Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Strasbourg Court: Tymoshenko Prosecution Politically Motivated

Ukraine's jailing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was a politically motivated violation of her rights, Europe's human rights court ruled Tuesday. A Ukrainian ambassador stormed out of the courthouse in response to the ruling in a case that has strained the former Soviet state's ties with Europe and the United States. An architect of Ukraine's 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution who was instantly recognizable by her crown of braids, Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in October 2011 after being convicted of exceeding her powers as premier while negotiating a gas contract with Russia. Tymoshenko has said her jailing was intended to keep her out of politics and that her rights were violated when she was first jailed in August 2011. "The court held in particular: that Ms. Tymoshenko's pretrial detention had been arbitrary; that the lawfulness of her detention had not been properly reviewed; and that she had no possibility to seek compensation for her unlawful deprivation of liberty," according to a press release.The court agreed unanimously that her jailing was "for other reasons" than those permissible by law. There does not appear to be a way to enforce the judgment in Ukraine.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Survey: Russian Ruling Party "Swindlers and Thieves"

A survey conducted by the independent Levada Center shows that for the first time the majority of Russians (51%) agreed with the opinion that the ruling "United Russia" party is "the party of swindlers and thieves." "The party of swindlers and thieves" is a nickname of the ruling party popularized by prominent minority shareholder lawyer and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny who is currently being tried on economic charges, which he calls absurd and politically motivated.


Pussy Riot’s Tolokonnikova Denied Parole

A parole request by Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is serving a two-year sentence for a "punk prayer," was rejected. The judge of the Zubovo-Polyansky District Court in the Volga area Republic of Mordovia, said that Tolokonnikova’s behavior in prison was taken into account. It was reported earlier that Tolokonnikova violated certain prison regulations and had no regrets.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Russia Election Watchdog Fined as "Foreign Agent"

Russia's Golos Association, an independent election monitoring NGO, will probably have to close, its director said after the organization was fined 300,000 rubles (around $10,000) for failing to register as a "foreign agent." Moscow's Presnensky District Court ruled on Thursday that Golos’ refusal to register as a "foreign agent" under new legislation is an administrative offense. Golos is the first NGO to face administrative charges following the introduction of the new NGO law last November, which requires any organization involved in political activities and receiving financing from abroad to register as a "foreign agent." That term, to most Russians, is synonymous with spying. The case against the NGO was based on the allegation that Golos received a sum of money as part of the Andrei Sakharov Freedom prize it was awarded by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in 2012.


Russia Jails Putin Protester on Coup Charges

A Moscow court jailed an anti-Kremlin activist for two and a half years on Thursday on charges of taking part in a foreign-funded plot to overthrow President Vladimir Putin. Konstantin Lebedev, of the Left Front political movement, pleaded guilty to the charges, which were brought last autumn after the pro-Kremlin TV channel NTV aired what it said was secretly filmed footage of three leftist activists, including Lebedev, discussing a plot to topple Putin with a Georgian politican. Investigators said Lebedev, as part of the plot, helped organized riots during a Moscow rally on the eve of Putin's May 7, 2012 inauguration to a controversial third presidential term of office. The opposition blames the police for provoking the clashes and claims the case is political. The other two activists purportedly featured in the footage, Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov, and Leonid Razvozzhayev, have also been charged. They both deny the charges, which could see them jailed for up to ten years if found guilty. Udaltsov has been under house arrest since February, and Razvozzhayev has been in custody since last October. Lebedev, a former member of a pro-Kremlin youth group who went over to the opposition in 2004, may apply for early release in the near future, his lawyer said on Thursday. His lawyer also said he would testify at the trials of Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev.

Putin: CIA Officers Advised Russian Privatization Minister

Experts on Harvard University’s scandal-ridden role in Russia’s privatization process in the 1990s expressed skepticism Thursday at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that US advisers to privatization czar Anatoly Chubais were operatives of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). During Thursday’s Q&A, Putin said Chubais’ inner circle when he oversaw Russia’s privatization process as deputy prime minister in the 1990s included “advisers who, as it turns out today, worked as career officers in the US CIA.” “What’s funnier is that after returning to the United States they were taken to court for breaking their country’s laws and getting rich off of the privatization of the Russian Federation and did not have the right to do this as acting intelligence officers,” Putin said. Putin did not identify the alleged CIA agents by name during his live Q&A session with the Russian public Thursday, but his mention of the individuals’ alleged financial shenanigans suggests he may have been speaking about respected economist Andrei Shleifer and lawyer Jonathan Hay. The two men, along with Harvard University, paid a $30 million fine in 2005 to settle US federal charges that they illegally profited off of Russian privatizations. Russian media reports have accused Shleifer and Hay of being CIA officers, though there is nothing in the public domain to suggest either man was employed by the agency.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Human Rights Watch: Rights Crackdown ‘Unprecedented’ in Post-Soviet Russia

The year since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency for a third term has seen the Russian authorities introduce a string of restrictions putting the strongest pressure on civil society in the past two decades, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Wednesday. The report called the clampdown “unprecedented in the country’s post-Soviet history,” and claims new laws intimidate critical political activists and impose severe pressure on non-governmental organizations (NGOs). “The new laws and government harassment are pushing civil society activists to the margins of the law,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a statement. “The government crackdown is hurting Russian society and harming Russia’s international standing.” In the last year, the Russian authorities have introduced numerous pieces of questionable legislation that includes the so-called “foreign agents” law, the “Dima Yakovlev law” banning US adoptions of Russian children, the treason law and the assembly law.

Russian General Convicted for Crashing Fighter

A former Russian Air Force general was given a four-year suspended sentence and fined 5 million rubles ($160,000) by a court martial on Wednesday for causing the crash of a Sukhoi Su-27UB fighter jet last year in Russia’s Karelia region. Judge Vladislav Pisaryov found Maj. Gen. Kanamat Botashev guilty of breaking flight rules by flying aerobatics in the jet without proper training and authorization.  Botashev was given a suspended sentence of four years in prison and a further sentenced to four years probation together with legal costs of 25,000 rubles ($800). Botashev took control of the aircraft during a training flight on June 28, 2012, and tried to perform a "bell" or tail-slide aerobatic maneuver. He mishandled the jet, causing the aircraft to spin out of control and to crash in a forest. Both he and the other pilot ejected safely. No one on the ground was hurt.


Navalny Trial Broadcast Online

A prominent Russian opposition leader on trial for embezzlement said Wednesday that his innocence will be obvious for all to see by the end of the proceedings, even if the court finds him guilty. Alexei Navalny, who led protests against President Vladimir Putin and exposed alleged corruption in government, is accused of heading an organized criminal group that embezzled 16 million rubles ($500,000) worth of timber from a state-owned company while working as an adviser to the Kirov provincial governor in 2009. Unusually, the court hearings are broadcast online by both independent media and the court website.

http://www.echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/1059994-echo/ (video)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Russian Customs Seizes ‘Wrong’ Maps from Japanese Tourist

Customs officials on the Russian far east island of Sakhalin have confiscated several glossy booklets from a Japanese tourist agency containing maps showing the disputed Kuril Islands as Japanese territory, the Far Eastern Customs Department said on Tuesday. The booklets were deemed to be “propaganda material” after evaluation by Russian officials, because, they said, they inaccurately represent the state border between Russia and Japan. Under Russian law, it is illegal to bring goods of this kind through the borders. For over a century, both Russia and Japan have claimed ownership of the chain of islands stretching from Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula to Japan's Hokkaido Island, known in Japan as the Northern Territories.


Russian Police Continue Belgorod Shooter Manhunt

Russian police posted a reward of at least 3 million rubles ($95,000) on Tuesday for information leading to the arrest of the man suspected of shooting dead six people in Belgorod in southwest Russia on Monday afternoon. The suspected assailant, named by police as 32-year-old Sergei Pomazun, opened fire from a hunting shop at random victims with a rifle before moving on to the streets of Belgorod. He later fled in the same vehicle in which he had arrived at the scene. Pomazun, who once served four years on theft-related charges, faces life in prison if convicted of murder.


Pomazun arrested (video)

Moscow Lawyer Charged with Mass Murder

Dmitry Vinagradov, a Moscow lawyer who shot and killed six people and has been dubbed the Russian Breivik, was indicted Monday according to a statement by Russia's Investigative Committee. Vinogradov used two semiautomatic shotguns to shoot his colleagues while at their desks in November 2012. Five died in the attack, and the sixth died afterwards in hospital. Before the shooting, Vinogradov posted a manifesto on his social network page, detailing his disgust with society and comparing humanity to cancer. Vinogradov has been charged under several articles of the Criminal Code, including murder, attempted murder, and supporting extremism.


20,000 Ponzi Schemes Operate in Russia

Senior inspector of the Russian Investigative Committee Georgy Smirnov told Vedomosti daily that currently about 20,000 Ponzi schemes (in Russia known as financial pyramids) operate in the country. Smirnov said it is hard to estimate the number of victims (participants) of the schemes. Currently a bill criminalizing the operation of a financial pyramid is being considered by the State Duma.


Russian Parents Appeal Hijab Ban to Supreme Court

Parents whose children are not allowed to wear Muslim headscarves to school in a southern Russian region have appealed to the Supreme Court, defense lawyer Murad Musayev told RIA Novosti on Monday. The ban on hijabs for pupils in the Stavropol Region came into force last September after local authorities issued a ruling requiring schoolchildren to wear uniforms. The uniform guidelines ban pupils from wearing brightly colored clothes, veils, pants and skirts with a low waistline or high slits, and accessories depicting informal youth group symbols, as well as religious clothing. The appeal was filed on behalf of Muslim families in the Stavropol Region who are seeking to annul the school uniform requirements. A lower court rejected the lawsuit in March.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Russian Court Awards Record $1 Mln Attorney Fees

The Moscow Circuit Federal Arbitrazh (Economic) Court affirmed a record award of legal fees of about $1 mln. On August 30, 2012, the Moscow Arbitrazh Court set a precedent for determination of the legal costs amount - around USD 1 mln. (over 28 mln. rubles and USD 121,000.00) were recovered in favor of the Cyprus company Arooj Holdings Limited from the retailer Billa. The amount in dispute was 388 mln. rubles in rents owed by  retailer  to a landlord.  The interests of the Cyprus party were represented by the lawyers of the Russian law firm Muranov, Chernyakov & Partners. The plaintiff won and the retailer paid the principal award, but challenged the amount of the legal fees. On appeal the amount of the fee award was reduced to only $75,000, because most of the fee was a contingency fee, which is unenforceable in Russia. However, the Moscow Circuit (a third instance court) found that the $1 mln amount is close to what could be charged under normal hourly rates ($850 for a partner etc.) and affirmed the award. This is an absolute record: normally courts award legal fees within $2,000 or so and only in exceptional circumstances the awarded fees have reached $10,000.


Russian Constitutional Court: Voters Can Contest Election Results

Russia’s Constitutional Court has confirmed voters' rights to contest election results in court, the court said on its website on Monday. The court has been reviewing the Civil Procedure Code as well as federal laws on voting right guarantees and on the State Duma elections to confirm their constitutionality. The Duma's representative at the Constitutional Court, Dmitry Vyatkin, said earlier a voter could only contest an action if it is “directly related to exercising the right to vote.” A voter could for example complain about the inaccessibility of a polling station or the lack of an opportunity to vote at home. The court stated that the clauses being contested do not contain a direct ban on contesting election results. “A voter's right to control the counting of the votes is not formally recognized. Therefore, the court can reject suits related to this, and thus, the clauses in question are in conflict with the Constitution,” the court said in a statement.  The Constitutional Court ruled that lawmakers should amend the procedure for contesting the actions of the election commissions which calculate the voting results. Furthermore, until the changes are made, the courts are required to accept voters' lawsuits to protect any rights violated by mala fide calculation of election results at their polling station.


Russian Social Network Founder Denies Fleeing to US

The founder of Russia’s most popular social networking website, VKontakte, denied on Monday media reports that he has gone to the United States to create a new social network. Pavel Durov said he has not been to the US for a year and has so far no plans to go there again. Durov has been summoned for questioning over a traffic incident in which a police officer was injured, an investigative committee official told RAPSI last Thursday. St. Petersburg news website Fontaka.ru reported that local police believe Durov, 28, was involved in an April 5 traffic accident in the city. News channels said a traffic police officer had been injured when a white Mercedes tried to swerve past him after he flagged it down for a driving offense, and struck him a glancing blow. Media reports said the police believed Durov was behind the wheel of the car as it fled the scene. Durov’s representatives say he does not drive and uses the city’s subway system. The car in question is registered in the name of Durov's deputy, Ilya Perekopsky, Vesti reported. Established in 2006, VKontakte has some 200 million registered users and is more popular than Facebook in Russia.

http://youtu.be/NcLWnBttrhU (video)

Russia Warned FBI about Tsarnaev in 2011

The FBI was alerted by Russia's security services to serious concerns about one of the Boston bomb suspects. The FBI has admitted that it interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 after Russia raised concerns that he was becoming a follower of radical Islam, but found nothing "derogatory" against him and did not pursue the case further. A statement posted on the FBI website admits that "in early 2011, a foreign government asked the FBI for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups." The statement continues: "The FBI interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members. The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign." The 26-year-old, who allegedly orchestrated last Monday's bombings with his younger brother Dzhokhar, was killed in the early hours of Friday morning in a shoot-out with police. The second bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been arrested following an extensive manhunt that ended in the Boston suburb of Watertown. Law enforcement units from around the country were involved in the search.

Uzbek Writer Freed After 14-Year Custody

Amadali Mahmudov, a renowned Uzbek writer once seen as a potential rival to the country's entrenched president, has been released after spending 14 years in prison for involvement in an alleged plot to kill the president, Islam Karimov. Mahmudov's wife, Gulsara Mahmudova, told RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that her husband was "tired" and resting at home following his surprise release late on April 19. Mahmudov, 72, finished serving the 14-year sentence in February and was transferred from a labor camp to a detention center in Tashkent.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Skolkovo Office Searched in Corruption Probe

The downtown office of the Skolkovo Foundation was searched Thursday as part of an ongoing corruption scandal involving two former executives whom the Investigative Committee accused of using a fraudulent tender to steal 23.8 million rubles ($789,000). A spokesman for Skolkovo — Russia's high profile project to diversify its oil-dependent economy through high-tech investments— told Interfax that representatives of the Federal Security Service arrived at the office Thursday morning, asked all staff members to surrender their mobile phones and began questioning several senior managers. The foundation's president and billionaire businessman Viktor Vekselberg was personally presented with the search warrant and was then questioned by investigators. The Skolkovo Foundation, a brainchild of then-President Dmitry Medvedev, was established in 2012 to create a scientific and technological center in Moscow for the development and commercialization of advanced technologies. The day after the search, new Skolkovo-related investigation was made public. Investigators accused another senior manager of the Skolkovo Foundation of embezzling $750,000 in state funds and paying the money to an opposition lawmaker who supported last year’s anti-Kremlin protests. The criminal case, the latest of several targeting Skolkovo executives, has been opened against the foundation’s vice president, Alexei Beltyukov, on the suspicion that he gave the large sum of foundation money to State Duma deputy Ilya Ponomaryov between February 2011 and February 2012, allegedly for a series of lectures and research projects, the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement.


Germany to Extradite Swiss Citizen to Russia

Swiss citizen Rido Marko, suspected of sexually abusing a child from Volgograd, will be extradited from Germany to Russia, the Volgograd Regional Prosecutor's Office reported on Thursday. Marko was put on the international wanted list five months ago, the authority said. He has been accused in absentia of sexual abuse against an underage girl. The suspect was arrested in Germany. The Volgograd prosecutors immediately prepared the legal documents for his extradition and sent them to the Prosecutor General's Office. German authorities agreed to extradite Marko after considering Russia's request.

Fugitive Russian Banker Arrested in Austria

The former owner of the Bank of East European Finance Corporation (EEFC Bank, St. Petersburg) Alexander Gitelson, who was on the international wanted list for embezzling about 3 billion rubles ($94.6 million), has been arrested at his home in Austria, the newspaper Kommersant reported on Friday. The banker, who has been hiding since autumn 2010, was detained in Mostviertel in Lower Austria. According to the newspaper, he had several passports, including an expired Russian passport. The Prosecutor General’s Office told Kommersant that they would send extradition documents to Austria after they receive official notice of Gitelson’s arrest. The banker’s lawyer, Yevgenia Kotova, has so far seen no documentation of her client’s arrest, Kommersant writes. Gitelson is suspected of a major fraud involving state funds and has been investigated in connection with several cases. In April 2011, the Meshchansky District Court of Moscow sentenced him in absentia to five years in prison for stealing 500 million rubles ($15.8 million) from a member of the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament.


AP: Boston Marathon Bombers Chechen

The suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing were Chechen and had been living in the US for approximately one year, the AP reported Friday citing sources. The surviving suspect has been identified by the AP’s source as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, of Cambridge, Mass, according to a Tweet by the news agency. A second suspect was reported dead earlier Friday. Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis confirmed via his Twitter account the death of one of the suspects implicated in Monday's Boston Marathon bombing which left three dead and upwards of 176 injured, stating simply: "One suspect dead. One at large. Armed and dangerous. White hat suspect at large." Two blasts occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people have been confirmed dead, 176 injured.

Russian Jailed for Insulting National Flag

A man accused of insulting the Russian flag in a central Russian court has been sentenced to a year and three months in jail, prosecutors said on Friday. Andrei Stupnikov, 28, from the Kirov Region, “removed the tricolor national flag from a flagpole and threw it outside from a window,” the court said. The incident occurred on December 1, 2012, when Stupnikov attended a court session “while drunk.” He insulted the national flag “due to his personal hostile attitude to Russian justice” after the judge made a decision which Stupnikov said was “unjustified.” Given the fact that Stupnikov, a repeated offender, committed the crime shortly after being released from jail and had already received multiple administrative penalties, “the court decided to impose imprisonment as punishment for him,” the statement said.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Russian International Mail Service Collapses

A five-day embargo on international mail has been issued in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in an attempt to deal with a 150-ton backlog of postal packages. The embargo was issued starting midnight April 9th, and lasting until just after midnight on April 14th. Russian Post was working overtime to prevent a “collapse” of its international mail system under the weight of backlogged e-commerce parcels. It insisted on April 15th that the backlog of mail was “almost solved”. However, on April 17th it was announced that the embargo will be resumed starting on April 18th. The problems are due to “the inability of structural departments of… Russian Post to immediately accept the entire volume of incoming international mail,” Kommersant reported, citing an April 7th letter from a mail processing company called Airport Moscow. Director General of Russian Post Alexander Kiselyov had sent a letter to Customs Service chief Andrei Belyaninov asking him to look into the problem (apparently believing that the delays are caused by the customs), after complaints from Deutsche Post earlier last month that postal packages sent to Russia were not reaching their destinations.


Russian postal service chief fired

Ukraine Slams 'Disrespectful' Remarks on Russian TV

Ukraine on Tuesday protested against "disrespectful" comments made by a top Russian TV host who compared chopping greens to the slaughter of Ukrainians by Soviet security services in the 20th century. Ivan Urgant, a popular television personality who hosts a number of shows on Russia's Channel One station, made the remarks on "Smak", a weekend slot in which he interviews celebrities while cooking with them. "I chopped these greens like a red commissar did the residents of a Ukrainian village," Urgant jested as he helped famous screenwriter Alexander Adabashyan prepare a soup on the programme shown on Saturday. Ukrainians were subject to mass repression by Stalin's NKVD security service and millions died in the early 1930s "Golodomor" famine brought on by Soviet mass collectivisation, which nationalists consider a genocide. The Ukraine foreign ministry demanded an explanation from Channel One, Russia's most popular state-owned channel which is also available to cable subscribers in Ukraine. "In the modern, civilised world, such jokes are considered bad taste and disrespectful toward the millions of victims of a totalitarian regime," said the Ukrainian foreign ministry. Urgant later apologised to Ukrainians on Twitter for his "inappropriate comment" but jokingly added that henceforth he will only cook Ukrainian national dishes on the show and call his children Bogdan, a Ukrainian name.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Russia Puts Hermitage Boss Bill Browder on Wanted List

A Moscow court revealed Wednesday that Bill Browder, head of the Hermitage Capital investment fund, has been placed on an international wanted list in connection with an investigation into the embezzlement of Gazprom shares. But in an embarrassment to prosecutors, the court refused to issue a warrant for his arrest in absentia, saying they had failed to make a reasonable effort to notify Browder about the court proceedings. The decision to place Browder on the wanted list, made April 8, was disclosed by the Tverskoi District Court as it started hearings into a request by prosecutors to arrest Browder in absentia. Under Russian law, a suspect cannot be arrested in absentia unless he is first put on an international wanted list. After an arrest warrant is issued, Russian investigators pass the materials for the case over to Interpol. But the likelihood of Browder facing actual arrest appears slim. Browder, who heads what was once the biggest foreign investment fund in Russia, is at loggerheads with the Russian government over his successful campaign to blacklist Russian officials implicated in the death of Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.


Ukraine Freezes Berezovsky Assets at Russia’s Request

Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said in a report on Wednesday that Ukraine has frozen shares and property belonging to companies owned by the late self-exiled Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky following a request from Russia. The Russian oligarch had lived in self-imposed exile in Britain as an avowed Kremlin foe since 2000 until his death on March 23rd of this year. Russian authorities had launched a dozen cases against him on numerous charges, including fraud, failing to repatriate foreign currency revenues and abuse of office. In Wednesday’s report to the Federation Council, devoted to the topic of law and order in Russia in 2012, Chaika said that Ukraine has imposed an arrest on “real estate owned by Berezovsky and returned 110 million rubles [$3.5 million] to the government of the Samara Region and [Russian flagship airline] Aeroflot,” who prosecutors allege suffered losses because of the businessman’s criminal activities.

Corruption Related Crimes up 25% in Russia

The number of corruption related crimes recorded in Russia rose by almost 25 percent in 2012, according to a report by the Prosecutor General’s Office submitted to parliament on Wednesday. A total of 49,513 such crimes were registered last year, compared to 40,407 in 2011, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said. Over 13,500 individuals have been prosecuted. Fraud, misappropriation of funds or embezzlement involving abuse of office are the prevalent types of crime in this category, Chaika said. The Transparency International global watchdog estimated the cost of corruption in Russia at $300 billion in 2012, placing Russia 133rd out of 174 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index last year.


Russia Probes Slavery on Stranded Cargo Ship

Russian investigators opened a criminal case on Wednesday over alleged use of “slave labor” among the Russian crew of a Tuvalu-flagged vessel held in the Philippines. The SS Veles bulk carrier, registered at Tuvalu's capital and port of Funafuti, with a 13-member Russian crew, got into trouble in the Philippines last month when some of its documentation expired, prompting the local authorities to detain the vessel. The crew appealed for help after being stuck in the port in poor living conditions with no food or water supplies, and no means of traveling home to Russia. Earlier reports said the sailors have not been paid for five months. The deputy governor of Russia's Primorye Region, where the sailors are from, flew to Manila on Tuesday to help with arrangements for sending them home. The crew later succeeded in getting home to Russia by themselves, and contacted the authorities about the situation on board. Large numbers of Russian-owned ships are registered under flags of convenience, in states with lax safety regulations, in order to cut costs.


Armenia Seeks EU Permission to Label Brandy as Cognac

Armenia has asked the EU for permission to label its brandy as cognac, Deputy Economy Minister Garegin Melkonyan said on Tuesday. The talks are being held as part of negotiations on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between the EU and Armenia. France formalized its priority rights for the name “cognac” in a special decree on Jan. 1, 1909. In accordance with the legislation on the controlled designation of origin, strong drinks distilled from grape wines in other regions of France or in other countries must be marketed under other names. In short, they cannot be labeled as “cognac,” the Novosti Armenia news agency has reported on Tuesday. However, some wine distillates made from local raw materials under a technology that differs from the original French technology are nevertheless referred to as “cognac” in several countries. The labels of such spirits include the name of the country or the region where they were produced, such as “California cognac” or “Greek cognac.” “The word ‘cognac’ has been registered in the EU as a designation of origin,” Melkonyan told journalists ahead of the fifth round of the talks in Yerevan. “However, we have told our European partners that our population views cognac as a type of commodity, and that cognac has a long history in Armenia.”


Former Georgian Prison Chiefs Arrested over Torture

The former heads of three prisons in Georgia have been arrested over accusations of torturing prisoners, the News Georgia news agency reported on Tuesday, citing Georgian Prosecutor General Archil Kbilashvili. Speaking with journalists, Kbilashvili said the arrested people include the former director and two top officials of Ksani Penal Colony No. 15, the former director of Rustavi Penal Colony No. 6 and his deputy, and the former director of Prison No. 2 in Kutaisi. The detained individuals have been charged with inhumane treatment, torturing and beating inmates.


Russian Opposition Leader Navalny on Trial

Anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, a vocal Kremlin critic who led some of Moscow's massive 2011-2012 street protests against alleged electoral fraud and the rule of President Vladimir Putin, appeared in court on Wednesday in the central Russian city of Kirov. Investigators accuse him of heading a criminal group that embezzled about $500,000 in a timber deal. Navalny and his supporters say the charges have been fabricated to discredit him and to stymie his political activity. After a short session Judge Sergei Blinov adjourned the hearing into the case until April 24, at the request of the defense lawyers. They say they need more time to familiarize themselves with the case because a new lawyer is now involved.

FBI Probes Russian Crime Ring

US authorities charged 34 people on Tuesday for allegedly being part of a Russian crime ring that investigators said engaged in extortion and money laundering in excess of $100 million, and operated high-stakes poker games in the United States that attracted professional athletes, Hollywood celebrities and Wall Street executives. The charges “demonstrate the scope and reach of Russian organized crime. One of the principal defendants is a notorious Russian ‘thief-in-law’ allegedly directing an international conspiracy through Cyprus to the US,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos in a statement. “The defendants are alleged to have handled untold millions in illegal wagers placed by millionaires and billionaires, laundered millions, and in some cases are themselves multi-millionaires,” he added. Among those named in the indictment, unsealed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Tuesday, was Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, also known as “Taiwanchik," a Russian businessman who was earlier accused of bribing ice skating judges at the 2002 Winter Olympics.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Russian Orphanage Head Probed Over Teen Slave Labor

Russian investigators have opened a criminal case against an orphanage director suspected of exploiting teenagers in her care as unpaid laborers, officials said on Tuesday. Director Valentina Tazekenova is suspected of abuse of authority, and withholding salaries worth 1.5 million rubles ($48,300) from teenagers at an orphanage facility in the Orenburg region near Kazakhstan, the Investigative Committee said in a statement on Tuesday. According to investigators, last year Tezenkova submitted a monthly list of orphanage teenagers (ranging from 36 to 63 people) to a local labor exchange. The director allegedly signed the teenagers up to short-term labor contracts with employers, often in violation of safety rules and the labor code, the statement said. Tezenkova faces up to three years in prison if convicted.


Russian Foreign Ministry: Madonna's Russian Concerts Were Illegal

The Russian visa which Madonna was issued in summer 2012 only allowed her to participate in non-commercial concerts, Izvestia newspaper writes on Tuesday. Madonna gave two concerts in Russia last year - on August 7 in Moscow, and on August 9 in St. Petersburg. Members of the St Petersburg public filed lawsuits against the singer and concert organizers after Madonna spoke out for gay rights at the August 9 concert. In November 2012, the St. Petersburg Court dismissed all the nine suits worth a total of 333 million rubles ($10.6 million). Now local MP Vitaly Milonov requested that the Foreign Ministry check the legality of Madonna's entry into Russia. (Earlier Milonov demanded to prosecute Madonna for "gay propaganda".) According to Izvestia, the Foreign Ministry replied that Madonna was issued a single-entry visa valid for three months at the invitation of the Culture Ministry and with the purpose of her visit stated as "cultural ties." "Invitations and visas for the purpose of cultural ties are issued to foreigners who come to Russia to develop cultural cooperation and to participate in non-commercial art exhibitions, festivals and guest performances," the Foreign Ministry wrote in the letter which Izvestia cited. "If a foreign national's activity in Russia is aimed at making a profit, including through commercial performances, the said national must receive a work permit from the Federal Migration Service, and therefore must be issued a normal work visa, with the purpose of the visit stated as work for hire," the document reads. Experts say that obtaining a working visa, designed for long-term foreign employees of Russian companies, is rather burdensome and takes up to 6 months. Artists visiting Russia usually obtain either touristic or "cultural ties" visa.


Putin Offers Help With Boston Bombings Investigation

Two powerful explosions ripped through a crowd near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing 3 and injuring 144 – 17 of them critically.  On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to his US counterpart Barack Obama expressing his condolences, and said “Russia is ready to help the US authorities with their investigation if necessary,” the Kremlin said on Tuesday in a statement on its website. “Putin strongly condemned this barbarous crime and expressed his conviction that the fight against terrorism requires the active coordination of efforts by the global community,” the statement said.  It is not yet clear who was responsible for the bomb attacks or the motive.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Belarusian Police Hold Man Over Porn on TV

Belarusian investigators said on Monday that an employee of a Belarusian music TV channel has been detained for allegedly airing pornographic footage on the channel after quarreling with his girlfriend.  On Saturday afternoon, the BelMuzTV channel aired several music videos by the Belarusian rock band Lyapis Trubetskoi, which is unofficially banned on local television, followed by ten minutes of pornographic footage. The TV employee responsible then fled the building, according to investigators. “The suspect, an employee of the channel [was] born in 1985, was detained in [the city of] Mogilev, and has been brought to Minsk… He is already being interrogated,” a source in Belarus’ law enforcement agencies told RIA Novosti on Monday. A spokesperson for the Belarusian investigative committee said that the suspect blamed his actions on being depressed after arguing with his girlfriend, suggesting that his actions were not politically motivated. A criminal case has been opened into the public showing of pornography. The man faces up to four years in prison if charged and convicted.


Dubai Extradites Tajik Opposition Leader

A Dubai court has approved the extradition of Tajik opposition leader Umarali Kuvvatov, 46, his lawyer Nikolai Nikolayev said. Interpol arrested Kuvvatov last December at Dubai International Airport at the request of the Tajik authorities on charges of fraudulent business activities. He arrived in the United Arab Emirates on a transit flight from Moscow to Brussels via Baku. "The Dubai court has decided to extradite Kuvvatov," his lawyer has written on Facebook, adding that he still has not received a copy of the courts decision. "This does not mean that Kuvvatov will be extradited immediately. We will take other measures in compliance with UAE legislation," Nikolayev writes.

Police Close Down Moscow University Casino

Moscow police have shut down an illegal casino operating on the premises of a state university, the Interior Ministry reported on Monday. The police confiscated four card tables, three roulette tables, 70 slot machines using counterfeit Novomatik software, and other gambling paraphernalia from the site. The casino, located at Moscow State University of Instrument Engineering and Informatics, was seeing a daily income of 3 to 5 million rubles ($96,700-$161,000), the police said. Since July 2009, gambling in Russia has only been allowed in four specially allotted zones, driving much of the business underground into a thriving black market.

US Publishes Magnitsky List

The United States has published a list of 18 officials (mainly Russian) banned from entering the country because of alleged human rights abuses. The list includes tax officials and police officers who jailed Magnitsky after he accused them of corruption. But senior officials from President Vladimir Putin's entourage who had been expected to be included were left off, including Russia's top police official Alexander Bastrykin. Russia responded by publishing a list of 18 US officials barred from visiting Russia. Russia's list, announced by the foreign ministry, includes two former Bush administration officials who are said to have advocated harsh interrogation techniques and two former commanders of the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.


US Lawyers Analyze Navalny Case

US law firm Loeb & Loeb undertook a pro bono analysis of criminal charges brought against prominent oppositionist Alexey Navalny in Russia. Their paper concludes as follows: "Mr. Gozman [an opposition figure], who was questioned in the latest investigation against Mr. Navalny, has aptly stated, 'I think [the law enforcement agencies and the Investigative Committee] have been ordered to put Navalny in prison, and how they are supposed to do that is their problem.' There is no other rational explanation for the series of unsupported charges that are being levied against Mr. Navalny, one after the next. It is apparent that, as it has done in the past in its Yukos cases, the Kremlin has reverted to misuse of the Russian legal system to harass, isolate and attempt to silence political opponents, or at least those who are perceived to act contrary to the interests of Mr. Putin and his circle. This pattern is familiar and will not fool any observers of Russian affairs who are safely outside the country."

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_VQeHLcziV_Vkk0dlBSRTQ2Yjg/view?sle=true (document)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Russia Opens "Foreign Agent" Case against Vote Monitor over International Prize

The GOLOS Association has denied accusations put forward by the Justice Ministry that it receives funding from abroad and engages in political work, activities that would force the NGO to conform to Russia's new ‘foreign agent' law. The Justice Ministry has opened a case against the non-profit organization GOLOS over its failure to register as a "foreign agent" operating in the territory of the Russian Federation. In particular, the Justice Ministry said the award that GOLOS received for winning the Sakharov Prize - named in honor of the Russian physicist and dissident Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (1921-1989) and awarded by Norwegian rights activists - represents an incident of foreign funding. However, GOLOS said it had returned the money and would defend itself in court. The foreign agents bill was signed into law by President Putin in July 2012. If found guilty of violating the foreign agents law, GOLOS officials may face a 100,000 ($3,200) to 300,000 ($9,600) rouble fine. In the past, GOLOS had received much of its funding from the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, which had operated in Russia for two decades. USAID's lengthy stay came to an abrupt end in September last year when the Kremlin decided the agency had overstayed its welcome. Then, explaining the move, Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s press-secretary, said that the American aid agency was interfering in Russia’s political process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxYqG9d62qY (video)

Finland Blacklists Putin by Mistake

Finland has officially apologized after accidentally placing Russia's President Putin on a list of wanted criminals for his ties with a biker club. After the news emerged, Helsinki issued a number of apologies and removed Putin from the list. On Wednesday, Finnish TV broadcaster MTV3 exposed that Vladimir Putin’s name surfaced in a secret criminal register for his contact with the Russian motorcycle club, the Night Wolves. Being placed on the list translates to automatic detention at the Finish border as a criminal for a possible jail term of at least six months. The news has shocked the country and its leaders. Statements of apologies followed. The Russian president received the news with a certain degree of irony, but said he would not intervene in any way. Law enforcement was quick to correct the mistake and removed the Russian leader from the list.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Russia Unblacklists Wikipedia Cannabis Article

Experts from Russia’s telecoms and drug control regulators have approved new wording of a Wikipedia article on cannabis smoking and will soon remove it from the blacklist of prohibited websites, a telecoms watchdog (Roskomnadzor) representative told RIA Novosti. “We received the new wording of the article on cannabis and sent it to the experts, who have decided that it now meets our requirements,” said Roskomnadzor representative Vladimir Pikov. Last Friday, representatives of Russian-language Wikipedia published the watchdog's notification that it was blacklisting an article on smoking cannabis which contained information about ways of smoking the drug. The Wikipedia authors decided to edit the article, rather than to delete it. Pikov said the telecoms regulator hopes Wikipedia authors will also edit another 11 prohibited articles on the global online encyclopedia. Internet censorship became a topic of heated online debate in Russia after a new law came into force last year allowing extrajudicial blacklisting of web content deemed to be promoting suicide, pedophilia or drug use. Websites hosting this kind of information may be closed without recourse to the courts. Russia’s blacklist of websites, monitored by Roskomnadzor, was approved on November 1, 2012.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Topless Ukrainian Feminists Detained for Attacking Putin in Hanover

Activists from the feminist group "Femen" launched another trademark topless protest on Monday, targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin as he opened an industrial fair in Hanover, Germany, the group said on its Twitter feed. German media said four women, with obscenities in English and Russian daubed on their breasts, broke through security as Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were examining a stand at the fair. Security personnel detained the ladies while the Russian President and German Chancellor looked on unfazed and proceeded to the next exhibition hall. “Regarding the demonstration, I liked it. We knew they were preparing to stage something like this. You should thank those Ukrainian girls, they’re helping to get the word out about the fair,” stated President Putin in a press conference in Hanover. He noted that without such demonstrations there would be much less interest in the annual industrial fair in Hanover. “I didn’t quite catch exactly what they were screaming as security came in swiftly. Those big guys just laid them out. That just doesn’t seem fair, they could have been a little easier on them,” Putin said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERSGZO2GKHo (video)

UPDATE: Criminal Case Opened into Femen’s German Protest

Ukrainian President Pardons Jailed Ex-Ministers

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has pardoned jailed ex-Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko, according to a decree posted on the president’s website on Sunday. Lutsenko, an ally of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, was sentenced in February 2012 to four years in prison for abuse of office. Ukrainian human rights envoy Valeria Lutkovskaya earlier appealed to Yanukovych with a request to pardon Lutsenko due to his deteriorating health condition in prison. Lutsenko was scheduled to leave prison in late 2014. Following the decree, Lutsenko has been released from jail, the Ukrainian penal service said. “Today [Sunday] the [presidential] decree on pardoning several convicts was executed in full and all the convicts were freed from prison,” the penal service’s press office reported. Among those pardoned is former Environmental Minister Georgy Filipchuk.

Russia Adopts Media Swearing Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed off on a law making the use of obscene language by media outlets punishable by fines, the Kremlin said on Monday. The law sets fines of up to $6,300 for media outlets allowing the use of swearwords and fines of around $100 for individuals, with provisions for the confiscation of equipment. The law, which also applies to Internet-only media, was previously approved by both houses of parliament. The decision on what exactly constitutes a swearword or obscene language will be taken by linguistics experts, the Kremlin said.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Russia Bans Wikipedia

The Russian watchdog Roskomnadzor ordered the Russian version of Wikipedia placed on the list of banned sites. The step is related to the article "Cannabis smoking" in Wikipedia. The article itself was found illegal by the Russian narcotics agency in December 2012. Since Wikipedia has not removed the article, it was blacklisted. This means that internet providers must block access to the page or, absent such technicaal possibility, to the whole site.


UPDATE: Russian Wikipedia administration does not intend to remove the questionable article

WIPO Opens Office in Moscow

On 23 March, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree establishing a World Intellectual Property Organization office in Moscow. The draft agreement for the establishment of the Moscow office was prepared by the Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other federal executive authorities of the Russian Federation. The Moscow office is expected to start operating after the agreement is signed and ratified by the Russian Federation. Upon the commencement of operations, the Moscow office will become the fifth WIPO external office, joining branches in the United States, Japan, Brazil and Singapore.


Leaked Offshore Companies Data Names Russian, Azeri Officials

A global journalistic investigation has revealed the names of 130,000 people from 170 nations who allegedly put their money in offshore accounts. The leaked data was released on April 4 by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a Washington-based network of reporters in more than 60 countries, and major international media. The list of accountholders includes connections to the wife of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, as well Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, his wife, and his daughters.


Navalny demands to prosecute Shuvalov

Navalny Ready To Stand Trial, Run for President

Charismatic Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a leading critic of President Vladimir Putin, declared his ambition to stand for president as he prepares for a trial that could see him jailed. Navalny said he expected to be convicted in the embezzlement case, which his supporters claim is politically motivated, but insisted he did not fear prison and would jail his top foes (including Vladimir Putin) if he came to power. A Russian court announced Thursday that Navalny would go on trial on April 17 in the provincial city of Kirov in the case, which concerns a business deal struck by the local government he advised in 2009. If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in jail. "I do not doubt that the verdict will be guilty," said Navalny, who vehemently maintains he is innocent. He noted that under Russian law even a suspended jail sentence would disqualify him for running for office. He said he did not fear "any kind of sentence" but added, "Like any normal person, I don't have the slightest desire to end up in jail."

http://tvrain.ru/articles/aleksej_navalnyj_zajavil_o_namerenii_stat_prezidentom_rossii-340358/ (video)

Uzbek Highest Court Rejects Russian Mobile Operator Claim

The Uzbek Supreme Economic Court has dismissed an appeal filed by Uzdunrobita on the withdrawal of its license, a court spokesperson told RIA Novosti on Thursday. Uzdunrobita is an MTS branch in Uzbekistan. The appeals hearing was initiated last October and suspended in November. It was urgently resumed today. Last July, the State Committee for Communications, Information and Telecommunication Technology suspended and later withdrew all of Uzdunrobita's licenses due to multiple service regulation violations. The court upheld the decision. As a result, the republic's largest mobile network was shut down. Last fall, several Uzdunrobita employees were sentenced to fines and communal service on charges of deriving uncontrolled profits. The companys assets were then to pass into the state's ownership. The appeals court later cancelled its most recent order, but estimated the amount of the financial claims against the mobile network as $600 million payable within eight months. Uzdunrobita filed a bankruptcy petition with the court due to its inability to cover the financial claims.

Readers of Pirated Books Not To Be Prosecuted in Russia

Readers downloading pirated copies of e-books will not be liable for prosecution, according to Vladimir Grigoryev, Head of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media. "We have no intention to hold end users liable as is done in the U.S., for instance, where users downloading copyrighted material can end up in court. Responsibility will be on the owners of pirate websites while readers will be issued warnings," Grigoryev said. Piracy is a growing threat to the publishing industry. Combating piracy will initially require a series of precedents, the official said. Currently, 90% of books are downloaded illegally in Russia, which has resulted in the industry losing up to 4 billion rubles a year.


Ukraine Refuses to Extradite Former Tajik Premier

Ukraine has turned down an extradition request from Tajikistan for its former Prime Minister Abdumalik Abdullojonov, and released him from detention, Ukraine's Prosecutor General's Office told RIA Novosti on Friday. Abdullojonov was released from detention on Thursday, where he was awaiting a court decision on the Tajikistan authorities' request for his extradition, Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reported. In 1994, Abdullojonov ran for president in the republic's first nationwide election. A northerner, he was largely supported by voters in Tajikistan’s Sughd Province, a traditional home ground of the political elite of the former Tajikistan Soviet Socialist Republic. Abdullojonov lost to Emomali Rahmon, who remains president of the country to this day. He was charged with plotting an attack on Rahmon in 1996, when the president was shot in the leg, and with supporting an uprising led by Colonel Makhmud Khudoiberdiyev in northern Tajikistan in November 1998. Abdullojonov has denied these charges in interviews with foreign media, claiming they are politically motivated. In 1998, Abdullojonov, who had already been on the international wanted list for a year, emigrated to the United States. Abdullojonov was detained at Kiev’s Boryspil Airport on February 5, 2013, and a court ordered his detention for 40 days. If found guilty of the charges in Tajikistan, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison and his property confiscated.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ireland Hires Russian Company to Seize Assets in Russia

The Irish Bank Resolution Company is working with one of Russia’s largest banks to help find and seize assets in the former Soviet Union that belong to Sean Quinn, a bankrupt Irish billionaire who was once Ireland’s richest man. The government-owned Irish bank is looking to seize a dozen properties in Russia and Ukraine, Ireland’s ambassador to Russia, Philip McDonagh, said at a news conference in Moscow on Wednesday. He characterized the process as a “complex and demanding challenge.” Mr. McDonagh said the Alfa Group, controlled by the Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman and other wealthy Russians, would help in the effort. The business conglomerate is known to be litigious and well connected in Russia’s court system. The ambassador said the company would be “successful in asserting the claims over the properties in question for the benefit of the Irish state.” The Irish bank has teamed with the asset recovery branch of Alfa Bank called A1. On Wednesday, Dmitry Vozianov, the acting director of A1, said, “If we say we’re going to return the assets, then there is no doubt that we will get them.” Alfa Bank is known for its aggressive litigation with BP and other Western businesses in Russia.


Russian Child Rights Official Accused of Plagiarism

The Kremlin’s child rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov dismissed on Thursday accusations of plagiarism over his PhD dissertation which have recently gone viral on the Russian blogosphere. Prominent Russian journalist Sergei Parkhomenko posted a blog on Wednesday claiming 80 percent of Astakhov’s PhD paper about judicial conflicts was taken from a number of previously published works. "The paper is practically completely falsified," Parkhomenko concluded. “Such absolutely unprofessional pseudo-investigation evokes nothing but pity,” Astakhov, a high-profile lawyer known for his pro-Kremlin stance, responded. Astakhov has been frequently quoted in the media recently in connection with his allegations that US families have abused children adopted from Russia.


Deputy PM: 38 mln Russians Work Illegally

Half of Russia's employable population is engaged in the shadow sector of the economy, according to Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets. Eighty-six million people are employed in various economic sectors, of which only 48 million are said to be working in legitimate businesses. "We don’t understand where and how the rest are employed," Golodets told a conference at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. "Our labor market is practically illegitimate, with only a tiny sector functioning under transparent rules," she added. “With the shadow sector this large, we have lack of funding for all our social costs,” Golodets pointed out, adding that Russia is at least 20 years behind other countries on the international labor market in terms of the level of employment. It’s hoped that the problem could be solved with a new law defining professional standards in Russia. According to the World Bank, Russia’s shadow economy is 3.5 times bigger than in other G8 countries, with ineffectiveness of public administration and tax evasion holding back the country’s economic and political advancements.

http://www.echo.msk.ru/blog/echomsk/1045218-echo/ (video)

Russian Central Bank Chief: $49 Bln Left Country Illegally in 2012

Russia's central bank governor, Sergei Ignatiev, has said that $49bn (£33bn) left the country illegally last year. The capital flight, some 2.5% of Russia's annual economic output, was controlled by "one well-organised group of individuals," the official said.  Ignatiev told a Russian newspaper (Vedomosti) that the money transfers could have been used to pay for supplies of narcotics, bribes and avoiding taxes. Later a government spokesman commented the figure was "highly exaggerated".


Navalny files formal  request to prosecute crimes described by Ignatiev

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Russian Ex-Billionaire Polonsky Freed From Cambodian Jail

Russian former billionaire Sergei Polonsky has been released from a jail in Cambodia, where he had been held for over three months, his lawyer Alexander Dobrovinsky said on Wednesday. Polonsky, the former head of the Mirax Group construction firm, was detained together with two Russian companions by Cambodian police while celebrating the New Year, in connection with an alleged attack on the six-man crew of a boat that had reportedly carried the Russians from an island to the Cambodian mainland.

Aide to Russian MP Detained in Riots Case

An aide to Russian State Duma opposition deputy Ilya Ponomaryov has been detained in last year’s riots case, investigators have said. “During mass disorders, Dmitry Rukavishnikov was pushing overturned portable toilets in the direction of police officers, which resulted in the property being damaged and becoming unfit for use,” the Investigative Committee said Tuesday. “By this, Rukavishnikov created obstacles in the way of law enforcement officers. Rukavishnikov’s participation in mass disorders is confirmed by a video recording, witness testimony and other case materials,” the committee said. Investigators said Rukavishnikov is the head of a Left Front branch in the Ivanovo Region.


Russia Abstains on UN Arms Trade Treaty

The UN General Assembly on Tuesday approved the first global treaty to regulate international trade in conventional weapons, the UN News Centre said. The resolution containing the text of the treaty was approved by 154 “yes” votes with the simple majority of 97 votes in favor needed to pass the text. The document received strong support from the majority of UN members during the Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) last Thursday. The adoption of the treaty, which required a unanimous approval, was blocked by three states - Iran, Syria and North Korea. The three countries, who have earlier criticized the draft treaty as “unbalanced” and giving an advantage to the world’s biggest weapons exporters, voted against it during the General Assembly’s vote. 23 countries abstained, including the world’s two major arms exporters, Russia and China. The United States, the world's biggest arms trader accounting for over 40 percent of global conventional arms transfers with annual revenues estimated at more than $28 billion, voted in favor of the agreement. According to the resolution, the treaty will be open for signing on July 3, 2013. It will take effect 90 days after being ratified by its 50th signatory.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Russia Seeks to Arrest Russian Lawyer Granted US Asylum

Investigators have appealed to the Presnensky Court of Moscow to issue a warrant for detaining lawyer Boris Kuznetsov in absentia for divulging state secrets, press secretary Nina Yurchenko told RAPSI on Monday. Kuznetsov has been granted political asylum in the United States. Investigators claim that when the Supreme Court considered stripping former member of the Federation Council and representative of the Republic of Kalmykia Levon Chakhmakhchyan of his parliamentary immunity, Kuznetsov, who had pledged not to reveal secret information in that case, photographed an FSB reference note regarding the tapping of Chakhmakhchyan's telephones which was marked "secret." Kuznetsov first showed the picture to a colleague and then sent it to the Constitutional Court. When Kuznetsov was charged with revealing state secrets in 2007, he asked for asylum in the United States. The court issued a warrant for detaining Kuznetsov in absentia, but the warrant was withdrawn in 2009. In 2008 Levon Chakhmakhchyan was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for attempted fraud. He was released on parole in January 2012.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Russian Space Giant Moves to Dismiss Boeing Suit

Russian space giant SP Korolev Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (Energia) filed documents with a US federal court last week seeking the dismissal of a $350 million breach-of-contract lawsuit filed by American aerospace and defense conglomerate Boeing. In February, Boeing filed a complaint against Energia and Ukrainian company Yuzhnoye SDO alleging breach of contract in connection with a series of contracts connected with the 1995 establishment of Sea Launch, a joint venture created to facilitate the sea-based launch of commercial satellites. Boeing seeks $355 million plus interest and legal fees. Energia filed two separate notices of its intent to move the court to dismiss or stay the case. The first seeks to dismiss or stay the claim for forum non conveniens; stay the claim pending the outcome of a parallel foreign proceeding, in accordance with US law; and dismiss the claim for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The second seeks to dismiss the claim with prejudice based on Boeing’s alleged failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction; and Boeing’s lack of capacity to assert claims before the court.


Chechen Leader Proposes Travel Ban for State Officials

Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Russia’s Chechen republic, published an opinion piece Monday suggesting that a range of current and former high-ranking Russian officials should be banned from traveling abroad. Kadyrov’s article, published in the Russian daily newspaper Izvestia, said that the travel ban should be imposed on “those who have or formerly had access to secret files of strategic importance.” The politician, who has been accused of human rights abuses in the North Caucasus republic that he governs, expressed concern that some former senior officials move abroad after leaving their posts and that their luggage might contain data of state importance.