Friday, April 30, 2010

Russia and Norway Settle Territorial Dispute

At a joint press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg stated that the two countries reached an agreement in their 40-year-old territorial dispute over 175,000 square kilometres of the Barents Sea. The area, believed to be reach of oil and gas deposits, will be equally divided between the two countries. The details are yet to be determined.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oppositionist Suspects Officials of Privacy Invasion

Russian opposition leader Ilya Yashin requested that the General Prosecutor's Office institute criminal proceedings in relation to the distribution on the internet of compromising video recordings of numerous opposition leaders (including Yashin) and journalists. On the anonymous hidden-camera records the subject characters appear to have sex, take drugs, or offer bribes. Yashin asserts a number of criminal violations, such as defamation, insult, invasion of privacy, and pornography. Yashin further requested that the prosecutors check whether Presidential Administration Deputy Head Vladislav Surkov and Federal Youth Agency Head Vasily Yakimenko are involved in the distribution. Surkov and Yakimenko are believed to be ideological leaders of the Kremlin-backed youth movement “Nashi” that reportedly took active part in the distribution of the records.

Newspaper Sues Duma Speaker for Libel

Leading Russian business newspaper Vedomosti sued State Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov for libel for asserting that the newspaper is connected to terrorists. After the recent terrorist attack in the Moscow subway and a Vedomosti article on the matter, highly critical of Russian authorities, Gryzlov said: “I suspect that such publications and terrorist actions are connected to each other.”

Moldovan Chief Justice Removal Held Unconstitutional

Moldova’s Constitutional Court found unconstitutional the recent removal by the parliament of Supreme Judicial Chamber Chairman Ion Muruianu. The parliament removed Muruianu, in particular, for calling journalists (who criticized judges) “mad dogs dangerous for society.” The Constitutional Court found procedural violations and directed the Parliament to reconsider its decision.

Kyrgyz Ex-President Charged with Mass Murders

New Kyrgyz authorities charged in absentia former Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev of mass murders, apparently in relation to the killing of dozens of rebels during the recent revolution. After the revolution Bakiyev resigned and fled to Belarus.

Chechen President’s Advisor Accused of Involvement in Murder

Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna public prosecutor's office, stated that an investigation has found a “connection” between Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s advisor Shaa Turlayev and the man suspected of slaying Chechen refugee Umar Israilov in Vienna. Israilov was a former bodyguard of Kadyrov who later fled abroad, obtained political asylum in Austria, and was shot dead in a Vienna street in 2009.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Russian-Ukrainian Fleet-for-Gas Treaty Ratified

The parliaments of Russia and Ukraine ratified the recently signed treaty prolonging the stay of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea, Ukraine, until 2042 in exchange for generous discounts on natural gas supplied from Russia to Ukraine. While the Russian State Duma ratified the treaty unanimously, the Ukrainian Supreme Rada had to overcome the obstruction of opposition deputies, including fist-fighting, egg-throwing, and smoke-bombs. (see photos)

Kyrgyz Ex-Interior Minister Extradited from Russia

Former Kyrgyz Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiyev was detained in Moscow and sent back to Kyrgyzstan, where he is wanted on “abuse of official power” charges. Kongantiyev received medical treatment in Moscow after being taken hostage and heavily beaten by the rebels during the recent Kyrgyz revolution (reportedly, Kongantiyev’s wife ransomed him for $40,000). The detention was carried out by Kyrgyz and Russian law enforcement officers acting jointly. No formal extradition hearings were held; the ex-minister was simply handed over to the new Kyrgyz authorities.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Scientology Held Extremist

A court in Surgut, Russia, found "extremist" the works of Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Scientology religious movement. According to an expert report commissioned by prosecutors, the Scientology materials call for committing crimes motivated by ideological and religious hatred. The works will be included in the federal list of extremist materials banned from distribution (together with, e.g., numerous Jehovah's Witnesses materials).

Media Not to be Punished for Readers' Comments

Russia's Supreme Court discussed a draft of a document, to be adopted soon, containing a number of legally binding rulings relating to mass media law. In particular, the Court ruled that although web sites may be used for distributing "mass information," a web site as such is not a "mass medium" and accordingly is not governed by the relevant statute. The Court further ruled that a mass medium is not responsible for users' comments left online on its site (which was previously subject to heated debate).

Kremlin-backed Movement Wins Libel Award

A court in Moscow awarded to the Russian Kremlin-backed youth movement "Nashi" about $10,000 in its libel suit against a French newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, which characterized Nashi's ideology as “a fierce mix of patriotism and xenophobia.” Similar suits against other foreign media are pending.

Chechen President Accused of Murders

Chechen businessman Isa Ymadayev published an open letter accusing Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov of ordering murders of Isa himself and his brothers Ruslan and Sulim. Ruslan Yamadayev was shot dead in Moscow in 2008. Sulim Yamadayev was shot at from a gold-plated gun in Dubai in 2009 (reports on whether or not he survived are contradictory; two suspects were caught and convicted in Dubai). Isa Yamadayev was shot at in Moscow in 2009, but the police foiled the attack by inserting blank cartridges in the gun and catching the assailant red-handed. Isa Yamadayev attached to his letter a video recording of the questioning of the suspect, where he says that Kadyrov arranged the murder and admitted to ordering the murders of Isa's brothers.
(see video)

Russian Fleet to Stay in Ukraine

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich signed an agreement prolonging the term of the treaty allowing the Russian Black Sea Fleet to be based in Crimea, Ukraine, from 2017 to 2042. The Ukrainian opposition, headed by ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, loudly protests. The treaty is yet to be ratified by the parliaments. As a part of the deal, Russia agreed to dramatically decrease the price for natural gas supplied from Russia to Ukraine.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

RUSNANO Manager Charged with Money Laundering

The state-run Russian Corporation for Nanotechnologies (RUSNANO) reportedly faces problems raising 1 bln dollars for its international investment fund from U.S. partners after it appeared that Hans Bodmer, the CEO of Rusnano Capital AG, the special-purpose Swiss subsidiary of RUSNANO, faces criminal charges in the U.S. in relation to alleged multi-million bribes in Azerbaijan. Bodmer was cleared of FCPA charges as a non-resident of the U.S., but pleaded guilty to money-laundering conspiracy and is expected to be sentenced in 2010. RUSNANO says Bodmer is only a technical figure who was recommended by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jury Ruled Unavailable in Terrorism Trials

Russia’s Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionalaty of 2008 Criminal Procedure Code amendments that provide for terrorism defendants to be tried without a jury. The Court held that the right to jury trial is not a fundamental right under the Russian Constitution. Although Article 20 of the Constitution provides a right to jury trial if the death penalty may be imposed (which includes terrorism cases), the Court found this provision inapplicable because the death penalty is currently suspended in Russia.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Kyrgyz President Resigns

In the wake of a popular uprising that led to ouster of the government, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev formally resigned and fled the country. The interim government headed by Roza Otunbayeva is now in control.

Hewlett-Packard Accused of Bribing Russian Officials

German authorities arrested three Hewlett-Packard employees for alleged bribes paid in connection with a contract to supply equipment to Russia’s General Prosecutor Office. The kickbacks allegedly totalled €8 million in 2000-2007, the amount of the contract being €35 mln. Upon a legal assistance request from Germany, Russian General Prosecutor Office investigators conducted a search in Hewlett-Packard’s premises in Moscow.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Moscow Government Loses Rent Case to McDonald’s

The Moscow Circuit Arbitrazh (Economic) Court reversed lower courts’ decisions and enforced a 1992 rental agreement between the Moscow government and McDonald’s fixing for 20 years the annual rent amount at 1 ruble ($0.03) per square meter. The government, referring to "changed circumstances," wanted to increase the rate to at least $40 (the current minimal municipal rent); the current market rate is around $1,000.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Attorney at Law Convicted of Armed Robbery

Vitaly Mikhailov, an attorney in Buryatia (a Russian constituency), was sentenced to six years of imprisonment for armed robbery. At a meeting with a commercial company representative in his car, the lawyer shot the businessman and stole from the car about $5,000 belonging to the company. The wounded businessman managed to escape.

American Sends Back Adopted Russian Boy

Artem Saveliev, a seven-year-old Siberian boy adopted by a US woman, has been sent back to Moscow. He was put on a flight alone with a note saying “I no longer wish to parent this child” and referring to the boy’s mental problems. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia may freeze any adoptions to American families until the U.S. and Russia sign an international treaty on adoption governing obligations of host families.

Federal Judge Murdered

Moscow City Court judge Eduard Chuvashov was shot dead on a stair landing of his home. Chuvashov is known, in particular, for recently sentencing two groups of neo-Nazi skinheads for multiple murders and murder attempts. (see video surveillance record)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chechen President’s Groom Convicted in Dubai

A court in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, sentenced to life imprisonment two defendants charged with complicity in the murder in Dubai of Russian citizen Sulim Yamadayev. Yamadayev is formerly an influential Chechen figure and a personal enemy of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. One of those convicted, Iranian citizen Makhdi Lornia, was Kadyrov’s personal horse groom, visiting Dubai for horse races. A number of other suspects are still wanted by the Dubai police, including Russia’s State Duma deputy from Chechnya Adam Delimkhanov, who allegedly passed a gold-plated gun to the killers through Lornia.

Polish President Dies in Jet Crash in Russia

A plane carrying the Polish president and dozens of other top Polish political and military leaders to Katyn, the site of a Soviet massacre of Polish officers in 1940, crashed in western Russia, killing everyone on board. President Lech Kaczynski’s plane tried to land in a thick fog and missed the runway about half a mile from the airport in Smolensk.

Friday, April 9, 2010

U.S. and Russia Sign Nuclear Treaty

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama signed a nuclear arms reduction treaty in Prague. The treaty commits the parties to reduce the number of deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 each, which is 30% lower than the previous ceiling.

Revolution in Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz opposition overturned the government and took power in capital Bishkek. The police and army stand behind the new government. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev fled to South Kyrgyzstan, but refuses to resign. 75 persons were reported killed and 1,500 injured during the unrest. Mass looting was reported.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Political Unrest in Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz opposition clashed with police in mass unrest in several cities of Kyrgyzstan, including the capital Bishkek. Many opposition leaders have been arrested and face criminal charges in connection with the disorders. At least 12 people were reported killed by the police. President Kurmanbek Bakiyev has introduced a country-wide emergency regime. (see photos)

Khodorkovsky Takes Stand

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, accused of stealing 350 million tons of oil from Yukos, the former Russian oil giant that he headed, began his testimony in a Moscow court. He presented an “investigative experiment,” producing a jar of oil and offering the prosecutor to steal the oil by any of the means listed in the indictment (“under the guise of a commercial transaction” etc.). The prosecutor declined on the grounds that experiments in court are not allowed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chechen Court Finds Encyclopedia “Extremist”

A court in Chechnya found the article on Chechnya in the Great Encyclopedia, printed by the Terra publishing house, “extremist” and “stirring up ethnic hatred.” According to the judgment, the article depicts Chechens as robbers and bandits. The court ordered confiscation of the encyclopedia’s 58th volume containing the article. The publishing house intends to appeal on the basis that it was not notified of the hearings. Unless the judgment is reversed by a higher court, the volume will be included into the federal list of “extremist materials,” banned for publication and distribution throughout Russia.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bandera Glorification Annulled

A Ukrainian court annulled one of the last decrees of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko awarding the Hero of Ukraine honor to Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist leader who was accused of collaboration with Nazi Germany and was assassinated by the KGB in West Germany in 1959. The decree was annulled on the formal ground that Bandera was not a citizen of Ukraine, which became independent only in 1991.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Opposition Demonstration Dispersed

On March 31, the opposition in Moscow held its traditional demonstration in support of the Article 31 of the Russian Constitution (freedom of assembly). As usual, the demonstration was banned by the authorities and dispersed by the police. Dozens of participants were detained. A number of other demonstrations, including those devoted to victims of the recent Moscow subway suicide bombings, were allowed.

Jersey Court Seizes Rosneft Assets

A court in Jersey, Channel Islands, seized local assets of Rosneft, a major Russian oil company, in relation to a $650 mln claim of Yukos Capital Sarl, a Luxembourg company controlled by the former management of defunct Russian oil giant Yukos. Rosneft controls a number of offshore companies in Jersey, although it is not clear whether they own any substantial assets.

Russian Oligarchs Clash in London Court

In London the High Court ruled that Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire, must answer allegations that he coerced his former partner Boris Berezovsky, now an √©migr√© wanted in Russia on various charges, to sell his assets at an undervalued price. The amount of the claim may reach £5 bln. The full trial is expected next year.