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1282Bulletin 6:30 (2012)

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  • Andreas Umland
    Dec 14, 2012
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      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 6, No. 30(186), 14 December 2012
      Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane Oezkan & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 16 - 30 November 2012

      [NOTE: When viewing an RNB issue in the Messages archive of the homepage and the end of the text is truncated, scroll to the end of the message and click "Expand Messages." Only then, the whole text of the - otherwise truncated - issue will appear. When quoting from an article found here, please, mention the RNB, as the source. Thank you!]

      I NEWS: 16 - 30 November 2012

      Russia Urges Israelis, Palestinians to Show Restraint
      RIA Novosti, November 16, 2012

      MOSCOW, November 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday called on Israelis and Palestinians to show restraint, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.
      In a phone conversation with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman, Lavrov "called on the sides involved [in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] to show restraint and not follow the path of escalating violence that often results in the death of innocent civilians."
      Israel launched its attack on the Palestinian enclave of 1.7 million on Wednesday, with an airstrike that killed the head of the military wing of the Hamas militant group, Ahmed al-Jabari. The airstrike came after a reported surge in rocket attacks on Israeli border towns from Gaza, which has been governed by Hamas since 2007. Over 20 Palestinians and three Israelis have been reported killed since the start of the operation.


      Pussy Riot singer had staged anti-Semitic action, Putin tells Merkel
      Interfax, November 16, 2012

      Moscow - President Vladimir Putin said that a singer of the Pussy Riot punk group had staged an anti-Semitic provocation before the punk group's scandalous performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral.
      "We do hear what our partners say. But do they hear what is going on being so far away? Mrs. Merkel spoke about the women jailed for their performance at a church. Does Mrs. Merkel know that one of them had hanged a dummy of a Jew and said that Moscow should be rid of such people?" Putin said at the Petersburg Dialogue forum.
      "Neither we, nor you can support people who assume anti-Semitic positions," he said.
      Putin also said that it was a public action at a major Moscow shopping center. "Problems should be viewed from all angles. Discussions are organized for this purpose," he said.
      The German chancellor had said that she doubted the punk singers would have been given the same punishment in Germany.
      "I don't know whether the two women should have been sent to a prison. I don't know whether the same would have happened to them in Germany," she said.


      Russian human rights activists boycott Law on Foreign Agents
      Johnson's Russia List, November 19, 2012 (Interfax)

      Leading Russian NGOs intend to ignore the legislative amendments which require the registration as "agents of foreign influence" of non-governmental organizations with Western backing.
      The law will enter into force on Nov. 20, Tuesday.
      "I do not know a single human rights organization, which has appealed for being registered as a "foreign agent," said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of Russia's oldest human rights organization Moscow Helsinki Group. "We are not "foreign agents". We cannot call ourselves so. The law demands that we must do that, but we will not supply false information."
      "A court may rule that we are a "foreign agent", that the Moscow Helsinki Group receives money from abroad, that it is engaged in politics and influences pubic opinion. We are not going to waive our influence on public opinion, because this is what we have been doing since the moment of our establishment 36 years ago," Alexeyeva said.
      "We may stop accepting foreign funding and try to find sponsors in the home country. But we will do that only if we pass through the entire procedure and a court binds us to do so. Then, we will reject foreign grants but we will file cassation appeals and will apply to the Strasbourg Court," she said.
      Golos Association head Lilia Shibanova also told Interfax on Monday that her organization was not going to be registered as a "foreign agent" but was prepared to stand up for its position in court. "Our opinion has not changed," she said.
      "If demands are made to include Memorial in the list of "foreign agents", we will resist these demands, primarily in court. We are a human rights organization and we will do everything to protect the right with law," the board of the Memorial historical, educational and human rights society said earlier.
      Meanwhile, United Russia called sabotage the refusal of certain NGOs to abide by the Law on Foreign Agents and warned them about sanctions.


      Convicted Pussy Riot musicians change their lawyers (updated)
      Interfax, November 19, 2012

      Moscow - Lawyers of the convicted Pussy Riot punk musicians have stopped representing their interests.
      "Due to the huge public reaction and pressure put on our clients Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, we have decided to quit," Alyokhina's lawyer Nikolay Polozov told Interfax.
      In his words, the girls had reached an agreement with their new defense.
      Polozov said that Tolokonnikova's lawyer Mark Feigin and he had agreed with their clients that it would be expedient to replace lawyers if the clients experienced pressure in their penitentiaries.
      "We were denied a meeting with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova at the penitentiary in Mordovia today under the pretext we had no warrant to defend her. We viewed that as a sign of pressure being put on Nadya and decided it was time to implement our agreement," Polozov said.
      He said that lawyer Olga Romanova, an acclaimed journalist and the wife of convicted businessman Alexey Kozlov, would represent Alyokhina.
      "The name of Tolokonnikova's lawyer is still unknown, but we are aware that her husband Pyotr Verzilov is actively working on that," Polozov said.
      He did not rule out that Feigin and he might rejoin the case some time later.
      Feigin confirmed that several lawyers from the Pussy Riot case quit in his microblog.
      "We have just been denied a meeting with Nadezhda [Tolokonnikova] at the 14th penitentiary. Under our agreement, we - Volkova, Polozov and Feigin - quit the Pussy Riot case," Feigin said.
      He noted they were acting by their plan.
      "We cannot endanger Nadya and Masha (Alyokhina) any longer. We quit," he said.


      Russian-Kyrgyz Pact On Citizenship Annulled
      By RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service
      RFE/RL, November 20, 2012

      BISHKEK -- A special Russian-Kyrgyz agreement on a simplified procedure for obtaining Russian citizenship by Kyrgyz nationals has been annulled.
      Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry spokesman Nurjigit Kadyrbekov told journalists that Russia's Federal Migration Service had revoked the agreement on November 9.
      Under the agreement, signed in 1996, Kyrgyzstan nationals had been eligible to obtain Russian citizenship three months after obtaining a long-term visa, bypassing the need for a five-year residence permit.
      The head of Russia's Federal Migration Service, Konstantin Romodanovsky, said earlier this year that the procedure for rescinding the agreement had been started.
      Hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz labor migrants have obtained Russian citizenship in the last several years.
      With reporting by paruskg.info and 24kg.org


      Pussy Riot Lawyers Quit Rockers' Case
      Natalya Krainova
      The Moscow Times, Issue 5017, November 20, 2012

      The lawyers for two jailed members of punk band Pussy Riot announced Monday that they would no longer be representing the women, saying they believed that their continued participation in the case could have negative consequences for their former defendants.
      Nikolai Polozov, one of the three lawyers, said they were passing their clients - Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova - to lawyer Irina Khrunova, who already represents a third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich.
      The lawyers, who also included Mark Feigin and Violetta Volkova, had received evidence that prison officials and inmates were putting psychological pressure on their clients, Polozov said by phone. The lawyers were also not allowed to see Tolokonnikova at the 14th women's prison colony in the Mordovia republic on Monday.
      Polozov said they had decided the publicity they had helped produce around the case had "irritated" authorities and that they had agreed with their clients to remove themselves from the case if the convicted punk rockers were pressured.
      "They put pressure on her [Tolokonnikova] and we are leaving the case in her interests," Polozov wrote on Twitter.
      Feigin said the outgoing lawyers hope Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina could be granted early release in late April after the change in legal representation.
      "There is no irritating factor [for the authorities] that can prevent the law from being implemented," Feigin said by phone.
      The Pussy Riot case has become an international public relations headache for the Kremlin as the rockers have garnered support from pop stars including Madonna and former Beatles member Paul McCartney as well as from Western governments and human rights groups.
      The trio of Pussy Riot members was convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in mid-August and sentenced to two years in prison each for performing an anti-Kremlin song in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in February.
      The latest demonstration of Pussy Riot case's prominence in foreign affairs came on Friday, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested during a panel discussion with President Vladimir Putin that the sentences given to the women were too harsh.
      Feigin gathered support for the women around the world, helping to organize public rallies in support of them, the latest of which took place on Oct. 1.
      The three lawyers have also become closely associated with the anti-Kremlin protest movement that emerged in December after disputed parliamentary elections.
      Feigin is a senior member of the liberal opposition movement Solidarity, co-led by Boris Nemtsov, Garry Kasparov, Lev Ponomaryov and Ilya Yashin, among others, while Volkova defends leftist opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov.
      Group member Samutsevich was earlier represented by Volkova but fired her earlier this year in favor of Khrunova, the other women's new lawyer, who convinced an appellate court to release Samutsevich on a suspended sentence in early October.
      With Khrunova as her lawyer, Samutsevich changed her plea to guilty while insisting that she had not participated in the performance in Christ the Savior to the same degree that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina had. Khrunova successfully argued that this meant Samutsevich deserved a lighter sentence.


      Most Russians see Patriarch Kirill as national spiritual leader - poll
      Interfax-Religion, November 20, 2012

      Moscow, November 20, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is known to most Russians, and 62% of citizens polled recently know his name, the VTsIOM pollster told Interfax.
      Most respondents best informed about the Russian Patriarch are pensioners or citizens of pre-pension age (respectively 72% and 71%), and also citizens with a higher education (64%) and residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg (75%).
      More than a third of those surveyed (35%) do not know the Russian Patriarch's name and most of them are young citizens (52%), or residents of large cities, according to a poll conducted in 138 populated areas in 46 of Russia's regions, territories and republics.
      Forty-five percent of those polled said the Russian Patriarch is the nation's spiritual teacher and mentor, and 37% see him only as leader of a religious confession. Only 9% of those surveyed said he is a statesman and a member of the country's leadership.
      Women mostly see the Russian patriarch as the nation's spiritual teacher (48%), as well as respondents that have no university education (44%-46%). The Russian Patriarch is mostly viewed as leader of a religious confession by men (40%), citizens with a higher education (41%) and residents of Moscow and St. Petersburg (49%).
      Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is celebrating his 66th birthday on November 20. He was elected to this post by the Russian Orthodox Church's Local Council on January 29 2009.


      Russia Seeks Closer Military Ties With China
      Johnson's Russia List, November 21, 2012

      BEIJING, November 21 (RIA Novosti) Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday indicated Russia's continuing interest in cooperation with China on defence sector issues.
      Shoigu told top Chinese officials during a visit to Beijing for the 17th Sino-Russian Intergovernmental Commission on Military and Technological Cooperation that joint work between the two powers would enhance stability across the region.
      "The closer the cooperation is between our two countries, including in the military-technological area, the more peaceful our region will be," he said.
      This was Shoigu's first official foreign trip since replacing Anatoly Serdyukov as defense minister earlier this month.
      Senior Chinese military officials in turn indicated their support for closer cooperation with Moscow.
      "We see our relationship with Russia as a priority in the field of international military cooperation," said Xu Qiliang, deputy head of the Communist Party of China's Central Military Commission.
      He added that Beijing wishes to "bring the relationship to a higher level."
      As China's economy and influence have continued to grow, the country has become increasingly attractive to Moscow as a regional partner. The two powers already have alligned interests in foreign policy - from batting down Western criticism of human rights abuses to their joint stance against foreign intervention in the Syrian civil war.


      Russian Human Rights NGO Offices Vandalized
      Dan Peleschuk
      RIA Novosti, November 21, 2012

      MOSCOW - The Moscow headquarters of two influential human rights groups were vandalized on Wednesday, the first day a controversial new law on non-governmental organizations (NGO) took effect.
      The entrances to the offices of Memorial and For Human Rights, two prominent civil rights groups headed by veteran activists, were spray-painted with the words "Foreign Agent," along with a heart shape next to "USA," according to photos posted on Memorial's Facebook page.
      A law that took effect on Wednesday requires Russian NGOs working in the political sphere and which receive financing from abroad to register as "foreign agents." Critics have slammed the move as part of a wider Kremlin crackdown on dissent.
      Lev Ponomaryov, head of For Human Rights, discovered the graffiti when he came to work on Wednesday morning, he told RIA Novosti.
      He could not identify the culprits, he said.
      "Another question is whether it was a team, or whether there was some kind of order from above," Ponomaryov said.
      Both Ponomaryov and other leading Russian activists have openly refused to register as foreign agents, despite receiving considerable financial support from the United States and other countries.
      Meanwhile, pro-Kremlin group Young Guard, the ruling United Russia party's youth wing, staged a protest on Wednesday morning outside the Moscow office of the US Russia Foundation (USRF), a donor fund that supports legal reform and institutional development in Russia.
      The group plastered the office with a large sticker reading "Foreign Agent" and protested what they alleged in a press release were ties between the fund and the US State Department.
      Maxim Rudnev, a senior Young Guard official, sought on Wednesday to hit back at criticism of the recent measures against Russian NGOs, commenting on Twitter that only those which were politically involved are targets.
      "Only NGOs in the political sphere fall under the law on 'foreign agents,'" he said. "NGOs in other spheres are not included."
      The implementation of the NGO law follows another piece of controversial legislation, signed into law last week by President Vladimir Putin, which broadens the definition of treason.
      While lawmakers argue that the law is meant to strengthen state security, critics claim the move is an attempt to further stifle civil society. The bill targets those who offer consultation or financial services to individuals and organizations engaged in "activities directed against the security of Russia."
      Memorial board member Alexander Cherkasov told RIA Novosti earlier this month that the law is aimed at painting pro-democracy and human rights advocates as enemies of the state.
      "We are not traitors to our country, but exactly the opposite," he said. "We're restoring its good name."


      NGOs face 'foreign agent' harassment
      Nikolaus von Twickel
      The Moscow News, November 21, Issue 5019

      On the day that a much-criticized "foreign agent" law came into force, at least four nongovernmental organizations that spearheaded the opposition against it were harassed with graffiti and pickets Wednesday.
      The Memorial civil rights group and the For Human Rights organization said they found "Foreign Agent" and a heart symbol followed by "USA" sprayed in white paint outside their offices Wednesday morning.
      Also on Wednesday, the Young Russia pro-Kremlin youth movement held a picket outside the offices of the Russian branch of Transparency International. Activists handed out a leaflet in which they demanded that the anti-corruption watchdog "come out of the shadows" and officially register as a foreign agent, Transparency representative Gleb Gavrish said.
      The picket included some 60 activists wearing sunglasses and carrying flashlights under the motto "night watch," according to an entry on Young Russia's Vkontakte page.
      The same day, Young Guard, the ruling United Russia party's youth wing, staged a protest outside the U.S. Russia Foundation, which supports legal reform, RIA-Novosti reported.
      The NGOs have said they would boycott the law, which obliges them to register as "foreign agents" if they use any foreign grants for political activities, because they deem it unconstitutional and insulting.
      Memorial said in a blog post that its position remained unchanged and that the graffiti was a "conscious insult" to the millions of gulag victims. The organization is devoted to recording and publicizing Soviet crimes against humanity.
      For Human Rights director Lev Ponomaryov said he discovered similar graffiti on his office door, a photo of which spread around social networks Wednesday. He told The Moscow Times that he had notified the police.
      The new law stipulates that nongovernmental organizations affected by the law must register online with the Justice Ministry. However, the corresponding section of the ministry's website was inactive as of late Wednesday. Reached by telephone, a ministry spokeswoman could not say when the registry would appear.
      Daria Miloslavskaya, a Public Chamber member and NGO law expert, said she expected the registration to become possible only within a few days. She added that she had not heard of any organization that would register voluntarily.
      Miloslavskaya said that while the ministry could investigate organizations' compliance with the law, that would probably not happen before late December or January.
      But she said the legal situation remained murky as long as there was no clear definition of political activity. "The only definition seems to be a lack of definition," she said, explaining that this could lead to the law being implemented arbitrarily.
      The Agora human rights organization said Wednesday that it was suing the ministry for failing to explain the law since it was published four months ago.
      "They have not given a single explanation since July 23," Agora lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliyev told Interfax. Many NGOs, including business lobby groups, have expressed fear that they will be affected by the law because lobbying can be interpreted as political activity.
      Meanwhile, the presidential human rights council said a working group devoted to the case of deceased lawyer Sergei Magnitsky would continue to work under the council's new format. The working group would also look at other "decisive cases," Council chairman Mikhail Fedotov said Wednesday, Interfax reported.
      Magnitsky died in pretrial detention in 2009 after being arrested on suspicion of fraud. His supporters say the charges were fabricated because the lawyer had investigated a multimillion-dollar tax fraud scheme.


      Missing Passport Sparks Row
      The St. Petersburg Times, Issue 1736, November 21, 2012

      MOSCOW - A member of female punk band Pussy Riot may ask for her former lawyers to be stripped of their legal status, a news report said Tuesday.
      The news came a day after the band's lawyers terminated their contract with the musicians, saying the publicity they had attracted to the case could harm their defendants.
      Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, may petition a legal council to strip the lawyers of their licenses because one of them, Violetta Volkova, whom she fired in early October, has failed to return her passport, the keys to her apartment and the response to the band's complaint to the European Council of Human Rights, Samutsevich's new lawyer Sergei Badamshin told Kommersant.
      Mark Feigin, another of the three former lawyers for the band, called Samutsevich's move "a defamation campaign" against them "organized by the authorities" and said that the lawyers would hold a news conference in the next few days.
      Kommersant claimed to have obtained an official letter written by Samutsevich and dated Nov. 11 to Volkova, Feigin and Nikolai Polozov, the third lawyer, asking them to return her belongings before Nov. 19, which they failed to do, Badamshin said.
      Samutsevich told Dozhd television late Monday that she last saw her passport in Volkova's hands on March 16, when a city court sanctioned her arrest.
      Sometime after that, the lawyers separately told Samutsevich and her father that they didn't know where her passport was, and the woman had to submit a request to the police to make her a new passport because she had lost the old one, the musician told Dozhd.
      The request to disqualify the lawyers would be "an extreme measure, which we wouldn't like to be driven to," Badamshin said, according to Kommersant.
      Samutsevich was released from custody in early October after she fired Volkova and pleaded partially guilty to the charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred over a February performance at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral that denounced President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill.
      The court replaced the two-year prison term for Samutsevich with a suspended sentence while the two other performers - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, who pleaded not guilty to the charges - were convicted and started serving similar terms in late October.
      On Monday, the band's lawyers said they were terminating their contracts with Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who will be represented by Irina Khrunova, the lawyer who successfully argued for Samutsevich's release.


      Moscow officials call for fingerprinting all foreigners
      Alina Lobzina
      The Moscow News, November 22, 2012

      Moscow officials are planning to collect fingerprints from all foreigners arriving to the city to be entered into a special data base they plan to create, the capital's security chief said on Wednesday.
      The new rules are to apply to all non-Russian citizens, Alexei Mayorov, Moscow's regional security department head added, RIA Novosti reported.
      Companies that hire foreign employees are also to go through a thorough check, as well as clinics that issue health certificates for work permits, hotels and dormitories.
      "Now we are going to issue quotas for labor workers only for those organizations that really need them," Mayorov said. He, however, acknowledged that the need for a foreign work force is still persistent.
      The Federal Migration Service has teamed up with the city's government for the project, Mayorov added, RIA Novosti reported.
      He didn't elaborate on whether the new rules for Moscow would require further changes in federal legislation.
      Previous attempt to change Russia's migration laws raised concerns with Moscow's business community and were scrapped shortly after. And introducing new rules solely for Moscow proved impossible under federal law.
      "Moscow like any other constituent entity of the Russian Federation has no right to determine its migration policy. But as a constituent entity, Moscow is responsible for everything which happens on its territory, it can contribute suggestions, including those about legislation, but whether they will be considered is a big question," Yevgeny Chernetsov, deputy chairman at Moscow's committee for interregional relations and ethnic policy, told Vremya.ru, back in 2010.


      Svetlana Gannushkina: Russia is not Ready to Introduce a Russian Language Exam for Immigrants
      HRO.org, 22 November 2012

      Russia's infrastructure is not at all ready to bring in an exam testing immigrants' knowledge of the Russian Language, according to Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the Civic Assistance Committee . She made this declaration during a round table discussion which took place on the 6th November in the conference hall of International Memorial Society, according to Russian news agency Rosbalt. The expert fears that if the proper preparations for the introduction of these examinations are not made, the government initiative could turn into another corrupt scheme relating to immigration.,,"Foreign workers' Russian language examination certificates could join the list of documents, such as hygiene certificates for premises, that you can pick up in a subway," the chair of Civic Assistance Committee warned.,,Furthermore, it is almost impossible to stop corrupt processes once they have started, according to Gannushkina. "It would be like asking people who have got used to eating caviar sandwiches to give them up. If we rush into bringing in these examinations and create a breeding ground for corruption, stopping it will be difficult. Any attempts will only lead to an increase in the amounts of money demanded by corrupt officials," she said.,,Moreover, experts believe that it is illogical that the requirement to take the examination is not based on a person's profession, but rather on the economic sector in which they are working.,,Under the category of 'housing utilities', for example, are not only plumbers, for example, but also road sweepers, who hardly need any knowledge of the Russian language to carry out their work, participants of the discussion noted.,,On 31 October the Federation Council approved a bill according to which foreign immigrants working in trade, service industries or housing utilities must pass a Russian language examination.


      Russia Reiterates Concern Over NATO Missiles in Turkey
      RIA Novosti, November 23, 2012

      MOSCOW, November 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated on Friday Moscow's concern over the possible deployment of US Patriot air defense systems in Turkey.
      Turkey, a NATO member, has requested the deployment of Patriot missiles on its territory, saying the missile system is necessary to protect its 900-km border with conflict-torn Syria.
      "Sergei Lavrov has reiterated Russia's concern over [NATO] plans to boost its military capability in the region, and reaffirmed the need for direct dialogue between Ankara and Damascus in order to avoid incidents," the Russian Foreign Ministry said following a phone conversation between Lavrov and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
      Rasmussen, who earlier stated that the deployment of Patriot missiles would "contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO's south-eastern border," reassured Lavrov that the missiles would be placed for defensive purposes only.
      US Patriot surface-to-air missiles were last deployed to Turkey in 1991 and 2003, during the two Gulf Wars, to protect the country from Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles.
      Turkey has opened fire several times in recent weeks across its border with Syria in retaliation for Syrian shelling, which killed five Turkish civilians in October. It has also provided shelter to refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and has been one of President Bashar al-Assad's harshest critics during the almost 17-month revolt against his rule.
      Tensions between Turkey and Syria flared dangerously this summer after Damascus shot down a Turkish fighter that had violated its airspace. Turkey threatened retaliation if there was any repeat of the incident, although it admitted the plane had mistakenly strayed slightly into Syria.


      Russian State Duma passes bill on extremist & Nazi symbols
      ITAR-TASS, November 23, 2012

      MOSCOW - The Russian State Duma on Friday passed a bill on stricter punishment for propaganda and public demonstration of symbols of extremist and Nazi organizations in the second reading.
      The bill clearly defines what symbols should be considered as "symbols of an extremist organization." These are officially registered symbols of an organization which has been banned by court in connection with extremist activities and the court ruling on liquidating it has taken effect.
      Appropriate amendments will be made to the Russian Code on administrative offences. Ordinary citizens will have to pay a fine worth up to 2,000 rubles (instead of 500-1,000 rubles). The object of administrative offence will also be confiscated. Concurrently, persons demonstrating extremist symbols may face a 15-day administrative arrest.
      Sanctions for officials and legal entities vary from 1,000 to 4,000 rubles and from 10,000 to 50,000 rubles, respectively.


      Members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were nominated by influential magazine Time for the 2012 Person of the Year
      RIA Novosti, November 27, 2012

      NEW YORK - The punk band is among 40 candidates, who influenced news this year for better or worse. The list also includes US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, Olympic champion Michael Phelps and others.
      "In a year when so many voices of liberty and dissent have suffered harsh retribution, the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot has paid a particularly steep price for provocative political expression," the Time wrote describing the nominee.
      Five women from Pussy Riot performed in late February a "punk prayer" in downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, which is Russia's biggest Orthodox church.
      An edited clip of the band's protest posted online showed the group high-kicking near the entrance to the altar of the cathedral accompanied by the song "Holy S**t" urging the Virgin Mary to "drive [Vladimir] Putin out." The song mocked Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and believers in insulting terms.
      Soon after, police arrested three of the suspected performers. The three women said their performance was a political protest against Patriarch Kirill's support for Putin ahead of the March 4 presidential elections that returned him to the Kremlin, but the court found the performers guilty of hooliganism aimed at inciting religious hatred and jailed them for two years each on August 17.
      The prison term for one of them was later replaced with a suspended sentence


      Patriarch dedicates Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society's new building in Moscow
      Interfax-Religion, November 28, 2012

      Moscow, November 28, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia dedicated the building housing the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society in Moscow after it was re-opened following restoration.
      The ceremony was attended by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, Audit Chamber Chairman Sergey Stepashin, and head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk.
      The building at 3 Zabelina Street has been handed over to the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society for five years free of charge. It is part of Russia's cultural heritage of regional importance, and back in the 18th and 19th century it was merchants Sumarokov and Tyulyayeva's city estate.
      The building was repaired and restored in 2011-12 under a project with the Moscow government's participation. The foundation was strengthened and given an additional water-proofing layer, the walls and ceilings were strengthened, too, the brickwork of the vaults and the plaster decor of the rooms were restored, and the old tile furnaces were recreated. Also, the courtyard was beautifully landscaped, the engineering infrastructure was replaced and outdoor lighting was put in place.
      The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was set up in 1882 by Emperor Alexander III to organize Russian pilgrims' journeys to the sacred places - Palestine, Mount Athos and Bari, to assist the Russian Orthodox Church's service abroad, to do the cultural and educational missionary work in the Middle East and to study the historical heritage of the Holy Land.
      After the 1917 Revolution, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was closed, but a Russian Palestine Society was formed at the Academy of Sciences, which continued the traditional studies of the historical heritage of the Holy Land.
      The Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society was registered again in May 1992 under its historical name. It has 18 regional branches and is chaired by Sergey Stepashin.


      Moscow condemns interreligious confrontation in Iraq, Syria
      Interfax-Religion, November 28, 2012

      Moscow, November 28, Interfax - Moscow has condemned the Tuesday bombings that were committed in Baghdad and other districts of Iraq, in which more than 20 people were killed and about 100 injured.
      "We strongly condemn such inhuman crimes, which cannot be justified in any way. It is especially troubling that the terrorist attacks were committed on the Day of Ashura, which is holy to the Shiite Muslims," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
      "Those who order and perpetrate such heinous actions still rely on fuelling internecine strife and, to implement their criminal designs, not only disregard the lives of peaceful civilians but are also ready to trample upon the religious feelings of believers," it said.
      "Moscow is firmly convinced that the fuelling of interreligious confrontation in Iraq, Syria and other countries of the region could lead to disastrous consequences for the peoples of the Middle East and plunge them into an abyss of chaos and lingering bloodshed. We urge all parties to give an uncompromising response to terrorists, abandon the logic of violence and take the path of resolving the existing problems and disagreements through broad political dialogue and national accord," it said.


      Russian mufti calls on cadets to be ready to fight enemy anywhere
      Interfax-Religion, November 29, 2012

      Moscow, November 29, Interfax - Chairman of the All-Russian Council of Muftis' Executive Committee Mukhammedgali Khuzin has called on military students of the Cadet Corps to be ready to repulse enemy attacks anywhere, including in the United States if necessary.
      "The time may come when you may not only have to defend your homeland ,but also to curb enemy sorties on their own territory. May be some day you will march along the streets of Washington like our forefathers marched along the Champs Elysees," he said in his speech to military students of the Perm Cadet Corps during the oath-taking ceremony on Thursday.
      In an interview with Interfax-Religion later in the day, he said that "as a patriot of his country", he was obliged to "remind the cadets of the glorious victories won by the Russian army". In his opinion, the cadets should uphold those glorious traditions.
      "Russia has never fought invasive wars, but it has always been able to defend itself. When I was speaking about a march along the streets of Washington, I implied, in the first place, the defense of our Motherland both in Russian and enemy territory," the mufti explained.
      It should be borne in mind that Russia has an external enemy whose methods that are more sophisticated than arms, he said, citing the recent statement by the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who called Russia the main foe of Islam.
      "It is no secret that this man is a puppet in the hands of reactionary political circles displeased with Russia's foreign policy," Khuzin said.
      "The Great America, whose people and achievements have my respect, will be able to protect itself: it has rich experience of 'peacekeeping' combat operations in other countries' territory. And who will protect Russia, given repeated outside attempts over centuries to ruin the neighborly relations reigning between our various ethnic and religious communities, something that always made us strong?" the mufti asked.
      He mentioned another example from history: when during a Russian-Turkish war, an Ottoman ruler called on Russian Muslims to support him and rebel against Russia, "the Muslims did not become traitors".
      "Let us recall more often the examples of friendship between the peoples of Russia. Then, I am sure, no one will have to march through anyone's cities," the mufti said.


      Milan severs twin city ties with St Petersburg over 'homosexual propaganda' ban
      By Nick Squires, in Rome and Tom Parfitt in Moscow
      The Daily Telegraph, 29 Nov 2012

      Milan city council approved a motion on Nov 23 and said relations between the two cities would remain suspended until the law was revoked. From now on, Milan's council and mayor will no longer organise any cultural or other activities with St Petersburg. The controversial law in the Russian city, introduced in February, forbids the "propaganda of homosexuality" among minors. Pop diva Madonna was prosecuted in absentia last week for "brutally violating" the youth of the city by speaking out against the measure at a concert there in August, although she was acquitted. Milan and St Petersburg have been twinned since 1967. Milan's city council said that the law adopted by St Petersburg violated the rights of gay and lesbian people. Italian activists described the law as "an unacceptable wound to the Russian cultural capital" that needed to be remedied. The Milanese said they hoped their move would be copied by Venice, which has been twinned with the Russian city since 2006, and Turin, which signed a bilateral cooperation agreement with St Petersburg in early November. A spokesman for St Petersburg's foreign relations committee told Russian media that it was trying to clarify the legal status of the Milan council's decision. Vitaly Milonov, the local MP who initiated the law, told the RIA Novosti news agency: "There must be a lot of socialists in Milan city council. It's a great shame that a city like Milan would take a decision like this." He added: "Of course, it's hard for many of our European colleagues to accept our law, as many of them are members of the gay lobby." Discrimination against gays is widespread in Russia. Moscow authorities have refused to allow gay parades, which former city mayor Yury Luzhkov once described as satanic. British gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was punched in the face by homophobic activists in the Russian capital in 2007, and more than 10 people were injured last month when thugs attacked a gay bar.


      Pussy Riot Clip Classified as Extremist
      The Moscow Times, November 29, 2012 (Issue 5025)

      Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky District Court on Thursday ruled that four videos made by punk band Pussy Riot, including footage of the group's anti-Kremlin performance in Christ the Savior Cathedral, contain extremist content.
      According to the court ruling, video-hosting websites must delete the clip from their servers or face restrictions after the decision comes into force, Interfax reported.
      The extremism case comes after a lawmaker from the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party requested prosecutors run a check into video footage of the band's cathedral performance, which provoked an outcry among devout Russian Orthodox believers.
      Two Pussy Riot band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, are currently serving two-year jail sentences for their participation in the "punk prayer."
      Another member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was acquitted on appeal in a case that has drawn criticism from celebrities and rights defenders from Europe and further afield.
      Police have said that they are searching for band members still at large.


      Bastrykin: European liberalism on sexual minorities' rights has become extreme
      Interfax, November 29, 2012

      Moscow - Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigations Committee, believes the support by many European countries of same-sex marriage has reached unacceptable levels.
      "We in Russia have one stance on [the observance of sexual minorities rights], and our Western friends have a totally different, hypocritical stance," Bastrykin said at an interdepartmental collegium on the protection of children from crime held on Thursday.
      Bastrykin recalled that a law on same-sex marriage has recently been passed in France.
      "The Baltic states, Sweden, and so forth, Parent 1 and Parent 2. There is a huge amount of such information coming our way," Bastrykin said.
      "Europe has probably become too extreme in its liberalism. However, we should clearly oppose it," he said.


      Russian parliament to consider federal anti-gay law
      By Miriam Elder
      Guardian.co.uk, 30 November 2012

      Russia's parliament is to consider a nationwide ban on "homosexual propaganda", in a move activists likened to a Soviet-era crackdown. Nine regions including St Petersburg have already passed legislation prohibiting the promotion of "homosexual propaganda" among minors. The Duma, Russia's parliament, will consider the nationwide ban on 19 December. "This is an illegal policy of repression," said Igor Kochetkov, head of the LGBT Network, a Russian gay rights group. "It's a strange coincidence that this law will be looked at on 19 December, and on 17 December 1933, the Soviet authorities made sexual relations between men illegal. They argued that gays were alien to Soviet society. Now and then, we hear the same rhetoric." Russia lifted its Soviet-era ban on homosexuality in 1993. Recent moves clamping down on gay rights have come amid a wider government push to promote traditional values and conservatism, often in concert with the Russian Orthodox church. Last week Milan tore up a 45-year agreement to hold "sister city" status with St Petersburg, in protest at its law. All Out, a global gay rights group, has called on tourists to boycott the Russian city. Kochetkov said the federal law followed "fascist logic". "It divides people into fully valued and half-valued people," he said. The LGBT Network had recorded a rise in the number of attacks against gay people and gay clubs in Russia since the regional laws had been passed, he said. Proponents of the law argue that it is aimed at protecting children and promoting family values. Last week a court in St Petersburg threw out a lawsuit against Madonna after a group of conservative activists tried to sue the pop star for $10.7m (£6.7m), arguing that she had broken the city's homosexual propaganda laws during a summer concert.


      Schoolgirl barred from school for wearing headscarf
      Interfax, November 30, 2012

      Stavropol - The parents of a schoolgirl living in the village of Privolny, Stavropol Territory, are complaining that their daughter has been barred from school for wearing a headscarf.
      "Today we sent our daughter to school on the school bus. The senior teacher put her back on the bus and it took her home. She has been barred from classes over the headscarf for about two weeks now," the girl's father Rizak Rizakov told Interfax.
      Rizakov said the teachers are saying this decision has been made because of a decree issued by the governor.
      "My daughter is in 3rd grade. Other children don't wear headscarves to school. There were three girls who wore headscarves, they have now removed them," the source said.
      The man said he has filed complaints with the prosecutors and intends to stand his ground. He also said his daughter has worn a headscarf to school since September 1.
      In the meantime, the press service for the territory's Education Ministry told Interfax these actions violate the school charter, which outlines requirements for students' appearance.
      "They will be talking to the parents and the schoolgirl. If they don't observe the school charter, they will be offered to choose a different form of education," the ministry official said.
      In October, the Stavropol Territory's muftiat reported on complaints made by some schoolgirls' parents saying that their Muslim daughters had been barred from classes for some two weeks for wearing headscarves. The incidents occurred at School No. 12 in the village of Kara-Tyube.
      The issue of headscarves was discussed at the highest level on October 18. Russian President Vladimir Putin said, commenting on this conflict, that people's religious feelings need to be respected, but the fact that the Russian state is a secular one needs to be taken into account.
      "We always need to treat people's religious feelings with a lot of respect. This should be manifested in the state activities, in nuances, in everything. Secondly, our state is secular and we need to work on the basis of that assumption," Putin said during a meeting with Popular Front representatives.
      The Stavropol Territory's Governor Valery Zerenkov later ordered immediate work on the territory's regulation governing students' appearance. "There should be uniform rules in one territory," he said.
      According to the territory's Education Minister Irina Kuvaldina, the Stavropol Territory's schools will introduce a school uniform by December 20.


      Russian official denies Milan severing twinned-city ties with St. Petersburg over gays law
      Interfax, November 30, 2012

      St. Petersburg - The foreign relations chief in the administration of St. Petersburg has denied allegations in Italian media that Milan is severing its twinned-city relations with Russia's second city because of a new St. Petersburg law that penalizes the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors.
      "Yesterday I had a call from the Italian consul general in St. Petersburg, Mr. Estero, who said that that decision is not legally binding on the administration of Milan. It's a kind of emotional expression on the part of the deputies," Alexander Prokhorenko told reporters in reference to a vote in the Italian city's municipal council.
      "As far as we know from the press, we have received no documents from the Milan municipal council. It's true that it passed some kind of decision, but not to sever but to freeze [the relationship], or something in that vein," Prokhorenko said.
      He denied that the homosexuality law violated anyone's rights. "The city deputies are not encroaching on human rights, they are simply trying to take care that the rights of those who want to promote non-traditional views on human relationships shouldn't violate the rights of those who don't want this," he said.


      Lavrov: we are concerned for the fate of Christians in the Middle East
      Interfax-Religion, November 30, 2012

      Moscow, November 30, Interfax - Russia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov attended the meeting of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society's Board which took place at the Society's headquarters in Moscow.
      Addressing the meeting, Lavrov underscored the similarity of stands taken by his ministry and the Russian Orthodox Church on the need to consolidate humanitarian relations between the peoples of Russia, the Middle East and North Africa and to ensure Russia's humanitarian and cultural presence in the Holy Land, the Synodal Department for External Church Relations reports.
      The minister gave a high value to the trip made by Patriarch Kirill to the Middle East, noting that the recent patriarchal visit to the Holy Land vividly showed the role played by the Russian Orthodox Church in asserting peace and harmony in the region.
      Lavrov also expressed concern over the possibility for 'the Arab Springs' in some states to result in being overtaken by extremist groupings who would allow of discrimination against particular ethnic confessional groups. 'In the first place, we are certainly concerned for the fate of Christians', he said.
      He also pointed to the high importance of the statement made by the IOPS Board on 'The Protection of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa', saying that his ministry will instruct its missions including the one in the UN to make an active use of this document in their diplomatic work.
      Lavrov concluded his remarks saying that Russia's Ministry for Foreign Affairs has always valued the contribution made by the IOPS to the defence of peace, stability and the strengthening of the Russian State's authority in the Holy Land'.



      Statement of Moscow bureau for human rights and Moscow anti-fascist center in connection with sale of anti-Semitic book in book kiosk of the State Duma of RF
      MBHR, 17 July 2012

      Moscow bureau for human rights and Moscow anti-fascist center express their indignation in connection with the fact that an anti-Semitic book by Oleg Platonov is sold in book kiosk of the State Duma of RF beside "Encyclopaedia of Holocaust". The human rights activists are positive that this fact makes a serious blow upon reputation of lower chamber of the parliament. The odious author O. Platonov published his next book devoted to revelation of conspiracy ("Mason conspiracy in Russia. Works on history of freemasonry. From archives of Moscow lodges, police and KGB". Moscow: Algorithm, 2011).
      Passion for conspiracy of various authors can be often met, and it is rooted rather in psychological features of the personality. They explain all the events of the world history not by natural course of events, not by complicated set of objective and subjective factors, intertwining of historical, social, religious circumstances and outstanding influence of some personalities but by a plan that was thoroughly developed by a small group of people and that radically changes the alignment of force on the world scene or in a big country. Serious historians usually treat conspirologists with extreme scepsis but this does not prevent the latters from engendering themselves. To a great extent the success of conspirological books is enabled by an interested response from many readers - it is difficult for them to sort out the cobwebs of the world history and they prefer a simple explanation: this is a cluster of clever and mean enemies that invented these cobwebs.
      Oleg Platonov is a typical representative of the conspirological school. For many years he develops the subject of world and all-Russian conspiracies consistently, be he writing about murder of Rasputin or history of freemasonry. He is not original in his concepts. For many centuries these were first of all Jews who served as an object of attention of conspirologists, both ancient and new ones - they were accused of secret conspiracies of various scopes, and the fabrication "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" that was condemned all around the world became the peak of these accusations. During recent centuries masons, Jesuits, CIA and Zionists who were picked out from Jews were added to Jews as makers of the world evil.
      Platonov does justice to all of them in his innumerable works putting now Zionists and then masons to the foreground. But peculiarity of Platonov's books, unlike some other author's ones, is a conviction that freemasonry and Zionists (Judaists) are inseparably linked with each other, both organizationally and ideologically. In other words, Platonov's works are a typical model of discourse about "Jewish-masonic" conspiracy that was reproduced in hundreds books and brochures. Already this main point is most doubtful as Jewry and masons were historically in very complicated and very conflicting relations; the masons mostly kept away from Jews, and most often access to aristocratic masonic lodges was simply closed for Jews. But the conspirologist Platonov is not interested much in real history because he is initially positive: "For establishment of a new world order, masonic authorities form a secret world government that existed during various periods in various appearances but was always under control of Jewish leaders". At present, correspondingly, "… the following are the working bodies of this government: leading body of the world Jewish masonic lodge "Bnai-Brith", Council for international relations, Trilateral commission, Bilderberg club, World Bank and some other organizations". It is noteworthy that various economic-financial structures are the agents of the world freemasonry too according to Platonov's idea.
      In general contents of Platonov's book, like that of all his other books, come to a simple idea: during many centuries Russia being a heart of all what is light and clean on Earth, a carrier of God's image, was subject to attack of satanic forces that may be presented as several concentric circles. The most general and broad enemy of Russia is the West, inside it - masons and the core are Jews, and all these satanic evil spirits try to destroy Russia in various ways.
      It deals in already sixth edition of Platonov's book about masonic conspiracy with destructive work of Russian masonic lodges as "branches of Western ones". The author lists numerous historical figures who took part in masonic lodges and basing upon this makes his habitual conclusion that they ruled the destinies of Russia via secret links and plans. It is another myth: freemasonry was as popular in Russia during certain period as membership of English aristocrats in male clubs was. Like population of the Soviet Union was among pioneers and Komsomol members in mass, overwhelming majority of Russian nobility was among masons. Thereby the theory of conspiracy collapses (the whole social stratum can't participate in a conspiracy which is directed actually against itself) but Platonov finds a simple way out from this paradox. He announces (despite historical facts) belonging of the figures of Russian history which are pleasant for him like Suvorov and Kutuzov to masons a "bright example of deception used by freemasons for glorifying themselves and concealing their criminal essence", and he ascribes episodic involvement in mason lodges to some of them (for example Pushkin, Karamzin and Griboyedov).
      Further Platonov's logic is simple: everything he considers to be treacheries and misfortunes, he explains by decisions of masons and draws all the successes of Russia from resistance to masons. And when he meets a phrase in memoirs like "In some strange and mysterious way the order about their departure … was cancelled", he ascribes this "strangeness" to intrigues of masons without any grounds. It's impossible to get any specific evidences of masonic underlying reasons from cited numerous names, facts and events. Meeting Jewish names in respect to life of masons, Platonov makes special stress upon them but it can be seen even from the texts quoted by him that Jews could be met very seldom among Russian masons and played practically no role in their activity (though very little is known about it too). And numerous extracts from historical sources cited by Platonov about situation at the fronts and combat against revolution are not an evidence of any role of "masons" in them; masons are not even mentioned there: these are just pure guessworks of the author. And those few sources that are cited by Platonov and that connect all the historical events in Russia with activity of masons are as anti- and pseudo-historical as his own book and are based upon guessworks too. However absence of any arguments in favor of his idea is compensated by Platonov with numerous excerpts about structures of masonic lodges, their symbols, order of admission of members etc which have little to do with declared subject of the book.
      Platonov notes at the end of his "creation" that American presidents-masons (i.e. agents of world freemasonry and Zionism) were behind invasion into Afghanistan and Iraq and in Russia "new "flourishing" of masonic lodges took place during so-called "perestroika". By special decrees of M.S. Gorbachev and a little later of also B.N. Yeltsin the freemasonry was legalized and expanded the sphere of its activity much at the expense of masonic clubs and other organizations created for achievement of masonic purposes. In its existing form freemasonry is an enormous threat for Russian society. Like early in previous century, the task of Russia is the complete elimination and prohibition of masonic organizations". In other words, Yeltsin and Gorbachev are also announced Freemasons or unintentional agents of masons.
      So the book is a mixture of anti-Semitic and anti-Western ravings with anti-historical nonsense. The next Platonov's opus was issued by "Algorithm" publishing house that specializes in such "literature". For already many times the human rights activists appealed with demands to suppress the flow of chauvinistic literature that is sold all around Russia broadly and with impunity but alas things are still where they started.
      Moscow bureau for human rights and Moscow anti-fascist center appeal to the leaders of the State Duma of RF with demand to give an assessment without delay to this shameful fact of dissemination of anti-Semitic book in the building of lower chamber of the Russian parliament. The more so because such books were sold in the State Duma during previous years too and the former speaker B. Gryzlov ignored appeal of the Fund "Holocaust" and MBHR with suggestion to open a travelling photo exhibition about history of tragedy of the Holocaust in the State Duma building. Scandal during the meeting of the State Duma on April 19, 2001 may be also recalled when there was a suggestion to do homage to the memory of victims of the Holocaust and some deputies refused to stand up. LDPR leader V. Zhirinovsky expressed his indignation at such suggestions. "I consider this inadmissible, he said then. - There are very many dates in the world when Russian parliament must stand. This is monstrous. Who would stand up in memory of 30 million dead Russians?". The chief rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar expressed his indignation at behavior of Zhirinovsky who, in the opinion of Lazar, "put himself outside civilized behavior by his previous actions too but the recent action causes irreparable damage to the whole lower chamber of the Federal Assembly of RF". In this connection Berl Lazar called upon leaders of all the branches of authority to condemning in public "cynical and insolent actions of one of leaders of the State Duma, to not admitting silent accord with similar deeds". "Memory of victims of the Holocaust - this is a guarantee of democratic reforms in our country, in order the turn to totalitarianism and any forms of hatred would never occur any more", the statement of chief rabbi of Russia said.

      Moscow forestalled U.S. Magnitsky Act by its own law on NGO as foreign agents - analyst
      Johnson's Russia List, November 19, 2012 (Interfax)

      MOSCOW. Nov 19 (Interfax) - Moscow forestalled the adoption of the so-called Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act in the U.S. by enacting the law on NGOs acting as foreign agents, which is quite painful for Washington, but it should be prepared to see a number of European Union countries considering bills analogous to the one just passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, says Alexei Makarkin, a first vice president of the Center of Political Technologies think tank.
      "Moscow has already given an asymmetric response. I mean the law on NGOs acting as foreign agents. This is quite unpleasant for the Americans," Makarkin told Interfax on Friday.
      Russia's response can be only asymmetric, he said.
      "In considering response steps, Russia can act only asymmetrically, because compiling a blacklist of U.S. officials seeking (Russian) visas appears not very efficient. If, say, Moscow compiles such a list of those who have some relation to the Viktor Bout case or other cases, this will not work in practice. These officials are unlikely to have any interest in Russia. As concerns a lot of Russian elite members, the situation is different. Many of them are interested in traveling to the U.S. and have real estate in the West," he said.
      Makarkin suggested that a number of EU countries could pass similar bills.
      "The Brits are really likely to do so. As for Europe on the whole, the position of any country that is a member of the Schengen accords is significant here. Estonia earlier imposed certain restrictions on some Russians, and they had problems over this in other countries of the Schengen area as well. At the same time, as concerns the EU, it should be born in mind that there are countries interested in maintaining good relations with Russia as well, and therefore they will do all they can to refrain from such drastic restrictive measures," he said.
      The tying of the bill repealing the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to Sergei Magnitsky's death is a political move based primarily on The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier that Russia had already considered various responses in case the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act. "We certainly know it. We talked about this at all stages of the debate on the so-called Magnitsky legislation. I can confirm that our response will be tough, but not necessarily symmetrical," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax earlier.
      Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Russia's response to the passage of the Magnitsky Act in the U.S. would be tough. "We will certainly not leave without consequences an actual anti-Russian initiative on imposing visa and financial sanctions against our country simultaneously with the repeal of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment," Lukashevich said at a news conference in Moscow on Thursday. "We will have to respond, and our response will be tough," he said. Russia's reaction will depend on "the final form of this unfriendly and provocative step," he said.
      The list of Russian officials who could fall under U.S. visa sanctions in line with the Magnitsky Act had earlier been compiled by U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin. The U.S. Department of State earlier put a number of Russian officials the U.S. believes were involved in the criminal prosecution of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky on the visa blacklist. It includes, in particular, a number of special services officials, policemen, prison wardens and doctors, prosecutors, tax auditors, and tax inspectors.
      Russia was outraged by this list, saying that this in fact meant pressure on the Russian judicial system. It compiled its own visa blacklist of 11 U.S. officials not eligible for Russian visas.


      'Russian Fundamentalism Unites the Authorities, the Elite, the People and the Opposition,' Pavlova Says
      By Paul Goble
      Window on Eurasia, November 19, 2012

      Staunton, November 19 - Contrary to many opponents of the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin has a vision for the future and is not in a weak position, Grani commentator Irina Pavlova says, because his "Russian fundamentalism" now "unites the authorities, the elite, the people and <br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)