Friday, June 29, 2012
Under plans drawn up by ruling party United Russia, non-governmental organizations funded by foreign donors and involved in "political" activity will face hefty fines and jail terms if they fail to register on a state list. The proposals, drafted by United Russia Duma Deputy Alexander Sidyakin, would require all non-governmental organizations receiving funding from abroad and engaged in "political" activities to register on a special list as "foreign agents". These NGOs would also have to publish a report of their activities every six months and undertake an annual financial audit. Any organizations failing to register within 90 days of the law coming into force would be liable to civil and criminal penalties, the deputy told RIA-Novosti on Friday. The penalties included a maximum prison sentence of four years, fines up to 300,000 rubles ($9,128) or 480 hours of mandatory community service.
The three-day international forum in St. Petersburg brought together more than 5000 people from 87 countries, and led to agreements signed reaching $11 billion dollars. Though most of this year’s contracts were the so-called deals of “intent”, 13 "solid" contracts were concluded for the total sum of $5 billion. The core deals were signed in the aviation, energy, and banking sectors with the biggest worth almost 60 billion roubles. Among the largest contracts was a loan agreement for the 120 billion roubles (roughly $3.6 billion) Western High Speed Diameter (WHSD) project, and in the aviation sector Russia's second-biggest airline Transaero signed an agreement to buy four Airbus A380 superjumbo planes worth $1.7 billion at list prices, as well as six Sukhoi Superjet-100 planes, with deliveries in 2015-2017, worth $212.4 million. In the oil and gas sector Russian oil giant Rosneft also signed a series of agreements including the deal with Statoil on joint efforts in Russia and on Norway's shelf. Finally, in the banking sector Sberbank of Russia and HSBC Bank signed a Framework Loan Agreement for $2 billion to provide Sberbank with short, medium and long term trade finance advances including advances to be covered by Export Credit Agencies.
Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the Russia-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The CSTO was established in 1992 and, apart form Uzbekistan, comprises Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The officially quoted reason is Uzbekistan's disagreement with the organization's plans related to Afghanistan. Experts speculate that in fact the move may be related with Uzbekistan plans to open a U.S. military base on ts territory.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
A court in Ulyanovsk found opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov guilty of striking local student Anna Pozdnyakova. The judge has sentenced Udaltsov to 240 hours of public service. The criminal case was opened two months ago on a complaint from Pozdnyakova, who said Udaltsov stuck her during a rally in Ulyanovsk on April 21. It happened when she was asking him questions and photographed him with her mobile phone. According to the case records, she received a concussion and bruises. Udaltsov has denied the charges.
Russia's Constitutional Court ruled that current laws fully depriving mentally ill individuals of their legal capacity do not correspond to the Constitution. The case was initiated by Irina Delovaya, who has been disabled since childhood and who lives at a special psycho-neurological clinic in St. Petersburg. In 2010 at the school's request Delovaya was recognized as incapable by the court and was deprived of the opportunity to manage her assets, particularly her pension (e.g. to purchase food). When considering the issue, the court was guided by current civil legislation, which stipulates full deprivation of legal capacity in cases where an individual is mentally unstable. The clinic administration was assigned as the plaintiff's guardian. The court admitted the necessity to introduce amendments to the law to ensure a differentiation of mentally ill patients. At the same time the court stresses that the possibility to recognize an individual incapable, following a psychological disorder, does not contradict the Russian Constitution since it is first aimed at protecting his/her rights and legal interests.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday during his visit to Jordan that he learned through the media that the homes of opposition figures in Moscow were searched. The homes of Russian opposition figures -- anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, Solidarity movement head Ilya Yashin and TV star and socialite-turned-opposition activist Ksenia Sobchak -- were searched by police on June 11 ahead of an anti-Putin protest set for June 12. "In regard to the searches, believe it or not, but I knew about them from the press," Putin said, adding: "If everything was done within the current law, then that's fine, [but] if there are any breaches, then they should be investigated." Investigators said the searches on June 11 were legal and took place as part of a probe into the May 6 riots. Critics accused authorities of cracking down on Russian protest movement leaders.
More than 100 prominent Russian cultural figures have signed and open letter to the Russian Supreme Court and the Moscow City Court, calling for the release of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, members of the Pussy Riot punk band being prosecuted for disorderly conduct at the Christ the Savior Cathedral. "The criminal case against Pussy Riot compromises the Russian judicial system and undermines confidence in the government institutions on the whole," the letter says. Several Pussy Riot members, wearing masks covering their faces, staged an anti-Putin performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21. Soon afterwards, police opened a criminal case on disorderly conduct charges. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were arrested on March 4 and Samutsevich on March 15 as those supposedly hiding behind the masks during the performance. Moscow's Tagansky District Court on June 20 extended their pre-trial arrest at least until July 24.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny has asked investigators to look into whether law enforcement officials helped hackers break into his e-mail and Twitter accounts this week. Navalny, in a letter addressed to Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastrykin, said investigators might have shared passwords acquired during searches of his house and office with hackers to gather evidence for a possible criminal case against him. "My e-mail has been broken into, and through that, my Twitter," Navalny wrote on his LiveJournal blog early Tuesday. “It's obvious it was [hacked] from the computers and iPads seized during the search." The Investigation Committee responded with an angry statement saying that "the access of third parties [to the seized computers] is ruled out" and vowing to "give procedural appraisal" to Navalny's statement (apparently meaning prosecuting Navalny for slander). Navalny, in turn, pointed out that the photos officially taken by investigators during the search of the apartment of Ksenia Sobchak (another opposition figure) appeared in tabloid media half an hour after the search.
U.S. Republican Senator John McCain on Tuesday said he expected President Barack Obama to consider additional sanctions in the case of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky’s death in 2009. In his letter to Obama, McCain proposed imposing sanctions against an organized crime group he claims comprises Russian officials and bankers allegedly involved in Magnitsky’s death. Russia has warned that it would respond to the adoption of the bill in kind, imposing restrictions on U.S. officials. The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would impose sanctions on Russian officials allegedly linked to Magnitsky’s death in 2009.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
With its expanding base of Internet users, Russia ranks third among emerging markets with the highest potential for online sales growth. Russia boasts 60 million Internet users – the largest online population in Europe – and 15 million online shoppers, making it the most attractive market for online retail sales after China and Brazil, according to the survey by A.T. Kearney released late last Monday. The size of the country's market for online retail is expected to reach $16 billion by 2016, but despite this growth potential, the survey was also critical of a number of issues like poor financial infrastructure, regulation, and logistics problems that hamper sustainable growth throughout the country (70 percent of Russia's online sales are still concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg).
Monday, June 25, 2012
Rovio, the creator of mobile gaming hit Angry Birds, is considering investing in Russian start-ups in a bid to diversify by buying into projects around the world. The Finnish developer’s founder Peter Vesterbaka says,"we have already found some interesting projects for investment in Russia though we cannot disclose what they are so far.” Experts in the industry say there are plenty of young talented developers in Russia, but investors are often driven away by Russia's imperfect legislation and piracy control. According to Alex Patsai, head of Mail.Ru Games for mobiles, the Russian mobile games market is still developing and far from saturation. “Rovio is an attractive brand, but to succeed on the Russian market, it’s essential to know its specifics – something foreign companies cannot boast," says Patsai.
Minority shareholder lawyer, anti-corruption blogger and opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been elected to the board of directors of Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, at the airline’s annual shareholders’ meeting. Navalny was nominated by the National Reserve Bank controlled by businessman Alexander Lebedev whose structures hold about 15 percent in the flagship airline. The controlling stake of 51.17 percent is held by the Russian government.
Friday, June 22, 2012
Andrzej Poczobut, Belarus correspondent of a Polish newspaper, was detained by police less than a year after serving jail time for slandering Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Last year he spent three months in jail before getting a three-year sentence which was suspended. "(Police) have detained him, searched his apartment and said a criminal case had been launched against him for offences similar to the previous ones," said Anzelika Orechwo, head of the Union of Poles of Belarus.
Gazprom said it may sue Ukraine if Naftogaz fails to meet its gas purchase commitments. Energy and Coal Minister of Ukraine Yuri Boiko said that Naftogaz is expected to import only 27 billion cubic meters of Russian gas in 2012. Gazprom had said it expected Ukraine to meet its contractual obligations, which stipulate that it has to pay for at least 41.6 billion cubic meters of gas this year. The gas supply contract between Gazprom and Naftogaz includes a "take or pay" provision, covering 80% of the contracted gas supplies. Ukraine is thereby committed to pay for at least 41.6 billion cubic meters of gas out of 52 billion cubic meters scheduled for supply in 2012. A Gazprom source said the company may go to court if Ukraine defaults on its commitments.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
As part of an involvement of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) in meetings of the Competition Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, Deputy Head of FAS Russia Andrey Tsyganov presented a “Report of the Federal Antimonopoly Service on Competition Policy in 2011”. FAS’s Report describes the latest changes in competition law and enforcement, in particular, modernization of the antimonopoly law and enforcement practice under the “third antimonopoly package”, industry priorities, and efforts to increase the transparency of FAS in 2011. Tsyganov emphasized that “[i]n 2011 FAS paid increasingly more attention to developing [a] regulatory framework, which makes possible cooperation with foreign competition authorities for investigating violations of the antimonopoly law with cross-border effects . . . FAS also continued strengthening cooperation with the antimonopoly bodies of the CIS member-states, and competition authorities of the EC and the USA, particularly, in course of investigating specific cases of violating the antimonopoly law.”
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
The world’s largest aluminum producer, Rusal, has completed a deal with the leading Export-Import Bank of China to develop a $850 million greenfield project in Eastern Siberia. The plant will supply Rusal's aluminum smelters in Eastern Siberia who can then meet China's growing demand for aluminum, Rusal said in a statement. With the new plant located close to its key consumers, Rusal plans to shorten the supply chain and to cut costs. Rusal hopes that boosting cooperation with China will lead to a recovery in the aluminum market by 2013, if it also cuts production. “All producers should take responsibility for decisions on production volumes and more actively cut unprofitable production," Oleg Mukhamedshin, Rusal's head of equity and corporate development told Reuters. "This particularly suggests China."
There are currently around two dozen web address endings, but that number could soar to over a thousand within months, as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is expected to approve almost two thousand new applications, including Russian applications ending in .skolkovo, .yandex, .gdn, .tartar and even .vodka. The Foundation for Assistance for Internet Technologies and Infrastructure Development filed applications for .moscow and its Cyrillic equivalent, but it is not only Russian companies that want to grab Russian domain names. The Vatican has filed an application for .католик, and American and Swiss companies filed applications for the Cyrillic names .сайт, .онлайн, .ком and .оюг. ICANN is currently soliciting public comments about the new domain names, which will be considered by the evaluation panels before accepting or rejecting an application.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Tapping into a growing global appetite for Russian internet firms, online retailer KupiVIP wants to hold an initial public offering in New York within two years. KupiVIP's Oskar Hartmann told reporters that an IPO is expected to raise more than $120 million for the online luxury goods shopping retailer. Russia, now Europe's biggest internet market, has seen several successful IPOs in this sector over the the last two years, including one for Russia's leading online retailer Ozon.ru last year (funding of $100 million secured), as well as online groups Yandex and Mail.Ru ($2.5 billion raised between them in oversubscribed IPOs in New York and London in 2010 and 2011).
The Russian Supreme Court has ruled that philharmonic societies are not obliged to pay royalties for performing public domain music. The complaint filed by the Moscow State Academic Philharmonic Society has been satisfied and the relevant provisions of an executive government order have been invalidated. Until that, philharmonic societies had to pay royalties (10% of the revenue) to the Russian Copyright Society for performing in mixed concerts any music, including classics by, e.g., Mozart or Bach. Now they may prorate the royalties in accordance to the proportion of copyrighted and public domain works in the concert.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Russia's Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov accused Russia's top investigator of driving his deputy editor to a forest and threatening him over critical coverage. In an open letter published on Novaya Gazeta's website, Muratov said security guards transported deputy editor Sergei Sokolov to a Moscow region forest and left him alone with Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, who threatened his life. "The terrible truth is that you threatened in a fit of passion to kill my deputy. You even happily joked that you yourself would carry out the investigation," the letter read.
Sokolov flees Russia because of Bastrykin's threats
Sokolov flees Russia because of Bastrykin's threats
The United States suspects Russia of supplying Syria with combat helicopters that will be used against peaceful protesters, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. “We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically,” Clinton said. Russian President Vladmir Putin said in early June that Russia was not supplying arms to Syria which could be used against protesters.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Tens of thousands gathered in downtown Moscow in the pouring rain on Russia Day on Tuesday for a mass anti-Kremlin rally, the first after legislation on rallies was radically tightened by the government. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin, accused before the rally of preparing a crackdown on the opposition, urged political forces in the country for dialogue and proposed compromise in a speech on Tuesday. The March of Millions, which was approved by the authorities for up to 50,000 participants, saw the protesters march along downtown boulevards and a stop for a concert and a round of speeches from opposition figures.
In an apparent attempt to disrupt an opposition March of Millions slated for June 12, Moscow police carried out on Monday searches in the apartments of the protest leaders. Among those whose apartments have been examined by the police are an opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the head of the Left Front, Sergei Udaltsov and Ilya Yashin from the Solidarity movement and Ksenia Sobchak, a TV star and socialite-turned-opposition activist. The raids, which are carried out in relation to the riots between protesters and police on May 6, come a day before the opposition holds a new March of Millions in downtown Moscow with a maximum of 50,000 people authorized to protest against the rule of President Vladimir Putin.
Monday, June 11, 2012
In Russia, it's not Google, but Yandex you use for a search. Mail.ru dominates Yahoo!, Amazon is overshadowed by OZON, and Vkontakte outperforms Facebook. Russian versions of global brands are outstripping the global market leaders, thanks largely to targeted local market knowledge, massive internet growth and a reticence of "Western" brands to target the territory. Among the Russian sights making the biggest impact are: Art.Lebedev (web and industrial design services); Cut the Rope (game); Look at Me (fashion and design); Mamba (online dating); Marussia (luxury sports cars); Odnoklassniki ("classmates" social networking); Oktogo.ru (online travel); Tinkoff (direct consumer and online banking); SPB TV (mobile TV) and World of Tanks (gaming).
Saturday, June 9, 2012
A scandal involving a cross-dressing prosecutor erupted in southern Russia on Friday after he was discovered dressed as a woman and trying to talk to teenage girls. The man, 32-year-old Konstantin Fominov, approached a group of teenage girls outside an apartment building. He was wearing a dress, a corset, high-heeled shoes and a wig. The girls got scared and called out to some adults. The "woman" started running away but the girls’ fathers caught up with "her," whereupon the cross-dressing prosecutor threatened to put all of them in prison. The adults called the police, who arrested the prosecutor. A deputy chief of the local investigation committee, Ivan Sengerov, said the incident had been registered and investigators were trying to establish whether Fominov’s actions could be qualified as a crime. The press service of the Kuban prosecutor’s office said that Fominov had tendered his resignation on June 4, the day of the incident, citing a serious illness.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill that dramatically increases the potential fines for people found guilty of participating in unsanctioned rallies. The measure sharply raises the potential financial penalty for people found guilty of participating in unsanctioned protests to up to 300,000 rubles ($9,150). Russia's Federation Council -- the upper house of parliament -- approved the bill on June 6 before Putin signed it two days later. The new legislation has been criticized by opposition groups and rights activists as anti-constitutional. Russia’s leading human rights activists had urged Putin to veto the law. The law has been signed as opposition activists are planning to hold a mass protest action in Moscow on June 12.
Friday, June 8, 2012
Imprisoned former oil magnate and outspoken Kremlin critic, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has called on the head of Russia's Supreme Court, Vyacheslav Lebedev, to overturn the second conviction against him. Already in custody since 2003, the head of oil giant Yukos, who was once Russia's richest man, was found guilty of embezzlement in December 2010, at a trial widely criticized abroad. Khodorkovsky said it was in Vyacheslav Lebedev's powers to overturn the "unprofessional" ruling last month by a lower Supreme Court judge, which upheld his 2010 prison sentence. "I call on you to prove that the Supreme Court is the place where justice is being done," he said. Khodorkovsky says both trials against him were politically motivated, a claim denied by the Kremlin.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Moscow's Association of European Businesses is hosting its fourth annual conference on "Intellectual Property Rights: Recent Trends, Court Practices, Problems and Solutions.” The AEB's Intellectual Property Committee has organized the conference to touch upon key issues in the sphere of intellectual property, as presented by government officials, legal professionals and leading Russian business people.
The conference will take place on June 14th 2012, in Moscow, at the EU Delegation building (Moscow, Kadashevskaya naberezhnaya, 14/1), from 9:15 to 14:30. Registration starts at 8:30.
The working languages of the conference are English and Russian. Interpretation will be provided.
AEB members’ participation for assigned representatives is free of charge; a fee for additional representatives of AEB members is 3,000 RUR (+VAT 18 %); and a fee for representatives of non-member companies: 6,500 RUR (+VAT 18 %). For more information, contact Julia Kucherova, AEB Committee Coordinator, Julia.email@example.com, tel.: 234.27.64, ext.150.
Registration online at: www.aebrus.ru/events/registration
The Moscow Military District Court sentenced retired Federal State Security Service (FSB) Colonel Valery Mikhailov to 18 years in a high-security prison for spying for the United States. According to the investigation, Mikhailov contacted CIA intelligence officers in Moscow on his own initiative while serving in the FSB and passed state secrets to them. The details of the case have not been disclosed due to the highly-classified nature of the information. Over 6 years, Mikhailov has received $2 mln from CIA agents, $1 mln of which he has spent on real estate in Sevastopol, Ukraine, and in Arlington, Virginia, US. The Moscow court ordered the seizure of the property in Sevastopol, but not in Arlington. Russian media speculates that Mikhailov may be exchanged for Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen recently convicted in the US for illegal arms dealing.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Russia's parliament has passed a law that drastically increases fines for participating in political demonstrations without a permit. The Duma (lower chamber) approved the law after hours of discussion, and the Federation Council (upper chamber) then approved the law immediately. Fines under the law can reach 300,000 rubles (~$10 000) for individuals or, as an alternative, 200 hours of community work. Officials may be fined up to 600,000 rubles, and legal entities may be fined up to one million rubles. Earlier the fine was only 1000 rubles (~$33). Opposition deputies unsuccessfully tried to delay the law by suggesting almost 500 amendments, each of which was discussed. To enter into force, the law must be signed by the President. Somewhat unexpectedly, President Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitri Peskov stated that Putin will not sign the law if it is "contrary to the generally accepted laws typically used in other states protecting the rights of citizens and members of society, [such as] European countries." Putin will study the draft law with painstaking care, Peskov said.
Monday, June 4, 2012
A Libyan court has convicted a group of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian nationals of collaborating with Gaddafi forces. A Russian, accused by the Libyan authorities of coordinating the group’s activities, was given a life sentence. The rest of the convicts were sentenced to ten years in prison. Two Russian citizens, two Belarusians and 20 Ukrainians were detained last autumn by Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC), which accused them of fighting alongside Gaddafi militants. All of the convicts were contract employees at a joint Russian-Libyan oil venture, Dakar. First they were called “snipers who fought on Gaddafi’s side”. However, later it became clear that the “snipers” had no weapons at all and half of them were elderly people unfit for military service.
Friday, June 1, 2012
BP has announced that it will try to sell its stake in the TNK-BP Russian oil joint venture. In a short statement, the oil company said it had received "unsolicited indications of interest" in acquiring its shares. BP has informed the other shareholder in TNK-BP, Alfa Access Renova, that it plans to pursue a sale. It warned that there was no guarantee that such a transaction would take place. Earlier in the week, Mikhail Fridman, TNK-BP's chief executive, announced he would be stepping down in 30 days "for personal reasons". TNK-BP is a joint venture between BP and Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR), a group of Russian billionaires that includes Mr Fridman. Relations between the shareholders have been particularly strained since BP had to abandon plans to form another joint venture with rival Russian oil firm Rosneft last year after AAR launched a legal challenge.
A total of 120 people were detained during a traditional unsanctioned rally in support of freedom of assembly in downtown Moscow, most of whom were released by the next morning. Russian opposition groups hold rallies in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities on the last day of each month that has 31 days in defense of their right to freedom of assembly, as enshrined in Article 31 of the Russian Constitution. Police invariably disperse the demonstrations. Police have estimated the number of protesters who gathered on Thursday on Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square at 150. The opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper said some 300 people took part in the rally.