children born in Chechnya with such conditions, usually during the visits to the region that Baiev would organize once a year. For his service, the health-advocacy group Physicians for Human Rights honored him at a gala in Boston in 2006, and he showed up to receive the award with his typical flair, wearing the traditional garb of a Chechen warrior. (To pass security at the event, his friends convinced him to leave the outfit’s ceremonial dagger in the car.)

But the visit to Chechnya he organized for U.S. doctors in the fall of 2014 turned out to be his last with the ICCC. “We just couldn’t find enough support in America after what the Tsarnaevs did,” he says. As a result, he decided at the end of last year to close the charity down. Now, even though most of his family still lives in the U.S., Baiev has moved back to Grozny to work full-time at the local children’s hospital. “I felt there was more I could do here on my own,” he tells TIME during a recent visit to his ward, which he now runs with two local doctors.

Each morning, he puts on the scrubs he got from Harvard Children’s Hospital and makes the rounds of the cramped but spotless facility in Grozny. The desk in his office is decorated with a little American flag and a miniature version of the Statue of Liberty, both symbols of the years he spent building bonds between the U.S. and Chechnya. “But it feels like a lot of that effort was wasted,” he says.

After the marathon bombings, he feels it could take years for his region to regain the sympathy of the Americans who once aided his work so generously. And though he doesn’t seem to blame anyone for withdrawing that support, he says he can’t help but see it as another link in a chain of injustice.

TIME Ukraine

Ukrainian Ally of Ousted President Found Dead

Oleg Kalashnikov in Kiev, Ukraine in 2013.
Vladimir Donsov—AP Oleg Kalashnikov in Kiev in 2013.

Eight other allies of Viktor Yanukovich have had sudden deaths in the last year

A former member of the Ukrainian parliament who opposed the popular movement that ousted President Viktor Yanukovich was found dead with gunshot wounds in Kiev.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said in a statement that the body of Oleg Kalashnikov, 52, was discovered Wednesday evening.

Kalashnikov was involved in the “anti-Maidan” protests in support of Yanukovych, who fled in February 2014. According to the BBC, at least eight Yanukovych allies have died in the last three months; most of the deaths have been deemed suicides.

[Reuters]

TIME russia

See Pictures of a Young Vladimir Putin

Putin is a Leader on the 2015 TIME 100 list

Russian President Vladimir Putin prides himself on his humble, rough and tumble upbringing.

Putin, who won this year’s TIME 100 reader’s poll and is included in the Leaders section of this year’s annual list, was born in Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg) on Oct. 7, 1952. His father was seriously injured in World War II and his mother survived the siege of the city. Putin was the only son of his parents to survive; one died soon after birth and another died in the siege.

Details of Putin’s early life can be hard to find, in part because of his obscure background and his later work with the KGB, and much of what is known of his earlier days comes from him and his friends at the time. One such friend told Masha Gessen, the author of The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, that “If anyone ever insulted him in any way, Volodya would immediately jump on the guy, scratch him, bite him, rip his hair out by the clump—do anything at all never to allow anyone to humiliate him in any way.”

Before reaching his teens, Putin began training in a martial art that combines techniques from others like karate and judo. He later continued with the latter.

From an early age, Putin was intent on joining the KGB, perhaps influenced by the books and TV shows of the time that romanticized the nation’s spy agency. He attended a selective high school, according to his official biography, and later pursued a law degree after he was told that it would help his chances of entering the KGB.

By the mid-1970s, and married to his first wife, Lyudmila, Putin was recruited by the KGB and began a decade and a half career with the Soviet agency. In 1984, he received spy training and was sent to Dresden in East Germany—a disappointing, largely backwater assignment where he was charged with reporting back on activity in West Germany and trying to recruit foreign students.

As the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union began to crumble, Putin and his family returned to his home city. His transition into politics began there, when he joined the successful mayoral campaign of Anatoly Sobchak as a key aide. He formally quit the KGB amid the failed 1991 coup that accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union, and took up a post as Deputy Mayor in St. Petersburg.

Putin moved to Moscow after Sobchak lost a reelection bid in 1996, and two years later he was tapped to head the FSB, the KGB’s successor, setting him on a path that would take him to top.

Read next: Former White House Adviser: What Vladimir Putin Could Learn From ‘Doctor Zhivago’

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME movies

Russia Bans Hollywood Thriller For Depicting It as a Nation of ‘Defective Sub-Humans’

In this image released by Lionsgate, Tom Hardy appears in a scene from the film, "Child 44."
Larry Horricks—AP In this image released by Lionsgate, Tom Hardy appears in a scene from the film, "Child 44."

Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman fail to impress officials in Moscow

The Russian Ministry of Culture canceled the local premiere of the Child 44 on Wednesday, saying the movie portrayed Russia as “a sort of Mordor, populated by physically and morally defective sub-humans.”

Produced by Lionsgate, Child 44 stars Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman and depicts a Soviet officer (Hardy) as he investigates a series of gruesome child murders in 1953, according to the Associated Press.

The distribution company, Central Partnership, supported the decision and in a statement accused the film of misrepresenting facts that “took place before, during and after the Second World War” and of making a false “portrayal of Soviet people living at that time.”

The decision raised concerns that film distributors will begin to self-censor to avoid having a movie premiere cancelled.

“It’s clear that now, if [a film] is about history, it has to correspond to some system of coordinates,” film distributor Alexander Rodnyansky told Russian media translated by the Wall Street Journal. “Now the self-censorship will begin: Many people will start being afraid to buy and distribute films here.”

Child 44 will be released in the United States on April 17.

TIME russia

Exclusive: Relatives of Boston Marathon Bomber Break Their Silence

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
FBI/AP Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Members of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's family tell TIME they tried in vain to dismiss his defense lawyers

Throughout the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 21-year-old who was convicted last week of bombing the Boston Marathon in 2013, his family resisted the urge to speak out publicly in his defense. Tsarnaev’s defense team had advised them not to grant interviews, they say, as it could risk his chances at trial. But when the jury issued its guilty verdict on April 8, convicting him on 17 counts that could each carry the death penalty, some of his relatives decided to go public with their outrage.

On the evening of April 14, three members of the Tsarnaev family met at a café in the city of Grozny, close to their ancestral home in southern Russia, and told a TIME reporter how the trial had torn their family apart, how helpless they felt against what they see as an American conspiracy against them and, above all, how they still hope to convince Tsarnaev to fire his legal team and seek to overturn the verdict on appeal.

“It would be so much easier if he had actually committed these crimes,” says his aunt Maret Tsarnaeva. “Then we could swallow this pain and accept it.”

But two years after the bombing that killed three people and wounded hundreds near the race’s finish line on April 15, 2013, they still refuse to admit Tsarnaev’s guilt. From their homes in Chechnya and Dagestan, two predominantly Muslim regions of Russia, some of his family members have tried to convince Tsarnaev to fire his court-appointed lawyer, Judy Clarke, who has taken a surprising approach to his defense.

In one of her first arguments before the jury after entering a not-guilty plea, Clarke said that her client is indeed responsible for the “senseless, horrific, misguided acts.” But in committing these crimes, she argued that he was acting under the direction of his older brother Tamerlan, who was killed in a shootout with authorities soon after the bombing.

This line of defense has outraged many of Tsarnaev’s relatives, who have tried to convince him to dismiss Clarke and ask for a lawyer who will argue his innocence. “Why do we even need defense attorneys if they just tell the jury he is guilty?” his aunt asks. “What’s the point?”

Like many observers of the case in Russia, the Tsarnaev family has claimed — without providing any meaningful evidence — that the bombing was part of a U.S. government conspiracy intended to test the American public’s reaction to a terrorist threat and the imposition of martial law in a U.S. city. “This was all fabricated by the American special services,” Said-Hussein Tsarnaev, the convicted bomber’s uncle, tells TIME. A panel of 12 jurors in Boston reached the verdict after weeks of testimony from some 90 witnesses and 11 hours of deliberations spread over two days.

Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat, made similar claims of a conspiracy soon after his arrest, but she seems to have come around since then to the strategy that her son’s lawyers have taken at trial. As a result, the family appears to have suffered a rancorous split. While the brothers’ paternal relatives, who spoke to TIME on Wednesday, have demanded a new legal team, their mother has refused to call for Clarke’s dismissal. “The mother won’t let us do it,” says Hava Tsarnaeva, the brothers’ great-aunt in Chechnya. “She won’t listen to reason.”

MORE Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Found Guilty on All Counts in Boston Bombing Trial

Their only real means of pressuring her is through Tsarnaev’s father, Anzor, a native of Chechnya who now lives in neighboring Dagestan. But he seems to have taken his wife’s side on the quality of their son’s defense. “As frightening as it is to admit, Anzor has been his wife’s zombie all his life, from the first day they met,” says his sister Maret.

In their desperation to reach Tsarnaev during the trial, his paternal relatives have tried sending letters, arranging phone calls and even encouraging a friend to go to the Boston courtroom and cry out to Tsarnaev during a hearing. But all of these efforts failed to reach him, they say, let alone convince him to fire his lawyers.

Their focus now has turned to outside help, primarily from rights activists and international institutions, though these efforts also have little chance of success. On Wednesday, they met with a leading rights activist in Chechnya, Heda Saratova, in the hope of filing an appeal in the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Saratova informed them that the U.S. is not a party to the court’s founding treaty, and therefore does not accept its jurisdiction.

On hearing the news, Maret Tsarnaeva, the aunt, let out a laugh through her tears. “So I guess the U.S. has really proven its exceptionalism in this case,” she says, bitterly. “It’s a closed circle.” And it leaves his family no choice but to wait for April 21, when the sentencing phase of the trial will consider whether Tsarnaev should face the death penalty or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Read next: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Probably Won’t End Up in Massachusetts

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