Thursday, November 29, 2012

Russian Court Bans Pussy Riot Video

A Moscow court has ruled that websites must remove video clips of the Pussy Riot female punk band, two of whose members are in jail. The clips include a crude anti-Kremlin song, which they performed in Moscow's main cathedral in February and for which they were convicted. The "punk prayer" has been viewed nearly 2.4m times on YouTube. In its ruling, the court called the clips "extremist". Websites that fail to remove the clips may be blocked. (video)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rusnano Partners with U.S. Pharma Company, Selecta Biosciences

On Monday, Rusnano chief Anatoly Chubays welcomed American pharmaceutical company Selecta Biosciences, which opened a research lab in Khimki and moved its global top management to Russia as a sign of confidence in the country's potential for nanotechnology research.  "When we made the decision about investing in Selecta, we made the right choice," Chubais said. "It seemed to us that the company has unique technological capacity and that with time, as it develops, this startup will show very strong results." Selecta Rus, a Russian-based subsidiary of Selecta Biosciences, develops vaccines that are based on nano particles, and hopes to develop the first anti-smoking vaccine as early as 2016, said Dmitry Ovchinnikov, deputy general director of Selecta Rus.  Rusnano plans to invest up to $25 million in Selecta Rus, and is also providing administrative assistance to the startup.  Under a deal, Selecta Rus and Rusnano signed a year ago, the pharmaceutical company gets to keep the intellectual property rights to the vaccines and choose where to produce them. Rusnano would then get a share of the company's revenues, although the company's managing director, Dmitry Lisenkov, declined to reveal more specifics.

Key Witness in Magnitsky Case Found Dead

A Russian supergrass, who was helping Swiss prosecutors uncover a multi-million pound money laundering scheme used by corrupt Russian officials, has died in mysterious circumstances outside his Surrey home, according  to media reports. Alexander Perepilichnyy, a wealthy businessman who sought sanctuary in Britain three years ago after falling out with a powerful crime syndicate, collapsed outside his mansion on a luxury private estate on the outskirts of Weybridge. He was 44-years-old and was in seemingly good health.   Perepilichnyy was a key witness against the “Klyuev Group”, an opaque network of corrupt Russian officials and underworld figures implicated in a series of multi-million pound tax frauds and the death in custody of the whistle-blowing Moscow lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. He is the fourth person to be linked to the scandal who has died suddenly. Surrey Police said that a post mortem examination of Mr Perepilichnyy had proved “inconclusive” and further tests were being carried out to try to establish a cause of death. The force said the sudden death was not being treated as suspicious but left open the possibility that it will have to carry out further investigations.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Russia Sends 200 Tons of Cash to Sirya

According to media reports, as the Syrian economy began to unravel and the military pressed hard against an armed rebellion, a Syrian government plane ferried what flight records describe as more than 200 tons of “bank notes” from Moscow. The regime of Bashar al-Assad is increasingly in need of cash to stay afloat and continue financing the military’s efforts to crush the uprising. U.S. and European sanctions, including a ban on minting Syrian currency, have damaged the country’s economy. As a result, Syria lost access to an Austrian bank that had printed its bank notes. According to the flight records, eight round-trip flights between Damascus International Airport and Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport each carried approximately 30 tons of bank notes back to Syria.

Cossacks to Patrol Central Moscow

Moscow's Cossacks plan to expand their law-and-order patrols to the central part of the capital starting on Tuesday. Until now, Cossack patrolmen have been active only in southeastern Moscow. During a trial run on Tuesday, they will help their colleagues in central Moscow patrol near the Belorusskaya metro station, the administration of the southeastern district said on its website on Monday. “In concert with law enforcement officials, the Cossacks will uphold law and order and prevent illegal parking and unlicensed business activity" on the streets of central Moscow, the statement said.

Prison Riot in Russia

A two-day riot by inmates at a prison in Russia's Chelyabinsk Region ended peacefully, officials reported on Monday, as human rights campaigners sought details of how the troubles ended. “The situation in Correctional Colony No. 6 is now stable and fully under control of its administration,” the region’s branch of the Federal Penal Service (FSIN) said in a statement on Monday. “No force was used against the prisoners,” the FSIN said. Around 250 prisoners at the colony near the Urals city of Chelyabinsk rioted on Saturday, demanding a more relaxed regime and release of several of their number from a special punishment isolation unit. The prisoners held up makeshift banners including one saying in red letters "We Have a Thousand on Hunger Strike" and another saying "People, Help." A group of prisoners' relatives waiting for a visit on Saturday saw the convicts rioting while standing outside the gate. They were barred from entering during the disorder, but were reluctant to leave, sparking arguments which later resulted in clashes with the OMON riot police. Eight OMON riot police officers received injuries, the police reported on Sunday night. A local television station released a YouTube video showing a car with a smashed windscreen next to a family with a small child. “We were yelling 'there is a child inside,' but to no avail,” a woman said while her husband wiped his bleeding face with snow. “The police didn’t give any warning of an attack,” Oksana Trufanova, a local activist with network, a rights group for prisoners and their relatives, told RIA Novosti on Monday. Trufanova claimed she and several other people were beaten by the police outside the prison. Speaking outside the prison, Trufanova said she was hit on the head and fell down on her knees. She has been trying to get into the jail since the riot started, she added. The police said at least 38 people were detained over the incident, and claimed some of them were drunk. (video)

Russia Unblacklists Google

Internet giant Google’s IP address was temporarily blacklisted for the second time over the weekend due to a computer glitch, Russian media and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said on Monday. “There was a software failure. The system incorrectly identified the host provider’s address. So the notification went out to the wrong address,” Roskomnadzor press secretary Vladimir Pikov said, adding the mistake was promptly fixed. One of Google’s resources contained banned materials and the case will soon be reviewed again, he said. According to the watchdog’s register, IP address was put on the blacklist ( on Saturday and removed at 11 a.m. Moscow time on Monday. (The legal ground of the black list is the recently adopted law informally known as "the Internet Censorship Act.")

Russian Physicist Released on Parole after 8 Years in Jail

Russian physicist and convicted spy Valentin Danilov, who was released on parole on Saturday after serving eight years in prison, has arrived in Novosibirsk, west Siberia. “I had a wonderful trip, but the wind blew from the windows, as usual,” Danilov said on arriving in Novosibirsk, where he spent his youth studying at a university. The scientist told RIA Novosti he had no plans as yet to look for work and just wanted to rest and recover after serving his sentence. “I want to say that the place I was sent to was no way a health resort,” he said. The physicist, who headed the Thermo-Physics Center at Krasnoyarsk State Technical University, was convicted of treason, related to transfer of classified information to China. The data allegedly came from his research conducted for Russia’s Defense Ministry. The scientist consistently maintained that the information he was accused of selling had been available in scientific journals and had been declassified for over 10 years.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Criminal Charges Denied Over Anti-Putin Activist Torture

Russian investigators refused on Thursday to open a criminal investigation into allegations by a leftist political activist that he was tortured into confessing to a plot to overthrow President Vladimir Putin. Leonid Razvozzhayev, a member of the Left Front political movement, made international headlines in mid-October when he said he had been abducted by "masked men" after applying for political asylum in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and spirited away to Moscow by his kidnappers. Razvozzhayev also told human rights workers who visited him in a Moscow pre-trial detention center that his abductors had threatened to kill him and his children if he did not sign a detailed confession. “A number of witnesses were questioned and their testimony indicated the unreliability of Razvozzhayev’s claims about his abduction and torture,” said Vladimir Markin, spokesperson for Russia’s Investigation Committee.

Moscow Police Close Underground Casino

An underground casino in downtown Moscow has been shut down in a special operation, the city's police said on Thursday. "Video surveillance was installed around the perimeter of the building and associated territory, entrance was gained through safe doors after a phone call to the manager, and on recommendation of trusted clients. The casino had special poker tables, four roulette tables, and 34 gaming machines," the police press statement said.

First Nonsmoking Cells in Russian Jails

The first jail cells for nonsmokers have appeared in Russia’s predominantly Muslim republic of Tatarstan, the republic’s penitentiary service reported on Wednesday. The project, which was launched in May, has received positive comments from inmates at the republic’s pretrial detention centers, so the decision was made to continue it. At present there are a total of 24 nonsmoking cells in Tatarstan’s five detention centers. Ivan Nikitin, head of a penitentiary service department, said remand prisoners have to meet certain requirements to be placed in a smoke-free cell that pertain to previous convictions, the severity of charges against them, psychological stability, etc.

YouTube Taken off Russian Blacklist

YouTube, the video-sharing website, has been take off the blacklist maintained by Russian media and communications watchdog Roscomnadzor. YouTube was put on the blacklist ( earlier on Wednesday and had three days to remove what Roscomnadzor said were “suicide promotion” materials. Failure to do that would have led to YouTube’s blocking across Russia. In early November Roscomnadzor blacklisted over 180 websites over offensive content.

Jailed Putin Foe Charged With Fur Hat Robbery

A Russian opposition activist, who is facing up to ten years over allegations that he conspired to organize mass disorder, was hit with additional charges on Wednesday when investigators accused him of an armed robbery dating from 1997. Leonid Razvozzhayev, an activist with the Left Front political movement, was charged with robbing a businessman of 500 fur hats and video cameras in the East Siberian city of Angarsk, Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said. Razvozzhayev was charged in October with plotting to destabilize Russia in a bid to overthrow President Vladimir Putin. The charges were based on grainy, low-quality footage aired by the pro-Kremlin television channel NTV. Razvozzhayev made international headlines in October when he said he had been abducted by “masked men” after applying for political asylum in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. “The new accusations show how weak the case on the NTV footage charges is,” a Left Front member told RIA Novosti.

Over $22 Mln Seized During Defense Contractor Fraud Inquiry

Cash and valuables worth about 700 million rubles (about $22.4 million) in total were confiscated during a fraud inquiry into a possible embezzlement of state funds by defense contractors, the Russian Interior Ministry said. The Russian Defense Ministry has found itself at the epicenter of a spiraling state property scandal in the past weeks. Several criminal cases are underway in connection with the Oboronservis scandal, which became public on October 25, when investigators raided the Defense Ministry property management company's offices and the homes of its senior employees over alleged real estate scams involving nearly $100 million. Some of the properties were in Moscow, which has some of Europe’s most expensive real estate.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lawyers for Two Imprisoned Pussy Riot Members Quit Case

The lawyers for two jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova,  announced Monday that they would no longer be representing the women, saying they believed that their continued participation in the case could have negative consequences for their former defendants.  Nikolai Polozov, one of the three lawyers formerly representing the women, said they had decided the publicity they had helped produce around the case had "irritated" authorities and that they had agreed with their clients to remove themselves from the case if the convicted punk rockers were pressured.  Mark Feigin, another of the outgoing lawyers, expressed hope that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina could be granted early release in late April after the change in legal representation.
The Pussy Riot case has become an international public relations headache for the Kremlin, the latest demonstrating coming on Friday, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested during a panel discussion with President Vladimir Putin that the sentences given to the women were too harsh.

Kazakh President Opposes Wearing of Hijabs

Wearing hijabs is not in line with Kazakh traditions, President Nursultan Nazarbayev stated.  “We shouldn’t let Kazakhstan’s people move backwards. We (the Kazakhs) are Sunni Muslims and we have a path of our own. Wearing Arabic hijabs and sending our women back to the Middle Ages is not our path. (…) Elderly ladies have their own well-established preferences in terms of clothes and head covers. Let them decide for themselves what to wear. However, young people wouldn’t turn to wearing hijabs out of their own choice if they weren’t instructed to (…)”, the President believes.

Israeli Rocket Hits 'Russia Today' Office in Gaza

An Israeli airstrike on a media compound has injured at least six journalists, Palestinian medical authorities say. Among the outlets damaged are local, Italian, German, Lebanese and Kuwaiti channels. RT's office in Gaza was affected too. (RT, also known as Russia Today, is an international multilingual Russian-based television network.) The journalists received minor to moderate injuries, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said. One journalist had his leg amputated following the attack, he added. Two buildings of a media center in Gaza City were targeted by Israeli warplanes early on Sunday in a series of strikes. Witnesses reported that the journalists had evacuated after an initial attack, which was followed by at least two more hits. The buildings were heavily damaged. (video) (video)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gazprom Commits to Costly South Stream Pipeline Project

Gazprom and its partners in the South Stream gas pipeline that runs under the Black Sea to Europe have formally confirmed the launch of the 16 billion euro project, with a final deal with a Slovenian partner finalized on Tuesday. The direct supply of natural gas to Europe is expected to start in the first quarter of 2016, with up to 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas delivered to European consumers by 2018. The cost of South Stream, including the pipeline’s overland sections could reach as high as 24 billion euro billion taking into account the onshore sections, experts estimate. The South Stream pipeline was designed to diversify Russian gas routes to Europe and to compete with the rival EU-backed Nabucco pipeline project.

U.S. House Passes Russian Trade Bill, with Human Rights Link

Despite warnings from Russian officials, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to drop Cold War-era trade restrictions, while taking a jab at the policies of President Vladimir Putin by publishing the names of Russians believed to be involved in the abuse and death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian anti-corruption lawyer who died in 2009 in a Russian jail.  The bill, which still needs Senate approval, would establish "permanent normal trade relations", thus ensuring that U.S. companies get the full benefits of Russia's recent entry into the World Trade Organization.  The bill would also require the Obama administration to deny visas and freeze the assets of any individual on the list, as well as other human rights violators in Russia on an ongoing basis. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said earlier on Friday that Russia has already prepared its next steps in response to the legislation, but gave no details. Other Russian officials have indicated that Moscow would retaliate by imposing sanctions on U.S. officials it accused of violating Russian citizens' rights.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Georgia Ex-Minister Faces Torture Charges

Georgia’s former defense and interior minister Bacho Akhalaya has been charged with false imprisonment and torture, Chief Prosecutor Archil Kbilashvili said on Tuesday. The prosecution alleged that in February 2010, on Akhalaya’s orders, 19 servicemen were locked up in a bathhouse for “indiscipline,” where they spent three nights without food or heating. Akhalaya was detained last Wednesday along with another two military officials over charges of abuse of office, degrading treatment, physical and verbal abuse of subordinates, false imprisonment and torture. On Friday a Tbilisi city court ordered that Akhalaya be taken into custody pending trial.

Russia's Audit Chamber: $500 Mln of APEC Summit Funds Stolen

15 billion rubles (some $500 million) of state funds were stolen during the preparations for the APEC summit near Russia’s Vladivostok, an investigation of Russia’s Accounts Chamber has revealed. Some of the embezzled money was also earmarked for developing the country’s Far East and Zabaykalye regions over the span of 2008-2012. An audit showed that only 23 of the planned 67 facilities have been open as of September 1. State tender holders failed to get a positive expert opinion on their documentation and construction quality and left two five-star hotels, an opera and many other APEC venues unfinished as the summit kicked off last summer. (document)

Head of Russia’s Perm region arrested over APEC scam

Russia Bans Online Encyclopedia, a popular Russian online encyclopedia (similar to the English-language humorous encyclopedia, was added to the register of websites containing banned information, after which its IP address was blocked. Lurkmore is a popular resource similar to Wikipedia, though, unlike the latter, it focuses on collecting information on various Internet memes, popular figures, Internet resources and subcultures. As with Wikipedia, users write and edit the articles themselves. According to the information on, the complaint against the site was submitted on November 4, and on November 11 the site was added to the register on the decision of the Federal Drug Control Service. "We do not know exactly why our site has been blocked. But of course we will do our best to find out," Lurkmore tweeted. The administration managed to restore the operation of the website by changing the IP address and moving from to (The ".to" domain belongs to the Kingdom of Tonga.) The law on Protecting Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development stipulates the development of the Unified Register of Domain and Indexes of Internet Websites and Web-resources.

Wikipedia stands up for Lurkmore
Lurkmore unblacklisted upon deleting questionnable artilces 

Moscow Court Sentences Protester to 4.5 Years in Jail

A Moscow court has ordered that a Russian protester receive a 4.5-year prison sentence. The activist was the first of 18 on trial for participating in clashes during May’s antigovernment demonstrations. Maksim Luzyanin, 36, cooperated with the investigation and pleaded guilty on all charges of mass unrest during his participation in a protest held on May 6 at Bolotnaya Square – the eve of the inauguration of Russian President Vladimir Putin's third term. Luzyanin was arrested in late May and charged with 'participating in the unrest' and 'using violence against a representative of power.' He admitted to beating a police officer and throwing rocks during the protest. The defendant confessed to all the charges against him and expressed regret, saying he was “emotional and under the influence of an angry mob.” Prominent Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny said on Saturday the jail sentence handed to a protester against President Vladimir Putin highlighted the government's harsh approach to dissent.

"Russian GPS" Designer Sacked Amid Corruption Scandal

The chief designer of Russia’s scandal-hit Glonass satellite navigation system, Yury Urlichich, was fired from his job, a spokeswoman for Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Sunday. The decision was made by the government’s military-industrial commission, which is headed by Rogozin, the spokeswoman said. Russia’s rival to GPS was rocked by fraud allegations earlier this month, with the Interior Ministry accusing unnamed Glonass officers of embezzling 6.5 billion rubles ($200 million) of the program’s funds. The crackdown on Glonass was backed on Sunday by the head of the Kremlin administration, Sergei Ivanov, an ex-Defense Minister and alleged Rogozin ally who said that the investigation into the Glonass fraud had been ongoing since 2010. Ivanov came up with a surprise televised statement that he knew of the embezzlement for years but kept silent. Ivanov said he discussed the theft with police as early as 2010 but didn't speak publicly about it in order to prevent the culprits from covering up their actions.

Putin Sacks Defense Minister amid Scandal

President Vladimir Putin fired Russia's Defense Minister over corruption allegations on Tuesday, the latest twist in an unfolding saga of power, money and suspected adultery at the heart of the Kremlin. Putin announced on television that he had fired Anatoly Serdyukov, once seen as one of the President's most loyal courtiers, but lately a liability amid allegations that the military sold off assets cheaply to insiders. "Taking into consideration the situation around the Defense Ministry, in order to create conditions for an objective investigation into all matters, I have decided to remove Defense Minister Serdyukov from his post," Putin said. Serdyukov's replacement will be Sergei Shoigu, recently named governor of the Moscow region and known as a popular and loyal Putin ally during nearly two decades as head of the Emergencies Ministry. The Defense Minister wields immense power in Russia, channeling billions of dollars every year through the country's powerful defense industry, the second largest arms exporter in the world.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Ukraine Ex-PM Detained Again

Ukrainian former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, who was released from a California prison, is now in the custody of U.S. immigration authorities. Lazarenko's lawyer Daniel Horowitz told the "Kommersant-Ukraine" daily that the ex-prime minister was detained immediately after his release from the Terminal Island prison after serving an eight-year sentence for fraud. Lazarenko does not have a valid U.S. visa or political refugee status. U.S. officials must now decide whether to grant Lazarenko legal status or deport him to Ukraine. Prime minister from 1996 to 1997 under President Leonid Kuchma, Lazarenko amassed a personal fortune while advising on the privatization of the country's lucrative natural-gas sector. After falling out of favor with the president and amid a probe of his business dealings, Lazarenko fled to the United States in 1999. He was found guilty of money laundering through U.S. banks, wire fraud, and extortion in 2004. In the same year, he was ranked by the watchdog group Transparency International as the eighth most corrupt official in the world.

Clash over Pussy Riot Brand

A conflict has arisen between Pussy Riot band member Yekaterina Samutsevich and the group's trial attorney Mark Feygin over the commercial use of the Pussy Riot brand, Kommersant daily reports. On April 4, 2012, Kinokompaniya Veb-Bio (Veb-Bio film company) filed an application with the Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks to register the band's name as a trademark.  However, freed Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samtusevich believes that the commercial use of their name is contrary to the group's ideology, which was always intended to be a punk rock project. Samutsevich demands that Mark Feygin gives up his rights to the band's trademark. Feygin said that he has nothing to do with the Pussy Riot brand and acted only to protect the group name from third parties.

UPDATE: Rospatent Denies Pussy Riot Trademark Application

Pirates Challenge Russian Government

The Pirate Party of Russia said on Thursday it would take on the newly introduced governmental Internet blacklist by launching a web service providing access to the banned web resources. The service,, would provide access to blacklisted pages, as well as offer guidelines on how to circumvent blacklisting, the head of the unregistered party, Pavel Rassudov, said at a press conference in Moscow. Leaders of the Pirate Party, created in 2010 and still struggling to obtain registration with the Justice Ministry, said that they expect the blacklist to be abused for political gains. “The government’s resources are finite, but the Internet is endless,” party founder Stanislav Shakirov said. The Federal Mass Media Inspection Service has not commented on the initiative.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Russian Black List of Websites Goes Live

The unified register of Internet websites containing information, which is prohibited to distribute in Russia goes live on Thursday. The law on protecting children from information damaging to their health and development came into effect on September 1. The law stipulates a number of limitations for publishing certain materials in the media, and includes the creation of a list of websites, which display content that is potentially harmful to children. The register and the new website,, will be maintained by the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. Internet resources will be included in the list by decision of the Interior Ministry, the Federal Drug Control Service, the Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare, the Federal Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media, and the courts. The Internet community has reacted negatively to this bill, fearing government censorship.

Moscow Police Detains Oppositionists

Police detained 12 participants in an unsanctioned rally in Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square. Representatives of the opposition attempt to hold a rally in Triumfalnaya Square in support of Article 31 of the Constitution on the 31st day every month. The Moscow authorities almost invariably ban and disperse the rally. A police source said, “twelve participants in an unsanctioned rally in Triumfalnaya Square were detained on Wednesday for breach of public order.” They were taken by the police and may face administrative penalties. 30 journalists covered the unsanctioned rally. (video) (video)