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Bulletin 6:32 (2012)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 6, No. 32(188), 2012, 19 January 2013 Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19 2:55 AM
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 6, No. 32(188), 2012, 19 January 2013
      Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane Oezkan & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 16 - 31 December 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 - 31 December 2012

      Russian Big Business to Rebuild North Caucasus - Envoy
      RIA-Novosti, December 16, 2012

      VLADIVOSTOK, December 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's big business will implement large-scale infrastructure projects in the North Caucasus to build production facilities in the region and spur the area's social and economic development, North Caucasus Presidential Envoy Alexander Khloponin said on Sunday.
      The Russian government approved on Thursday a new State Program for the North Caucasus Through 2025, which stipulates 2.5 trillion rubles ($80.9 billion) in spending on its volatile North Caucasus region in the next 13 years.
      Under the program, 90 percent of these funds will come from so-called extra-budgetary sources, while the federal budget will allocate about 235 billion rubles ($7.5 billion) in 2013-2020.
      The program also calls for boosting annual investment in the region to 2 trillion rubles annually and expanding the region's output to 6 trillion rubles.
      "Big business will engage in the implementation of the state program. But this will not be budget money. This will be investment by large companies," Khloponin said in an interview with NTV TV channel broadcast for the Russian Far East.
      Before Khloponin's statement, it was not clear where the non-budgetary investment would come from. It still remains unclear whether the proposed funding includes money previously set aside for the region's development.
      "For example, [Russia's largest privately owned oil company] LUKoil will build an industrial park in Budyonnovsk, including the largest petrochemical refinery with an investment of $140 million," Khloponin said.
      "Another project is a refinery in Grozny, which [Russia's largest state-controlled oil firm] Rosneft will build. There are also other projects that do not require state support measures. These are the projects of large corporations," he said.
      Large-scale projects included in the program of the North Caucasus development will create thousands of new jobs in the region, the envoy said.
      Poor economic conditions in North Caucasus republics and unemployment are believed to be the main factors driving local residents to join militant groups. The troubled North Caucasus region sees frequent attacks on law enforcement officers and government officials as Moscow continues to battle an Islamist insurgency there.
      "The state will channel investment only into the social sphere while all the other funds will come from companies," Khloponin said.


      Another Russian church to be built in Thailand
      Interfax-Religion, December 17, 2012

      Moscow, December 17, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has blessed the construction of a new Orthodox church in Bangkok.
      The first stone will be laid in the foundation of the new church, which will be called the Church of St. Nicholas, on December 20, the Moscow Patriarchate reported on its website.
      The construction of the church is expected to be completed in 2013.


      Number of Orthodox Church members shrinking in Russia, Islam on the rise - poll
      Interfax-Religion, December 17, 2012

      Moscow, December 17, Interfax - Orthodoxy is the most common religion in Russia. 74% call themselves Orthodox believers, while 7% say they are Muslims. Less than 1% profess other religions (Catholics, Protestants, Jews and others), the Levada-Centeranalytical center told Interfax on Monday.
      The center polled 1,600 people in 130 towns and cities in 45 regions in late November.
      The share of Orthodox believers in the country has dropped by 6%, from 80% in 2009, while the share of Muslims has grown by 3% to 7% in the same period.
      The number of people who do not designate themselves as either religion is up from 8% to 10%. The number of atheists is down from 6% to 5%.
      76% of Russians who describe themselves as Orthodox believers are church-goers. 33% of them go to church to light a candle and pray; 29% attend baptisms, church weddings or burial services, and 11% attend church services or liturgies.
      29% go to church whenever they wish, 8% have been to a cathedral on an excursion, and 7% go to church to make a confession and take communion.
      61% of the respondents said they had never opened the Bible. Of those who did, 24% read the Gospel, 16% read the Old Testament and 11% read the New Testament.


      Duma to Consider US Adoptions Ban
      RIA-Novosti, December 17, 2012

      MOSCOW, December 17 (RIA Novosti) - The lower house of the Russian parliament is likely to endorse an amendment banning the adoption of Russian children into US families, Deputy Speaker Sergei Neverov said on Monday.
      The State Duma on Friday gave its preliminary approval to a draft law penalizing US nationals involved in violating Russian citizens' rights, touted as Moscow's response to the Magnitsky Act.
      Under the Russian bill, submitted to the State Duma last Monday, alleged US rights abusers, including people implicated in the abuse of adopted Russian children, will be banned from entering Russia and have their assets in Russia frozen.
      The amendment would apply to all US nationals, Neverov, of the ruling United Russia party, said. "I think it will be approved," he added.
      Yekaterina Lakhova, a co-author of the amendment, and also a member of United Russia, said the measure would include a ban on adoption agencies and an abrogation* of the existing Russian-US adoptions agreement.
      The Duma must pass the bill in two more readings before sending it for approval to the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.
      The second reading is slated to take place on Wednesday, when this amendment will be proposed.
      US nationals whose cases are being considered by Russia's Investigative Committee could end up on the blacklist, Pavel Astakhov, the Russian president's point man for children's rights, told RIA Novosti.
      The bill mirrors the US law named after whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow jail three years ago. US President Barack Obama signed the Magnitsky Act into law on Friday.
      Magnitsky was arrested on tax fraud charges after accusing a group of Russian officials of embezzling $230 million of state money. He died after 11 months in pretrial detention. His death was officially blamed on his health problems, but the Kremlin's own human rights council said in 2011 that he was severely beaten hours before dying, and Magnitsky's supporters claim the case against him was fabricated in revenge for his exposes.
      No officials have been prosecuted so far over Magnitsky's death. Magnitsky himself faces posthumous prosecution by the Russian authorities on tax fraud allegations.
      The US Magnitsky Act, which was bundled together with landmark legislation normalizing trade relations with Moscow, targets Russian officials implicated in his death with visa bans and asset freezes.
      Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized the US law as a "purely political, unfriendly act."
      *An earlier version of this story referred to "denunciation."


      No blacks, no gays at Zenit - fan club
      by R-Sport
      The Moscow News, December 17, 2012

      Zenit St. Petersburg's top fan club has published a controversial manifesto that attempts to justify a policy against signing black or gay players.
      The club have long attracted criticism as the only top Russian side never to have fielded a black player, though reject allegations that it is policy.
      Now the team's fan club has tried to explain why no black or gay players should ever turn out for the side in a document named "Selection 12."
      "We are not racists, but the absence of black players in the Zenit lineup is an important tradition that underlines the identity of the club, and nothing more," the document said, pubilshed on the "Landscrona" website that unites the various fan club affiliates.
      The fans claim this policy allows Zenit to "possess its own face alongside the few football clubs to retain their identity."
      "We as the most northern club of the big European cities have never shared the mentality of Africa, or South America or Australia and Oceania."
      The document goes on to suggest that African players have trouble adapting to Russia's harsh climate.
      "A big part of the championship is played in pretty tough weather. In these conditions it is sometimes difficult for the technical players from warm countries to display their footballing talents to the full degree."
      "We want players closer to our soul and mentality to play for Zenit."
      French international Yann M'Vila reportedly turned down a summer move from Rennes after receiving death threats from Zenit fans.
      And Ex-CSKA Moscow forward Vagner Love called Zenit "the most racist team in Russia" after he moved to Rio de Janeiro side Flamengo a year ago.
      Elsewhere, the manifesto lists "human qualities" the fans want to see in players.
      "We are against the inclusion of representatives of sexual minorities in the Zenit team."
      St. Petersburg is the center of a powerful homophobic movement; the city recently passed legislation banning the promotion of homosexuality.
      Some of the other "human qualities" the fans promote is interest in city culture and a rejection of smoking and alcohol.
      Meanwhile, the club has sought to distance itself from "Selection 12."
      "Players get into our team not by nationalities and skin color but sporting qualities and achievements," the club told R-Sport in emailed comments.
      "Club policy is aimed at development and integration into the society of world football and does not uphold archaic views."
      Coach Luciano Spalletti earlier insisted Zenit are an open and tolerant club.
      "I think that Zenit prove in their work that the club understands what tolerance is," Spalletti said in an interview posted on the club's website.


      Russia shouldn't count on Western assistance in developing breakthrough technologies - Rogozin
      Interfax, December 17, 2012

      Russia cannot rely on the assistance of Western countries in adopting breakthrough technologies and should rely only on itself in this sphere, Vice Premier Dmitry Rogozin believes. "Nobody abroad is interested in Russia's strengthening. This means that we will never see our Western partners truly sharing breakthrough technologies in the military sphere or real industrial assistance. Consequently, Russia must take care of itself " says his message to the winners of the national prize in military-technical cooperation Golden Idea. At the Saturday award ceremony, Rogozin's message was delivered by the deputy chairman of the Russian Government's Military-Industrial Commission Oleg Bochkaryov. "Russia is a great power. Only strong countries are respected in this world. For Russia to take its place we must be strong, primarily in the economic and military senses ", the message says. According to Rogozin, in some spheres the Russian defense industry is "a step or half a step" behind its Western competitors. "Let's prove by deeds that the domestic defense industry, and its advanced representatives are capable of guaranteeing the development and production of the latest arms complexes and systems surpassing Western analogs," Rogozin said. In his opinion "in these conditions the golden ideas of Russian defense industry workers their ability to introduce these ideas in production processes in end products are needed as ever." "All this will guarantee the realization of the idea of transition to an innovative model of the economy," Rogozin stressed.


      Pussy Riot member tells about her 'anti-life' in prison
      Alina Lobzina
      The Moscow News, December 18, 2012

      Maria Alyokhina, member of feminist punk band Pussy Riot, shared details about her "anti-life" in prison, where she's serving two years for a church performance calling for the removal of President Vladimir Putin.
      In an article published on the New Times website, Alyokhina sounded pessimistic about her prospects of being released early.
      "[Follow the rules], work, take part in events and visit the library, the psychologist and the prayer room (hasn't everyone grown tired of saying we have a secular state?)," she wrote about the requirements for early release. Shortly after she was brought to the prison colony in the Perm region, just west of the Ural Mountains, she was put into a solitary confinement.
      The reasons for Alyokhina's confinement vary from her own request - motivated by personal safety concerns - to a penalty for her demands to raise prisoners' salaries, actions that are to be taken into account when her application for early release is reviewed, the news agency Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei reported.
      But Alyokhina wrote that she is not going to surrender, unlike prisoners who get used to life behind bars and show no protest.
      The other jailed Pussy Riot member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, however - who is serving her term in another prison colony - has voiced no complaints so far.
      Yevgenia Khasis, a nationalist activist jailed for complicity in the murder of anti-fascist lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, is in the same colony as Tolokonnikova, and has reportedly become her advocate.
      "If not for this peace-making guardianship from several influential prisoners, including Khasis… I'm afraid that Nadezhda would have gone the way of Maria Alyokhina, who asked for solitary confinement on the third day after meeting other prisoners," said Alexei Baranovsky, a coordinator at the Russky Verdikt center who recently visited Khasis, in an interview published on the center's blog.
      Russky Verdikt advocates for the rights of jailed nationalists.


      Anti-western rhetoric stopped international financial center in Russia - Kudrin
      Johnson's Russia List, December 18, 2012

      MOSCOW. Dec 18 (Interfax) - Anti-western rhetoric has stopped the establishment of an International Financial Center (IFC) in Russia, former finance minister and now chairman of the Civil Initiatives Committee, Alexei Kudrin, said.
      Instead of dialogue between the authorities and the public, legislation is being passed that is hitting protestors. One myth is the assertion that almost all civil activity in Russia is inspired and financed from abroad.
      "This is far from the truth and ignores the real problems that need to be focused on and in terms of the economy creates new risks for our country. Anti-western rhetoric, innovations in legislations on treason and other matters are creating unfavorable conditions for foreign specialists and companies in Russia," Kudrin said at an Interfax press conference Tuesday.
      "This certainly does not encourage the idea of an International Financial Center in Moscow. And the scale of this rhetoric, I think, has already stopped the establishment of an International Financial Center," he added.
      One the one hand plans are announced about improving living and working conditions for foreign specialists in Russia and plans to make Moscow a settlement center for international financial organizations. However, on the other, complete distrust and suspicion is demonstrated toward foreign citizens and companies, the former minister said.
      We need to make working conditions for foreign citizens in Russia comfortable, Kudrin said. "I support the idea of an IFC in Moscow and consider it is possible. If we wanted to go ahead then everything could take place," he said.
      The former minister also said that instead of planned privatization Russia was seeing the reverse process of nationalization. "Despite the announced aims to privatize, de-privatization is creeping in," he said, adding that a clear example of this reverse process was the Rosneft purchase of TNK-BP (RTS: TNBP).
      Over $53 billion is to be spent on this deal, he said. If we take into account the non-cash component - BP obtaining shares in Rosneft (RTS: ROSN) - then the "net balance on the side of nationalization" is around $40 billion. "That significantly exceeds the government's privatization plans. In fact the movement is in the opposite direction," Kudrin said.
      Kudrin also criticized pension reforms in Russia. "The announced pension system reform, of course, reduces the stability of the country's financial system in the long-term and, of course, reduces future pensions," he said.
      Reducing from 6% to 2% the cumulative part of the pension will considerably reduce the volume of savings in the economy, which are a basis for investment. "Measures have been adopted that lower the modernization opportunities for our country," he said.
      Kudrin said one of the achievements of 2012 was Russia's accession to the WTO.
      The former minister said there are still serious risks in the global economy that require more active structural reforms in Russia and support for a strong financial system. Carrying out all the plans announced are simply a must and there should be a more balanced approach to reforms in the pensions system, social welfare and in creating infrastructure is needed, he said. The "budget regulation" absolutely must be maintained.
      The situation in Europe remains a risk for the global community and Russia, he said. "The risk of a crisis scenario next year remains and my forecast is that Europe, especially the euro zone, will fall into recession again next year," Kudrin said. If GDP goes down in Europe the financial recovery plans for Greece, Spain and Italy will be in jeopardy. "This indicates an increase in risks next year, including for our country," he added.


      Church estimates for Orthodox believers halved - poll
      by Alina Lobzina
      The Moscow News, 19/12/2012

      The number of Russian Christians came under scrutiny after polls registered dwindling ranks of the faithful.
      The most surprising finding was that only 41 percent of all Russians say they are members of the Russian Orthodox Church, according to a poll carried out by Sreda, a research service. This number is twice less than the estimated of 80 percent based on the figure stated in a study by an influential independent pollster, Levada Center, back in 2009.
      The polling organization also revealed the result of its investigation in believers of the Russian population earlier this week, lowering the number of Orthodox by 6 percent in comparison with the survey from three years ago.
      The second biggest group in Levada's poll was atheists. According to Sreda, the number of people who said they believed in god but belonged to no religion, all together 25 percent, was the second largest, and atheists, who make 10 percent of all the country's population, came third.
      Estimates for the number of Muslims, made by both pollsters, were very close.
      Levada has put it at 7 percent, which is nearly twice as much as the figure published in its 2009 research. Sreda'e estimate was 0.5 percent less. 


      CIS integration should not be compared to re-Sovietization: Kremlin spokesman
      Arka News Agency, December 19th 2012

      YEREVAN, December 19 / ARKA /. Russian President's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said recent remarks by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about 're-Sovietizing the CIS countries points to a total lack of understanding about the processes taking place in the region,' RIA Novosti reported. The US Secretary of State explained efforts to promote greater integration in the CIS as "a move to re-Sovietize the region." "It's not going to be called that," Clinton remarked. "It's going to be called a customs union; it will be called the Eurasian Union and all of that. But let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow it down or prevent it." Dmitry Peskov, spokesperson to President Putin, said Clinton's comments betray a lack of understanding of the "the natural processes that are maturing throughout the former Soviet Union." To associate these open developments with some sort of "Sovietization" fails to appreciate the changes taking place in the former Soviet Union," he said in an interview with the Russia 24 TV channel. He said Clinton overlooked the basic differences between what passed for integration in the Soviet period compared with today. Most importantly, ,perhaps, is that any integration that occurs in the post-Soviet space today is open and democratic first and foremost. No country is coerced to integrate into the various regional alliances. Peskov reminded the US Secretary of State that integration is an unavoidable fact of these modern days. "In the world today, given the frequency of global economic upheavals, the unpredictability in the world economy, the impossibility of making even mid-term forecasts, in a world where the smell of crisis is everywhere, the only viable tendency is the tendency to integration, the integration processes," Putin's spokesperson said.


      Russia Comes One Step Closer to Banning US-Funded NGOs Topic: NGO 'Foreign Agents' Law State Duma
      RIA Novosti, 19/12/2012

      The lower house of the Russian parliament gave preliminary but crucial approval Wednesday to legislation introducing a direct ban on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in political activity in Russia and receiving funding or other support from US citizens or US-based organizations, as well as NGOs whose activities are seen as a threat to Russia's interests. The State Duma passed the new amendment during a second reading of the so-called "Dima Yakovlev Law," a bill that is Russia's response to recently adopted US legislation known as the Magnitsky Act. The law's more controversial and high-profile aspect has been a ban on US adoptions of Russian children. The NGO amendment stipulates that the Russian Justice Ministry "will suspend the activities of NGOs that conduct political activities in Russia while receiving grants and other material support from US citizens or organizations, or implement projects and programs in the country that threaten Russia's interests." The draft legislation likewise bans Russian nationals who also hold US passports from working at Russia-based NGOs, whether domestic or foreign, or their branches, if the NGOs engage in "political activities" in Russia. The bill is likely to be passed in its third and final reading on Friday, potentially coming into effect in 2013 after being approved by the Federation Council and signed by the president. Veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group watchdog and holds US as well as Russian citizenship, speculated this week that the amendment could be aimed against her specifically as she knew of no other NGO heads who hold both passports. She has sharply criticized the proposed legislation, calling it the next step in "tightening the screws" on the activities of human rights defenders in Russia. Alexeyeva, who is 85 and formerly served on the Kremlin's human rights council, said she would fight the amendment in the Constitutional Court. The new legislation is the latest in a series of restrictions on foreign-funded NGOs enacted since President Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin last spring. While detractors have noted that the new measures are unreasonable and target groups that have been highly critical of Russia's leaders, authorities have defended the steps, calling them necessary to prevent outside interference in Russia's political process. A law passed in July requires NGOs that receive foreign funding and are involved in "political activity," a term that is not clearly defined, to deal with increased red tape and publicly identify themselves as "foreign agents" - a derogatory term referring to spies in Soviet times. Organizations that fall under the July law include independent electoral watchdog Golos, the Moscow Helsinki Group, rights group Memorial, Transparency International Russia and other groups that have criticized the Kremlin over alleged electoral machinations, rights violations or graft. In September, Russian authorities expelled the US Agency for International Development (USAID), a US state agency that funded local NGOs.


      Peskov blames Clinton for lack of understanding of processes in FSU
      Interfax, December 19 2012

      MOSCOW. Dec 19 (Interfax) - Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov thinks that the phrase of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about re-Sovietizing CIS countries is an indication of her incompetence about the processes taking place in the region.,,"To associate the natural processes that are maturing throughout the former Soviet Union with Sovietization is not to understand practically anything about what is happening in the former Soviet Union," he said in an interview with Russia 24 TV channel.,,"In the world today, in conditions of the current turbulences in the world economy, the unpredictability in the world economy, the impossibility of making even mid-term forecasts, in a world in which the smell of crisis is around us constantly, the only viable tendency is the tendency to integration, the integration processes," Peskov said.,,Earlier Clinton said: "There is a move to re-Sovietize the region. It's not going to be called that. It's going to be called a customs union; it will be called the Eurasian Union and all of that. But let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow it down or prevent it."


      'Dima Yakovlev' Bill in no one's best interests
      Amnesty International, December 20, 2012

      Russian parliamentarians must reject a bill that will have a chilling effect on human rights defenders and civil society when it goes through  its third reading in the Russian Parliament's Lower Chamber - the Duma - on 21 December 2012, Amnesty International said today. 
      The so-called "Dima Yakovlev" Bill introduces, among other things, further severe restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and bans the adoption of Russian children by US citizens.  
      The bill allows the Ministry of Justice to arbitrarily stop activities and freeze the assets of NGOs that they consider to be involved in political activities, receive funding from US citizens or organizations or  conduct activities threatening the interests of the Russian Federation.
      It also bans persons, who are US and Russian dual nationals from being a leader or a member of Russian, international or foreign NGO participating in 'political activities' in Russia. Organizations, or their branches which violate this rule could be closed and its property seized.  
      If adopted, the restrictions in this law can be extended to citizens of any country banning entry and confiscating property of Russian citizens on the grounds of their violations of human rights in Russia.
      "Quite apart from it's clearly discriminating of Russian citizens of dual nationality there is a huge risk that the vaguely worded provisions in this bill will be used to clamp down on government critics and exposers of abuses. Indeed this would appear to be its real purpose." said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
      The bill is named after a Russian child who died after adoption in the US and was drafted as response to the Magnitsky Act, passed in the US this month, introducing sanctions on Russian alleged human rights violators. Sergei Magnitsky was a lawyer who died in Russian custody and became symbol of Russia's violations of human rights.
      "This bill is frankly a childish response to the Magnitsky Act. The Duma should be focusing its efforts on how it can strengthen Russian civil society and not weaken it," said Dalhuisen
      A small number of Russian parliamentarians voted against the bill pointing out that it will violate bilateral agreements with the US on the adoption of children. Police detained about 30 demonstrators who were holding pickets outside the parliament.
      AI Index: PRE01/628/2012


      Putin on hijabs: we won't adopt alien traditions
      Interfax-Religion, December 20, 2012

      Moscow, December 20, Interfax - President Vladimir Putin has opposed the wearing of hijabs by Muslim girls in Russian schools.
      "There are no hijabs in our culture, and when I say our I mean our traditional Islam," he told a grand press conference in Moscow on Thursday.
      "Authoritative statesmen in the Islamic world also say this should not be done. Shall we adopt alien traditions? Why would we do that?" he wondered.
      The president recalled his attendance in a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference (currently the Organization of Islamic Cooperation) to which Russia is an observer. "An acclaimed Islamic personality said in his public speech: what are we doing? We prohibit our girls and women from studying, we force them to wear paranjas, and we create an environment that halts women's development. That is a mistake," Putin quoted. He added that the speaker "was sincere and made his statement in public."
      The Stavropol territorial muftis reported in October 2012 that the families of some schoolgirls had complained about the prohibition to wear hijabs to school. Marina Savchenko, the principal of the 12th school in Kara-Tyube, initiated the ban.
      Russian Education Minister Dmitry Livanov said that wearing hijabs in the Stavropol territory did not contradict the school's rules or customs.
      Stavropol Governor Valery Zerenkov demanded the immediate drafting of a territorial normative legal act, which would regulate the school wear. Regional Education Minister Irina Kuvaldina said that schools of the Stavropol region would have their classic uniforms.
      It was announced on November 19 that the school principal, who had prohibited girls from wearing hijabs, resigned.


      Church estimates for Orthodox believers halved - poll
      Johnson's Russia List, December 20, 2012

      The number of Russian Christians came under scrutiny after polls registered dwindling ranks of the faithful.
      The most surprising finding was that only 41 percent of all Russians say they are members of the Russian Orthodox Church, according to a poll carried out by Sreda, a research service. This number is twice less than the estimated of 80 percent based on the figure stated in a study by an influential independent pollster, Levada Center, back in 2009.
      The polling organization also revealed the result of its investigation in believers of the Russian population earlier this week, lowering the number of Orthodox by 6 percent in comparison with the survey from three years ago.
      The second biggest group in Levada's poll was atheists. According to Sreda, the number of people who said they believed in god but belonged to no religion, all together 25 percent, was the second largest, and atheists, who make 10 percent of all the country's population, came third.
      Estimates for the number of Muslims, made by both pollsters, were very close.
      Levada has put it at 7 percent, which is nearly twice as much as the figure published in its 2009 research. Sreda'e estimate was 0.5 percent less.
      (Alina Lobzina, The Moscow News, December 19, 2012)


      Muslim unification group's books banned in Russia
      December 20, 2012

      The Orenburg Regional Court has upheld a lower court ruling declaring as extremist eight books seized from the organizer of a local branch of an international religious organization, the regional prosecutor's office reported on Thursday.
      The religious literature was seized during searches conducted as part of a criminal case initiated against the individual under the article on extremist organizations.
      In May 2009, the local branch of the Tablighi Jamaat religious organization was opened in the region. The organization's activity was declared extremist and prohibited by the Supreme Court.
      The organization promotes the idea of unifying all Muslims. A district court ruling upheld the regional prosecutor's office's application to declare eight books to be extremist, including Abu-Hamid al-Ghazali's "Instructions to Rulers," and Adbu-al-Aziz Al Abdul-li-Lyatyf's "Righteous Behavior and Catharsis."
      After a psycho-linguistic judicial examination, the literature was found to be extremist. The court is presently considering a criminal case against the organizer of the branch and his accomplices.
      In December 2011, the Tomsk District Court refused to satisfy the local prosecutor's office's lawsuit to ban the book "Bhagavad Gita As It Is," as extremist, as it found no grounds to substantiate the suit's claims.
      The prosecutor's office's petition to declare "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" extremist sparked public indignation in India and was called a violation of Hindu rights. Several lawmakers have called on the Russian government to stand up for the rights of Hindus in Russia.
      "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" is a translation and commentary of the original Bhagavad Gita Hindu scripture. It was written by International Society for Krishna Consciousness founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. The book has been translated into over 60 languages.


      Navalny: Russian opposition figure charged with fraud
      BBC, 20 December 2012

      Investigators in Russia have formally charged leading opposition figure Alexei Navalny and his brother Oleg with fraud and money-laundering. The charges were published on Thursday on the website of the powerful Investigative Committee. The brothers are accused of embezzling 55m roubles (£1.1m; $1.8m) in 2008-11 while working in a postal business. Reacting to news of the inquiry last week, Mr Navalny described the charges as "complete nonsense". Alexei Navalny, a lawyer known for his campaigning against corruption, spearheaded protests against the Kremlin a year ago after disputed parliamentary elections. In October, he came first in a leadership ballot organised by Russia's opposition parties. The charges of fraud and money-laundering carry fines or prison sentences of two and three years respectively.,'Inflated prices' Investigators say mail shipping services were provided at "deliberately inflated prices", with the brothers pocketing 55m roubles, of which 19m were allegedly laundered. Reacting to news of the charges on Thursday, Mr Navalny wrote on Twitter that his father had also been named in the charges. "It's a good thing that Dasha and Zakhar are underage," he added sarcastically, referring to his children. It is not the first case brought against Mr Navalny. In July, he was charged with embezzlement over a timber deal - a charge he also denies. Mr Navalny wrote on Monday that he had signed an undertaking not to leave Moscow during the latest investigation. Since Vladimir Putin was re-elected president in March, legal action against opposition figures has increased markedly. A tough new law has passed on public order offences and tight curbs have been placed on non-governmental organisations. Last winter saw the biggest anti-government demonstrations in Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union.


      EU to consider its possible Magnitsky Act-style list in 2013
      Interfax, December 21, 2012

      The European Union is considering the possibility of imposing visa sanctions on Russian citizens allegedly involved in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and human rights violations, European Parliament member Kristiina Ojuland told Interfax. The EU may refuse to go ahead with its plans if verdicts are handed down to these people by courts, she said. Some compromise could be found if the Kremlin agrees to do everything it can to identify those responsible for Magnitsky's death and if both these people and those who stole money will be convicted, Ojuland said. Otherwise, the issue of sanctions will be discussed within the next six months, starting from January, when Ireland is due to take over the EU presidency, she said.


      Russian State Duma Passes Anti-US Adoption Bill
      RIA Novosti, December 21, 2012

      MOSCOW, December 21 (RIA Novosti) - The lower chamber of the Russian federal legislature, the State Duma, approved in the third and final reading on Friday a bill prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by Americans.
      The draft was supported by 420 of the current lineup of 448 lawmakers. Only seven voted against the bill.
      The bill will be reviewed next Wednesday by the upper chamber, the Federation Council. If approved, it would have to be either vetoed or signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, who did not say when he may consider the bill.
      The legislation was initially called a reaction to the recently passed US Magnitsky Act that imposes sanctions on Russian officials accused of rights abuses.
      The Duma later expanded the bill to include foreigners from all countries alleged to violate Russians' rights.
      Putin confirmed at his news conference on Thursday that the bill was also motivated by cases in which the abuse of Russian adoptees in America had been ignored.
      Since 1999, parents in the United States have adopted more than 45,000 Russian children, according to the US State Department. Russian officials claim at least 19 Russian children adopted by Americans have died in that period.
      The adoption bill caused a flurry of discussion in blogs and the liberal media, with critics accusing the lawmakers of exploiting children for political gain.
      A petition against the bill, signed by 100,000 people, was filed with the Duma on Friday, but failed to deter the vote. The legislature will still be required by law to review the petition at an unspecified later date.
      The Duma also passed on Friday a statement calling to further develop the domestic adoption system to eliminate the need for foreign adoptions.
      Russia's state care facilities were home to about 650,000 children at the start of 2012, according to children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov.


      Prank Reveals the Depths of Anti-American Propaganda in the Russian Media
      By Kevin Rothrock,
      Global Voices Online, 23 December 2012

      Anonymity affords ordinarily timid individuals the courage and opportunity to behave dishonestly. That, anyway, is the story we typically hear, especially in the context of the Internet. As Oleg Kashin recently pointed out in his column [ru] at openspace.ru, however, it takes two to make a successful prank (the prankster and the sucker)-a point on vivid display in a minor RuNet scandal last week. On December 14, Komsomolskaia Pravda newspaper chief editor Vladimir Sungorkin received a fax [ru] supposedly from the American embassy in Moscow, informing him that his visa to the United States had been frozen in connection with the recently passed Magnitsky Act, which bars certain Russians from entering American soil.,,Revealing something about the hierarchy of Russia's media landscape, Sungorkin took his case to Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of the (largely anti-American, pro-Kremlin) RT (formerly "Russia Today") television network. Simonyan quickly tweeted [ru] at Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, complaining that America had lost sight of the Magnitsky case and demonstrated its own weak commitment to free speech (implying that Sungorkin had been targeted for his criticisms of the White House).,,As it turned out, the fax was a fake, and Sungorkin and Simonyan had fallen for someone's gag, hook, line, and sinker, exposing a moment's gullibility, but also the consequences [ru] of anti-American propaganda on the people who manufacture the stuff: namely, that they so easily believe the American government would target them in such diplomatic maneuvers.


      Russia should 'keep' US adoption agreement - Lavrov
      RIA-Novosti, December 24, 2012

      Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on Russian lawmakers not to cancel the US-Russia adoption agreement, even if American adoptions are most likely to be banned soon.
      "So while I understand the position of those in favor of prohibiting the adoption of Russian kids by American families, I still believe that we have to try to keep the agreement," Lavrov told RT in an interview released on Monday.
      Lavrov said the bilateral agreement aimed at improving oversight and helping prevent adopted children being abused, as it enables Russian officials to visit the children in their American adoptive families.
      As it stands, the proposed amendment would cancel this agreement. But the president can issue an instruction for it to be kept in force.
      The adoption ban is the most controversial aspect of the bill proposed by Russian lawmakers following the recently passed US Magnitsky Act that imposes sanctions on Russian officials accused of rights abuses.
      The bill, passed in three readings by the State Duma, is scheduled for review next Wednesday by the upper chamber Federation Council, and if approved would then go to Russian President Vladimir Putin to either be vetoed or signed into law.
      Lavrov had earlier criticized the proposed ban as "wrong."
      US State Department figures show that more than 60,000 children have been adopted from Russia by American parents since the early 1990s. Nineteen adopted Russian children have died in the care of their American parents over this time.


      Few Russians celebrate Western-style Christmas - poll
      Interfax-Religion, December 25, 2012

      Moscow, December 25, Interfax - Only 7% of Russians celebrate Western-style Christmas, according to a Levada Center survey obtained by Interfax.
      The indicator stood at 5% in 2011, 6% in 2006, and 19% in 2003.
      It seems Russians are bracing for the long New Year holiday season, Levada Centersaid.
      The majority of Russians celebrating Western-style Christmas are people younger than 25 (11%), people with a secondary education (9%), Muscovites (16%), unemployed people (14%), housewives and specialists (13%).
      Catholics and many other Christian religions, including Orthodox, celebrate Christmas on December 25. The Russian, Serbian, Jerusalem and Georgian Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on January 7.


      Ukrainian and Russian languages equal - official
      The Voice of Russia, December 25, 2012

      Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Vladimir Rybak favors an equal status for Ukrainian and Russian languages.
      In an interview with the Kommersant-Ukraine newspaper, he criticized deputies who refer to Russian as an ethnic minority language. Russian, he said, is spoken by 50% of the population of Ukraine, he said.
      Rybak said, however, that Ukrainian is an official language according to the country's Constitution and that the Constitution has to be observed.
      A law that came into effect in Ukraine on August 10 awards Russian the status of a regional language in areas where it is a native language for at least 10% of the population, and that means in 13 of 27 regions of Ukraine.
      Voice of Russia, TASS


      St. Petersburg activists appeal dismissal of lawsuits against Madonna
      RAPSI, December 25, 2012

      St. Petersburg activists have filed an appeal against the Moskovsky District Court's ruling which dismissed their lawsuits against Madonna and the organizers of her concert, RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday.
      In mid-August, the court agreed to hear the lawsuits against Madonna and the organizers of her concert in St. Petersburg. The plaintiffs sought 333 million rubles ($10.8 million) for alleged offenses related to her support for the LGBT community.
      In November, the court dismissed all nine lawsuits and ruled to recover legal fees from the plaintiffs in favor of the concert organizers.
      Darya Dedova, one of the plaintiffs, said that the claims remain the same and they are determined to seek the cancellation of the defendants' recovery of legal fees.
      The plaintiffs believe that the Moskovsky District Court's ruling showed the entire world that the law prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality among the under-aged does not work, and that "Russian laws can be violated with no consequences."
      The St. Petersburg law on prohibiting the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia among minors, which gathered a host of both supporters and opponents, came into effect on March 30.
      Under the amended law, public actions intended to promote homosexual and bisexual relations and transgender issues among minors are to be punished by administrative fines amounting to 5,000 rubles ($162) for individuals, 50,000 rubles ($1,623) for officials and from 250,000 to 500,000 rubles ($8,115 to $16,230) for legal entities.


      'Innocence of Muslims' film added to Russian Justice Ministry's ban list
      Interfax, December 26, 2012

      Moscow - The 'Innocence of Muslims' notorious film has been added to the Russian Justice Ministry's official ban list. The film branded extremist has No1589. The ministry website said that the film was added to the ban list under a decision of the Moscow Tverskoy District Court of October 1, 2012.
      The Moscow Tverskoy District Court said on October 1 that the anti-Islamic film, The Innocence of Muslims, which was aired online and triggered mass riots in many countries, was an extremist production. The court upheld the request of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office and banned distribution of the film in Russia.
      A psychological and linguistic examination of the film done at the request of prosecutors confirmed that the film "aimed to incite religious hate and animosity and to humiliate people on the grounds of nationality and religion."


      Ukrainian and Russian languages equal - official
      RIA Novosti, Dec 25, 2012

      Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Vladimir Rybak favors an equal status for Ukrainian and Russian languages. In an interview with the Kommersant-Ukraine newspaper, he criticized deputies who refer to Russian as an ethnic minority language. Russian, he said, is spoken by 50% of the population of Ukraine, he said. Rybak said, however, that Ukrainian is an official language according to the country's Constitution and that the Constitution has to be observed. A law that came into effect in Ukraine on August 10 awards Russian the status of a regional language in areas where it is a native language for at least 10% of the population, and that means in 13 of 27 regions of Ukraine. Voice of Russia, TASS


      "Anti-Magnitsky law" must not harm Russian children - Berel Lazar
      Interfax-Religion, December 27, 2012

      Moscow, December 27, Interfax - Russian orphans should not become the hostages of politics, Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar said in comment on the Dima Yakovlev law.
      "Domestic problems should be solved before taking any further actions. If we are not prepared to solve this problem inside the country, we should be very careful and prevent any damage to children," he told a Thursday press conference at Interfax.
      Thousands of Russian children live in orphanages, but the parents of the majority of them are alive, the rabbi said.
      "We must think about our children and find a solution. It is a shame that the world still believes that many children in Russia need adoption. That is a bad indicator of the country's responsibility," the chief rabbi said.
      He called for reconciliation between Russia and the United States, and said he regretted the "escalation of the conflict between the two countries, which was harmful for children."
      Technically, Russia is prepared to ban U.S. adoptions of Russian children because "its budget is colossal", but society is not prepared and not fully aware of the need to take care of orphans. This awareness should be cultivated, the rabbi said. He also called wrong the U.S. authorities' linking of the Magnitsky Act with the cancellation of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment.
      "Where are Jackson-Vanik, Jews and Magnitsky? All these things are totally unrelated. It seems to be a game. They are not looking for a constructive decision, but are trying to show that they are more powerful and correct," Lazar remarked.


      Russian NGO head could lose job over new law
      Alina Lobzhina
      The Moscow News, December 28, 2012

      Ludmila Alexeyeva, a leading Russian human rights advocate, is ready to defend the job she might lose under the newly adopted Russian response to the Magnitsky Act, she told RIA Novosti on Friday.
      The bill signed by President Vladimir Putin earlier in the day prohibits holders of US passports working in NGOs engaged in political activities in Russia as well as other measures against US nationals.
      Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Alexeyeva is a citizen of both Russia and the United States and may be forced to leave her post at Russia's oldest acting human rights watchdog.
      She, however, is not going to give in easily. "If they use this law against me, I will immediately go to the Constitutional Court because the law is unconstitutional," she told RIA Novosti.
      Earlier she told Vedomosti that the NGO amendment was targeting her personally.
      Lev Ponomaryov, Alexeyeva's colleague at the Moscow Helsinki Group, was also ready to back her claim. "It won't be only her filing a lawsuit, but mine as well, so there are several appeals to the Constitutional Court," he told the news agency.
      The proposal to ban US citizens from Russian political NGOs was endorsed on Friday together with a prohibition for US nationals to adopt children in the country.
      The move was put forward after the United States imposed travel bans and freeze of all assets to Russians allegedly responsible for human rights abuse earlier this year under the Magnitsky Act.
      The law was named after Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in custody after allegedly unveiling fraudulent schemes run by tax officials.


      Putin endorses anti-US adoption law
      Alina Lobzina
      The Moscow News, December 28, 2012

      President Vladimir Putin signed the controversial bill banning adoptions for US citizens in Russia on Friday, the Kremlin's press service said.
      The country's response to the "Magnitsky Act," which imposes a travel ban and freeze of all assets in the United States on alleged human rights violators from Russia, is to come into effect on the first day of 2013.
      The bill, unanimously supported by the upper house of the Russian parliament, was backed by Russian presidential children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, but allegedly sparked disputes in the cabinet and saw protests staged by some acitivists and civic groups in Moscow.
      Named after Dima Yakovlev, a Russian orphan who died due to negligence of his US adoptive father, Russia's retaliation also blacklists some US citizens from traveling to Russia.
      The full list of people, whom the Russian authorities believe responsible for human rights infringements against Russians, it to remain unveiled, Dmitry Peskov, presidential spokesman, told RIA Novosti.
      The Magnitsky bill signed by US President Barack Obama earlier this month, owes its name to Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in custody after claiming to uncover fraudulent tax refunding schemes run by tax officials.
      The names of Russians prohibited from traveling to the United States and owning assets in the country under this law is also not to become public.


      Another Stalin statue goes up in Georgia
      Democracy & Freedom Watch, December 31, 2012

      TBILISI, DFWatch - A statue of Josef Stalin which had been torn down has been put up again in a village in eastern Georgia.
      Locals in Akura restored the monument of the Soviet dictator two years after it was taken down.
      Villagers rehabilitated the monument to celebrate the Georgian born politician's birthday.
      The statue was damaged while it was taken down two years ago and has since been kept in one of the locals' house.
      Badri Gogiashvili, who has been keeping the monument, told Channel 1 that people are excited now that they have it back in its place. Villagers collected money to repair it.
      About a month ago, another monument of Stalin was restored in the village Alvana, near Akhmeta in eastern Georgia.


      Kremlin: August 1 to be Russia's WWI Remembrance Day
      RIA-Novosti, December 31, 2012

      MOSCOW, December 31 (RIA Novosti) - August 1 will be the date on which, each year, Russia remembers its soldiers who fell during the First World War, the Kremlin Press Service announced on Monday.
      "The following changes are introduced to the Federal Law on Days of Military Glory and Remembrance Days in Russia, adding the date of August 1 as a Day of Remembrance for the Russian soldiers who fell in the First World War of 1914-1918," the press release says.
      President Putin suggested creating a memorial to the Russian soldiers who fought in World War I (WWI) during his state of the nation address of December 12.
      Allied to Britain and France in WWI, Russia is thought to have lost about 1.5 million soldiers at the front, with about 5 million wounded - according to the history site firstworldwar.com, although some historians question these figures.
      Russia's participation in WWI was downplayed in the Soviet Union, largely due to the Bolshevik view of it as an "imperialist war" that paved the way for revolution.
      Speaking with young Russians at the Seliger youth camp in July 2013, President Putin raised the issue of Russia's role in WWI, and blamed the Bolsheviks for how Russia left the war. "It is also known that the Bolsheviks wished for the defeat of their own nation in World War I. And overall, I must say that their input in Russia's defeat was commensurate."
      The Treaty of Brest Litovsk, signed between Bolshevik Russia, the German Empire, Austria Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire on March 3, 1918, officially terminated Russia's involvement in WWI.
      "This was an astonishing situation, wherein Germany surrendered to the Allies, but Russia lost to the defeated nation, Germany, and with such grave consequences - losing enormous territories and suffering other truly severe ramifications. This is truly a unique large-scale example of national treachery!" Putin said.
      (Updated at 13:19 with President Putin's comments)


      Russia Approves Stiffer Illegal Immigration Penalties
      RIA-Novosti, December 31, 2012

      MOSCOW, December 31 (RIA Novosti) - The punishment for those who organize illegal immigration into Russia just got tougher under new amendments to the Criminal Code signed by President Vladimir Putin.
      Those responsible for organizing the illegal entry of non-citizens into Russia, their stay in the country or their transit through it now face up to five years in prison, up from two previously, according to the document, which has been published on Russia's official legal information website.
      If they are acting as part of an organized group with the goal of carrying out criminal activity in Russia, the maximum sentence is now seven years, up from five.
      The amendments also include stiffer fines and longer community service penalties for offenders.
      Putin spoke of the need to toughen punishment for illegal immigration in his annual address to the Federal Assembly on December 12.



      The Politics of Traditional Values
      By Halya Koynash
      Western Analytical Group, 20 August 2009

      A seminar took place in Kyiv on 13 July 2009 - quietly, no political scandals or brawls. For all the lack of breaking news, it is a shame that the media and public paid virtually no attention to a truly surreal event, and the document which was enthusiastically discussed - the Ukrainian version of the Russian Orthodox Church's Basic Teaching on Human Dignity, Freedom and Human Rights. One National Deputy [MP] was so taken with it that he has already submitted a draft Resolution to the Verkhovna Rada "On adopting a Verkhovna Rada Declaration on Human Dignity, Freedom and Human Rights", based very closely on the "Basic Teachings". All sounds delightful and entirely innocuous but hold fire with such conclusions. How the organizers decided who to invite to the presentation of the "Basic Teachings" in Ukrainian on 13 July is not known. Certainly the organizations which make up the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union only learned of the event from the scant information in the press and a rather odd press release, apparently from the Human Rights Ombudsperson's Secretariat yet only, for some reason, in English. The event was co-chaired by the Metropolitan of Simferopol and the Crimea Lazar, and the Ombudsperson Nina Karpachova, who stated that the document was "of civilization significance". The Ombudsperson's comments in general suggest that the staggering dissonance between the "Basic Teachings" and Ukraine's constitutional norms and the human rights which she is called upon to defend bothers her no more than it does Kolisnychenko. The event was also attended by former President Leonid Kuchma, the above-mentioned National Deputy, some highly-placed public officials, a representative of the UN who was there for less than 2 hours and did not take part (there being no simultaneous translation) and some representatives of human rights organizations, including from Amnesty International in Ukraine. This "document of civilization significance" was thus by no means only discussed by representatives of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. We can hope that parliament will deal swiftly with Mr Kolishnychenko's draft resolution which would render meaningless more than one constitutional norm, yet the enthusiasm of some and silence of others can only bemuse. I normally like to look up quotes given from the Gospels or other texts. It's as though for a fleeting moment or two you are sharing a path which is otherwise long and lonely. Yet here the words are the same and yet the path and landscape seem quite different. Christ who spoke to each individual has somehow disappeared and we're left with only sin on which human dignity is directly dependent. And what we should understand as sin, and therefore, what is needed for purification, also arouses serious reservations. One has the impression that moral purity depends effectively on sexual orientation and behaviour, on being law-abiding, etc. It is not only Christ of the Gospels who seems of little interest to the authors, but also the weakness and bitter repentance of Peter who indeed "before the rooster crowed twice" denied Christ three times (Mark 14:71-72) Strange lack of interest for any society, church or in fact for any individual from a post-Soviet country. It is hard not to recall Soviet times since the accusations against "the West" and some unnamed, yet of course dangerous human rights norms are painfully familiar. Whether they really have got the essence of human rights so catastrophically wrong I would not like to say, however unfortunately the reader of this document can get seriously confused. If I wax indignant and begin arguing why vegetarians are not deviants, many readers will decide that somebody really made such an absurd accusation. When we read the following: "Human rights cannot be superior to the values of the spiritual world" not everybody will think to ask who precisely suggested anything to the contrary. Or, even more nonsensical: "Human rights cannot be a reason for coercing Christians into violation of God's commandments". Something obviously mesmerized the Ukrainian public officials however it can hardly have been the power of argumentation. It remains unclear to the end what exactly is seen as wrong with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms aside from Soviet clichés about everything "from there" being bad. We read, for example: "Some civilizations ought not to impose their own way of life on other civilizations under the pretext of human rights protection. Human rights activity should not be used to serve the interests of particular countries". All of this is so reminiscent of the evermore aggressive rhetoric coming from Russian imperialists that one is appalled at the obvious desire evinced by Vadim Kolisnychenko and the Human Rights Ombudsperson to join in that chorus. The National Deputy got totally carried away with his criticism: "the contemporary system of so-called "universal human rights", reflected in the majority of international documents and enshrined in the Constitution and a number of laws of Ukraine, was formed largely on the basis of the liberal-protestant western tradition with its inherent human-centeredness and extreme individualism, does not work properly on Ukrainian soil". Some words have, most regrettably, taken on some kind of magic force. Like the expression "traditional values" which all politicians and public officials, including the Human Rights Ombudsperson, are hurtling to defend, yet in no hurry to define, or at very least itemize. Under the present regime in the Russian Federation, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate [ROC MP] is more and more actively consolidating its position as the "State religion". Yet what about in Ukraine where there are a considerable number of followers of different denominations or faiths, as well, of course, as non-believers? , Is concern about their rights to be considered the "corrupting influence of the West"? Those citizens have all grounds for asking who they should turn to when they read that "the Human Rights Ombudsperson Nina Karpachova noted the relevance and need to understand human rights from the church point of view. She assured her listeners that her position coincided with the position of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [of the Moscow Patriarchate]". The claim, made on many occasions in the "Basic Teachings" that the concept of sin and virtue, as opposed to that of human rights, is unchanging has no substance to it. Even if we look only at different Christian denominations, there is no united position on a number of the issues which the ROC MP is entirely categorical about. It is not so much human rights that the "Basic Teachings" are so vehemently against, as the principles of life in a pluralist democracy where you can't foist your own understanding of sin on others. The authors don't find this to their liking however they should not resort to wild exaggeration, oversimplification of complex life situations and fairytales about persecution or coercion of believers. Nobody would force a believer to commit what he or she considers a sin. However not everybody has the same view. Have we really not all suffered enough from regimes foisting their "one and only truth"? There are some lessons that the ROC MP leadership stubbornly refuse to learn. In the "Basic Teachings" individual rights are subordinate to those of the group, and the individual is effectively just a component part of the whole which he or she should serve. We do not know when the authors of the document and their Ukrainian supporters last read the Gospels, however it is difficult to rid oneself of the feeling that for them Christ's words should also take second place to political <br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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