Friday, July 30, 2010

Interest in Russian Cop Turned Anti-Corruption Activist Continues to Grow

The New York Times published a front-page article about Alexey Dymovsky, the former Novorossisk police major whose internet video expose of police corruption has attracted millions of Russian viewers. (See Breaking News, March 23, 2010.)

Russia Enacts Insider Trading Legislation

President Medvedev signed Russia's first insider trading legislation. The legislation will become effective in six months, and its criminal liability provisions - in three years. Prison terms for insider trading will be up to six years.

Turkmenistan Bans Exit to 37,000 Citizens

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has reportedly issued secret black lists of persons prohibited from leaving or entering the country. About 37,000 people, including state officials and crime suspects under surveillance, are prohibited from leaving. About 2,000 Turkmenistan citizens, including fugitive politicians, journalists, and criminals, and about 7,000 foreigners, including 1,748 Russian citizens, are prohibited from entering.

Georgia Seizes Ukrainian Ship

Georgia’s coast guard seized Ukrainian bulker “Akkord” carrying grain from Russia to Armenia. According to Georgia, the bulker violated Georgian navigation rules by visiting the port Sukhumi in Abkhazia, a breakaway Georgian province recognized as an independent state by a handful of countries, including Russia but not Ukraine.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Belarusian Oppositionists Visit Russian Officials

Leaders of Belarusian opposition parties visited Moscow and met with Russian government officials and parliament members. Experts say that the Russian government is looking for a new strong Belarusian politician who would be loyal to Russia and would be able to replace current Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Ukraine Expects $10 B. in Investments

Irina Akimova, a Deputy Director of the Presidential Office of Administration, announced that the government expects to receive 10 billion dollars in investments by 2014 for “national projects”. Realization of these projects is within the ambit of the newly created State Agency for Management of National Projects. The projects will be subject to approval of the agency's Economic Reforms Committee and will focus on three main areas: development of transitional potential (such as preparation for the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship); development of energy safety (such as projects on alternative energy); and social development (such as medical care).

Ukraine Sets Privatization Exceptions

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych signed the Law “On Amendments To Certain Laws of Ukraine To Prevent Alienation of State Property Rights Regarding Property Not Subject To Privatization”. The Law prohibits leasing, liquidation, and reorganization of state-owned property that is not subject to privatization. At the same time, the President directed the Cabinet of Ministers to develop and submit to the Verkhovna Rada (upper parliament chamber) a bill allowing the government to make decisions on reorganization of such enterprises provided that it will not result in alienation of state-owned property.

Kyrgyzstan President Fires Seven High Court Justices

Kyrgyzstan President Roza Otunbayeva dismissed seven of the 24 judges on the Supreme Court, including Chairman Erkinbek Toktomambetov. The President’s decree, issued under the Law on the Status of Judges, does not specify reasons for the dismissal.

Russian Court Bans YouTube

A court in Komsomolsk-on-Amur (in the Russian Far East) ordered the local internet provider to block access of internet users to five web sites that were found to contain “extremist materials.” The claim was filed by the city prosecutor. One of the sites to be blocked is, beacause it contains a video clip “Russia for Russians” that was found extremist in an earlier trial. The court rejected the provider's argument that it may not restrict a user’s access to information.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Russian Prosecutors Charge South Ossetian Official with Treason

The Prosecutor's Office of North Ossetia brought high treason charges against Eduard Gobozov, a department head in the Defense Ministry of South Ossetia. North Ossetia is a Russian constituency; South Ossetia is a Georgian breakaway province recognized by Russia as an independent state in the wake of the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. Gobozov is accused of selling secret information on Russian armed forces in South Ossetia to Georgian intelligence in 2004-2009. Since Gobozov, as most South Ossetian residents, is a Russian citizen, the charge is “high treason” rather than mere “espionage.” The prosecutors finalized the investigation and passed the case to a Russian court (Supreme Court of North Ossetia).

Russia Grants Asylum to Serbian Ex-Tycoon

According to media reports, Russian authorities granted political asylum to Bogoljub Karić and refused to extradite him to Serbia. Karić was one of the most influential Serbian businessmen in the times of Slobodan Milošević’s rule, and is wanted in Serbia on charges of a €40 million financial fraud against the state.

Friday, July 23, 2010

High-Ranking Witness Ignores Khodorkovsky Trial

Sergey Bogdanchikov, the CEO of state-run oil company Rosneft, failed to appear in court after being summoned to give evidence in the trial of former YUKOS managers Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. After the bankruptcy of YUKOS, Rosneft acquired its most valuable assets. The court called Bogdanchikov as a witness upon a defense petition. No reason for the absence was presented to the court. Rosneft also declined to comment.

US Apologizes to Russia over Yaroshenko Case

In response to Russia’s vigorous protests over the U.S. “kidnapping” in Liberia of Russian civil aviation pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko (suspected of large-scale drug trafficking) without proper consular notification, the US Department of State stated that the notice has been sent to the “wrong embassy.” DoS apologized.

Answering journalists’ questions, DoS’ spokesman Philip J. Crowley said: “I can’t say it was a U.S. operation. . . . [A]s I understand it, [Yaroshenko] was detained in Liberia. He was subject to some sort of judicial process in Liberia. Liberia, in turn, expelled him, and then he was brought here to the United States. . . . Were there particular U.S. participation? I’m not aware of that. . . . And then we sent out the consular notification. We just happened to send it to the wrong embassy. . . . We pressed the wrong button on the fax machine to be brutally honest.” Referring to Russia’s protests, Crowley added: “We have apologized to Russia. . . . And we do believe that this matter has been resolved.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Georgia Introduces Occupation Day

Georgia’s parliament introduced Occupation Day, to be commemorated on February 25. On that day in 1921 the Red Army entered the capital Tbilisi and deposed Georgia’s government. During 1922-1991 Georgia was a part of the USSR.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Federal Anti-Monopoly Service Issues Annual Report

The Russian Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) has issued its annual report "On the Current State of Competition in the Russian Federation" for 2009. The law requires the FAS to submit such current and comprehensive analytical reports on the state of competition in the country to the government every year. The report is available at

The report covers topics such as the goals of Russian competition law, analysis of competition conditions nationwide and in specific regions and industries, supervision of foreign investments, international indicators and indexes on Russian antitrust law, law enforcement practice, and suggestions for improvement in competition law and its implementation.

The report notes that the key event in the development of competition in Russia in 2009 was the emergence of the regional dimension in antitrust policy as a result of the government’s decisions requiring regional authorities to adopt programs to adjust conditions for competition in the various subjects of the Russian Federation.

The recent economic crisis, according to the report, has greatly affected current antitrust policy. The report cautions that governmental support of the biggest companies, while necessary during the crisis, should not lead to elimination of competition in the relevant markets.

The report shows an increase in the number of violations of competition law, more than half of which were committed by public authorities.

The FAS’s performance was ranked quite high by the "Global Competition Review," an independent international publication. Out of more than a hundred public competition agencies around the world, only 38 best were included in the Review’s international ranking. Russia’s FAS was ranked in the range of 19th to 26th place, together with the agencies of such countries as Austria, Brazil, Norway, and Switzerland.

According to the FAS, the Russian business community ranks a proper competition environment as the second most important goal of government economic regulation after creating a legal framework for business.

Terrorists Attack Hydropower Plant

A group of terrorists forced their way into the Baksan hydropower station in Russia’s North Caucasus. They killed two security guards and set off several explosive devices, which damaged some of the station's equipment.

Liberia Extradites Russian Pilot to US

Russian civil aviation pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, along with several other people, was arrested in Liberia by Liberian and US law enforcement officials and extradited to the US. Once in the US, those arrested were charged with trafficking tons of cocaine from South America through Africa to Europe and the US. The Russian authorities sent a protest note to the US Department of State accusing the US of failing to notify Russia of the arrest in accordance to applicable treaties.

Court Awards Record Copyright Damages

A court in Moscow awarded a record amount of $250 mln in copyright damages to Terra publishing house against Astrel publishing house. The suit was related to copyrights for the books of well-known Soviet science-fiction writer Alexander Belyayev. The judgment seems to turn upon whether Belyayev “worked” during WWII (the copyright term is prolonged by four years if the author worked during the Great Patriotic War or participated in it). Belyayev died of starvation in 1942 in Leningrad besieged by Nazis.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Legislators Propose to Brand Bribe-Takers

State Duma deputies of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia drafted a bill providing that officials convicted of bribe-taking should be branded on the back of their left hand with a 2x3 cm “K” (apparently meaning “corruption”). The bill was sent to the government and the Supreme Court for their respective opinions.

OSCE Sends Police Force to Kyrgyzstan

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe agreed to send a group of 52 policemen to southern Kyrgyzstan, where up to 2,000 people may have been killed last month in ethnic clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. The OSCE force will be unarmed and will mostly train local police. Kyrgyzstan previously asked Russia to send armed forces to Kyrgyzstan, but Russia declined.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Russia-Belarus TV Documentary Duel

A major Russian TV channel, NTV, recently produced and aired a 30-minute documentary featuring controversial Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The documentary presented Lukashenko in a very unfavorable light, blaming him for, among other things, the disappearance of political opponents in 1999 and 2000. In turn, a major Belarusian TV channel aired an exclusive interview with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who is regarded as one of the major political enemies of the current Russian Government. Mr. Saakashvili, who only a few years ago had also been a major political opponent of Lukashenko, heavily criticized the Russian government in the interview.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Journalist Loses Court Challenge Against Church Anathema

A Pskov court dismissed a libel suit brought against the Russian Orthodox Church's Pskov Eparchy by local journalist Oleg Dementiev, who sought the retraction of the eparchy's anathema of him. Dementiev, who has never been baptized, was anathemized for the “abominable slander and satanic lie” allegedly contained in his critical article about a local monastery (the article was found untrue in another trial).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Deputy Absenteeism Prohibited

Both chambers of Russia’s parliament approved legislative amendments prohibiting State Duma and Federation Council members from missing parliamentary sessions without cause. Currently, only 10 to 15 percent of the Duma members are normally present at sessions, with each deputy casting votes on behalf of absent colleagues. The new law does not impose any sanctions for absenteeism.
(see deputies casting votes for others)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Senior Investigator Convicted of Drug Dealing

A military court in Nizhny Novgorod convicted former head of the regional investigation department of the Federal State Security Service (FSB), Vladimir Obukhov, of drug dealing. Colonel Obukhov and his deputy sold to local drug dealers heroine seized as evidence. Reportedly, some 40 kg of heroine was stolen by the officers, although the prosecution centered on a 300 gram batch sold to undercover Narcotics Department agents. Obukhov was sentenced to twelve years of imprisonment. His deputy was beaten to death in confinement before the trial (the investigation of the killing is in progress).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Soviet Occupation Day Abolished

The Constitutional Court of Moldova found unconstitutional acting President Mihai Ghimpu's recent decree introducing "Soviet Occupation Day," which was commemorated on June 28. On that day in 1940, the USSR annexed Bessarabia, formerly part of Romania, to establish the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic within the USSR.

Art Exhibition Organizers Convicted

A court in Moscow convicted former Sakharov Museum director Yuri Samodurov and former State Tretyakov Gallery curator Andrey Yerofeyev of “inciting religious hatred” for organizing a modern art exhibition, named “Forbidden Art," which featured objects such as an icon frame with caviar inside. According to the prosecution, the exhibition offended the religious feelings of Christians. The defendants pleaded not guilty. The prosecution requested three-year prison sentences for both defendants, but the court sentenced them to fines of $7,000 and $5,000, respectively. To protest against the prosecution, members of a modern art group released 3,500 live Madagascar cockroaches in the courthouse. (see courtroom photos) (see art objects)

Russia Invites Bids for Drafting European Security Treaty

Russia's presidential administration has requested bids for proposed substantive provisions to complete the new European Security Treaty. The treaty, which is intended to reform the existing European security system, has been promoted by President Dmitry Medvedev since 2008. The first draft was published in 2009, and independent scholars are now invited to participate in the treaty drafting. The amount of the proposed contract is $7,000.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Russia and US Exchange "Spies"

At a Vienna airport, ten Russian secret agents captured in the U.S. were exchanged for four Russian citizens who were previously convicted in Russia, including Igor Sutyagin, a military expert sentenced in 2004 to fifteen years of imprisonment, on espionage charges. Those captured in the U.S., as well as those captured in Russia, had to formally admit guilt before they were exchanged. Those in the U.S. were convicted and deported, with a prohibition against entering the U.S. again; those on the Russian side were pardoned by President Dmitry Medvedev. The presiding U.S. judge also entered an order prohibiting the Russian spies from writing books, etc. on the story.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Russia Seeks Spy Swap

An attorney for Igor Sutyagin, a Russian military expert sentenced in 2004 to fifteen years of imprisonment on espionage charges, said that her client, among other convicts, will be deported from Russia in exchange for the “Russian spies” captured in the U.S. (ten individuals were recently arrested and were accused of secretly working for Russia). Another possible candidate for the exchange is former military intelligence (GRU) colonel, Sergey Skripal, who was sentenced in Russia in 2006 to thirteen years imprisonment for espionage.

Official Notifications to be Emailed

Roskomnadzor, Russia’s agency for mass media supervision, announced that it will notify internet media of purportedly illegal reader comments on media sites by email rather than by ordinary mail. Under a recent interpretative decision by the Supreme Court, a registered “mass medium” (newspaper, etc.) is required to delete allegedly illegal reader comments from its site only upon receipt of a formal notification from Roskomnadzor. This marks the first time in Russia that email is being recognized as a potential means for the delivery of official correspondence.

Rights Activist Charged with Criminal Defamation

Criminal defamation charges were brought against Oleg Orlov, the head of Russian human rights group "Memorial," following the completion of a police investigation. In 2009, Orlov accused Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov of involvement in the murder of Chechen rights activist Natalia Estemirova. Kadyrov previously won a civil suit against Orlov on the same grounds. Orlov faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Belarus Joins Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Russia

According to the official web site of the President of Belarus, the country officially joined the Customs Union with Russia and Kazakhstan. On July 6, 2010, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia formed a unified customs territory. Certain distinctions in national legislation, however, remain in effect: for example, Belarus will preserve its low customs-duty rates on imported automobiles until July 1, 2011.

Siberian Mayor Released on Bail

After two and a half years of imprisonment on charges of abuse of office and election irregularities, Tatyana Kazakova, a former real estate magnate and the current mayor of Listvyanka (a fishing village on Lake Baikal in Siberia), was released on bail pending a verdict in her criminal prosecution. She was arrested in 2008 by the F.S.B., apparently in response to a lawsuit she filed against a resort owned by the F.S.B.; her suit alleged that construction activity at the resort threated Listvyanka's heating supply. If convicted, Kazakova could be sentenced to several years of imprisonment.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Customs Union Formed

The Presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia signed a declaration stating that the Customs Union of the three countries will enter into force. This seems to end the controversy on whether or not Belarus will participate in the Union.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Court Refuses to Enforce International Arbitration Award

A Russian court declined to enforce an award of the International Court of Arbitration at the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The ICC awarded some $200 mln plus interest to Yukos Capital Sarl (Luxembourg) against Tomskneft (Russia), formerly a YUKOS subsidiary, now controlled by state-run Rosneft. In 2004 Yukos Capital granted a number of large loans to various YUKOS subsidiaries in Russia experiencing financial difficulties after the authorities’ attack on YUKOS. Later the subsidiaries were taken over by Rosneft, who refused to repay the loans. Although Yukos Capital was successful in arbitration, it has had difficulties collecting the money in Russia. In this case the court apparently agreed with the YUKOS prosecution that the money lent to Tomskneft was previously “stolen” by YUKOS from Tomskneft and other YUKOS subsidiaries.

Vedomosti Newspaper Censured for Extremism

Russia’s Roskomnadzor, the agency responsible for mass media supervision, issued a formal warning to leading Russian business newspaper Vedomosti for “extremist activities.” According to Roskomnadzor, a Vedomosti article about the recent Moscow subway terrorist attacks the newspaper “publicly justified the terrorist activity.” The newspaper disagrees and intends to challenge the warning in court. (After receiving two warnings a newspaper may be shut down.)

Customs Union Postponed

On July 1 the Customs Code of the Customs Union entered into force in Russia and Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, it remains unknown whether or not Belarus, the third participant of the Union, has ratified the Code. This is expected to be announced on July 5 during a three-country summit. The customs borders still remain in place.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oil Company Files Constitutional Complaint

Major Russian oil company Gazprom Neft filed a Constitutional Court challenge to Russian anti-monopoly legislation under which the company was fined $1 bln for charging “monopolistically high prices on oil products.” According to the company, the provisions breach the constitutional principle of freedom of enterprise. Recently a similar fine against another oil company, TNK-BP, was upheld by the Supreme Arbitrazh (Economic) Court.

Airport Accuses Moscow Mayor of Unfair Competition

The CEO of Moscow’s Sheremetievo airport, Mikhail Vasilenko, accused the Moscow authorities and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of blocking Leningrad Highway to impede access to the airport. The highway is partially blocked for long-term repairs, resulting in a constant traffic jam that takes hours to pass through. Vasilenko assert the authorities are trying to sabotage Sheremetievo and favour the city-owned airport Vnukovo. He complained to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, alleging unfair competition. “The attempt to paralyze the work of the country’s air gate is a crime!” Vasilenko concluded.