Russia will suspend exports of gasoline in May in order to meet domestic demand, after almost a week of dire shortages in some regions, Deputy Energy Minister Sergei Kudryashov said. "I think we must satisfy the need at the expense of cutting exports," Kudryashov said. "We have agreed now that oil companies will supply all their oil products to the domestic market." No formal export ban has been introduced, though. Instead, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered the government to drastically increase export duties for oil products.
Friday, April 29, 2011
A federal court in New York has found Russian cargo pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko guilty of conspiring to smuggle drugs into the United States from Latin America. He will be sentenced on July 28. Yaroshenko was arrested last year in an international drug bust in Liberia in which four tons of cocaine were seized. Russia accused the United States of kidnapping Yaroshenko in breach of international law.
Two Russian far-right activists were convicted of the 2009 murders of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. Markelov, a friend of the assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and Baburova, who worked for the liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, were gunned down in January 2009 in central Moscow. Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgeniya Khasis, both linked to a banned ultranationalist group called Russky Obraz, were found guilty of the murders by a 7-5 jury verdict. The Moscow City Court said it would hand down their sentences on May 5. The pair, who married in custody, were also convicted of forming a criminal group and illegal weapons possession.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Russian authorities barred Ukrainian journalist Mykola Hryenko from entering Russia. Hryenko departed for Russia on April 24 to report on a memorial rally at the Mitino cemetery near Moscow dedicated to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant tragedy. Although Russia and Ukraine have a visa-free regime, Russian border guards at the Suzemka railway station denied him further travel, explaining that he was on a persona non-grata list. No reason for blacklisting Hryenko has been stated. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry sent an official note to Russia requesting an explanation for the refusal of entry. The Russian Embassy in Ukraine confirmed that Russia denied entry to Hryenko, but said it is still waiting for official notification from Moscow of the reason for the entry ban.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry: Russia Allows Hryenko to Enter
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry: Russia Allows Hryenko to Enter
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sharply criticized the Western coalition attacking Libya, saying it had neither a right nor a mandate to kill Muammar Gaddafi. Putin said the coalition had gone beyond the bounds of a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing intervention to protect civilians. "They said they didn't want to kill Gaddafi. Now some officials say, yes, we are trying to kill Gaddafi," Putin said on a visit to Denmark. "Who permitted this, was there any trial? Who took on the right to execute this man, no matter who he is?" "Why strike palaces? What, are they exterminating mice this way?" Putin added. "Surely people are being killed in these strikes -- Gaddafi is not there, he slipped away long ago, but peaceful civilians are dying."
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
The Moscow District Military Court sentenced former army intelligence Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Strykanov to 12 years in jail for sex trafficking. A jury found Strykanov guilty on five counts at the trial of a large international criminal group that had smuggled women abroad and forced them into prostitution. The investigators accused the ex-spy of 97 counts, but the jurors said only five were proven. The penalties for 11 other members of the group ranged from a 5-year suspended sentence to 19 years in prison.
Monday, April 25, 2011
The son of Evgeny Kaspersky, Russia’s antivirus software mogul, was released in a bloodless operation with no ransom paid, as reported by Russian police. The operation was carried out by the police and security forces in the Moscow Region. Five suspects were detained. One of them is believed to be the mastermind of the abduction and to have a criminal record. The search operation continues for other accomplices in the crime, police said. Ivan Kaspersky was reunited with his family, and a criminal case has been initiated over his abduction.
A Kazakh diplomat was detained in Rome after trying to hijack a plane and force it to fly to Libyan capital Tripoli. A flight attendant was lightly wounded in the incident. Valery Tolmachev serves as an advisor to Kazakhstan’s envoy to UNESCO. On an Alitalia flight from Paris to Rome, he took a flight attendant hostage using a nail file (other sources say manicure scissors or a small Swiss Army knife), demanding to fly to Tripoli. He was overpowered and sedated by crewmembers. After the airplane landed in Rome, Tolmachev was taken into Italian police custody. Colleagues speculate that he was suffering from a nervous breakdown.
Friday, April 22, 2011
A probe into the authenticity of Russia's crime statistics found "mass falsification" of figures across the country, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika stated. Chaika accused law enforcement agencies of seeking to "embellish the real crime picture" and show that rates of solving crimes are higher than they really are. Yet even under the distorted figures only one in two crimes is solved, Chaika said. He blamed the situation on poor oversight and organizational shortcomings, such as the recent restructuring of law enforcement agencies and the abolition of anti-organized crime directorates.
The Russian police arrested four men suspected of stealing a truckload of bibles. The truck, loaded with some 4,000 Bibles belonging to the Bible Society, was hijacked in Moscow a day earlier on the way from a print shop to a warehouse. The police arrested the suspects, natives of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, in a Moscow Region village where the hijackers stopped for the night. The bibles were returned to the owners.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Konstantin Poltoranin, the press secretary of Russia’s Federal Migration Service, when asked in a BBC interview why people seeking refuge in Russia live in such poor conditions, replied: "What is now at stake is the survival of the white race. We feel this in Russia." He added: "We want to make sure the mixing of blood happens in the right way here." The BBC article is entitled “Russia: Racism and Abuse in Asylum Centers.”
UPDATE: FMS fires Poltoranin for "inadmissible" statements
UPDATE: FMS fires Poltoranin for "inadmissible" statements
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The colleagues of Sergei Magnitsky, the late tax advisor to Hermitage Capital, published the results of their independent investigation that appears to show that that officials whom Magnitsky had implicated in a tax fraud have become extremely wealthy. Magnitsky accused several Interior Ministry officials of having used three Hermitage subsidiaries in a scheme with tax officials to receive an illegal tax refund of $230 million. Shortly after that Magnitsky was arrested and later mysteriously died in jail. Magnitsky’s claims have never been fully investigated by Russian law-enforcement bodies. Now Magnitsky’s supporters, including William F. Browder, the owner of Hermitage Capital Management, published their own findings on a web site. Among the officials that were investigated is Olga Stepanova, the former head of Moscow’s 28th District Tax Inspectorate. Three weeks after her office was said to have approved a portion of the tax refund in question, Stepanova made a $629,030 down payment on a luxury apartment in Dubai. In addition to the Dubai apartment, Stepanova and her husband (a construction worker) bought a large villa in Dubai and another in Montenegro, and built an 11,900-square-foot house outside of Moscow, according to the investigation. In total, Stepanova acquired nearly $39 million in assets and cash after her office authorized the tax refund. According to their tax returns, Stepanova and her husband had been making a combined salary of just under $40,000 annually.
Suit was filed in U.S. federal court to require President Barack Obama to lift from Russia trade restrictions imposed on the USSR in 1974 under the Jackson-Vanik amendment. The plaintiffs - former Soviet dissident Edward Lozansky and Anthony T. Salvia, an expert on U.S.-Russia relations - assert that the President has the authority to lift the sanctions. “What was good 30 or 40 years ago may not be appropriate today,” Lozansky said. Jackson-Vanik prohibited granting most-favored nation to communist ("non-market economy") countries in trade relations with the U.S. unless they permitted free emigration. Due to unrelated trade and political issues, Russia is still under the restrictions, although for years Russia has been a market economy and has satisfied the amendment's emigration requirements.
A fire at penitentiary No. 10 in the city of Krasnokamensk, Trans-Baikal Territory, was torched by a group of convicts. Former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky was jailed at that prison. Reported reasons for the prisoners' protest include human rights violations by prison authorities and the use of hardened criminals to enforce prison discipline. The local prosecutor's office reported that the fire gutted all living quarters, several administrative buildings and auxiliary premises, but that there were no casualties among guards and other service personnel. All the inmates (around 1,000) were lined up on inspection grounds. They were issued winter clothing, some were given breakfast, some were moved to remaining buildings, and some to send some to other prisons.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Alexander Mokhov, Chief Prosecutor for the Moscow Region, and his deputy, Alexander Ignatenko, were dismissed following accusations that prosecutors were protecting the activities of illegal casinos in the region. Mokhov was transferred to another office; Ignatenko was fired for “oath-breaking.” Criminal proceedings against regional prosecution officers are expected to be instituted. http://www.kommersant.ru/Doc/1621552 http://www.vesti.ru/videos?vid=331425 (video)
Russia’s Chief Mufti, Talgat Tadzhuddin, proposed adding a crescent to Russia’s coat of arms as a symbol of Islam. Currently, the emblem includes three crowns with crosses adorning a double-headed eagle. Tadzhuddin proposes replacing one of the crosses with a crescent and add another crescent to the central crown, pointing out that 18% of Russia’s population are Muslims. Chief Mufti has already submitted his proposal to President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Notably, while the official description of the coat of arms given by a federal constitutional law refers to the crowns, no crosses are mentioned in the law.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Kazakhstan’s Senate (parliament’s upper chamber), acting upon a petition from President Nursultan Nazarbayev, dismissed six Supreme Court judges related to corruption charges recently brought against them. The charges allege that the judges “entered judgments in favor of private persons in breach of rights of citizens and the state.” Senators also recommended that Supreme Court Chairman Musabek Alimbekov resign voluntarily. http://gazeta.ru/news/lenta/2011/04/14/n_1793913.shtml http://www.zakon.kz/209607-predsedatelju-verkhovnogo-suda.html
President Dmitry Medvedev stated that the patenting situation in Russia is “outrageous” and that a large number of unpatented inventions are “draining away” from the country. The president pointed out that, for one reason or another, many inventors do not patent their developments. He stressed that specialists who received grants from NPO's should, in the first place, spend the money to obtain a patent. "If it is possible to commercialize [inventions], grants should be spent on launching production,” Medvedev stated. http://rt.com/politics/medvedev-patents-social-projects/ http://community.livejournal.com/blog_medvedev/69591.html (video)
Russia's Foreign Ministry stated that the recent U.S. State Department report, criticizing Moscow's human rights record, reflected double standards and was politicized. The U.S. State Department criticized Russia for "governmental and societal human rights problems and abuses during the year" in its annual report on human rights. The response of the Russian Foreign Ministry was that "Americans prefer not to recall their own record (of violations)." "Odious special prisons in Guantanamo and Bagram are still functioning, despite promises to shut them down," the statement points out. The Ministry went on to add that "the United States remains the largest player in the market of human trafficking... and the world's leader in child porn consumption." http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/0/CDE0D9C4C9363525C325786F0054B29B http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/11/us-russia-usa-report-idUSTRE73A5CT20110411 http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/eur/154447.htm
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko stated that the terrorist attack in the Minsk subway has been solved: two suspects were arrested and have confessed. Lukashenko added that the suspects have also confessed to two other bombings, the first in 2005 and the second in 2008. “We are looking for accomplices and those who ordered the attack,” said Lukashenko. The recent blast in the subway left 12 dead and more than 200 wounded.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) found illegal the dissolution of Russia’s Republican Party. The democracy-oriented Republican Party was created in 1990. In 2002, a new law on political parties was enacted, imposing restrictive requirements for party registration, including the requirement that each party have at least 50,000 members (up from 5,000 under the older law). The Ministry of Justice initiated the de-registration of the party on the grounds that it has an insufficient number of members, and in 2007, the Supreme Court ordered the party disbanded. Party leader Vladimir Ryzhkov filed a complaint with the ECHR arguing that the Ministry had no power to recount members of a party that had already been registered. The Strasbourg Court held for the Republican Party and awarded it $10,000 in legal expenses. Ryzhkov, however, does not intend to revive the Republican Party because he is participating in the creation of the new “Party of People's Freedom,” along with opposition leaders Mikhail Kasyanov, Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov. Currently, there are only seven parties registered in Russia. http://gazeta.ru/politics/2011/04/12_a_3582569.shtml http://context.themoscowtimes.com/mobile/article/434934.html
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The Russian Justice Ministry has refused to register the ROT-Front party for the fifth time, according to one of its leaders, Sergey Udaltsov. Udaltsov told Kommersant that the reason for this refusal was the party’s emblem, which is represented by a fist and the name of the organization (which happens to be the same as a well-known confectionary brand). The official statement from the Justice Ministry states, “The emblem of the party, a fist inside a star, symbolizes both a military component of the Soviet statehood and a fight against the existing order, which can be interpreted as a symbol of extremism.” Historically, Rot Front is a greeting used by members of the Red Front Fighters' League (Rotfrontkämpferbund), a paramilitary organization of the Communist Party of Germany engaged in fighting with the Nazis before being banned in 1932. The Rot Front confectionary company took its name from the German communists in Soviet times and kept it until today, with the management deciding not to rebrand a well-known trademark. http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1620028 http://rt.com/politics/opposition-party-denied-connotations/
The Kyrgyz government decided to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, created in 2010. “God willing, we will be in the Common Economic Space from January 1,[ 2012,]” Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atanbayev stated. Atanbayev also stressed that, although it is joining the Customs Union, Kyrgyzstan will remain a WTO member. http://kg.akipress.org/news:354181
Monday, April 11, 2011
At least 12 people were killed and 200 wounded after a severe explosion in the subway of Belarus's capital, which occurred during rush hour on Monday evening. The explosion came in the midst of increasing political and economic unrest in Belarus. Some experts opine that the authorities' reaction to the explosion will negatively affect the human rights situation in Belarus. http://www.gazeta.ru/social/2011/04/11/3581577.shtml http://www.charter97.org/ru/news/2011/4/11/37611/ http://www.svaboda.org/content/article/3553936.html http://www.vesti.ru/videos?vid=330745&cid=9 (video)
Russia’s President, Dmitry Medvedev, signed into force a new federal law on electronic signatures, replacing the older 2002 law on the matter. According to the new law, there will be three different types of e-signatures, ranging from simple to complex ones. The e-signature is supposed to be widely used in dealing with state services over the Internet. The move is part of Medvedev’s long-term e-government project. http://www.lenta.ru/news/2011/04/08/signature/ http://rt.com/news/prime-time/electronic-signature-russia-medvedev/ (video)
Friday, April 8, 2011
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev condemned as "outrageous and illegal" a cyber-attack on blogging service LiveJournal.com. The service hosts a number of popular political blogs, including the blog of Medvedev himself and the blog of anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny. The site crashed after being bombarded with messages from thousands of infected computers. "What has occurred should be examined by LiveJournal's administration and law enforcement agencies," Medvedev pointed out in his blog. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13011540 http://community.livejournal.com/blog_medvedev/69294.html
Alexandr Andreyechkin, a high-ranking Russian Federal State Security Service (FSB) official, stated that services such as Gmail, Hotmail, and Skype threaten Russia’s state security and that their usage in Russia must be banned. His concern stems from the fact that the FSB is unable to intercept encrypted communication via those services. Andreyechkin made his statement during a session of the governmental commission for communications, which has created a working group to develop proposals on encrypted communication regulation. A Ministry of Communication spokesman said that the ministry opposes the ban. Moreover, an unnamed presidential administration official later told journalists that Andreyechkin expressed his “personal opinion” and “exceeded his authority.” In contrast, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s press secretary said that the FSB’s point of view is “well-founded and well-reasoned.” http://www.gazeta.ru/news/lastnews/2011/04/08/n_1784533.shtml http://www.lenta.ru/news/2011/04/08/fsb/ http://echo.msk.ru/news/764516-echo.html
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Cyprus authorities extradited Russian-born U.S. citizen Dmitry Kotlyarenko to Russia, where he is accused of stealing some $1 bln from the funds of the Moscow Region. Allegedly, high-ranking Moscow Region officials were Kotlyarenko’s accomplices. Kotlyarenko was put on the Interpol wanted list in March 2009 at the request of Moscow region police and was detained in Cyprus shortly thereafter. http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1616296 http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=16125455
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko is on trial in New York for alleged international drug trafficking. He was captured by U.S. agents in Liberia last year and has been detained in the U.S. ever since. “The judge is laughing all the time for some reason. I do not understand English, and not all the words were translated for me. Here in America, everybody smiles, but you do not know what is on their minds,” Yaroshenko’s wife complained to journalists. Moscow has accused the U.S. of violating laws and is demanding Yaroshenko's immediate release. http://rt.com/news/pilot-trial-us-yaroshenko/
The Moscow police conducted searches in a Federal Tax Service (FNS) building in Moscow, in several tax inspectorate offices, and in the apartment of Olga Chernichuk, FNS’ Moscow department deputy head. Reportedly, the searches are in furtherance of a criminal investigation related to a fraudulent tax refund of some $70 mln. http://www.lenta.ru/news/2011/04/06/goodmorning/ http://top.rbc.ru/society/06/04/2011/571402.shtml (video)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized the UN and France for launching a series of air strikes against Côte d'Ivoire’s incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, in an attempt to support his rival, Alassane Ouattara. “The UN peacekeepers and supporting French forces in Côte d'Ivoire have started military action, taking the side of Ouattara, carrying out air strikes on the positions held by supporters of Gbagbo. We are now looking into the legality of this situation, because the peacekeepers were authorized to remain neutral, nothing more. We’ve requested an emergency briefing in the UN Security Council. We will keep looking into the matter,” Lavrov stated. http://rt.com/news/cote-ivoire-gbagbo-un/
According to media reports, Andrey Borodin, the president of the powerful Bank of Moscow, has fled to London fearing imminent arrest and prosecution in Russia. The Bank was created by former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and grew to become the fifth largest in the country. The police probe is centered on a $400 million loan to a small company allegedly linked to an inflated purchase of land from Luzhkov’s billionaire wife, Yelena Baturina. http://www.lenta.ru/news/2011/04/05/borodin/ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1373736/Moscow-banker-Borodin-flees-London-politically-motivated-police-probe-loan.html?ito=feeds-newsxml http://www.vesti.ru/videos?vid=329530 (video)
A court in Moscow convicted Russia’s former presidential administration department head, Andrey Voronin, of fraud and sentenced him to three years of imprisonment. Voronin attempted to obtain $1 mln from Japan’s Toshiba for removing it from a “black list” of companies allegedly banned from government contracts. Voronin made a plea agreement and apparently expected a milder sentence. Defense attorney Mikhail Stepanov says that his client has been “deceived” by the investigators who promised to obtain a suspended term for him. “Such sentences undermine the trust in the whole institute of pre-trial bargains,” the attorney stated. http://www.lenta.ru/news/2011/04/05/tomo/ http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1615483 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlxu1A6K-do (video)
A court in Israel has charged Dirar Abu Sisi, an engineer from Gaza, with running a training academy for Hamas militants and developing the Islamist group's rockets. The defendant went missing in Ukraine in February, allegedly abducted from a train, and later was confirmed to be held in an Israeli jail. Abu Sisi, the manager at Gaza's main power plant, has accused Israel of kidnapping him "for no reason" from the territory of Ukraine, where he was intending to apply for citizenship (his wife is Ukrainian). Abu Sisi and his family deny any links with Hamas. The Ukrainian government said it was not involved in the operation and was waiting for an official Israeli explanation. http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1615440 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12957071 http://rt.com/news/mossad-engineer-sisi-palestinian/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3dQPsfmeUQ (video)
Monday, April 4, 2011
Irina Gumennaya, a spokesperson for the Moscow office of Russia's Investigation Committee, was reprimanded for an “unauthorized statement” made to journalists. Earlier, she informed members of the media that Russian General Prosecutor’s son Artem Chaika was called by the Investigation Committee for questioning. The interrogation is apparently related to the activities of illegal casinos, which Chaika is suspected to be involved in protecting. The statement (that experts believe was, in fact, duly authorized by press secretary’s superiors) appears to be a part of a struggle between the Investigation Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office. Each body has publicly accused the other’s officers of corruption and of obstructing anti-corruption investigations. Days ago, President Dmitry Medvedev met the heads of both bodies, Alexander Bastrykin and Yuri Chaika, but the results of the meeting have not been disclosed. http://gazeta.ru/social/2011/04/04/3574381.shtml http://www.1tv.ru/news/social/173813 (video)
In its most recent (2010) annual report entitled “Human Rights and Democracy,” the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), criticized the human rights situation in Russia. According to the report, despite minor reforms and some encouraging public statements about human rights in 2010, there was no evidence of systemic, far-reaching change. Continuing negative trends included restrictions on freedom of assembly, harassment and obstruction of NGOs and journalists, and racial discrimination and racist violence. The trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev was widely condemned for failing to adhere to basic standards of justice. No new information emerged in the investigations of the murders of human rights activists Anna Politkovskaya and Natalya Estemirova or in the investigation of the death of Sergei Magnitsky while in police custody. Frequent reports of grave human rights abuses in the North Caucasus continued. The Russian government also failed to provide full redress to victims of past abuses in Chechnya and elsewhere in the region, the FCO report states. http://gazeta.ru/politics/2011/04/04_a_3574069.shtml http://s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/htcdn/Human-Rights-and-Democracy-The-2010-Foreign-Commonwealth-Report.pdf (report)
Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe declared that the recent presidential election in Kazakhstan, which the incumbent President Nursultan Nazarbayev won with 95.5 per cent of the votes, had not been compliant with organization’s democratic standards. According to the OSCE statement, the vote revealed shortcomings similar to those noted in previous elections in the country, and the reforms necessary for holding genuine democratic elections have yet to materialize. While the election was technically well administered, the absence of opposition candidates and of a vibrant political discourse resulted in a non-competitive environment. A limited field of candidates did not seek to challenge the incumbent. Despite efforts by the authorities to improve the election legislation, there remain shortcomings inconsistent with OSCE commitments.The candidate registration process was marked by lack of transparency and clear rules for verifying supporting signatures and for evaluating the mandatory Kazakh language test, the OSCE statement concludes. http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/76349
Israeli citizens Ron Fuchs and Zeev Frankiel were convicted of offering a $7 million bribe to Deputy Georgian Finance Minister Avtandil Kharaidze in October 2010, in exchange for dropping plans to protest the decision of an international arbitration court. The defendants were sentenced to seven and six years in prison, respectively, and fined. Defense lawyers say their clients were ensnared in a plot orchestrated by senior government officials trying to avoid an arbitration payment of $90 million. The 2010 arbitration award was related to an oil pipeline development contract, concluded in early 1990s and later unilaterally terminated by the Georgian government. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/04/01/uk-georgia-israel-trial-idUKTRE7303ZM20110401 http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/2011/01/18/israeli-businessmen-on-trial-in-tbilisi/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqqur2X8LN4 (video, undercover footage)
Friday, April 1, 2011
The UN International Court of Justice (ICJ), located in the Hague, the Netherlands, declined to hear 'ethnic cleansing' charges brought by Georgia against Russia, saying it had no jurisdiction in the case. The Court pointed out that attempts to resolve the issue between the two countries through bilateral negotiations should have taken place before Georgia sought intervention by the court. Georgia applied to the court in August 2008 under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, accusing Russia of ethnic violence against thousands of ethnic Georgians in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin seems to be doubtful about the validity of President Dmitry Medvedev’s plans to cut social taxes. In 2008, Putin initiated the increase of social payroll charges from 26% to 34%. Yesterday, Medvedev ordered that the tax be cut back. Putin responded that there are no "straightforward solutions" to that problem. Putin pointed out that the increased revenue has been used to finance the pension and public health systems, and that the government will have to cut other spending, such as the salaries of the police and military officers, if taxes are cut. Putin also disclaimed the idea of increasing excise on alcohol and tobacco products on the grounds that this would substantially increase the prices of those products. Nevertheless, Putin instructed the government to look into how the presidential order can be fulfilled. http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1612154 http://www.vesti.ru/videos?vid=328426 (video)
On March 31, Moscow opposition activists held their traditional demonstration on the Triumfalnaya Square in support of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution (freedom of assembly). A similar demonstration was held in St. Petersburg. Both demonstrations were prohibited by the authorities and dispersed by the police. Some 150 activists were arrested. At the same time another Moscow opposition group held an alternative demonstration at the nearby Pushkin square, which was allowed by the authorities. http://www.lenta.ru/news/2011/03/31/vojna/ http://drugoi.livejournal.com/3525244.html (Moscow, video) http://grani-tv.ru/entries/1689/ (St Petersburg, video)