Friday, October 24, 2014

Russia's Constitutional Court Turns Down Pussy Riot Member Complaint

The Russian Constitutional Court has turned down an appeal by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the Pussy Riot punk band, against what she sees as the violation of her constitutional rights by Russian Criminal Code Article 213 Part 2. The Constitutional Court published a relevant resolution on its official website on Wednesday. Tolokonnikova, one of the participants in the so-called punk prayer at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, appealed the provisions of Criminal Code dealing with disorderly conduct under which she was convicted in August 2012. Tolokonnikova argued that this article disproportionately restricts the freedom of expression, qualifies the violation of religious standards as a violation of public order, and criminalizes actions merely based on their perception by the majority of the public as unacceptable. The Constitutional Court noted in its resolution that freedom of speech always has certain limits indicated in the constitution and international law, and this fully concerns discussions on religious matters. Hence, the resolution says, the statute in question does not contain uncertainty either for citizens or for law enforcement agencies or courts, while the assessment of factual circumstances of a case is not within the Constitutional Court's purview, it said. Tolokonnikova was released from prison in December 2013 in line with an amnesty declared by the State Duma to mark the 20th anniversary of the constitution. She had been found guilty of disorderly conduct and sentenced to 2 years in a general security penitentiary in August 2012 for a so-called punk prayer that five women from the Pussy Riot punk band wearing balaclavas staged at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in February 2012.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Russia's Supreme Court Proposes Mandatory Mediation Prior to Filing Commercial Lawsuits

Russia’s Supreme Court has proposed amendments to the Commercial Procedure Code and Tax Code introducing mediation that would require a 30 day delay in filing suit with a commercial court, only after the parties have taken steps to reach a settlement. The proposed amendments would revive a procedure that existed in commercial litigation prior to 1995 (when it was abolished), and would not apply to disputes including bankruptcy, corporate disputes, and certain federal law collection matters.  The Supreme Court has noted that the mediation procedure would enhance efficiency by reducing the number of cases filed with commercial courts.  Meanwhile, Russia's Supreme Commercial Court has ceased to exist, transferring its powers and jurisdiction to the Supreme Court under a federal law that entered into force on February 5th.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CEO of French Total Killed in Moscow Airport Accident

The chief executive of French oil major Total, Christophe de Margerie, was killed when his private jet collided with a snow plow as it was taking off from Moscow's Vnukovo airport on Monday night. De Margerie's death leaves a void at the top of one of the world's biggest listed oil firms at a difficult time for the industry as oil prices fall and state-backed competitors keep them out of some of the best oil exploration territory. The collision occurred minutes before midnight Moscow time as de Margerie's Dassault Falcon jet was taking off for Paris. Russia's Investigative Committee said the driver of the snow plow had been drunk and that a criminal investigation had been launched. The plane's three crew also died, said Total. The airport said visibility was 350 meters (1,150 feet) at the time of the crash.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Russian Ex-Oligarch: Businessmen Are Serfs in Russia

A former close associate of Vladimir Putin has said Russian businessmen were all now “serfs” who belonged to the president, with none of the country’s companies beyond his reach. Sergei Pugachev, who was once so close to Mr Putin that he was known as the “Kremlin’s banker”, made the comments in his first interview since the state seized his multibillion-dollar ship building empire in 2012. Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Pugachev warned that there were no longer any “untouchables” in a Russian business landscape increasingly dominated by Mr Putin. The Russian economy, he argued, had been transformed into a feudal system where businessmen were only nominal owners of their assets. “Today in Russia there is no private property. There are only serfs who belong to Putin,” he said.

Russian Constitutional Court Head Slams Liberalism and Homosexuality, Praises Serfdom

Russian Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin, speaking at an intenational congress in Seoul, called liberalism one of the major problems of the modern world. Accrding to Zorkin, liberalism impede development of people and countries and promotes “aggressive struggle of sexual minorities for equal self-realization opportunities within the frames of the permissiveness ideology”. Days earlier Zorkin published an article in Rossiyskaya gazeta in which he characterized the serfdom as a “staple” of the Russian nation, suggesting that its abolishing in 1861 may have been a mistake. "Despite all its drawbacks, serfdom was the brace holding together the nation's internal unity," Zorkin wrote. "It was no accident that, according to historians, the peasants told their former masters after the reform: 'We were yours and you were ours.'"

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Russia's Anti-Monopoly Service Announces Key Objectives, Highlights "Best Practices"

Russia's Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) has released its 2014 booklet outlining the history of competition law in Russia, as well as the following key objectives for the near future:  (1) developing and improving the institutions that prevent violations of the antimonopoly law; (2) transitioning to broader protection from an economic entity abusing its dominant position; (3) monitoring satisfaction of the quality of work at FAS by using surveys and performance rankings; (4) ensuring uniform enforcement of laws; and (5) ensuring non-discriminatory access to the services of natural monopolies.  FAS has also made available on their website digital copies of the "White Book" ("Белая Книга"), highlighting the best regional competition practices, and the "Black Book" ("Черная Книга"), highlighting the worst regional anti-monopoly practices. FAS plans to develop an interactive portal to exchange "best practices" ideas and complaints concerning competition and anti-monopoly issues.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Russia Places Billionaire Evtushenkov Under House Arrest

Billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov, the richest Russian to face criminal charges since Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was placed under house arrest yesterday on suspicion of money laundering. The accusations stem from a probe into the alleged theft of shares in oil assets in Russia’s Bashkortostan region in which Evtushenkov’s AFK Sistema acquired full control in 2009, according to the Investigative Committee. Sistema said the accusations were “completely groundless” and vowed to use all possible legal means to make their case. Khodorkovsky, released in December after a decade in prison, said OAO Rosneft Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin, a long-time ally of President Vladimir Putin, may have engineered the arrest to pressure Evtushenkov into selling his oil company, OAO Bashneft, Vedomosti newspaper reported. Rosneft isn’t interested in Bashneft, and Khodorkovsky’s comments aren’t true, Mikhail Leontyev, a spokesman for the state-run company, said by phone today. Khodorkovsky has accused Sechin of orchestrating his own arrest and the dismantling of his Yukos Oil Co., most of which Rosneft later acquired, a claim Rosneft has denied. Evtushenkov has a fortune estimated at $6.9 billion, making him the 19th richest Russian on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, largely from oil producer Bashneft and OAO Mobile TeleSystems, the biggest mobile operator in Russia. Khodorkovsky was Russia’s richest man at the time of his arrest in 2003.

Ukraine, EU Ratify Association Agreement

​Ukraine and the EU parliaments simultaneously ratified the economic and political parts of the Association Agreement that will strengthen ties between Kiev and Brussels. Economic integration is postponed until the end of 2015. The document was approved at 1:00pm in Kiev and there was a synchronous signing session in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Ukraine’s Rada voted 355 votes in favor out of 381 total, and the European Parliament supported the ratification with 535 ‘yes’ votes and 127 against, with 26 abstaining. What is the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU? - Establishes a gradual deepening of economic and political ties between Ukraine and the EU - A free trade zone will be established on December 31, 2015 to integrate Ukraine into Europe’s $17 trillion economy with 500+ million consumers - This means Ukraine will lose preferential treatment and access to Russia’s $2.5 trillion and 146 million consumer market - Ukraine will have to meet EU requirements on food safety and product quality - Cooperate on several other issues: energy, industry, taxes, tourism, justice system, law, etc. - It will make it easier for Ukraine to seek financial assistance from the EU “From tomorrow I task the government with approving the implementation of the agreement and immediately implementing it into the force of law,” President Petro Poroshenko said at the ratification in Kiev. Poroshenko said he hopes the agreement will help Ukraine reform its economy and fight corruption, and that someday Ukraine hopes to apply for EU membership. Ukraine "has embarked on the European path and nobody will are to shut the door to the EU membership for Ukraine," the President said, as quoted by ITAR-ITASS. Free trade with Europe’s $13 trillion economy will be postponed until January 2016, due to the weak state of Ukraine’s economy which would make it vulnerable to a sudden influx of European goods. Ukraine will continue duty-free trade with Russia and other CIS states until December 31, 2015, and on January 1, 2016 will begin economic integration with the EU.

Friday, September 12, 2014

EU Tightens Sanctions Against Russia

The European Union tightened economic sanctions against Russia on Friday in response to the country’s role in the Ukraine crisis, imposing additional restrictions on oil companies and extending asset freezes and travel bans to 24 more individuals. The measures, aimed at Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors, will be reviewed by diplomats before the end of the month and could be revised swiftly if a cease-fire holds, European Union officials said on Thursday in announcing the broader action. The new round of sanctions significantly ratchets up restrictions on the Russian financial sector and prohibits European entities from buying debt with a maturity of more than 30 days, from issuing loans or from providing financial services to five banks, three oil companies and three defense firms.