Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Notaries Receive Enforcement Power

At the end of 2011, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed a number of legislative amendments concerning notaries, including a law allowing extra-judicial enforcement of mortgage agreements.  Under the new law, if the borrower fails to pay under the mortgage agreement, the lender can obtain a writ of execution from the notary who notarized the agreement.  The lender can take the writ directly to the court bailiffs for seizure of the collateral, bypassing the courts. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Russian Constitutional Court Head: UN Security Council Libyan Resolution “Legally Questionable”

Russia’s Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin published an article sharply criticizing Western countries for intervening in the internal affairs of other countries, such as Libya and Russia, and Russian oppositionists – for their “anti-state” position. “Certain states openly and demonstratively assume the right to act as if they were ‘much more equal,’” Zorkin states. He quotes as an example the actions of the Western coalition in Libya on the basis of what Zorkin calls “a legally questionable document entitled ‘UN Security Council Resolution No. 1973.’” Addressing the Russian oppositionists who question the fairness of the recent Russian elections, Zorkin rhetorically asks them whether they are “ready to invite some Varangians [foreigners], including NATO countries’ armed forces, to support the establishing a 'new statehood' in Russia, following the Libya model.”

http://www.rg.ru/2012/01/26/zorkin.html (article)

WikiLeaks Founder Gets Show on Russian TV

Controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has a new talk show that will be broadcast on the Kremlin-funded English-language TV channel RT, formerly known as Russia Today, the station said. The RT statement said Assange is filming the series from the location of his house arrest in Britain. He is currently fighting extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted on sex crimes allegations. United States officials are weighing possible charges linked to the leaks, the biggest disclosures of secret documents in U.S. history. WikiLeaks said on its site that "iconoclasts, visionaries and power insiders" would be invite them to the show so that Assange could challenge their vision of world affairs and "their ideas on how to secure a brighter future." 
The names of the guests are still to be disclosed.


Yavlinsky Loses Chance to Run for Kremlin

Yabloko party founder Grigory Yavlinsky will be banned from the presidential race over invalid signatures in his support, the Central Elections Commission said on Tuesday. Some analysts said the removal was part of the Kremlin’s plan to allow Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to win in the first round of the vote, though others denied ulterior motives behind the decision. Yavlinsky collected two million signatures in support of his bid as required by law, but two audits, the second of which was completed Tuesday evening, showed 25.66 percent of the signatures to be invalid, commission secretary Nikolai Konkin said. The law caps the amount of faulty signatures at five percent. “The commission will hold a session later this week to officially refuse registering Grigory Yavlinsky” for the March 4 vote, Konkin said.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Law Tightening Internet Use In Belarus Goes Into Effect

A law restricting the use of the Internet by Belarusian firms and state institutions has come into force. One aspect of the law, seen as the most invasive, requires Internet cafes and service providers to identify and keep track of all of their clients along with the web pages they visit. Thirty-five websites are banned for Internet users at state institutions, including the pages of "Charter'97.org" and "Belarusian Partisan." Belarusian companies are required to use the Belarusian Internet domain -- .by -- in order to sell goods or services within Belarus.


Russia’s Supreme Court Cancels Opposition Party Ban

Nearly a year after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the 2007 closure of the tiny opposition Republican Party by the Russian authorities was illegal, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday to reverse its earlier decision, the first such reversal in years. The party, headed by opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov, was closed in May 2007 after the Supreme Court found that the party had less than 50,000 members and fewer than 45 branches with over 500 members as required by the law on political parties. In April 2011, the ECHR declared the ruling unjustified, in particular criticizing the Russian law setting minimum membership requirements for political parties that are the highest in Europe.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Russia Sells Combat Jets to Syria

Russia and Syria have signed a $550-million contract on the delivery of 36 Yakovlev Yak-130 Mitten combat trainer, according to Kommersant daily, quoting a source close to Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport. Under the deal struck in late December, the jets are to be supplied to Syria when Damascus makes a prepayment, the source said. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week that Russia need not justify its actions before the West, because Russia is not violating “any international agreements or any [UN] Security Council resolutions.”


Putin Proposes to Criminalize Migration Violations

Russia should have stricter registration rules for internal migrants and introduce criminal responsibility for violation of migration laws, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an article on modern problems of multiethnic Russia for the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. The article is the presidential candidate’s second publication as part of his election program.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Russia to Review Soviet Laws

Russia’s Ministry of Justice launched a large-scale review of Soviet statutes and regulations still in effect.  Deputy Minister of Justice Viktor Evtukhov stated that about 45,000 acts adopted in the Soviet times are currently in force. They are supposed to be either incorporated into Russian laws, or abolished.


Russian Web Gang Exposed

Five men believed to be responsible for spreading the notorious Koobface computer worm on Facebook and other social networks — and pocketing several million dollars from online schemes — are hiding in St. Petersburg, Russia, according to investigators at Facebook and several independent computer security researchers. Beginning in July 2008, the gang enticed Web users with invitations to watch a funny or sexy video. Those curious enough to click the link got a message to update their computer’s Flash software, which began the download of the Koobface malware. Victims’ computers were then drafted into a “botnet,” or network of infected PCs, exploited by the criminals for their improper purposes. The security software firm Kaspersky Labs has estimated the network includes 400,000 to 800,000 PCs worldwide at its height in 2010. Victims are often unaware their machines have been compromised.


Medvedev Submits Bill to Reinstate Governor Elections

Russian regional governors will be elected by a direct vote of the people, President Dmitry Medvedev said in an explanatory note to a bill on reintroducing elections for local governors that he submitted to parliament on Monday. “Under the draft federal law, the top official in a federation constituency … is elected by Russian citizens on the basis of a general, equal and direct voting right with a secret vote,” the note to the bill said. The new bill which will be drafted within a month comes on the heels of street protests against alleged fraud in the December 4 parliamentary elections and increasing popular discontent with the political status quo. Governors have been appointed by the president since 2004, when then-President Vladimir Putin changed the law in order to strengthen national security. In 2009 Medvedev stated that he did not see a possibility to reinstate the direct governor elections even in 100 years.


Russian Space Chief: Failures May Be Sabotage

Some recent Russian satellite failures may have been the result of sabotage by foreign forces, Russia's space chief suggested. Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin spoke when asked about the failure of the $170 million unmanned Phobos-Grunt probe, which was to explore one of Mars' two moons, Phobos, but became stranded while orbiting Earth after its launch and ultimately fell back to Earth. Popovkin pointed out that some Russian craft had suffered "unexplained" malfunctions while flying over another side of the globe beyond the reach of his nation's tracking facilities. "I wouldn't like to accuse anyone, but today there exists powerful means to influence spacecraft, and their use can't be excluded," Popovkin stated.

http://www.izvestia.ru/news/511258 (interview)

Russian Regional Antitrust Chief Shot 3 Times

The chief of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service's regional branch in Ivanovo was shot Monday morning while heading to work. Alexander Borovkov was shot three times and seriously wounded, the Investigative Committee said in a statement. He was shot as he got out of his car to enter the service's office building in the town of Ivanovo, about 200 kilometers northeast of Moscow. The unknown gunman fled the scene in a vehicle accompanied by an accomplice in a second car. The cars were later found on a nearby street. Investigators suspect a possible motive for the crime may be linked to Borovkov's professional activity.

http://www.kommersant.ru/doc/1852368 (video)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Russian General Prosecutor: Opposition Rallies Financed from Abroad

Russian General Prosecutor (Attorney General) Yuri Chaika stated in an interview that the recent mass rallies for fair elections have been financed from abroad. “It is inadmissible that certain persons use people for those persons’ political goals, that are far from being clean,” Chaika said commenting on the rallies. “The money for all that often comes from sources outside Russia,” he went on to add. However, Chaika did not offer any specific examples of such foreign financing. In response one of opposition leaders, Boris Nemtsov, published an article entitled “General Prosecutor is a Liar.” Nemtsov stated that the costs of the first rally ($10,000) were covered by himself and his colleague, and the money for the second rally was raised from the public through a web payment system, with detailed reports available.


Russian Court: DTTs Do Not Override Thin Cap Rules

The Supreme Arbitrazh (Economic) Court (VAS) published its Presidium (acting as the last-instance economic court) decision resolving the much debated issue of whether or not an international double-tax treaty (DTT) overrides the Russian national thin capitalization rules, applicable to loans from foreign parent companies. According to the VAS’ holding in the Severny Kuzbass case, the non-discrimination clause of a DTT does NOT override the thin cap legislation. Accordingly, interest payments made to a foreign parent may be taxed differently from those made to a Russian parent.

http://www.arbitr.ru/bras.net/f.aspx?id_casedoc=1_1_8fb6828f-7e79-45f6-9652-2b9f002eede7 (document)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cyprus Releases Russian Syria-Bound Ammunition Ship

A Russian-owned ship reportedly carrying ammunition to Syria was allowed to leave Cyprus after giving assurances it would switch course. The cargo ship, flying the St. Vincent and Grenadines flag, was en route from St. Petersburg to the Syrian port of Latakia when it was forced to dock at a Cypriot port for refueling amid rough seas. Cypriot media said the ship, named by the authorities as the M/V Chariot and owned by the St. Petersburg firm Westberg Ltd, was carrying from 35 to 60 tons of ammunition and explosives meant for the Syrian Defense Ministry. Originally the Cypriot authorities banned the departure of the ship, but then changed their mind. “It has been decided the vessel will be released after the ship decided to change its destination and will not go to Syria,” Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said. “It was established that there was no violation of the relevant EU restrictions on Syria,” the Cyprus Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

http://famagusta-gazette.com/cyprus-ministry-of-foreign-affairs-statement-regarding-arms-ship-p14124-69.htm (document)

UPDATE: Ship with Russian ammunition arrived to Syria

Strasbourg Court Orders Russia to Reform Pre-Trial Detention System

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg issued a judgment ordering Russia to radically reform its pre-trial detention system. This is a so-called “pilot judgment” not only awarding compensation to victims, but also directing the country to implement legislative or other measures to remedy its systemic problems with human rights. In the Ananyev v. Russia judgment (which is not yet final and can be appealed) the court said: “Detainees suffered inhumane and degrading treatment because of an acute lack of personal space in their cells, shortage of sleeping places, limited access to light and fresh air and non-existent privacy when using the sanitary facilities.” The judges said a further 250 cases were pending before the court in which the applicants complained about their detention conditions. The Russian government will have six months, from the date on which the judgment becomes final, to produce a binding timetable to adopt a host of reforms aimed at improving conditions, the court ruled. These include the scaling down of prison populations, the provision of privacy to use the toilets in cells, ensuring that pre-trial detention is only used in the most serious cases as well as establishing maximum capacity for each remand prison.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tymoshenko’s Husband Obtains Asylum in Czech Republic

The husband of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has won asylum in the Czech Republic, after successfully arguing that the authorities were persecuting him in order to pressure his wife. The heroine of the 2004 pro-Western Orange revolution, Mrs. Tymoshenko, insisted that her conviction on "abuse of office" charges was President Yanukovych's way of preventing her from challenging him at the ballot box again.


‘Infidel Santa’ Killed in Tajikistan

A young man, Parviz Davlatbekov, dressed up as Father Frost, the Russian counterpart of Santa Claus, has been brutally killed in Tajikistan. The assailants reportedly shouted “infidel” as they stabbed him to death. According to some local media and reports on social networks, the attackers were Muslim radicals who had targeted Davlatbekov for wearing a Father Frost outfit. Reports say some 30 people participated in the killing. However, the religious motive is being denied by the police, who say they are treating the killing as an ordinary, secular crime. Three people have been detained for their role in the assault, all of whom are university students. The issue of how or even whether a Muslim should celebrate New Year made the headlines in Tajikistan recently. An influential cleric said in an interview that both the Christian Gregorian calendar and the New Year are alien to the country where 98 per cent of the population is Muslim. The statement split Tajikistan, where the holiday has been celebrated for many decades.


Russian Court Acquits Tajik President’s Relative

A court in Moscow cleared Rustam Khukumov, a relative of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, of drug trafficking charges, on which he was earlier sentenced to 9.5 years in jail (he was arrested with 10 kilos of Afghani heroin). The appeals court found the charges “unproved.” According to some media reports (predating the court hearings), Khukumov has in fact been released in exchange for the release of a Russian pilot arrested in Tajikistan on smuggling charges. However, both the Russian Foreign Ministry and Khukumov’s attorney deny the swap deal.


Fugitive Russian Prosecutor Arrested in Poland

Poland has detained former Russian high-ranking prosecutor Aleksandr Ignatenko, wanted by Moscow for his alleged involvement in a network of illegal casinos. Ignatenko was taken into custody on a road leading to Poland's southern Tatra Mountains resort of Zakopane, where he was to meet his wife and child. Reports say he was in possession of a Lithuanian passport. In May, Russian authorities issued an arrest warrant for Ignatenko, who had been fired from his post as a prosecutor in April after the network of illegal casinos was cracked in the Moscow region in mid-February.


Moscow Police Descend on '31' Protest, Detain 60

On December 31, 2011, Moscow oppositionists held their traditional demonstration on the Triumfalnaya Square in support of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution (concerning freedom of assembly). As usual, the police arrested anyone who was carrying a placard or giving an interview to media correspondents, of whom several dozen were present. Police later said "approximately 60" people were detained. They estimated the total number of protesters at 200 plus 100 accompanying journalists and bloggers. One of the detainees was well-known conductor Mikhail Arkadiev who recently publicly refused to join Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's electoral organization ("All-Russia People's Front") and was fired from the Pacific Symphonic Orchestra.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RbGK9lUuRk (video)