Saturday, April 28, 2012

Terrorist Attack Hits Ukraine

Twenty nine people, including nine children, were injured in four successive bomb attacks that took place in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, in eastern Ukraine, the emergencies ministry said. Police later said at least one of the bomb attacks was averted. A law enforcement source said all of the bombs were homemade without any solid encasement. All of the explosive devices were placed in garbage bins. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks. A criminal case has been opened under a “terrorism” statute. (video)


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Attorney Demands Introduction of Sharia Courts in Russia

A Muslim lawyer in Moscow, Dagir Khasavov, suggested in a TV interview that Sharia courts should be legalized in Russia. "Muslims don't want to get involved in the [secular] court system,” he explained. “You think that we come here to Russia as to some foreign place. But we believe that we're at home here. Perhaps you're foreign and we're at home. And we will institute rules that suit us, whether you want that or not," said Khasavov. "Any attempts to stop this will end in bloodshed. There will be a second Dead Lake here. We will flood the city with blood," the lawyer warned. A public scandal ensued. The Russian Interior Ministry said it is checking Khasavov’s statement for extremism and sowing national hatred. Top Russian Mufti Talgat Tadjuddin opposed Khasavov’s idea, saying that the Russian Constitution provides separation of state and religion, and Muslims should use the same court system as everyone else. In contrast, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Department for Relations between the Church and Society, Vsevolod Chaplin, says Muslims in Russia must not be restricted in their right to live by their own rules. The head of the Russian Presidential Council for Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, said that parallel court structures were impossible in a modern state with rule of law. Fedotov also said that “only a madman who seeks to sow national hatred would threaten someone with spilling blood”. The official noted, however, that Russian law allows for out-of-court settlements, and this is where Sharia courts could be used. (video)


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Russian Court Dismisses Philip Morris' Trademark Lawsuit

The Moscow Arbitrazh (Commercial) Court has dismissed the Philip Morris tobacco company's lawsuit and supported the patent regulator's decision to deny the trademark registration of OPTIMA ZOLOTAYA cigarettes. The Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks (Rospatent) ruled that the trademark is confusingly similar to the JAVA ZOLOTAYA trademark previously registered by British American Tobacco-Java. Although "zolotaya" simply means "golden," Rospatent believes the word "Zolotaya" can be seen as an independent element, which would infringe on the British American Tobacco-Java's trademark rights. The court agreed with Rospatent.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Medvedev Pardons One of 32 "Political Prisoners"

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday pardoned a man on a list of 32 people whom opposition activists consider political prisoners, but gave no clue whether he might free others in his last two weeks in the Kremlin. Medvedev, who will be replaced as president by Vladimir Putin on May 7, signed a decree pardoning Sergei Mokhnatkin, 58, and 13 others. The Kremlin said on its website that the decision was "guided by the principles of humanity". None of the others pardoned was on the list of 32 "political prisoners", including former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, submitted to Medvedev in February by opposition politicians who had demanded their release during large street protests. Mokhnatkin was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison on charges of violence against a police officer during an opposition rally in December 2009. He denied the charges, saying he had been defending a woman and not even attending the rally.

Pussy Riot Judge's Attacker Arrested

The man who attacked the judge handling the Pussy Riot case with an axe has been arrested and subjected to pre-trial detention for two months. Moscow resident Andrei Borodin, 36, burst into the office of a Tagansky District Court judge wielding an axe and demanding the release of the Pussy Riot punk group members. The judge, Yelena Ivanova, resisted the attack and Borodin was detained. Both the investigator who filed the case against him and the prosecutor asked the court to place Borodin in custody. The defense is entitled to contest the ruling within three days. The court ruled last week that three Pussy Riot members would remain in custody until at least June 24 for their anti-Putin protest in Moscow's largest cathedral. Meanwhile, on Sunday the Orthodox Church organized near the cathedral a 70,000-strong public prayer lead by the Patriarch "for the protection of faith."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Stalin's Grandson Seeks to Cancel Russian Duma Resolution on Katyn Case

Josepf Stalin's grandson Yevgeny Dzhugashvili has appealed to the Supreme Court in his challenge to the State Duma's resolution on the massacre of Polish POWs in Katyn. His lawsuit claims that "the offensive legal act presents false information diminishing Stalin's merits to Russia's authorities and citizens and the authorities and citizens of other countries."  The Duma resolution says that the Katyn massacre was committed under Stalin's direct order. According to Dzhugashvili, Hermann Goering and Alfred Jodl were convicted of the crime in the Nuremberg trials.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Russian Lawyer Makes Time Magazine List of World's 100 Most Influential People

Russian lawyer, anti-corruption blogger, and opposition leader Alexei Navalny was the only Russian named by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential figures. Originally Navalny became known as an anti-corruption and minority shareholder activist. He has risen to prominence as one of the leaders of a burgeoning opposition movement that has gathered strength following mass protests over alleged vote fraud in December's State Duma elections.,28804,2111975_2111976_2112167,00.html (photo)

Kazakh Court Convicts 47 Islamists

A court in the Atyrau Region of Kazakhstan has found 47 people guilty of terrorist activities and sentenced them to prison terms varying from 5 to 15 years. The trial proceeded behind closed doors. Two bomb attacks rocked Atyrau on October 31, 2011, and two criminal cases were opened on terrorism charges. Five people were held accountable under one of these cases and 42 under the other. The investigation found that the bombings were committed by a radical organization called Caliphate Soldiers set up by Kazakh citizens fighting for Afghan insurgents and hiding abroad.

Tajik Court Convicts 34 Islamists

A court in Khujand in northern Tajikistan has convicted 34 people of involvement in a terrorist group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and sentenced them to prison terms ranging between eight and 28 years. Other charges included murder and attempting to violently overthrow the government. Authorities in Tajikistan, an impoverished nation that shares a long and poorly secured border with Afghanistan, saw a spike in militant activity in 2010 that led to the deaths of dozens of troops.

Russian Bank's Top Manager Charged with Illegal Cash-out

Law enforcement authorities have exposed violations in Master-Bank and have started criminal proceedings against a group including the bank's former Vice-President Evgeny Rogachyov. Rogachyov is reported to be a member of an organized group suspected of embezzling two billion rubles ($68 million). The group offered businessmen a range of services, including tax evasion schemes and money laundering. Rogachyov was detained in Sochi and is under house arrest.

Pussy Riot Punk Band to Remain in Custody

A Moscow court ruled that three members of the all-female punk group Pussy Riot must remain in custody until at least June 24 for their part in an anti-Putin protest at Moscow's largest cathedral. Five masked members of Pussy Riot performed a protest song entitled “Holy Sh*t” at the altar of the Christ the Savior Cathedral in downtown Moscow on February 21. The lyrics included lines such as “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!” All three of the accused face up to seven years on hooliganism charges. A date for their trial has yet to be set as investigators continue their probe. "This is a mockery of a case and it should be closed immediately,” Nikolai Polozov, the accused's attorney, told the journalists. Some 300 people had gathered in front of the court to demand freedom for the suspects, who were detained in early and mid-March. Police made a number of arrests, detaining some 30 demonstrators wearing t-shirts in support of the group.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Belarus President Pardons Presidential Candidate

Belarus granted early release to one of its most prominent political prisoners in a move that might be intended to ease its strained relationship with the European Union. Belarusian former presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov, who has been in jail since 2010 on charges of inciting riots after the presidential elections, was released on April 14. In January Sannikov, who was sentenced to five years in prison on charges of inciting protests against President Alexander Lukashenko, asked the president for a pardon. His wife said then that Sannikov had been tortured into writing the request for mercy. After the 2010 presidential elections most presidential candidates were arrested and sentenced to varying prison terms. The European parliament has adopted a resolution demanding that Belarus release 11 political prisoners. However, only two of them, including Sannikov, filed petitions for pardon. “This is their choice – let them remain in jail,” Lukashenko commented on the other prisoners.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

RUSNANO to Sell 10% of its Shares

Russian state-owned corporation Rusnano plans to sell 10% of its shares by the end of 2012 in order to raise cash to fund hi-tech projects. Rusnano was set up as a state corporation in 2007 to develop innovative infrastructure in Russia. In March 2011, it was turned into an open joint-stock company with 100% shares owned by the Russian government.  The plan to sell 10% shares was first announced in 2011 by Rusnano CEO Anatoly Chubais, who has suggested that this is just the beginning of a plan to privatize up to 40% of the company. In 2011, Rusnano expected its project companies would generate more than $10 billion by 2015. With these figures in mind, Russian analysts predicted that 10% of Rusnano would cost at least $1 billion by 2013.  However, in 2011, Rusnano suffered $2.9 billion of net loss under Russian Accounting Standards, and with its investment portfolio reduced, the cost of the 10% is likely to be recalculated.

Russia's Largest Software Developer Plans 2014 IPO

Russian largest business software and video game developer 1C plans to undertake an IPO by 2014.
In October last year 1C received $200 million in return for a 9% stake from the Baring Vostok Capital Fund, which holds a major stake in the Russian search engine Yandex. 1C was founded in 1991 by Boris Nuraliev in Moscow, and is best known outside of Russia for developing the famous IL-2 Sturmovik line of flight simulators that includes Forgotten Battles and Pacific Fighters. In the domestic Russian market, 1C is best known for its business software, including its software suite 1C: Enterprise, and for its educational software suite 1C: Tutor.

FAS to Investigate Import Duties on Tablet PC's

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service has begun an investigation into customs duties on tablet PCs amid reports that Apple is the only manufacturer importing its products duty-free, while other tablet producers are paying import levies.  The antitrust agency sent letters to manufacturers (including Acer, Samsung, Asus, HP, Lenovo and Sony) inquiring how their tablets are classified, which determines customs duties.  Last fall, the Federal Customs Service changed classification codes for tablet computers with GPS hardware, counting them as navigators instead of computers, resulting in a 5 percent import duty being levied — which increased prices per unit by several thousand rubles. The customs service offered to cancel the duties if companies could show that the devices really were computers, but to date has only reclassified Apple's iPad as a computer.  Acer Russia spokesman Denis Kutnikov said his company sent a letter to the customs service in early March not only requesting that their Iconia tablet be considered a computer, but also complaining that their products were routinely delayed at customs. The company has yet to receive a response.The communication director for Lenovo in Russia and the CIS, Ilya Pozharsky, said the import classification of their devices depends on the customs inspector — half the time it's declared a navigator, the other half a computer.  More than half of the 800,000 tablet computers sold in Russia in 2011 were Apple iPads, Lenovo vice president Gleb Mishin said.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Russian Citizen Sentenced to 25 Years by US Court

A US judge has sentenced Russian businessman Viktor Bout to 25 years behind bars. He also was fined $15 million. His defense plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. Former Soviet military officer Bout was arrested in Thailand in 2008 and accused of an attempt to sell weapons to Columbian rebels, who in fact appeared to be US agents-provocateurs. He was extradited to the US and in 2011 found guilty of all charges pressed against him. Bout was convicted of conspiring to kill US nationals, including military officers and employees, conspiring to use anti-aircraft missiles, and selling millions of dollars’ worth of weapons to the Colombian rebel group FARC. Bout told a judge at his New York sentencing that he is “not guilty” and the allegations against him are lies. Earlier, he called the trial “hypocritical” and an example of “double standards.” The Russian Foreign Ministry called the sentence “ungrounded and biased” and vowed to “make all necessary efforts to bring V.A. Bout to the Motherland.” (video) (document)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Amnesty International: 'Pussy Riot' Are Prisoners of Conscience

Amnesty International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of three young women arrested by the Russian authorities as members of the punk group ‘Pussy Riot’ who staged a protest song in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February. Several members of the punk group ‘Pussy Riot’, with their faces covered in balaclavas, sang a protest song titled “Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin”. A court ordered suspects’ two-month pre-trial detention, and the "hooliganism" charges brought against them may result in a seven-year imprisonment.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tajikistan Accuses Uzbekistan of Blockade

The Tajik Embassy in Russia has issued a statement that claims Uzbekistan has imposed a transport and energy blockade that jeopardizes the Tajik economy. The statement claims Tashkent's restrictions on rail transportation and energy shipments to Tajikistan may cause “a humanitarian catastrophe” and are “aimed at destabilizing the socioeconomic environment.” Since 2010 Uzbekistan has “systematically carried out the transport blockade of the southern and central regions of Tajikistan,” the statement said. It has delayed railcars bound for Tajikistan and, since the end of 2011, Uzbekistan has stopped the transit of goods destined for Tajikistan's southern regions. Uzbekistan recently decided to halt gas deliveries to Tajikistan and no longer provides transit of electricity from Turkmenistan to Tajikistan.

Monday, April 2, 2012

U.S. Envoy to Russia Accuses TV Station of Spying on Him

The U.S. State Department formally expressed concern to the Russian Federation about the security of its ambassador to Moscow, Michael A. McFaul, who has complained that wherever he goes in Moscow he is finding hostile-minded state TV crews. McFaul suggested that journalists have gained access to his schedule by hacking his e-mail or his phones. “This is against the Geneva Convention, if you are going to receive my information from my telephone or from my BlackBerry,” Mr. McFaul said to the reporters. McFaul, who arrived in January, received harsh treatment from Russian television starting on his second day of work, when a prime-time commentator announced that he had been sent to foment revolution. NTV, which is owned by the state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, has broadcast a series of films asserting that Washington has orchestrated antigovernment demonstrations. (video)

British Intellegence Uncovers Plot to Kill Russian Exile

MI5, Britain's domestic intelligence agency, issued an unprecedented public warning that Akhmed Zakayev was the target of a murder plot. The UK government went to court to have the man MI5 identified as the organiser of the "hit" removed from the country, however, judges have allowed him to stay and fight to remain in Britain. Mr Zakayev was a politician in the war-ravaged Russian republic of Chechnya before he fled to London in 2002 and was granted asylum. MI5 believes that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a rival of Mr Zakayev, may be behind the plot.

Dozens of Protesters Arrested in Moscow

Police detained about 60 demonstrators in central Moscow on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said. Some 200 people met at Triumfalnaya Square who “made an attempt to hold an unauthorized event,” the ministry press service said. The event was covered by about 100 media reporters and bloggers, it added. Civic protesters hold traditional campaigns in support of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of assembly, on the 31st of every month with 31 days. The next day, April 1, more than 50 demonstrators were detained near the Red Square that was blocked by the authorities to prevent the demonstration. (video) (video)