Sunday, December 21, 2014

Facebook blocks Russian page supporting Navalny

In a sign of new limits on Facebook’s ability to serve as a platform for political opposition movements, Russian users appear to have been blocked from accessing a page calling for a protest in support of a prominent dissident. Russian Internet regulators said Saturday that they had sent Facebook a “demand” that it block access to a page calling for a demonstration in support of Alexei Navalny, the most prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The page was set up on Friday after prosecutors recommended that Navalny be sent to prison for 10 years in a criminal case that critics have said is purely politically motivated. Within hours, the page drew thousands of people who said they were planning to attend, and as of Saturday evening, the number stood at more than 12,300. But it was no longer visible to users inside Russia. “This content is currently unavailable,” the Web site told users who tried to access it from inside the country. A Facebook spokeswoman said the company was investigating the matter.

Russian citizen executed in Pakistan

Russian citizen Akhlas Akhlaq has been executed in Pakistan together with three other men, all convicted of attempting to assassinate former President Musharraf, Pakistan’s Interior Ministry confirmed to the Russian Embassy. Akhlas Akhlaq is one of five men sentenced to death in Pakistan for a failed plot to assassinate Musharraf. Akhlaq, born in the city of Volgograd to a Russian mother and a Pakistani father, was one of the men arrested following a suicide attack on Gen. Musharraf's convoy on 25 December, 2003. In the assassination attempt, two suicide bombers tried to ram explosives-laden vehicles into the president's limousine. Seventeen people died. Akhlaq denied all charges brought against him.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Obama signs Russia sanctions bill

President Barack Obama said on Thursday he had signed into law a new Russian sanctions bill passed by Congress but did not intend to impose further sanctions against Moscow for now. "My administration will continue to work closely with allies and partners in Europe and internationally to respond to developments in Ukraine and will continue to review and calibrate our sanctions to respond to Russia's actions," Obama said in a statement. "We remain prepared to roll back sanctions should Russia take the necessary steps."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Homes Of Alleged Militants' Families Torched In Chechnya

Residents of Russia's Chechnya region say the authorities are carrying out Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov's orders to destroy the homes of relatives of alleged militants held responsible for attacks. Residents of the village of Yandi said that masked men arrived in more than a dozen vehicles late on December 8 and set several homes on fire. On December 6, after 14 policemen were killed in some of the deadliest fighting in the Chechen capital in years, Kadyrov announced that relatives of militants involved in killings would be evicted from Chechnya and their homes "razed down to the basement." Residents said not all the homes torched in Yandi belonged to families of militants believed to have been involved in the Grozny attack. Amnesty International said that punishing suspects' relatives is a "flagrant violation of international law" and that Russia must hold an impartial investigation.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Putin: Crimea is sacred to Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused what he called “enemies of yesterday” of trying to bring a new Iron Curtain down around Russia. As it moves into recession, he blames the West. On the other hand, he gave himself high marks for annexing Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and said his country would rise to any challenge. He delivered his annual state-of-the-nation speech in St. George Hall in the Kremlin. Putin said: “The historical reunification of Crimea and Sebastopol with Russia finally happened. This has a special importance for our people, our country, because our people live in Crimea, and the territory is strategically important. It is a sacred source of our multi-faced but unified Russian nation.” He insisted that Crimea is as important to Russians as Temple Mount in Jerusalem is to Islam and Judaism.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Russia Ranks 136th on Corruption Index

Russia has fallen nine places for the past year to 136th out of 175 countries in Transparency International's 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), a ranking of public sector corruption, made available on Wednesday. The CPI, released annually, scores and ranks the world’s countries and territories according to the perceived corruptness of their public sectors. The CPI is a composite index based on a “combination of surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions,” according to an information sheet provided by Transparency International. Each country in the index is assigned both a score and a ranking. The score falls on a scale ranging from zero to 100 – zero being the worst in terms of the perception of corruption, and 100 being the best. Russia has maintained the score of 27 which it shares with with Nigeria, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Iran and Cameroon.

Monday, December 1, 2014

EU blacklists 13 more individuals and 5 organizations from Donetsk

The EU will introduce sanctions against 13 individuals and 5 legal entities representing self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics /DPR, LPR/, TASS reports citing a diplomatic source in Europe. A formal decision on expanding the black list will be made by the EU Council this Friday. “Names will be announced in the official gazette this Saturday November 29. The sanctions will be enforced the same day,” the source added. On November 17, foreign ministers of the EU countries instructed the European Commission and the EU foreign policy service to develop proposals by the end of the month on including leaders of the self-proclaimed republics in the black list.

Tymoshenko prison staff goes on trial

The Dzerzhinsky District Court of Kharkov held the first hearing of a criminal case to try Kachanovskaya Prison personnel. Kachanovskaya is where former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, served her term between 2011 and 2014, Ukrinform reports Friday. The agency reports that former chief of Kachanosvkaya Prison, Ihor Kolpashchikov, and two staff members were charged with abuse of power and fraud. Investigators allege that they drafted reports on Tymoshenko’s supposed refusal to attend a court hearing – specifically, a hearing of witnesses in the 1996 murder of businessman and member of Verkhovna Rada, Evhen Shcherban. The current indictment states that the reports were fabricated. On October 11, 2011, the Pechyorsky District Court sentenced Tymoshenko to seven years for abuse of authority in signing gas contract between Naftogaz of Ukraine and Gazprom in 2009. On December 8, 2011, the Shevchenkovsky District Court of Kiev issued an arrest warrant for Tymoshenko in relation to her activity as a chief of United Energy Systems of Ukraine. On February 22, 2014, the Ukrainian Parliament decriminalized the articles of the criminal code under which Tymoshenko was convicted and the ex-prime minister was released the same day.

Decision to open case against fugitive Russian judge delayed

On Friday, Russia’s High Qualification Board of Judges was again unable to hear a request from Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin to initiate legal proceedings against Moscow Commercial Court Judge Irina Baranova, RAPSI reports from the courtroom. The qualification board postponed the hearing explaining that it needs to question Baranova first. Baranova, who is suspected of assisting corporate raiders, did not attend the board meeting. Bastrykin filed a request to prosecute Baranova in January 2014. In January, the Federal Security Service reported that Baranova left Russia on December 21, 2013, allegedly for a vacation in Miami, Florida. Investigators have no information on whether she has returned to Russia.

Cannibal Corpse songs banned in Russia

The Oktyabrsky District Court of Ufa ruled on Friday that the translations of lyrics by Cannibal Corpse, a US metal band, be banned from distribution in Russia due to violent content, RIA Novosti reports citing Senior Aide to Prosecutor of Bashkortostan, Guzel Masagutova. The Prosecutor’s Office of Bashkortostan filed a suit with the court following complaints from Ufa residents. A suit was filed to ban the translation of the lyrics and illustrations on the band’s albums from distribution in Russia. The claimant complained that lyrics by the band Cannibal Corpse could damage the mental health of children because they contain descriptions of violence, the physical and mental abuse of people and animals, murder and suicide – all accompanied by illustrations. The Ufa court agreed with that the Prosecutor’s Office’s claim that the Cannibal Corpse lyrics available in the public domain could cause damage to minors and upheld the claim.

Russia threatens to sue France over Mistral warships

Russia has reserved the right to sue France if it fails to deliver the two contracted Mistral-class helicopter carriers, Interfax reports on Friday, citing Russia's ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov. Chizhov clarified that should a contract breach be officially reconized, Russia will take up measures stipulated in the contract, including legal recourse within arbitration chambers. Vladivostok, the first of the two Mistral-class warships built for Russia, is still docked at the Saint-Nazaire shipyard, which had to allocate additional funds to maintain it. The second Mistral-class helicopter carrier, Sevastopol, was floated-out on November 21. The French government has said the situation in Ukraine precludes the delivery of the Vladivostok helicopter carrier to Russia for the near term.

London's High Court blocks bid by Rosneft to halt sanctions

London's High Court has dismissed an application filed by Russian oil giant Rosneft to block the move introducing criminal liability in the UK for violation of sanctions against Russian companies, RIA Novosti reported on Friday. Sanctions were imposed on Russia following a crisis in Ukraine. The United States and European Union introduced sanctions against a number of Russian energy companies, including Rosneft and LUKoil, banning US and EU firms from supporting their exploration or production activities in deep water, Arctic offshore and shale projects. The ban came into effect last September. Rosneft claims that the proposed rules are “riddled with uncertainty.” Specifically, the company alleges that the term “deep water” is not clearly defined and it’s unclear whether the word “Arctic” is meant to encompass all oil exploration within the Arctic Circle or just offshore exploration.

Moldova election: Pro-EU parties edge pro-Russian rivals

Partial results from Moldova's parliamentary elections show that pro-EU parties have a narrow lead over those backing closer ties with Russia. With 80% of the votes counted, the three pro-Western parties have about 44%. The opposition has 40%. No party appears to be able to form a government, and tough post-election bargaining is predicted. On the eve of the vote, one pro-Russian party was banned from Sunday's poll - a move criticised by Russia. The elections have taken on a wider significance in the shadow of the bloody crisis in neighbouring Ukraine.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lithuania’s president: Russia is a terrorist state

Aggression might spread in Europe if Russia is not stopped in Ukraine, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said in an interview on Thursday, calling Russia a terrorist state. “Today, Ukraine is fighting for peace in the whole of Europe, for all of us. If the terrorist state that is carrying out aggression against its neighbour is not stopped, that aggression might spread in Europe and beyond,” the president told the national radio LRT. In response Russian Foreign Ministry representative Alexander Lukashevich stated on the ministry's website: “The Lithuanian president would better restrain her Komsomol member’s ardour and drop her ‘Soviet-past’ inferiority complex which apparently makes her trying to ‘outpope the pope.’”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

'Deoffshorization' law to earn Russia $425 million annually

The implementation of the law on the 'deoffshorization' of the Russian economy is expected to bring about 20 billion rubles (some $425 million) to the budget, Interfax reports on Wednesay, citing Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Shatalov. The bill was recently approved by both houses of Russian parliament. Shatalov said the law was only the first step and that Russia planned to exchange relevant information with the countries where offshore companies are registered. This would be done within the framework of the Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, which over 60 countries including Russia have signed. The deputy minister said that not all companies established in the countries with which Russia has double taxation agreements are suspected of tax avoidance. “We need to start by establishing whether a company in question receives an active or a passive income. Only companies that have a passive income and pay a lower than usual tax will have additional tax obligations to their home country,” Shatalov said.

Nephew of ex-president of Kyrgyzstan released from prison

Sanjar Bakiev, the nephew of the former president of Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiev, has completed his prison term after being convicted of organizing mass riots, RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday, citing the Kyrgyz penal service. Sanjar Bakiev was sentenced in November 2010 to 10 years’ imprisonment for organizing riots by groups loyal to President Bakiev in the southern city of Jalal-Abad in May 2010. Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev © RIA Novosti Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev A raid of his apartment revealed a large inventory of firearms, special equipment, ammunition, computers and portable radio sets. Kyrgyzstan’s Supreme Court later cut his prison term to five years and a fine of 75,000 som (about $1,800). Kurmanbek Bakiev fled the country amid antigovernment protests in April 2010. He was sentenced in absentia to life in prison in Kyrgyzstan for his role in the uprising, which left almost 100 people dead.

Magnitsky relatives appeal against his posthumous prosecution in Supreme Court

The mother of Hermitage Capital auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a detention facility, appealed to the Russian Supreme Court to block the posthumous prosecution of her son, Hermitage Capital informed RAPSI on Thursday. Hermitage Capital noted that in her appeal, Natalya Magnitskaya claims that the courts of lower instance refused to find the actions of an Interior Ministry investigator illegal. “It is the court’s responsibility to verify the validity and legitimacy of the investigator’s statement. In this case the investigator’s claims were not verified by any evidence,” the appeal states. For their part, the Press Service of the Supreme Court confirmed that the court had received an appeal from Natalya Magnitskaya regarding the May 22, 2014 ruling of the Tverskoi District Court and said it is currently under consideration. Magnitsky worked for Firestone Duncan and represented Hermitage Capital which was accused of tax evasion by Russian authorities. Magnitsky was arrested on fraud charges in November 2008 and found dead in a Moscow detention center in November 2009. Last July, the Tverskoi District Court of Moscow found Magnitsky guilty of tax evasion and closed the case due to his death. According to the case materials, Magnitsky’s and Hermitage Capital director William Browder’s actions cost the Russian Federation over 500 million rubles ($10.6 mln). Browder was sentenced to nine years in prison in absentia.

Medvedev: Russia won't restrict capital flow

Russia will not impose restrictions on capital flow. On the contrary, there are plans to increase foreign currency transactions, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a Government meeting on Thursday. “In view of the current situation in the foreign currency market, the Government, myself, my colleagues and Central Bank management have repeatedly stated that we are not going to impose any special restrictions on capital flow,” Medvedev said. He noted that today, the Government would discuss a regulation that, if approved, will increase the number of allowed foreign currency transactions. As earlier announced by President Putin, Russia has no plans to restrict capital flow as officials can control the situation with its reserves without any extra measures. Last month, the head of the Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina announced that the regulator would not restrict capital flow or private currency transactions. Medvedev also mentioned that there will no further restrictions on foreign currency sales.

Russian Justice Ministry slams ECHR for violation of notification procedure

European Court for Human Righst deprived Russia of presenting its case in the ongoing Senchishak v. Finland case, says the statement posted on the Justice Ministry’s website on Thursday. The statement says that the Russian authorities were not informed about an application hearing, in violation of Article 36, thus depriving Russia from presenting its arguments in a case concerning human rights violation against its citizen. Russian Justice Ministry adds that similar incidents happened before, and the ECHR was duly noted. On Tuesday, ECHR issued a ruling in application of Marina Senchishak, 72, partially paralyzed Russian national who was declined a residence permit and deported by the Finnish authorities. According to the case rescords, Ms Senchishak arrived in Finland in December 2008 on a tourist visa to stay with her daughter. Her daughter has been living in Finland since 1988 and has become a Finnish citizen. Ms Senchishak applied for a residence permit on the basis of family ties. She alleged before both the immigration authorities and administrative courts that, paralysed on her right side since 2006 after having suffered a stroke, it was impossible for her to obtain adequate medical care in Russia and that she was therefore dependent on her daughter in Finland, her husband having died in 2007 and her other daughter having been missing – presumed dead – since 2003. The immigration authorities refused Ms Senchishak a residence permit and ordered her removal to Russia. Ms Senchishak alleged that her removal would be in violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) because she did not have access to medical care in Russia, it being impossible for her to obtain a place in a nursing home there, and because she would be separated from her daughter, her closest living relative. ECHR has ruled that the appeal to Article 8 was unsubstantiated, and ruled that the Russian national’s rights will not be violated by deportation.

Russia’s Supreme Court dismisses appeal over Bashneft stock forfeiture

Russia’s Supreme Court has turned down the appeal against the ruling ordering AFK Sistema to forfeit oil producer Bashneft’s stock, according to the statement posted on the court’s website on Thursday. The appeal was turned down without reviewing it, citing procedural violations and missing paperwork to validate the appeal . Earlier, an unnamed individual appealed the Moscow Commercial Court ruling, that ordered AFK Sistema to forfeit its accumulated stock of oil producer Bashneft to the state. The court’s statement reads that the applicant, starting in 2012, filed more than four dozen cassation appeals in economic and civil trials. They all have been returned without review. In most cases, the court based the dismissals on the applicant’s inability to prove his stake in any given case. Bashneft was privatized in 2009. It was controlled by the government of Russia’s Bashkortostan region until 2003, when a major stake was sold to companies affiliated with Ural Rakhimov, son of the former head of Bashkortostan Murtaza Rakhimov. In 2009, Russian oil-to-telecoms conglomerate AFK Sistema gained control of the company. Investigators opened a criminal case last April linked to deals with Bashneft shares in 2002 to 2009. Rakhimov and billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov were implicated in the sale of Bashneft stock in 2009. Rakhimov was charged in absentia with embezzlement and money laundering, put on the international wanted list. Yevtushenkov, the board chairman and largest beneficiary of AFK Sistema, stands charged with money laundering.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

US: Russia Fuels War in Ukraine

The US has accused Russia of undermining a ceasefire in Ukraine after reports of Russian troops and military hardware entering the country. The US called a meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday after Nato accused Russia of sending troops, artillery and air defence systems across the border into Ukraine. "The pattern is clear," Samantha Power, the US envoy to the UN, told the meeting. "Where Russia has made commitments it has failed to meet them." "Russia has negotiated a peace plan and then systematically undermined it at every step. It talks of peace but it keeps fuelling war." However, Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN, Alexander Pankin, said the Nato claims did "not reflect the situation on the ground". He accused Security Council members of a "foray into propaganda".

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

NATO: Russian Troops Enter Ukraine

Nato officials have seen Russian military equipment and Russian combat troops entering Ukraine this week, its top commander says. "Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defence systems and Russian combat troops" were sighted, US Gen Philip Breedlove said. Russia's defence ministry denied that its troops were in eastern Ukraine to help pro-Russian separatists there. However, the rebels have admitted being helped by "volunteers" from Russia. Heavy artillery fire rocked the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk, the industrial hub held by pro-Russian separatist rebels, on Wednesday morning. It was unclear whether the fire came from besieging government forces or the rebels themselves, or both. There were also reports of fighting near the rebel-held city of Luhansk. One Ukrainian soldier was killed and another injured north of Luhansk, when rebels fired on government positions near the village of Schastya, Ukrainian security forces said.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ford Loses Trademark Appeal in Russian IP Court

Russia’s Intellectual Property Court sided with the Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patens and Trademarks (ROSPATENT) in refusing to recognize Ford’s trademark as a protected word in Russia. In March, ROSPATENT ruled against Ford's petition to recognize the “Ford” trademark in the form of a blue oval with “Ford” written inside as a word that has been extensively used in Russia since June 1, 2007 to identify cars, car parts and accessories.  According to ROSPATENT, the materials provided by Ford were not enough to prove its claim that the word “Ford” is used extensively exactly as cited in the petition.  In addition, ROSPATENT said that “different forms of the trademark with the word Ford were used to mark Ford vehicles throughout its history.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Russia's Constitutional Court Turns Down Pussy Riot Member Complaint

The Russian Constitutional Court has turned down an appeal by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the Pussy Riot punk band, against what she sees as the violation of her constitutional rights by Russian Criminal Code Article 213 Part 2. The Constitutional Court published a relevant resolution on its official website on Wednesday. Tolokonnikova, one of the participants in the so-called punk prayer at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, appealed the provisions of Criminal Code dealing with disorderly conduct under which she was convicted in August 2012. Tolokonnikova argued that this article disproportionately restricts the freedom of expression, qualifies the violation of religious standards as a violation of public order, and criminalizes actions merely based on their perception by the majority of the public as unacceptable. The Constitutional Court noted in its resolution that freedom of speech always has certain limits indicated in the constitution and international law, and this fully concerns discussions on religious matters. Hence, the resolution says, the statute in question does not contain uncertainty either for citizens or for law enforcement agencies or courts, while the assessment of factual circumstances of a case is not within the Constitutional Court's purview, it said. Tolokonnikova was released from prison in December 2013 in line with an amnesty declared by the State Duma to mark the 20th anniversary of the constitution. She had been found guilty of disorderly conduct and sentenced to 2 years in a general security penitentiary in August 2012 for a so-called punk prayer that five women from the Pussy Riot punk band wearing balaclavas staged at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in February 2012.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Russia's Supreme Court Proposes Mandatory Mediation Prior to Filing Commercial Lawsuits

Russia’s Supreme Court has proposed amendments to the Commercial Procedure Code and Tax Code introducing mediation that would require a 30 day delay in filing suit with a commercial court, only after the parties have taken steps to reach a settlement. The proposed amendments would revive a procedure that existed in commercial litigation prior to 1995 (when it was abolished), and would not apply to disputes including bankruptcy, corporate disputes, and certain federal law collection matters.  The Supreme Court has noted that the mediation procedure would enhance efficiency by reducing the number of cases filed with commercial courts.  Meanwhile, Russia's Supreme Commercial Court has ceased to exist, transferring its powers and jurisdiction to the Supreme Court under a federal law that entered into force on February 5th.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CEO of French Total Killed in Moscow Airport Accident

The chief executive of French oil major Total, Christophe de Margerie, was killed when his private jet collided with a snow plow as it was taking off from Moscow's Vnukovo airport on Monday night. De Margerie's death leaves a void at the top of one of the world's biggest listed oil firms at a difficult time for the industry as oil prices fall and state-backed competitors keep them out of some of the best oil exploration territory. The collision occurred minutes before midnight Moscow time as de Margerie's Dassault Falcon jet was taking off for Paris. Russia's Investigative Committee said the driver of the snow plow had been drunk and that a criminal investigation had been launched. The plane's three crew also died, said Total. The airport said visibility was 350 meters (1,150 feet) at the time of the crash.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Russian Ex-Oligarch: Businessmen Are Serfs in Russia

A former close associate of Vladimir Putin has said Russian businessmen were all now “serfs” who belonged to the president, with none of the country’s companies beyond his reach. Sergei Pugachev, who was once so close to Mr Putin that he was known as the “Kremlin’s banker”, made the comments in his first interview since the state seized his multibillion-dollar ship building empire in 2012. Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Pugachev warned that there were no longer any “untouchables” in a Russian business landscape increasingly dominated by Mr Putin. The Russian economy, he argued, had been transformed into a feudal system where businessmen were only nominal owners of their assets. “Today in Russia there is no private property. There are only serfs who belong to Putin,” he said.

Russian Constitutional Court Head Slams Liberalism and Homosexuality, Praises Serfdom

Russian Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin, speaking at an intenational congress in Seoul, called liberalism one of the major problems of the modern world. Accrding to Zorkin, liberalism impede development of people and countries and promotes “aggressive struggle of sexual minorities for equal self-realization opportunities within the frames of the permissiveness ideology”. Days earlier Zorkin published an article in Rossiyskaya gazeta in which he characterized the serfdom as a “staple” of the Russian nation, suggesting that its abolishing in 1861 may have been a mistake. "Despite all its drawbacks, serfdom was the brace holding together the nation's internal unity," Zorkin wrote. "It was no accident that, according to historians, the peasants told their former masters after the reform: 'We were yours and you were ours.'"

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Russia's Anti-Monopoly Service Announces Key Objectives, Highlights "Best Practices"

Russia's Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) has released its 2014 booklet outlining the history of competition law in Russia, as well as the following key objectives for the near future:  (1) developing and improving the institutions that prevent violations of the antimonopoly law; (2) transitioning to broader protection from an economic entity abusing its dominant position; (3) monitoring satisfaction of the quality of work at FAS by using surveys and performance rankings; (4) ensuring uniform enforcement of laws; and (5) ensuring non-discriminatory access to the services of natural monopolies.  FAS has also made available on their website digital copies of the "White Book" ("Белая Книга"), highlighting the best regional competition practices, and the "Black Book" ("Черная Книга"), highlighting the worst regional anti-monopoly practices. FAS plans to develop an interactive portal to exchange "best practices" ideas and complaints concerning competition and anti-monopoly issues.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Russia Places Billionaire Evtushenkov Under House Arrest

Billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov, the richest Russian to face criminal charges since Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was placed under house arrest yesterday on suspicion of money laundering. The accusations stem from a probe into the alleged theft of shares in oil assets in Russia’s Bashkortostan region in which Evtushenkov’s AFK Sistema acquired full control in 2009, according to the Investigative Committee. Sistema said the accusations were “completely groundless” and vowed to use all possible legal means to make their case. Khodorkovsky, released in December after a decade in prison, said OAO Rosneft Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin, a long-time ally of President Vladimir Putin, may have engineered the arrest to pressure Evtushenkov into selling his oil company, OAO Bashneft, Vedomosti newspaper reported. Rosneft isn’t interested in Bashneft, and Khodorkovsky’s comments aren’t true, Mikhail Leontyev, a spokesman for the state-run company, said by phone today. Khodorkovsky has accused Sechin of orchestrating his own arrest and the dismantling of his Yukos Oil Co., most of which Rosneft later acquired, a claim Rosneft has denied. Evtushenkov has a fortune estimated at $6.9 billion, making him the 19th richest Russian on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, largely from oil producer Bashneft and OAO Mobile TeleSystems, the biggest mobile operator in Russia. Khodorkovsky was Russia’s richest man at the time of his arrest in 2003.

Ukraine, EU Ratify Association Agreement

​Ukraine and the EU parliaments simultaneously ratified the economic and political parts of the Association Agreement that will strengthen ties between Kiev and Brussels. Economic integration is postponed until the end of 2015. The document was approved at 1:00pm in Kiev and there was a synchronous signing session in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Ukraine’s Rada voted 355 votes in favor out of 381 total, and the European Parliament supported the ratification with 535 ‘yes’ votes and 127 against, with 26 abstaining. What is the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU? - Establishes a gradual deepening of economic and political ties between Ukraine and the EU - A free trade zone will be established on December 31, 2015 to integrate Ukraine into Europe’s $17 trillion economy with 500+ million consumers - This means Ukraine will lose preferential treatment and access to Russia’s $2.5 trillion and 146 million consumer market - Ukraine will have to meet EU requirements on food safety and product quality - Cooperate on several other issues: energy, industry, taxes, tourism, justice system, law, etc. - It will make it easier for Ukraine to seek financial assistance from the EU “From tomorrow I task the government with approving the implementation of the agreement and immediately implementing it into the force of law,” President Petro Poroshenko said at the ratification in Kiev. Poroshenko said he hopes the agreement will help Ukraine reform its economy and fight corruption, and that someday Ukraine hopes to apply for EU membership. Ukraine "has embarked on the European path and nobody will are to shut the door to the EU membership for Ukraine," the President said, as quoted by ITAR-ITASS. Free trade with Europe’s $13 trillion economy will be postponed until January 2016, due to the weak state of Ukraine’s economy which would make it vulnerable to a sudden influx of European goods. Ukraine will continue duty-free trade with Russia and other CIS states until December 31, 2015, and on January 1, 2016 will begin economic integration with the EU.

Friday, September 12, 2014

EU Tightens Sanctions Against Russia

The European Union tightened economic sanctions against Russia on Friday in response to the country’s role in the Ukraine crisis, imposing additional restrictions on oil companies and extending asset freezes and travel bans to 24 more individuals. The measures, aimed at Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors, will be reviewed by diplomats before the end of the month and could be revised swiftly if a cease-fire holds, European Union officials said on Thursday in announcing the broader action. The new round of sanctions significantly ratchets up restrictions on the Russian financial sector and prohibits European entities from buying debt with a maturity of more than 30 days, from issuing loans or from providing financial services to five banks, three oil companies and three defense firms.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

EU to Assess Ukraine Cease-Fire as New Russian Sanctions Weighed

European Union governments reopen discussions about the viability of a cease-fire in Ukraine as the bloc weighs whether to pull the trigger on tougher sanctions against Russia. The scheduled talks in Brussels among diplomats from the 28 member nations follow the EU’s abrupt decision yesterday to put on hold for at least a “few days” a second package of economic penalities against Russia over its encroachment in Ukraine. The delay offered more time to assess the effectiveness of the cease-fire without risking further trade retaliation by the Kremlin. The planned sanctions -- originally due to be published in the Official Journal today -- include barring some Russian state-owned defense and energy companies from raising capital in the EU.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Obama: Russia is a Bad Bet for Investors

Speaking in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, US President Barack Obama said Russian aggression in Ukraine that threatens a Europe dedicated to peace will not be without consequences and Moscow is feeling the pinch: “Make no mistake, Russia is paying a price. Capital is fleeing, foreign investment is plummeting because investors know that today’s Russia is a bad bet,” said the president. He criticised Russia’s control of energy supply to manipulate Kyiv. Obama wants a change: “Diversify its energy sources, no country should be held hostage to another nation that wields energy like a weapon.” The US president then turned to NATO allies to show support to Ukraine at the upcoming summit: “So in Wales we will meet as an alliance with President Petro Poroshenko. It will show that our 28 nations are united in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty with the right to defend its territory.”

Obama: NATO to Oppose Russian Aggression

Confronted by a Kremlin-backed military offensive in Ukraine, President Barack Obama and Western allies will approve plans this week to position at least 4,000 troops and military equipment in Eastern Europe, bolstering NATO's security commitments to nervous member states near the Russian border. In a speech in Tallinn, Obama said the vision of a Europe dedicated to peace and freedom is "threatened by Russia's aggression against Ukraine," but said NATO will not allow that aggression to go unchecked. "We will defend our NATO allies, and that means every ally," he said. "We will be here for Estonia. ... You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Medvedev to Conduct Snap Checks on Supermarket Food Prices

At a time when concerns about inflation in Russia are mounting, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has vowed to personally check the price of goods in supermarkets on a regular basis, his spokeswoman told Interfax on Monday. Following his visit to a school in the town of Korenovsk in the southern Krasnodar region on the first day of the academic year, Medvedev popped into a branch of supermarket chain Magnit and discussed the price of goods with shoppers, the report said. Spokeswoman Natalya Timakova was quoted as saying that Medvedev's price checks will be unscheduled, so shop owners will receive no prior warning of his arrival.

EU: Russia No Longer Strategic Partner

The European Union's new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said sanctions imposed on Russia have to be part of an overall strategy to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine that brings about more rational behavior from the government in Moscow. "The point is whether the efficacy that the sanctions are having on the Russian economy results in rational behavior by [the Russian] leadership," she said in an interview published on Monday by Italian daily Corriere della Sera. "In this phase, the Kremlin is acting against the interests of its people." In the interview, Ms. Mogherini said the EU no longer considers it has a partnership with Russian President Vladimir Putin who hasn't respected Russia's commitments to the bloc. "[T]hat partnership is no longer there. Russia right now is no longer a strategic partner," she said in the interview.

Putin: I Can Take Kiev In Two Weeks If I Want

Vladimir Putin has boasted that he could take the Ukrainian capital Kiev in "two weeks", according to reports of a telephone conversation between Russia's president and the outgoing European commissioner. Putin, who has repeated his categorical denial that Russian troops are in Ukraine, despite evidence to the contrary from Ukraine's leadership, has been defiant in recent days about Moscow's right to protect its interests in the country. The respected Italian daily La Repubblica reported that in a conversation with outgoing European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Putin remarked: "If I want, I take Kiev in two weeks."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Poroshenko: Russian Forces Have Invaded Ukraine

Ukrainian President Poroshenko claimed Russian forces had invaded Ukraine Thursday, raising fears the crisis in the region was escalating. "I made the decision to cancel a working visit to the Republic of Turkey ... as an invasion of Russian forces has taken place,'' he said in a statement on the presidential website on Thursday, according to Reuters. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was holding an emergency meeting about the situation in Vienna. A pro-Moscow separatist leader earlier said Russian soldiers were fighting alongside rebels inside Ukraine – hours after the United States accused Russia of orchestrating a new military campaign in the country. "Among us are fighting serving soldiers, who would rather take their vacation not on a beach but with us, among brothers, who are fighting for their freedom," east Ukraine rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said in an interview posted on the Internet site of a Russian television station. Up to 4,000 Russian volunteers are also fighting alongside the rebels, Zakharchenko claimed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Russian Soldiers Captured in Ukraine

A group of Russian soldiers captured in eastern Ukraine had crossed the border "by accident", Russian military sources are quoted as saying. Ukraine said 10 paratroopers had been captured and has released video interviews of some of the men. One is quoted as saying "this is not our war". The incident comes ahead of a key meeting between the Ukrainian and Russian presidents. Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin are at a summit in Minsk in Belarus. More than 2,000 people have died in months of fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. (video)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Russian Duma Considers Tougher Stance on Internet Piracy

According to Deputy Culture Minister Grigory Ivliyev, the State Duma is considering a tougher penalty for violation of the anti-piracy law aimed at protecting intellectual property on the Internet.  Russia's anti-piracy law currently sets out the legal grounds and procedure for limiting access to websites that distribute movies and TV films in violation of copyright, as well as the rules governing Internet and hosting providers. A set of amendments passed the Duma's second reading in July, and, among other things, these amendments would extend the anti-piracy law to all works under copyright and related rights, including music and literature.  After a meeting of the State Duma’s working group on intellectual property, Ivliyev told journalists that Russian authorities are considering administrative liability for failure to block access to pirated online content.  In addition, fines for business entities may be increased to up to 1 million rubles (over $27,500), with individuals facing 300,000 rubles ($8,200) penalty.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Russia Shuts Down Four McDonald's in Moscow

Russia's main consumer watchdog has temporarily shut four McDonald's restaurants in Moscow as part of an investigation into food standards. Watchdog Rospotrebnadzor claimed the restaurants had breached "numerous" sanitary laws. McDonald's said it was looking at the complaints, adding its "top priority is to provide safe and quality products". The closures come amid rising tensions between Russia and the West over the crisis in the Ukraine. Previously when diplomatic tensions are high, the regulator has controversially banned products including wine from Georgia, cheese from Ukraine and apples from Poland,. Earlier this month, Russia imposed a "full embargo" on food imports from the EU, US and some other Western countries, in response to sanctions over Ukraine. Wednesday's action by the regulator is part of an ongoing investigation into McDonald's food standards in Russia.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Protesters Plant Ukraine Flag on Moscow Skyscraper

Protesters have scaled one of Moscow's famed Stalin-era skyscrapers and painted the Soviet star on its spire in the national colors of Ukraine. They also attached a yellow and blue Ukrainian flag to the top of the 176-meter (580-foot) building early Wednesday. Russian authorities were not amused by the prank in support of Ukraine, where government troops are battling pro-Russian separatists. Police said they have detained four suspects and charged them with vandalism, a crime punishable with up to three years in prison. The LifeNews media site posted a video it says shows one of the protesters parachuting off of the building and landing in an inner courtyard. Russian news agencies, citing police, said the four suspects had climbing equipment with them when they were detained.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

More Bolotnaya Activists Jailed in Russia

A Moscow judge has sentenced three Russians to prison over violence at a 2012 protest in Moscow against President Vladimir Putin. The court on August 18 ordered Ilya Gushchin jailed for two and a half years and Alexander Margolin and Alexei Gaskarov to three and a half years each on charges of rioting. A fourth defendant, Yelena Kokhtareva, received a suspended sentence. The four were the latest in a series of Russian activists tried over violence at a protest on the eve of Putin's May 2012 inauguration. Prominent opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov was sentenced in July to four and a half years. Kremlin opponents say the trials in the "Bolotnaya Case" are part of a campaign to stifle dissent. They contend that protesters were provoked and that the state's claims of violence are exaggerated.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Rosneft Asks State for $40 Billion

Igor Sechin, the head of Russian oil giant Rosneft, has asked the government to provide the company with 1.5 trillion roubles ($41.6 billion) to help the company weather western sanctions, the Vedomosti newspaper reported on Thursday. Under the plan, the state would spend money from its National Wealth Fund to buy Rosneft bonds, the paper reported, citing government sources. The paper added that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had asked officials to analyse the idea. Rosneft net debt stood exactly at 1.5 trillion roubles at the end of the second quarter. The company needs to repay 440 billion roubles by year-end and another 626 billion roubles next year, according to its latest presentation. Vedomosti said that Sechin had called for the aid as a response to Western sanctions.

'Ashamed for the govt, I resign': Medvedev's Twitter Account Hacked

The Twitter account of the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has been hacked. The hacker used the access to declare PM's intention to resign and pursue a career as a freelance photographer. Medvedev's Russian-language account was hacked at approximately 10:20am Moscow time (06:20 GMT). It took PM's office several minutes to report the breach to the media. The hacker produced a flurry of tweets over the 40 minutes he or she was in control. “I resign. I am ashamed for the actions of the government. I'm sorry,” the first tweet said.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ukraine: Notification principle in the registration of termination of an individual entrepreneur’s activities

On July 7, 2014 the Bill of Ukraine “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine to simplify the state registration procedure for termination of business activities of individual entrepreneurs based on the notification principle” dated 13.05.2014 No.1258-VII was passed into law (hereinafter the Law). The main purpose of the Law is to facilitate the procedures for the termination of business activities of individual entrepreneurs and reduce the term for such termination to 1 day.

The Law amends the Civil and Commercial Code of Ukraine as well as the laws of Ukraine "On State Registration of Legal Entities and Individual Entrepreneurs," "On the collection and accounting of a single fee for obligatory state social insurance," "On restoring the debtor's solvency or declaring it bankrupt," etc.

According to the proposed amendments, termination of an individual entrepreneur’s business activities will be registered immediately upon receipt of the entrepreneur’s appropriate expression of will (in the form of a registration card), without the right of regulatory bodies to block such registration. It should be noted that bankruptcy procedure applies to debts that have arisen in connection with the entrepreneur’s business activities, even if the person has lost its entrepreneur status.

It should be noted that if before the entry into force of the Law an individual entrepreneur applied for termination of her/his business activities but failed to submit the registration card for state registration of the termination, the state registrar shall complete a registration card for state registration of the termination of business activities at the entrepreneur’s own decision no later than 1 month from the date of entry into force of the Law, shall make a record on state registration of termination of the business activities in the Unified State Register and shall issue (mail with a list of enclosures) a notice of that record to the relevant individual.

Ukraine: Failure to appear at workplace in the ATO area due to hazard to life and health

On July 7, 2014 the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Ukraine (hereinafter, the Ministry of Social Policy) published its Letter No.7302/3/14-14/13[1] (hereinafter, the Letter) emphasizing the need to protect the labour rights of employees in connection with their stay in the anti-terrorist operation area (hereinafter, the ATO). Thus, according to the Letter, dismissal of employees who move from the ATO area or remain in that area but cannot go to work because of the hazard to their life and health is unacceptable. The absence of such employees in the workplace is not absenteeism within the meaning of Paragraph 4 Article 40 of the Labour Code of Ukraine, but “absence due to valid reasons,” which is due to the preservation of life and health of such employees and their families. Such employees shall remain employed. At the same time, the Ministry of Social Policy recommends that such employees, at their request, shall be given a paid or unpaid leave, which shall be provided on a mandatory basis in cases stipulated by law, as well as a leave without pay upon the parties’ agreement.

[1] Letter of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of Ukraine "On preserving the jobs of employees moved from the areas of anti-terrorist operation or remaining in such areas" dated 08.07.2014.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Putin Bans Agricultural Imports from EU, US

A one-year ban has been imposed on certain agricultural produce, foods and raw materials from countries that have sanctioned Russia. An order on economic measures to protect the country's security has been signed by President Putin. The decree “on the use of specific economic measures” has been signed in response to sanctions imposed on Russia by a number of states over the Ukrainian crisis, the Kremlin said on its website. While the law comes into force immediately, the government has been tasked to come up with a concrete list of imports to be banned. The decree orders the Cabinet to take measures to provide a balance on product markets and prevent rapid price growth. The government has also to join efforts with manufacturers, businesses and retail store chains to increase the Russian goods supply. Earlier it was announced that Moscow planned to ban all US agricultural products, including poultry, as well as EU fruit and vegetable imports in response to Western sanctions imposed on Russia over the Ukrainian crisis. (video)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Russian Blogger Law Takes Effect

Amendments to the law On Information, Information Technology and Information Protection plus other related laws, informally referred to as the "Law on Bloggers", went into effect on August 1st.  The law requires individuals whose blog attracts a daily readership of more than 3,000 to take on the full responsibilities of mass media outlets which, among other things, will require bloggers to:  register with the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor), confirm the reliability of information posted, act in accordance with election campaign rules, not publish private information about other people, and indicate age limits for users.  Registered bloggers will also be obliged to provide their family name, first name and patronymic on their pages, as well as contact data for filing complaints. Bloggers who fail to comply with these rules will face fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($14,107). Finally, bloggers will have to pay taxes on their advertising income, which is currently not controlled and hence not taxable.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Strasbourg Court Orders Russia to Pay 2 Billion Euro to Yukos Shareholders

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) awarded shareholders in Yukos 1.9 billion euros ($2.6 billion) in compensation after the former oil company argued Russia had unlawfully seized it after imposing bogus taxes and via a sham auction. Just days after some of Yukos's former shareholders won $50 billion in The Hague, the Strasbourg-based court said Russia should also pay 300,000 euros in costs and expenses, plus any tax. An interim ruling by the ECHR in 2011 found that Russia had not misused legal proceedings to destroy Yukos but ruled that enforcement proceedings used against Yukos had been disproportionate.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Russian IP Court to Consider Ruling Denying Trademark Protection to Ford Motor Company

On September 30, Russia's new IP Court will review Rospatent's refusal to grant trademark protection for the well-known Ford Motor Company mark, a blue oval with the scripted name Ford inside. Among other reasons that Rospatent gave for refusing to recognize the mark was Ford's failure to establish that the mark had been consistently used in exactly the same form as represented in the application, noting evidence showed that Ford used different verbal labeling at different times, in different vehicles.  Ford, whose headquarters are in Dearborn, Michigan, remains one of the 20 largest corporations in the US.

Moscow City Court Blocks Pirated Copies of Game of Thrones

Under an anti-piracy law that took effect in Russia on August 1, 2013, the Moscow City Court has blocked 15 sites that distribute the pirated versions of the popular western series including Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and American Horror Story. The ruling was made in favor of A. Serial, the company that holds the exclusive distribution rights to Game of Thrones, and found that the series was distributed on various websites (including,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and without A. Serial's permission.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pussy Riot Wants a €250K Payout From Russia

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are seeking damages in the amount of 250,000 euros ($336,000) in their case against Russia before the European Court of Human Rights, Vedomosti reported Monday. The women are seeking 120,000 euros in moral damages each, and an additional 10,000 euros between the two to cover legal fees, according to the report. Tolokonnikova and Alyohkina were hit with two-year prison terms in August 2012 for their "punk prayer" performance in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral earlier that year. They were sentenced alongside a third member of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, who was released last October after a court transferred her prison term to a suspended sentence. Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were granted amnesty and released in December.

Hague Court Orders Russia to Pay $50 Billion in Yukos Case

The Hague's arbitration court ruled on Monday that Russia must pay a group of shareholders in oil giant Yukos $50.02 billion for expropriating its assets, a big hit for a country teetering on the brink of recession. The arbitration panel in the Netherlands said it had awarded shareholders in the GML group just under half of their $114 billion claim, going some way to covering the money they lost when the Kremlin seized Yukos, once controlled by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a decade ago. "The award is a slam dunk. It is for $50 billion, and that cannot be disputed," said Tim Osborne, director of GML. "It's now a question of enforcing it." Russia's Finance Ministry called the ruling "flawed", "one-sided" and "politically biased" and said it would appeal the decision. It comes as Russia and the West are in their biggest stand-off since the Cold War over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

FAS Proposes That Monopolists Pay Damages To Consumers

At a recent expert discussion on of implementation of the FAS Action Plan for “Developing Competition Improving the Antimonopoly Policy” Head of the Legal Department of the FAS, Sergey Puzyrevskiy, proposed that if a monopolist caused damage, it should be liable to consumers. Representatives of the Ministry of Justice, “Skolkovo” Fund, Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, “Business Russia”, members of Non-Profit Partnership for Developing Competition and Corporate Counsels Association, practicing lawyers, etc., took part in discussion.  According to Puzyrevskiy, “[FAS] are proposing an alternative method to compensate damages to consumers injured by violations of the antimonopoly law that can be in the form of compensation from 1 - 15 % of the value of the purchased goods.” Concluding the meeting, Puzyrevskiy emphasized the importance of discussing the draft Law at the Analytical Centre at the Government of the Russian Federation and asked participants to formulate their proposals and forward them to FAS Russia.

Russian IP Court Upholds Alibaba Trademark Against Cybersquatter

The Russian IP court ruled against cybersquatter Holmrook Limited, a company with Russian ties, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.  Chinese internet giant, Alibaba Group, challenged Holmrook's use of the Alibaba trademark in Holmrook's domain registration for  The court's decision comes on the heels of a May decision stopping any legal protection for Holmrook's use of the "alibaba" trademark in connection with printed publications and bank cards.  Holmrook has previously lost several disputes related to the use of foreign trademarks in domain names, including those involving Swiss watch makers Longines and Tissot.  Alibaba Group remains on track to become the second largest internet company in the world, after Google, with the announcement of an initial public offering on the United States stock exchange expected to reach approximately $200 in market capitalization.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ousted Kyrgyz President Bakiev Sentenced To Life

Former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev has been sentenced to life in prison in absentia for involvement in the 2010 killing of protesters during the uprising that ousted him. The Bishkek Military Court also sentenced Bakiev's brother, Janysh Bakiev, who was the head of the presidential guard, and former Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov to life in prison in absentia on July 25. Another 25 defendants in the case, including several of Bakiev's relatives and associates, were sentenced to prison terms ranging between six and 25 years. The defendants were found guilty of either having fired upon or given the command to open fire on protesters in Bishkek during antigovernment protests in April 2010 that led to Bakiev's ouster. Nearly 100 people were killed and some 400 wounded in the clashes in central Bishkek. The trial started in 2011. Bakiev is living in Belarus with several family members.

Russia Jails Two Opposition Activists

A Russian court on Thursday jailed a radical opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov to four and a half years for organising "mass riots" ahead of Vladimir Putin's inauguration as president in 2012. Judge Alexander Zamashnyuk sentenced both Udaltsov and his political ally Leonid Razvozzhayev to four and a half years in a corrective labour camp for organising a rally against Putin and plotting further unrest. The judge said the men had organised "mass riots accompanied by violence against the authorities and damage to property." Udaltsov, the shaven leader of a banned radical leftist group, rose to prominence as part of the protest movement against Putin's return to the Kremlin for a third term. He responded to the verdict by declaring a hunger strike, his lawyer said after the verdict.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk Resigns

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced his resignation Thursday, opening the way for new elections that would reflect the country's starkly changed political scene after the ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February. Yatsenyuk, a supporter of closer ties with Europe and a key participant in the protests that toppled Yanukovych, made the announcement from the dais of Parliament after two parties said they would pull out of the governing coalition. He said Parliament could no longer do its work and pass necessary laws. President Petro Poroshenko, elected to replace Yanukovych May 25, earlier praised the withdrawal of the two parties. He said that "all opinion polls, and direct conversations with people, show that society wants a complete rebooting of the government." Poroshenko's calls for political renewal suggests the resignation and new elections are the result of planning and political maneuvering, not chaos.

Criminal liability for discriminating the disabled

On June 18, 2014 the Parliament of Ukraine passed the Bill of Ukraine "On amendments to some legislative acts on protecting the rights of disabled persons" (Bill No.3640) into law (hereinafter the Law).

The Law amends Article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which provides for criminal liability in case of discrimination (direct or indirect restriction of rights or establishing direct or indirect privileges for individuals) on the basis of disability. 

New grounds for applying measures under criminal law against legal entities

On June 4, 2014 the Law of Ukraine "On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine in the field of state anticorruption policy due to the implementation of the EU Visa Regime Liberalization Action Plan for Ukraine" No.1261-VII (hereinafter the Law) came into effect. 

The Law expands the grounds for applying measures under criminal law to legal entities. Thus, according to the previous wording of Article 96-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine grounds for the application of such measures could be a number of offenses committed "on behalf of a legal entity", if such offenses were "aimed at obtaining" "undue advantage or create the conditions for obtaining such advantage" for that legal entity, which indicated the need to establish a direct intent to achieve a criminal result.  The new wording of this provision establishes that the mentioned offenses shall also be deemed committed in favour of a legal entity, if they "resulted in obtaining undue advantage" by a legal entity or created conditions for obtaining such advantage", i.e. regardless of the focused intent of that legal entity’s authorized person.
Also, the adopted Law sets forth an additional ground for applying measures under criminal law to legal entities. Now such measures can be applied not only for authorized person s’ offenses committed on behalf of and in the interests of a legal entity, but also for "failing to ensure the performance of duties to prevent corruption imposed on the authorized person by law or constituent documents of a legal entity", if it led to any offense provided for in Articles 209, 306 or to offenses provided for by separate parts of Articles 368-3, 368-4, 369 and 369-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine and related to the undue advantage obtained. 

It should be noted that the adopted Law fails to disclose the content of "duties to prevent corruption." At the same time, the new Article 14-1 added to the existing Law of Ukraine "On Principles of Prevention and Combating Corruption " obliges legal entities to ensure the "development and application of measures to prevent corruption, which are necessary and reasonable for preventing corruption in the activities of a legal entity and for encouraging employees to act in accordance with the laws and regulations and under rules and procedures established by the company to identify and prevent corruption in its activities."

Also, the Law has changed the amount of fine as a measure under criminal law, which may be applied to a legal entity: earlier, the court could impose a fine in the amount of UAH 85 thousand to 1,275 thousand, now the mentioned amount may only be applied, if undue advantage was not obtained or if its amount may not be estimated. In all other cases a fine in the double amount of obtained undue advantage shall be applied.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

eBay Still Sees Russia as Top Priority

Despite recent legislation aimed at e-sales, and the possibility of further sanctions against Russia, online marketplace eBay still sees Russia as its top priority in emerging markets. "We said three years ago that the Russian marketplace is eBay's top priority in emerging markets. It was true then and it is true now," eBay deputy head Wendy Jones told a news conference dedicated to the signing of a memorandum with Russian Post, Reuters reported.  Earlier this year, Putin signed a law obliging international payment systems such as Visa and MasterCard to pay a massive security deposit in order to continue operations in Russia. Another bill signed into law yesterday will allow them to evade paying the deposit if they find a Russian partner to take over their operations by Oct. 31. Jones's words and the memorandum signed Wednesday show that eBay is in no hurry to exit the burgeoning Russian e-commerce market, which is growing at an average yearly rate of 30 percent. eBay began to service the Russian market in 2010 and launched its Russian headquarters in summer 2012. By the end of December 2013, the company was receiving about 90,000 orders a day from Russian customers, Interfax reported.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2013 Annual Report on Russian Competition Law Released

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) recently released its 2013 Annual Report, highlighting changes in competition law, enforcement and the role of the FAS in working with business and other government agencies.  The report highlights changes to Russia's competition laws, which included legislation aimed at, among other things, eliminating post-merger notification, management of administrative fines, the role of the Bank of Russia in overseeing financial markets, and updating customs laws.  Proposed legislation addresses such issues as transactions involving natural monopolies, vertical arrangements, the establishment of an FAS Presidium, and elimination of barriers for foreign investment.  Under the enforcement section, the report indicates that FAS initiated 10,028 cases in which 9,597 antimonopoly violations were exposed (a slight increase over the prior year).  In addition, FAS levied fines of approximately $261M, down from approximately $370 in fines imposed the prior year.

Google Fined For Violating Russian Advertising Laws

Russia's Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) has fined search engine Google 200,000 rubles ($6,000) for violating Russian advertising laws.  Last month, FAS accused Google of advertising several types of medication without providing the legally necessary health warnings and instructions on how they should be taken.  FAS ordered Google to stop advertising the pharmaceuticals in question — flu prevention or relief formulas Kagotsel, Immunal, Immunal Plus C and Genferon Light Spray — while the case was being put together.  While last year FAS levied fines for advertising infringements totaling 153 million rubles ($4.4 million), it is unclear whether relatively low individual fines (such as the $6,000 fine just levied against Google) will have a deterrent effect going forward.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

U.N. Security Council Unanimously Approves Probe of Crash in Ukraine

The United Nations Security Council, increasing pressure on Russia over the downing of a jetliner of Ukraine, adopted a resolution Monday calling for investigators to have unfettered access to the crash site and demanding a cease-fire in the area. Russia, which has been accused by other nations of involvement in Thursday’s shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, joined other Security Council members in the 15-0 vote. As a permanent member of the Security Council, it had the power to veto the resolution. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said a resolution would not have been necessary if Moscow had used its influence over pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine to permit access to the scene, where bodies and debris were strewn for miles. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, said his nation “stands ready to provide any assistance necessary.” But Churkin quickly resumed attacks on Ukraine, accusing it of drawing on the “shock” of the jet’s downing to step up its own attacks along the border against the separatists, who are seeking independence and possible union with Russia. (video)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

U.N. Security Council Mulls Resolution on Ukraine Crash Site Access

The U.N. Security Council is considering a draft resolution to condemn the "shooting down" of a Malaysian passenger plane in Ukraine, demand armed groups allow access to the crash site, and call on states in the region to cooperate with an international investigation. Australia - which lost 28 citizens - circulated a draft text, seen by Reuters, to the 15-member Security Council late on Saturday and diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it could be put to a vote as early as Monday. The draft resolution "demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability." It "condemns in the strongest terms the shooting down [of] Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 ... resulting in the tragic loss of 298 lives" and "demands that all states and other actors in the region refrain from acts of violence directed against civilian aircraft." The United States and other powers have said the plane was likely brought down on Thursday by a surface-to-air missile fired from rebel territory. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said on Friday that Washington could not rule out Russian help in firing the missile. Moscow denies involvement and has pointed a finger at Kiev's military.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Malaysian Flight Shot Down Over Ukraine

A Ukrainian official said a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday over a town in the east of the country, and Malaysian Airlines tweeted that it lost contact with one of its flights over Ukrainian airspace. Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, said on his Facebook page that the plane was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet. He also said it was hit by a missile fired from a Buk launcher, which can fire missiles up to an altitude of 72,000 feet. As plumes of black smoke rose up near a rebel-held village of Grabovo in eastern Ukraine, an Associated Press journalist counted at least 22 bodies at the crash site. The plane appeared to have broken up before impact and the burning wreckage - including body parts and the belongings of passengers - was scattered over a wide area. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called the downing an act of terrorism and called for an international investigation into the crash. The government of Ukraine said in a statement Thursday afternoon that it has evidence that the Russian military was involved in the crash. "The plane was shot down, because the Russian air defense systems was affording protection to Russian mercenaries and terrorists in this area," the statement said. Ukraine pro-Russia rebels said they didn't shoot down the airliner and blamed Ukrainian armed forces.

Russia Calls US Sanctions ‘Blackmail’

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the latest round of U.S. sanctions on Russia will stall bilateral relations and hurt U.S. businesses as well as Russian ones. Putin made his televised comments during a visit to Brazil, just hours after President Barack Obama announced new sanctions on Russian banks and energy companies based on Moscow's support of the pro-Russian separatist rebellion in Ukraine.
"[Sanctions] have a boomerang effect and without any doubt they will push U.S.-Russian relations into a dead end, and cause very serious damage, and I am sure that this also damages national long-term strategic interests of the U.S. government and the U.S. people,” said Putin. Separately, Russia's foreign ministry said Thursday that Russia will not tolerate "blackmail" from the United States and reserves the right to take retaliatory measures. It accused the European Union of submitting to pressure from the U.S. to impose sanctions as well. Obama, speaking Wednesday at the White House, said he has repeatedly urged Moscow to take key steps to ease the crisis, and that Russia so far has failed to meet any of the U.S. recommendations.

Russian Stock Market Hit by Sanctions

The United States imposed its toughest sanctions yet on Moscow on Wednesday, and Russian stocks and the rouble tumbled on Thursday. The rouble-traded MICEX stock market dropped 2.5 percent in early deals, its dollar-traded cousin, the RTS index , fell 3.2 percent, and the rouble dropped as much as 1 percent against the dollar. "From the West's perspective they could not have chosen a better time to intensify sanctions," said Societe Generale strategist Regis Chatellier. "Until a few weeks back, Russia was in a position of relative strength because there was massive pressure on oil but that is not the case any more." The new U.S. sanctions effectively shut off medium and longer-term dollar funding for companies close to Vladimir Putin. The EU also expanded its punishments for certain firms and said it would ask two of its development banks to halt their lending in Russia.

US, EU Boost Sanctions on Russia

The US and EU have bolstered sanctions against Russia over its alleged support for separatists fighting in Ukraine. The US has targeted major banks including Gazprombank, defense firms, and energy companies including Rosneft. Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying sanctions would take US-Russia relations to a "dead end". The EU said it would announce details of its sanctions by the end of July, but added that its investment banks would no longer fund Russian projects.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

At Least 20 Killed in Moscow Metro Сrash

At least 20 people were killed and more than 150 injured when a Moscow Metro train derailed during rush hour. Several carriages left the track on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line, also known as Line Three, on Tuesday morning, and the rescue operation has so far lasted more than seven hours. Emergency officials said 50 of more than 150 passengers injured are in a serious condition in hospital. The accident on Tuesday was the worst loss of life in the Moscow Metro since twin suicide bombings in 2010, carried out by female terrorists from the region of Dagestan, that killed 39 people during morning rush hour.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ukraine: Plane Downed by Missile Probably Fired From Russia

Ukraine said a powerful rocket probably fired from Russian territory downed a Ukrainian military cargo plane close to the border in a region where fighting with pro-Russia rebels has intensified. The allegation came a day after Moscow accused Ukrainian forces of hitting a Russian house on its side of the border with artillery fire, killing a Russian civilian. Russia's Foreign Ministry warned of "irreversible consequences" for the Ukrainian government in Kiev, which has denied involvement. The exchange of accusations illustrates heightened tension between Moscow and Kiev as the conflict in Ukraine's east grows increasingly bloody. After a lull, fighting has intensified in recent days between separatists and Ukrainian forces, who have been facing off since the spring. Representatives from Russia, Ukraine and Europe are trying to arrange a new round of cease-fire talks with the separatist leaders, as the Europeans weigh further sanctions against Russia.