Thursday, February 28, 2013

Senior US Lawmaker Denied Russian Visa

senior US lawmaker has been denied a Russian visa in what he said was likely a retaliatory move for the Magnitsky Act, a US law sanctioning Russian officials accused of human rights abuses, Foreign Policy reported on its website Wednesday. “I was shocked. During the worst days of the Soviet Union I went there repeatedly,” Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, was quoted by Foreign Policy as saying. "The Magnitsky bill is the reason I didn’t get the visa. This is the first time.” Smith said was planning a trip to discuss the Magnitsky legislation, which he voted in favor of last year, as well as other issues with Russian officials, the report said.

US Comedy Show Mocks Kerry for ‘Kyrzakhstan’ Flub

US Secretary of State John Kerry has referred to the nonexistent country “Kyrzakhstan” in a speech last week—an apparent blend of the Central Asian nations Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Kerry’s slip-up came during a Feb. 20 speech at the University of Virginia in which he praised the “brave employees” of the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “They support democratic institutions in Kyrzakhstan and Georgia, mindful from our own experience that it takes a long time to get democracy right, and that it rarely happens right away,” Kerry told the audience. Late night television talk show host David Letterman on Tuesday night lampooned Kerry’s gaffe on the CBS network’s “The Late Show” in one of the comedian’s famous Top 10 lists. (video)

Coca-Cola: Legal Uncertainty Endemic for Russia, Nigeria

The risks of doing business in Russia are on par with those in Nigeria and Romania and can negatively affect sales, Coca-Cola said in a report issued to its investors. Complex regulation, inconsistent state policy and conflicting decisions between national, regional and municipal authorities increase business costs, the beverage giant said, Vedomosti reported Wednesday. The company also noted that legal ambiguities are particularly endemic to Russia and Nigeria. In addition, these two countries also have large-scale corruption in common, dulling the competitive edge of American multinational companies in light of their obligation to adhere to U.S. anti-corruption legislation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Investigators Accuse Navalny of Forging Documents

Russian opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny was accused by investigators on Wednesday of faking documents allowing him to work as an attorney. “Investigators have doubts about the legality of A.Navalny’s receipt of attorney status in 2009,” said Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin. He said a signature had been faked on a document that Navalny presented to gain attorney status. Navalny has consistently denied any impropriety in relation to his professional qualifications, which have also been questioned by the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi. “The Investigation Committee has turned into something between [Joseph] Goebbels' hellish machine and the NTV channel,” Navalny wrote in his Live Journal Blog, referring to the head of the Nazi’s propaganda ministry and a pro-Kremlin television channel known for its “exposes” of opposition figures. Meanwhile, the Kirov Region Bar confirmed that Navalny was admitted lawfully in 2009.

Lukashenko Warns Belarusian Businesses against Financing Opposition

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has warned Belarusian businesses not to finance the opposition, while offering assistance to companies that support the nation's development. "If any businesses provide financing to the fifth column or undermine society in any other way, I will consider them as having joined the anti-government political campaign," he said on Tuesday at the opening of a Council on the Development of Entrepreneurship meeting in Minsk. "They will only have themselves to blame." He added that "any attempt to influence the authorities with the aim of obtaining protection from public officials or facilitating illegitimate activities will fail" .

Fugitive Kazakh Banker Loses Final Appeal in UK

The UK Supreme Court has rejected former BTA Chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov’s last-chance appeal of a judgment prohibiting him from defending himself against BTA Bank’s claims due to serious contempt of the court and failure to turn himself into British authorities, according to a copy of the order obtained by RAPSI Tuesday. Notably, an appeal representing his interests has been filed by Ablyazov’s attorneys although the man himself remains missing. According to the order, Ablyazov’s appeal failed to “raise an arguable point of law of general public importance which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court at this time.” The court further ordered Ablyazov to pay BTA’s legal costs in connection with the appeal. BTA Bank Managing Director Pavel Prosyankin lauded the decision in a statement issued Tuesday: “Today’s decision marks the end of Mr Ablyazov’s legal manoeuvring and will expedite the enforcement of the significant judgments we have won. The Supreme Court’s decision reinforces the Bank’s ability to start to reverse the processes by which Mr Ablyazov fraudulently diverted assets from the Bank. We remain committed to the process to help restore the Bank’s financial standing which was devastated by Mr Ablyazov’s actions.” BTA’s case against Ablyazov was launched in early 2009 after the Kazakh government acquired a stake in BTA and the bank came under the control of its Samruk-Kazyna Sovereign Fund. Its by-then former chairman Ablyazov fled the country at that point, heading to the UK. Since then, BTA Bank has filed 11 claims against its former chairman, totaling approximately $6 billion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

YUKOS Defendant's Property Seizure Reversal Upheld

A Moscow City Court upheld a reversal of the seizure of the property of deceased former Yukos vice-president Vasily Aleksanyan. In two previous hearings, Moscow's Simonovsky District Court ruled that investigators had illegally seized his house and car. The City Court returned the ruling for reconsideration. The original civil case against Aleksanyan was dismissed in 2010 under the statute of limitations, and the court ruled that there were no grounds to hold the property further. Aleksanyan died in 2011. He was arrested in 2006 with other Yukos executives on charges of stealing property from Tomskneft and shares in refineries and oil-producing companies owned by the Eastern Oil Company. He spent 2.5 years in prison, but was never convicted or acquitted.

WWF: Russia’s Primorye Runs Out of Commercial Forest

The innocent act of buying furniture in America may make you an unwitting accomplice to Russia’s logging mafia, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said on Monday. Illegal logging became an industry with an annual turnover of at least $450 million – possibly far more – in Russia’s Far East, after the Primorye Region ran out of commercial forests, the head of WWF Russia Igor Chestin said at a press conference in Moscow. An estimated 450,000 cubic meters of timber were harvested illegally in the region in 2011, most of it going to the United States, Japan and the EU by way of Chinese furniture factories, Chestin said. Loggers are able to encroach on protected forests thanks to flawed legislation and nonexistent law enforcement, though the government is working with the WWF to change the situation, he said. “We want to cut this Gordian knot, though we’re met with stiff resistance,” Chestin said.

Moscow Welcomes Release of 15 Russian Sailors in Nigeria

The Russian Foreign Ministry has described the release of 15 Russian sailors from pre-trial detention in Nigeria as a “positive development” in a controversial arms-smuggling case. A Lagos court ruled on Monday that the sailors, charged with illegally bringing weapons into Nigeria last year, be released on bail until the next hearing on April 8. The sailors, who have pleaded not guilty, are not allowed to leave Nigeria and will stay on the premises of the Russian embassy during further investigation.

Russian Citizen Depardieu Visits Chechnya

French movie star Gerard Depardieu, who was recently granted Russian citizenship, arrived in Chechnya’s capital Grozny late on Sunday, the Vesti.Ru TV channel reported. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov greeted Depardieu as he came off the plane. “We are glad that our country’s authorities have granted you Russian citizenship. It was a well-thought and wise decision,” the Chechen leader said. “Thank God the time has come when world-famous people choose to live in this country.” (photo, video)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Apple Loses Bid to Register iPad Trademark in Russia

Russia's Chamber of Patent Disputes upheld a denial of trademark registration for Apple's iPad Tablet image.  Although Apple has registered the image of its iPad (a rounded rectangle, positioned on a background of small box icons) in other countries, the Chamber agreed with Rospatent's assessment that the image was "not distinctive" in character, and thus would not enable consumers to distinguish the Apple tablet from those offered by other manufacturers.  According to Apple, a Russian consumer survey confirmed that 27% of the participants have known the trademark since at least 2010, and 82% correctly identified Apple as the company using it.  The Chamber panel, however, questioned the objectivity of Apple's survey and relied on other extrinsic evidence to determine that the iPad image had not acquired a distinctive character.  The Chamber's decision is the second denial of trademark registration for the iPad image in Russia, with a similar application previously denied in June 2012.

Russia Adopts Anti-Smoking Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a ban on smoking in public places, the Kremlin website said on Monday. The law envisages a gradual ban on smoking in public, including in government buildings, healthcare and educational facilities, cultural sites, sports stadiums and on public transport. The law comes into force on June 1, 2013, though some of its provisions, including a total ban on smoking in restaurants, trains and hotels, will only come into effect one year later. The legislation also imposes a total ban on tobacco advertising. Tobacco companies will be barred from holding promotional prize draws and sponsoring public events and competitions. The bill also prohibits display of tobacco products in shops. Sales in retail kiosks will be banned from June 2014, and minimum prices will be set for cigarettes, which currently cost just 40 rubles ($1.30) a pack.

Wave of Resignations Foreseen in Russian Duma after Navalny's Expose

The resignation of senior United Russia lawmaker Vladimir Pekhtin following accusations from opposition leader Alexei Navalny that he owned undeclared property in the U.S. triggered speculation that more lawmakers would quit their seats, throwing the ruling party into crisis. Pundits said Thursday that with lawmakers facing an increasing barrage of incriminating evidence from opposition activists, the Kremlin would try to clean up United Russia — before reputational damage could affect the country's top leadership. On Friday, the Duma will consider a resignation claim from United Russia Deputy Anatoly Lomakin, who announced his decision to leave the Duma a few hours after Pekhtin's speech. Lomakin may become the fourth United Russia deputy to recently quit the Duma after Pekhtin, Vasily Tolstopytov, who quit Tuesday, and Alexei Knyshov, who left in October. Alexei Navalny said in an interview with Moskovsky Komsomolets on Thursday that he possessed information about three more Duma deputies who had undeclared property abroad, one of whom was not a United Russia member. Two of them are apparently Vladislav Tretyak, who has property in Miami, and Andrei Isayev, who owns property in Germany.  Vedomosti reported on Thursday, citing a source in the presidential administration, that six United Russia deputies may resign on the same grounds that Pekhtin did.

Wave of Resignations Foreseen in Russian Duma

Russian PM: US Embargo on Cuba ‘Outrage’

During a trip to Cuba, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev criticized US sanctions against the Latin American country and urged their removal.  “We’re not changing our position, we think this is a complete outrage, an anachronism,” Medvedev was cited as saying in an interview to Cuban media published on Saturday. “The faster it is removed, the better for everybody, not just Cubans, but Americans as well,” the prime minister said of the US embargo. Medvedev visited Cuba, Russia’s ally from Soviet times, for talks with the country’s leadership. During his Latin American tour, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced a $35 billion debt writeoff for Cuba and prepared a historic military contract with Brazil.

Chelyabinsk Region Recovers from Meteor Crash

Emergency services have repaired most of the damage caused by a meteor that shook Russia’s Urals Region, the regional Emergencies Center reported on Sunday. A flaming meteorite streaked across the sky and slammed into central Russia on February 15 with a massive boom that blew out windows and damaged thousands of buildings around the Urals city of Chelyabinsk, injuring more than 1,000 people in the area. “As of February 24, restoration works were 78 percent complete. Radiation background levels are normal,” the Emergencies Center said. Since the works began, windows have been mended in over 5,700 buildings, including more than 4,700 residential buildings, 187 health care organizations, 609 educational establishments, 19 social and 79 cultural facilities. Over 24,000 workers and 4,300 pieces of equipment are involved in the effort to clear up the damage, which is estimated at 1 billion rubles ($33 million).

Russians Filed 30% Fewer Claims with ECHR in 2012

Russians filed 28.5% fewer complaints with the European Court of Human Rights in 2012 compared to 2011, Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov said on Friday. "As of January 1, 2013, Russians had filed 28,600 claims, or 22.3% of the 128,000 waiting to be considered," he said, adding that the figure was 40,000 in 2011. He said Russia has already paid 221 million rubles ($7.3 million) in compensation awarded to plaintiffs in previous years.

Ukraine Refuses to Pay Gazprom $7 Bln Penalty

Ukraine has refused to pay Gazprom a $7 billion fine for 2012 under a "take-or-pay" gas supply contract, President Viktor Yanukovych said on the Dialogue With the Country TV show. Naftogaz Ukraine repeatedly asked Gazprom to cut its annual supply volume to 27 billion cubic meters, and believes that it has fulfilled its contractual obligations. According to Gazprom, Ukraine's contracted gas volume for 2012 was 52 billion cubic meters, and the country must pay for 41.6 billion cubic meters of unused gas.  "We have refused to pay and are now in negotiations," Yanukovych said.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Russian MP Resigns after Navalny's Expose

Deputy Vladimir Pekhtin, until recently the chairman of the State Duma's Ethics Committee, resigned as a deputy amidst a scandal. Pekhting said this is to avoid "casting a shadow" on the ruling United Russia party. Earlier opposition activist Alexey Navalny accused Pekhting of failing to declare more than $2 million in real estate holdings in the U.S. state of Florida. "Now he may move to Florida and live quietly without hearing any complaints," Navalny commented. (video)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Russian Oppositionist Sues Investigators for "Stolen" Money

Russian opposition activist Ilya Yashin filed a lawsuit against the Investigative Committee, asking to return the money investigators have taken when searching his apartment. According to Yashin, investigators searched the apartment in his absence and seized 450,000 rubles ($15,000) that were his two-year savings. After Yashin was questioned as a witness in a mass riot case, the investigator formally authorized the return of the money. However, four months later the money still has not been returned, so the oppositionist decided to sue the investigators. "A natural question appears: Have the investigators stolen my money?" Yashin rhetorically asks in his blog. The Investigative Committee published a statement on its site saying the money is "attached to the file as material evidence" and that investigators are looking into where the money came from.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Body of Russian Deputy Found in Concrete-Filled Barrel

The body of Mikhail Pakhomov, a deputy of the Lipetsk municipal council, who was abducted on 12 February, was found in a concrete-filled barrel in a private garage in Obukhovo, the Moscow Region. Investigators arrested five persons suspected in being involved in the murder. Investigators believe that the assassination was ordered by Evgenii Kharitonov, a former deputy minister for housing and communal services of the Moscow Region.

Number of Russian Billionaires Hits Record

According to the annual ranking published by CEO magazine, the number of Russian dollar billionaires reached a record of 131 persons in 2012. The first on the list is Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-born Russian business magnate, who has accrued his wealth from mining, lumber, and investment. He is also the owner of the Kommersant publishing house. His wealth is estimated at $18.7 bln.

Police Probe Fraud at RusHydro Construction Project

Police have uncovered the embezzlement of 1 billion rubles ($33.2 million) of state funds from the Russian hydropower holding company RusHydro, the Interior Ministry said on Sunday. During the investigation, police found that funds allocated for the construction of the Zagorsk Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Power Plant-2 in the Moscow region were embezzled through schemes involving a number of fly-by-night firms. “The general contractor Gidrostroy signed fake subcontracting agreements with subsidiary organizations during the construction of the hydroelectric pumped storage power plant. The funds sent to their accounts were later cashed and embezzled. The preliminary damage is around 1 billion rubles,” the statement said.

Soviet Officer Awarded Prize for Preventing Nuclear War

A retired Soviet lieutenant colonel whose self-control prevented a nuclear war from being triggered by a long-classified accident in 1983 was honored with a German anti-war prize on Sunday. Stanislav Petrov, 73, won the fourth Dresden-Preis (Dresden Prize), which comes complete with a check for 25,000 euro ($33,000). The officer served at a command center of the Soviet nuclear early-warning system outside Moscow, which reported the launch of five nuclear missiles from US territory on Sept. 26, 1983. Petrov’s duty was to report the incoming missiles to his superiors, who were likely to order a snap retaliatory strike. However, he chose to ignore the report, ruling it an equipment malfunction and reckoning five missiles insufficient for a proper war. Later an investigation proved the warning to be a false report by a monitoring satellite confused by sunlight reflecting off high-altitude clouds. Petrov was neither promoted nor disciplined and continued his service, while the story remained classified until 1998.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fake PhDs Revoked in Russian Academic Crackdown

The Russian academic authorities on Friday revoked the doctoral degrees of 11 people accused of plagiarizing their dissertations, in what it said was the first step in a crackdown on an alleged network cranking out fake PhDs. All 11 PhD holders stripped of titles by the Higher Attestation Commission – including Andrei Andriyanov, 30, a member of the ruling United Russia party – defended their dissertations at the Moscow State Pedagogic University. The scandal broke out after Andriyanov – who holds a PhD in history – was appointed last March to head the Kolmogorov School, an elite Moscow mathematical school. Bloggers, who accused Andriyanov of securing the job through his connections, rather than his qualifications, examined his dissertation and reported numerous violations of PhD requirements and plagiarism. A hastily convened state commission checked a sample of 25 dissertations defended at the Moscow State Pedagogic University in 2007-2012, including Andriyanov’s, and found violations and plagiarism in 24 of them.

Georgian Lawmaker Charged with Plotting Riots in Russia

Russian investigators have charged Givi Targamadze, the head of the Georgian parliament’s defense and security committee, with plotting mass riots, Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said Thursday. Targamadze was charged in absentia with preparing to organize mass riots, jointly with Russian opposition figures - Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, activist Konstantin Lebedev and another activist who is being held at a prison in Irkutsk, Leonid Razvozzhayev. Udaltsov and Lebedev are currently under house arrest.

Meteorite Hits Russian City

A meteorite shower has hit three regions of Russia, and Kazakhstan, Russian Emergencies Ministry officials confirmed on Friday morning. In one affected Russian region, Chelyabinsk, the authorities have received numerous calls reporting injuries received as a result of the meteorite fall, and 20,000 emergency response workers have been mobilized. Background radiation levels reportedly remain unchanged. Reports vary about whether this was one larger meteorite, or many smaller ones. “Verified information indicates that this was one meteorite which burned up as it approached Earth and disintegrated into smaller pieces” deputy head of the Russian Emergencies Ministry press office, Elena Smirnykh said. (video) (photo, video)

1,000 injured in meteorite explosion
Lawmaker: The blast was US weapon test

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Skolkovo Officials Investigated in Criminal Fraud Probe

Russian authorities are investigating two Skolkovo officials after auditors uncovered suspected embezzlement of budget funds, in a setback to a plan to create a Silicon Valley-style technology hub outside Moscow.  Russia's Investigative Committee (Russia's counterpart to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation) said in a statement that it had opened a criminal investigation into the Skolkovo Foundation's finance director, Kirill Lugovtsev, and the head of the Skolkovo Customs Finance Company Vladimir Khokhlov, who are suspected to have stolen around 24 million roubles ($800,000).  Alexander Chernov, vice president of the Skolkovo Foundation in charge of communications, declined to comment on the criminal case. He said Lugovtsev had left the foundation, while Khokhlov was still in his job, but was on temporary leave.

Russian Ex-Agriculture Minister Questioned in Fraud Case

Former Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik is considered as a witness, not a suspect in a major fraud case after she was questioned by investigators on Wednesday, a police spokesman said. “The questioning is over, it lasted for more than five hours,” the spokesman said adding, “[Skrynnik] remains in the status of a witness.” Police estimate the fraud cost Russia 600 million rubles ($20 million). Investigators blamed it on a criminal group led by the Agriculture Ministry’s senior official Oleg Donskikh, who allegedly organized the theft between 2007 and 2009. Donskikh is now in hiding.

Russians Face Fines for Operations with Foreign Banks

According to the amendments to the Russian Code of Administrative Offences which became effective on February 13, Russian nationals may lose the accruals in their accounts with foreign banks, for example interest from savings or rental income, if the revenue was not transferred via a Russian bank. The law also expands the definition of currency transactions, which previously only dealt with prohibited transactions. Now they also include transactions which violate the procedure stipulated in the legislation on currency. The fine will range from 75% to 100% of the prohibited currency transaction. The Russian financial authorities are supposed to receive information about these transactions from the taxpayers themselves: Russian residents are bound by law to notify tax agencies about opening or closing accounts with foreign banks and also about changes in their bank details.

Russian Foreign Minister Won’t Return Kerry’s Call

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called all the foreign ministers of countries that deal with North Korea following Monday's nuclear test and all but one of them picked up the phone -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. However, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied that Kerry was "frantically trying" to reach Lavrov. "There's been nothing frantic about it. He reached out to Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday, made it clear again today that he's ready to talk whenever Foreign Minister Lavrov can find the time," Nuland said. Lavrov has been traveling in Africa, she noted. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had similar difficulty reaching Lavrov quickly by phone. In early 2012, Lavrov was traveling in Australia and didn't return Clinton's call about a pending U.N. resolution on Syria.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Russia Shuts Down Counterfeit Software Provider in Krasnodar

For the first time, a Russian court in Krasnodar has ordered a private business closed for distributing counterfeit software.  Article 1253 of Russia's Civil Code (Part Four), introduced at the end of 2006, provides for the liquidation of any business engaged in repeated or gross violation of copyright laws. According to charges filed in November, Andrei Chebotarev violated the copyrights of five major companies, including Microsoft, Adobe and Autodesk, by selling a large number of counterfeit software disks over an extended period of time.  In July of 2012, Chebotarev had previously been charged and fined over 7.7 million rubles for selling pirated CDs, and, thus, according to the court, his subsequent November charge reflected a pattern of repeated violation.  According to Pavel Rassudov, chairman of the Pirate Party of Russia, the decision to close a counterfeit business isn't entirely sound. Although the Pirate Party does not support a person who uses counterfeit information for their own benefit, they also believe that counterfeit goods have, at times, benefitted the country and society.  Illegal software is far more of a sore spot for intellectual property owners, many of whom take different approaches to dealing with counterfeiters.  Microsoft, Adobe, and Autodesk were among owners that encouraged confrontation, through enforcement of Article 1253, and fought for the termination proceedings against Chebotarev.  According to Grigory Cherkasov of Dassault Systems, however, a more conciliatory approach with counterfeiters may often be more productive. Dassault  Systems works to identify pirates and convince them to stop or buy the software.  In other words, Cherkasov says, we do not fight with pirates, we fight for sales.

Google Challenges Russia's YouTube Ban

Google has filed an appeal with a Russian court challenging the country's inclusion of a YouTube video on an official blacklist.  The clip shows a woman using make-up and a razor blade to make it appear that she has cut one of her wrists. Roscomnadzor (Russia's Federal Service for Supervision in Telecommunications, Information Technology and Mass Communications) - the agency in charge of running the blacklist - confirmed that the clip had been flagged by a second watchdog Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Control in the Sphere of Protection Consumers' Rights and Well-Being of Humans).  The creation of the blacklist has caused controversy.  In November, Russia amended its "Information Act" allowing sites to be taken offline in order to protect children, but human rights groups are concerned that the blacklist has increased censorship and inhibited free speech.  Other sites associated with the net's subculture, including a Russian version of discussion and image post website 4chan, have also been blacklisted.

Navalny Accuses Lawmaker of Secretly Owning Real Estate in US

Russian lawyer and prominent opposition activist Alexey Navalny published documents on his blog which appeared to show that Vladimir Pekhtin, the chairman of the ethics committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, had a share in an expensive Miami flat, which was not included in a declaration of his assets which all deputies file. Pekhtin denied the accusations, saying he owns "practically no" real estate abroad. Navalny filed a request to the General Prosecutor's Office asking to investigate the matter. Also, Navalny last year published documents that showed that Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s investigative committee, similar to the US FBI, had a flat and a business in Prague until 2009, which Bastrykin later admitted though he said he made no income from it and violated no laws.

Putin Submits Bill Prohibiting Officials from Opening Foreign Bank Accounts

President Vladimir Putin has submitted a bill to the State Duma that would prohibit officials from opening bank accounts abroad or owning foreign issued stocks or bonds. The State Duma is preparing for a second reading of the bill that would prohibit government officials and military personnel, their spouses and underage children from owning real estate abroad, from opening accounts with banks outside Russia and from owning foreign issued stocks and bonds, including foreign government securities. "This ban concerns those who hold government positions in Russia, the Prosecutor General's deputies, members of the Central Bank's supervisory board, government officials in the regions, federal civil servants and officials at state-owned or state-run corporations, foundations and other organizations established in compliance with federal law, who can only be approved or dismissed from their posts by decision of the President, the Government or the Prosecutor General of Russia," says the description of the president's bill.

Moscow to Set Up Volunteer Patrols to Enforce Immigration Law

Special volunteer patrols will be created in Moscow to assist the Federal Migration Service (FMS) with enforcing immigration rules, Alexei Mayorov, the head of the Moscow city government regional security department, said on Tuesday. The volunteer groups will help monitor compliance with immigration laws, the legitimacy of migrants’ residence and employment permits, participate in city patrols, check documents and detain illegal immigrants together with FMS officers. Migration is a contentious issue for Russians. Some social groups are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the growing numbers of foreign workers coming to Russia to live.

YouTube Sues Russian Consumer Rights Agency

YouTube LLC on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Russian consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor over a controversial Russian content-restricting law, internet company Google’s video sharing unit said. The law on protection of children from harmful information that came into force late last year authorizes regulators to block access to data deemed “harmful to the health and development” of children through promotion of suicide, pornography and drugs. Critics claim the law might be used as an internet censorship means, but the authorities dismiss the claims. The lawsuit, filed in a Moscow court Monday, is against Rospotrebnadzor’s decision to block access to a “video lesson on how to cut veins.” The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday quoted Google as saying in an emailed statement: “In this case, we have appealed the decision of the Russian consumer watchdog because we do not believe that the goal of the law was to limit access to videos that are clearly intended to entertain viewers.” Rospotrebnadzor chief Gennady Onishchenko said Tuesday his organization had no information on the lawsuit yet. YouTube was briefly put on a blacklist of websites with harmful content ( in November 2012. Failure to remove what media and communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said were “suicide promotion” materials would have led to YouTube’s blocking across Russia.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Skolkovo Officials Prosecuted for Embezzlement

Two high-ranking Skolkovo officials are suspected of embezzling 24 million rubles (about $800,000), Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said on Tuesday. “A criminal case was launched against the head of the financial department of the Foundation for the Development of the Center of Development and Commercialization of High Technologies [the Skolkovo Foundation], Kirill Lugovtsev, the head of the Skolkovo Innovation Centre Customs Finance Company [TFK Skolkovo, a subsidiary of the Skolkovo Foundation], Vladimir Khokhlov, and other individuals,” the spokesman said in a statement. Lugovtsev is suspected of renting a building to house the TFK Skolkovo headquarters from a company owned by his parents. TFK Skolkovo was established in 2011 to provide customs representative's services to participants of the Skolkovo project. Investigators suspect that TFK Skolkovo, which employed a dozen people with monthly salaries between 300,000 and 600,000 rubles ($10,000-$20,000), has completed only one customs procedure during its two-year existence.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Azerbaijani Writer's Books Burned

Protesters in western Azerbaijan have burned books by a prominent novelist, calling him "a traitor of the Azerbaijani nation." The incident happened on February 10 in the city of Ganca. Akram Aylisli was officially stripped of his "People's Writer" title and his presidentially-awarded pension last week. These actions were taken against Aylisli because of his novel "Stone Dreams," which was printed in a popular Russian magazine last year. The novel describes sensitive issues in relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia. It focuses on Nagorno-Karabakh, the mostly Armenian-populated region that broke away from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s. The Union of Azerbaijani Writers announced February 9 that Aylisli had been expelled from its ranks. On the same day, hundreds protested in Aylisli's native village of Aylis, condemning the author and his book.

Chechen Head Cracks Down on Black Magicians

The Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov demanded to nip the activity of magicians and false healers in Chechnya. "People must know that turning to magicians and false healers will not give them any relief and that it is prohibited by the Islam," the Chechen head said. Kadyrov warned false healers and black magicians that if they don't cease their activity they will be severely prosecuted.

Russian Bloggers Boycott French Cosmetics Firm over Navalny Prosecution

Bloggers and activists launched a campaign to boycott French cosmetics producer Yves Rocher after the firm filed a complaint against a postal services company owned by opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg. Dozens of people flocked to Yves Rocher Russia's Facebook page Wednesday and Thursday. They criticized or mocked the company for what they consider participation in political repression, and they pledged not to buy its products. Yves Rocher confirmed on Facebook in December that it had filed the complaint "in order to protect its economic interests." In December, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case against the Navalny brothers, accusing them of committing fraud by providing postal delivery services at above-market prices. Novaya Gazeta posted scans of a complaint by Bruno Leproux, CEO of Yves Rocher's Russian unit, filed with the Investigative Committee against Glavnoye Podpisnoye Agentstvo. In response, the Investigative Committee accused the newspaper of committing a criminal offence by disclosing investigation secrets. (document)

Georgian Protesters Sabotage Saakashvili’s National Address

Hundreds of the Georgian president’s opponents blocked the entrance to the National Library in Tbilisi on Friday, preventing Mikhail Saakashvili from delivering his annual State of the Nation address, Georgian TV stations reported. The protesters, who demanded Saakashvili’s resignation, gathered at the entrance, saying they wanted the embattled Georgian leader to pass through the so-called “hallway of shame.” According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, some 200 protesters were former political prisoners arrested for participating in protest actions staged by Georgia’s opposition between 2005 and 2011. They were released on amnesty in January. When Saakashvili failed to appear, protesters attacked members of the president’s United National Movement (UNM) party and Tbilisi Mayor Gigi Ugulava, preventing them from entering the building. “The president decided to give a televised address, and not to come to the library, to avoid civil unrest. He will give the address at 8 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) local time from his residence,” Saakashvili's spokesperson Manana Mandzhgaladze told journalists on Friday.

Former Russian Colonel Gets 13 Years for Planning Coup

Former military intelligence Сolonel Vladimir Kvachkov, once a suspect in an assassination attempt on Rusnano chief Anatoly Chubais, was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison on charges of preparing a coup. Nationalist activist Kvachkov, 64, was arrested on Dec. 23, 2010, on suspicion of planning an armed revolt and involving people in terrorist activities. His arrest came one day after the Supreme Court found him not guilty in a 2005 attack on the cortege of Chubais, who at the time headed the Unified Energy System. "Judging by the way the verdict is written … it's Chubais' revenge," said Kvachkov's lawyer Oksana Mikhalkina after Friday's sentencing. Kvachkov has denied the charges. Kvachkov, smiling slightly, appeared calm as the judge read the verdict. Officers marched him away as soon as the trial adjourned, not giving him any time to talk to his wife or lawyers. His alleged co-conspirator, 62-year-old former police official Alexander Kiselyov, was also sentenced Friday, receiving 11 years behind bars.

Putin: Half of Crimes in Russia Left Unresloved

Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized Russia’s Interior Ministry on Friday, saying 45 percent of crimes in the country are left unsolved. “In total, almost 45 percent of crimes (44.5 percent) remain unsolved. Practically each second [crime]. This is an obvious and evident fact, showing that the work of law enforcement agencies is not efficient enough,” Putin said at an annual Interior Ministry meeting on Friday. Although the number of crimes registered in the country fell by 4.3 percent last year, statistics showed however that the number of unsolved crimes increased, Putin said.

Canadian Navy Officer Who Sold Secrets to Russia Sentenced to 20 Years for Espionage

A Canadian navy intelligence officer who pleaded guilty to selling military secrets to Russia was sentenced Friday to 20 years in prison. Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle will serve 18 years and five months behind bars because of time he has already served, Provincial court Judge Patrick Curran said. Curran also ordered Delisle to pay a fine of nearly CA$111,817 ($111,700). Delisle, 41, pleaded guilty in October to espionage for selling secrets to the Russians. He worked at a naval intelligence center and had access to information shared by Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The prosecution said he would search for Russian references on his work computer, transfer it to a USB key, then take it home and paste it into an email program that he shared with his Russian handler. For years, Delisle funneled classified information to the Russians for monthly payments of about $3,000.

300 Muslims Arrested in St Petersburg

Russian police detained nearly 300 Muslims from several countries in Saint Petersburg as part of a probe into suspected calls to terrorism, investigators said Saturday. They said in a statement that "271 people including citizens of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, nationals of Russia's North Caucasus and an Egyptian and an Afghani were detained to verify their suspected involvement in terrorist activity". The Federal Security Service (FSB) and police carried out the operation on Friday in the Apraskine Dvor central market where Muslims are known to work and pray. The authorities did not say whether they had released the people, but immigration officials said Saturday that 10 of them would be deported, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. One of those detained, 25-year-old Murat Sarbashev from the Caucasian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, is suspected of posting extremist literature and videos of terrorist acts on the Internet, the investigators said. They added that all 271 were detained as part of an investigation into "calls for terrorist acts" and "incitement to hatred", without elaborating. FSB spokesman Dmitri Kochetkov said they recovered extremist literature at the market. (video)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Russia to Strike Back at US over Schneerson Library

The Russian Foreign Ministry has suggested that the Ministry of Culture and the Russian State Library have a Russian court  impose a fine on the US Congress Library for failing to return seven books out of the Schneerson collection that Moscow gave Washington for temporary use back in 1994, according to the Moscow-based daily Kommersant. A scandal around the Rabbi Schneerson collection flared up in the Soviet years. The US-based Hasidic movement Chabad Lubavitch demanded the collected on the ground that the author had bequeathed the books to them. A US federal court ruled in the middle of January this year that Russia should pay $50,000 dollars a day in fines for Moscow’s refusal to return the books and manuscripts to the US Hasids. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that Moscow would respond toughly to the court ruling.

Moscow Law School Head Arrested for Ordering Assassination

Ivan Alexandrov, 73, the Chancellor of the Moscow-based Institute for Management and Law, was arrested  on charges of ordering murder.  According to investigators, he promised to pay 2 mln rubles (some $70,000) for the assassination of a co-founder of the Institute. However, the would-be hitman appeared to be an undercover operative. After a aperiod of negotiations, the operative told Alexandrov that the order has been completed and received from him a portion of the fee (500,000 rubles), after which Alexandrov  was arrested. The Institute for Management and Law is accredited to issue official diplomas in law and in management.

Fugitive Prosecutor Extradited From Poland to Russia

Poland has extradited to Russia a former Moscow Region Deputy Prosecutor, Alexander Ignatenko, who was wanted for involvement in illegal casino rackets , the Russian Interior Ministry said on Thursday. “The plane… carrying former deputy prosecutor of the Moscow Region Ignatenko has just landed at Moscow’s Sheremetevo-2 airport,” the ministry said. Ignatenko was placed on the international wanted list after police uncovered a massive gambling operation in spring 2011. Poland's Internal Security Agency detained Ignatenko at the popular Polish ski resort of Zakopane in January 2012. He spent 11 months in custody before his extradition. Igantenko faces up to 12 years in prison in Russia if convicted. According to law enforcement authorities, high-ranking officials in the Russian Prosecutor's Office and the Interior Ministry were involved in the casino businesses, which generated $5 to $10 million in revenue monthly. Gambling has been illegal in Russia - except in four designated zones - since 2009, but still flourishes as a huge undercover business.

Original End-of-USSR Treaty ‘Missing’

The original 1991 agreement on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is missing, a representative of the CIS Executive Committee said on Thursday. The leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine met in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Natural Reserve in Belarus in 1991 and signed an agreement, thus founding the CIS. The agreement said all the members were sovereign and independent nations and thereby effectively abolished the Soviet Union. The representative said the Executive Committee only has a copy of the document and that the Belarusian Foreign Ministry or the actual signatories do not have the original, either. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry promised to “look for the document.”

Former Tajik Prime Minister Arrested in Kiev

Ukrainian authorities this week detained a former Tajik politician, who has long been living in the United States, and got permission from a local court Thursday to keep him in custody for 40 more days in anticipation of an extradition request from Tajikistan, according to Ukrainian prosecutors. The former prime minister and one-time rival of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon, Abdumalik Abdullojonov, was detained Tuesday at Ukraine’s Borispol Airport outside of Kiev, reportedly under an international arrest warrant issued by Tajikistan some 16 years ago. Tajik authorities accuse Abdullojonov of organizing a 1997 assassination attempt against Rakhmon, in which the president sustained a gun wound to the leg, and of supporting an uprising by Col. Makhmud Khudoyberdyyev in November 1998. Both events took place in northern Tajikistan, Abdullojonov’s home region. In media interviews at the time, Abdullojonov denied any involvement in Tajik politics.

Russian Anti-Corruption Activist's Home Searched

Police searched the apartment of Vladimir Ashurkov, a Moscow-based anti-corruption foundation director, on Thursday as part of an investigation into an embezzlement case involving famous opposition figure Alexei Navalny, the Investigative Committee said. “The search was conducted as part of an investigation into the embezzlement of about 100 million rubles ($3.3 million) belonging the Union of Right Forces [SPS party],” the committee press service told RIA Novosti.

Celebs Ask Putin to Let US Families Complete Adoptions

A group of prominent Russian artists appealed to President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to allow dozens of US families to complete previously started adoptions of Russian children, despite introduction of a law earlier this year banning Americans from adopting Russian minors. The Kremlin introduced that law, known as the Dima Yakovlev bill, on January 1 in response to Washington’s approval of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which introduced sanctions against Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Pussy Riot Sues Russia in Strasbourg

Lawyers for three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot are contesting their convictions in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Natalia Tolokonnikova were sentenced to two years in prison for their irreverent "punk prayer" in Moscow's main cathedral last February against Vladimir Putin's return to Russian presidency. Samutsevich was later released on appeal. The complaint alleges the group's conviction violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing freedom of speech, the right to liberty and security, the prohibition of torture and the right to a fair trial. The conviction on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" has sparked global outrage, drawing attention to Russia's intolerance of dissent under Putin.

100 Street Cleaners Arrested in Moscow

Russia's Federal Migration Service (FMS) discovered in Moscow two buildings where 107 street cleaners illegally resided.  All 107 are foreign citizens, of whom 22 were not properly  registered for migration purposes and 11 had no ID documents at all. FMS spokesperson Zalina Kornilova said that 33 of the detained foreigners would be deported, and for the remaining 77 the period of stay in Russia would be limited.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Apple Prevails in Russian Bid to Register "Mission Control" Trademark

The Board of the Chamber of Patent Disputes overturned a prior Rospatent refusal to register Apple's trademark "Mission Control", which is the name of one of the applications for the Mac OS X operating system.  Rospatent's August 2012 decision was based on an expert opinion, which found that the phrase "Mission Control" could not be registered because, among other things, the Russian translation of the phrase - "mission control center" - is connected with space.  Apple filed an objection, arguing that the term "Mission Control" was not accurately translated as the phrase "Mission Control Center", a phrase closely aligned with NASA's space program, and abbreviated as MCC.  In addition, Apple argued that its "Mission Control" trademark had been recognized by several other authorities, including those in the EU, Japan, Iceland, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.  The Chamber of Patent Disputes agreed with Apple, and allowed Russian registration of the Mission Control trademark.

Russian Higher Attestation Commission Chief Arrested

Chief of the Higher Attestation Commission (VAK) of the Science and Education Ministry Felix Shamkhalov has been detained in Moscow. VAK is the government agency responsible for approving all Ph.D. degrees in Russia. However, the accusations against Shamkhalov are related to his business activities in 2006-2009, i.e. before he was appointed the VAK head. The investigators believe that he was a co-owner of a company that obtained a loan from a bank for a real estate development project; instead, the funds were appropriated by the organizers of the scheme. The police say some 350 mln rubles ($12 mln) have been stolen form the bank. The prosecution fo the VAK head takes place on the background of a scandal related to a massive fraud with Ph.D. degrees. A special commission was established in the wake of a scandal related to the Director of Physics and Math School under Moscow State University Andrei Andriyanov. Members of the school Club of graduates filed an appeal to the Higher Attestation Commission, demanding to check the legitimacy of awarding a Ph.D. degree in historical sciences to Andriyanov. Afterwards, the theses by a number of other post graduates were called into question. The commission found out mass violations in the work of the Dissertation Council on historical sciences at Moscow Pedagogical State University. It was established that at least in 17 cases degrees were obtained fraudulently. The head of the University's dissertation council has been fired.

Azeri Official Slams Writer for Sympathy to Armenians

"Stone Dreams", a new novel by a respected Azerbaijani writer Akram Aylisli, prompted angry demonstrations this week, with angry crowds gathering outside a Baku apartment block shouting "Shame!" and setting photos of the author alight. "I knew that those people would react angrily to my novel. Because they see this novel as something that speaks against them. They would never say that they were wrong in inflaming this war and causing the suffering of these people," Aylisli commented. Aylisli's novel, which looks at the South Caucasus's bitterly fractious history, casts a sympathetic light not on his native Azerbaijan but its traditional rival, Armenia. Aylisli portrays brutal campaigns by his fellow Azerbaijanis against Armenians -- including the notorious January 1990 pogrom in Baku in which Armenians were beaten, murdered by the dozens, and expelled from the city. At the same time, Aylisli avoids portraying Armenians as aggressors and Azerbaijanis the victims -- skipping the February 1992 Khojaly massacre, which is considered by some to be one of the worst atrocities of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Head of Azerbaijani Presidential Administration's Social and Political Department Ali Hasanov has expressed his attitude to Akram Aylisli's novel. "A person being a popular writer disrespects memory of thousands of martyrs," he said at the IV Congress of the Azerbaijani Confederation of Trade Unions. " If a person has no national spirit, he cannot have a sense of humanity. If a person does not have enough civil responsibility, he cannot have human responsibility. How can one flatter other people and slander his own people to present himself as the bearer of human values?" "As the Azerbaijani people, we must express public hatred towards these people," the official added. "A person without nationality has no right to talk about human values."

Russia Shuts Down 90 Websites Over Child Pornography

More than 90 websites registered in Russia have been closed so far in 2013 for containing child pornography, the Interior Ministry said. “We have shut down over 90 websites in Russia for the dissemination of illicit content. Those are the websites that have been confirmed as carrying child pornography,” Tatyana Shishova, a spokesperson for the Interpol National Central Bureau at the Interior Ministry said at an Internet security conference at RIA Novosti on Monday. According to the ministry, the amount of child pornography on Russian internet websites has risen 12-fold in the last four years. Russia’s human rights officials claim that the country has become the second largest producer of internet child pornography in the world after the United States.

Russian Soldier Gets 2.5 Years in Prison for 17 Years of AWOL

A Russian soldier who ran away from his army unit 17 years ago was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on charges of being absent without official leave (AWOL), the Russian Investigative Committee said on Tuesday. Anatoly Veryaskin fled his military unit in Russia’s Orenburg Region in 1996 and hid in the North Caucasus republic of Dagestan, where he earned money occasionally working at local farms. “The convicted cited hazing at his military unit as the main reason for going AWOL. However, a preliminary investigation did not confirm his allegations,” the committee said.

Former Moscow Metro Management Investigated for Fraud

The former management of the Moscow Metro will be investigated for fraud, the Interior Ministry's Moscow Department said on Tuesday. The management is suspected of paying 800 billion rubles more than necessary for cleaning services. "The head of the Moscow Metro reported that several companies contracted to clean stations from 2007 to 2010 overstated their expenses," the department said. "The fraud has resulted in over 800 million rubles in damages for the metro." The Moscow Metro management reported its findings on Monday. Former Moscow Metro head Dmitry Gayev, who was earlier charged with abuse of office and is suspected of illegally receiving over 100 million rubles for a metro ticket system patent, died in late 2012. He was replaced by Ivan Besedin.

Uzbekistan Bans Foreign Currency Trading

Uzbekistan has made trading with foreign currency a criminal offense, Uzbekistan’s Tax Committee warned on Tuesday, the latest in a string of measures apparently aimed at preventing the global market slump from eating into the Central Asian republic’s reserves. “The State Tax Committee warns entrepreneurs and individuals they will be held liable for making settlements in cash foreign currency in the sphere of retail trade and services, including criminal liability,” the committee said in a statement. From February 1, Uzbekistan banned the sale of cash foreign currency to individuals in an apparent move to alleviate the foreign currency deficit in the former-Soviet republic.

Boeing Sues Russian, Ukrainian Space Companies for $350 Mln

Boeing has filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit in the amount of $350 million with interest still accruing against two Russian and Ukrainian space transportation giants who the company claims are obligated to reimburse Boeing for its investment in Sea Launch Co., a sea-based platform specializing in commercial satellite launches that applied for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2009, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. The lawsuit was reportedly filed in a US federal district court in California against Ukrainian company Yuzhnoye SDO and the Russian S.P. Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (Energia). The complaint alleges that the Ukrainian and Russian companies breached their duty to reimburse Boeing in case of the satellite launch venture’s failure. Bloomberg quoted Boeing as having stated: “Yuzhnoye and Energia owe Boeing and BCSC more than $350 million, with interest continuing to accrue daily… Instead of paying claims to which they have no defense on the merits, Yuzhnoye and Energia have decided to stall and evade, forcing plaintiffs to chase them around the world to secure payment of debts clearly owed.”

Bolshoi Prima Seeks Refuge in Canada

Less than a month after Boshoi Ballet Artistic Director Sergei Filin nearly lost his vision in a brutal acid attack in central Moscow, it has been widely reported that the company’s principal dancer Svetlana Lunkina has sought refuge in Canada based on threats she and her family have purportedly faced in the aftermath of a business deal gone bad with artist Vladimir Vinokur. The reputation of the legendary Bolshoi Ballet has come under fire in the weeks since a masked assailant heaved what is believed to have been concentrated sulfuric acid in Filin’s face as he attempted to enter his home in January. Filin suffered third degree burns. Despite initial fears to the contrary, he is expected to recover his vision.

US Counterintelligence Investigates Voice of Russia

Counterintelligence officials at the US Department of Justice have asked a major Russian broadcasting company to submit all records of its contacts with Russia, Russian daily Izevestia reported Tuesday, citing a copy of the department's request. The authorities have demanded a description of all dealings and transactions that LLC RM Broadcasting, which organizes the broadcasts of the Voice of Russia radio station in the United States, has provided to Russia or any other foreign country. The company will be required to provide copies of any relevant written contracts and detailed descriptions of any relevant oral contracts. Depending on the results of this investigation, LLC RM Broadcasting may be required to register as a foreign agent in the US, in accordance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). FARA requires companies and agencies representing the interests of foreign powers, governments, or political parties to register and to regularly report on their activity. "The investigation is not yet over, but there is nothing to be concerned about. Every country has its own laws," Voice of Russia head Andrei Bystritsky told Izvestia. A similarly worded but differently aimed law took effect in Russia in November.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Opposition Rally Dispersed in Moscow

Writer and radical protest leader Eduard Limonov, the head of the unregistered Other Russia party, was detained along with several dozen other demonstrators on Monday at a traditional Strategy-31 protest rally that took place on 31 January 2013 in Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square. "About 50 people took part in the unsanctioned action on Triumfalnaya Square, which is just one-fourth the number that took part on December 31 last year," a police spokesman told RIA Novosti. Police are now taking down their cordons and leaving the square. The event was being covered by about 50 journalists and bloggers. They converged on Limonov when he arrived at the square. He was detained by police soon after. Russian opposition groups rally 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. They had filed an application to hold a sanctioned meeting, but City Hall rejected their request, citing the legal violations committed by the applicants at previous unsanctioned rallies. The chief of police in central Moscow had warned the organizers on Thursday against holding the unsanctioned protest. (video)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Patent Watchdog Rejects 'Jelzin' Vodka Registration

The Chamber for Patent Disputes has confirmed its decision to deny Les Grands Chais De France's request to register the "Jelzin" brand in Russia, the Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks reported on Thursday. The patent watchdog refused to provide the French company with the brand's legal protection in Russia on July 25. The case files include online materials stating that "Jelzin" is the German transliteration of first Russian President Boris Yeltsin's last name - "Boris Nicolajewitsch Jеlzin," the watchdog said. As the term closely resembles the late president's last name, it could lead to associations with Russia and confuse consumers, according to the patent watchdog. An expert review also concluded that the plaintiff did not provide the written consent of Yeltsin's heirs to have his last name registered as a trademark. Les Grands Chais De France is a major wine producer in France, selling products to over 200 countries worldwide.

Armenian Presidential Candidate Assaulted, Suffers Gun Wound

Armenian presidential candidate Paruir Airikyan was hospitalized with a gun wound in his shoulder after he was assaulted on late Thursday night, Armenian police press service said on Friday. The press service said Airikyan, the leader of the National Self-Determination political party, was attacked on one of the streets of the Armenian capital of Yerevan. The service did not give any further details. Doctors from the Gregory the Illuminator hospital, where Airikyan was taken, said he was in a stable condition and his life was not in danger. Armenia will be holding presidential election on February 18 with seven candidates running for the post of the country’s leader.

Alleged Canadian Spy Sold Secrets to Russia for $72,000

A Canadian naval officer on a court trial under espionage charges received almost $72,000 for passing classified information to the Russian military, Canada’s CBC television network reported citing prosecution. Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Paul Delisle, who served at a Canadian naval intelligence center in Halifax, was arrested in January 2012. Last October he pleaded guilty to charges pressed against him. Federal Crown attorney Lyne Decarie said that between 2007 and 2011 Delisle received from the Russian military a total of 23 financial tranches that amounted to the eventual sum of $71,817. The verdict in Delisle’s case will be brought after the two-day court hearings, which began in Halifax on Thursday. The charges were brought under the information security law adopted in December 2001 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. If Delisle is found guilty, he faces life in prison.

US ‘Deeply Concerned’ Over Russia Meat Ban

The United States is “deeply concerned” by Russia’s decision this week to ban US beef and pork imports containing the feed additive ractopamine, a move Washington believes could undermine bilateral ties, a spokeswoman for the White House’s chief trade adviser said Thursday. “These actions threaten to undermine our bilateral trade relationship,” Andrea Mead, a spokeswoman for the office of US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk, told RIA Novosti on Thursday. Russia’s federal food safety agency announced Wednesday that it will institute a temporary ban on US beef and pork imports beginning Feb. 11, saying its American counterpart, the US Food Safety and Inspection Service, failed to guarantee that these shipments would be free of the additive, which promotes growth in livestock. The dispute comes at a time of increasingly strained relations between the United States and Russia over human rights and international adoptions.