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Bulletin 7:2 (2013)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 7, No. 2(190), 26 February 2013 Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2013
      THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 7, No. 2(190), 26 February 2013
      Compilers: Fabian Burkhardt, Parikrama Gupta, Vildane Oezkan & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 16 - 31 January 2013
      II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS
      III ANNOTATIONS OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS

      [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 January 2012

      Only One Russian NGO Registered as Foreign Agent
      RIA-Novosti, January 16, 2013

      MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov said on Wednesday that only one non-governmental organization in Russia has so far registered as a foreign agent under a recently introduced law on NGOs.
      Russia's controversial new law, obligating non-governmental organizations financed from abroad and involved in political activity to register as "foreign agents," came into force last November. The first organization to register under the new law last December was the "Shchit i Mech" (Shield and Sword) human rights group from the Chuvashia Republic.
      "As for requests, I have no other information besides the only association from Chuvashia, about which you already know," Konovalov told a session of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.
      The minister added that Russian NGOs are currently in a stage of "adjustment" to the norms of the new law, which should gradually become part of routine judicial practice.
      Alexei Glukhov, the head of "Shchit i Mech," said earlier his organization decided to register under the new legislation to find out how the new law works from the inside.
      The new legislation also requires NGOs to publish a biannual report on their activities and carry out an annual financial audit.
      Failure to comply with the law could result in fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($15,900).
      Kremlin officials have repeatedly claimed that Washington is using NGOs in Russia as a cover to bring about political change. President Vladimir Putin once famously called Russian NGOs involved in politics "jackals."

      http://en.rian.ru/politics/20130116/178817659/Only_One_Russian_NGO_Registered_as_Foreign_Agent________.html
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      Jailed Pussy Riot protester lost appeal to be freed to care for her small son
      ITAR-TASS, January 17, 2013

      Russian Press Review - A court in the town of Berezniki in the Urals mountains, some 1,200 kilometers northeast of Moscow, on Wednesday rejected an appeal by Pussy Riot protester Maria Alyokhina sentenced to two years in prison to be freed she could care for her small son. The court's judge explained her verdict that having a child did not prevent Alyokhina from committing a crime.
      The colony's representatives believe that Alyokhina demonstrated no interest in her son while staying in prison, the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily wrote. On Wednesday evening the court rejected her appeal.
      Alyokhina's release from colony was hampered by many reprimands she had received from prison authorities. She had repeatedly failed to respond a wakeup order and watched TV when the lights-out time started, the Kommersant business daily reported. During a court session the prosecutor added that Alyokhina's release proved inexpedient as her parents care for her child and she, in fact, is a dependent person, as she had no job.
      The band member's lawyer Oksana Darova, said in turn that her defendant's violations were not intentional and asked the court to consider Alyokhina's positive record from the university where she had studied. The activist's public supporter, journalist Alexander Podrabinek told the judge, "Everybody realizes that she is not a criminal and her crime is not related to violence, therefore she can be freed."
      Maria Alyokhina appealed to the court asking to allow her to serve out her sentence when her son was older, Novye Izvestiya wrote. She said she took an active part in bringing her child up - she took him to a kindergarten and many child development centres. "He misses me very much, he needs me," Alyokhina said.
      The prosecutor, in turn, doubted this fact and asked for arguments proving that she had taken her boy to development centres. "Her family situation had been properly taken into account during her trial," the prosecutor said.
      The newspaper recalled that there were cases in Russia's judicial practice when those convicted managed to suspend their sentence even after they had committed more serious crimes. For instance, a daughter of the Irkutsk regional election committee's chief, Anna Shavenkova, was sentenced to three years in colony with a respite until 2024 after she ran over two women while driving her car. One of the women died. The road accident recorded by a CCTV camera showed that after the accident Shavenkova inspected her car instead of helping those injured.

      http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/623551.html
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      Eurasian Integration No 'Reincarnation of USSR' - Nazarbayev
      RIA Novosti, January 18, 2013

      ASTANA, January 18 (RIA Novosti) - Former Soviet states' involvement in Eurasian integration does not herald a return to the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev said on Friday.
      " We will continue to strive toward our common goal, and I want to stress once again that Eurasian integration, which is proceeding under my personal initiative, has never been, and never will be, a reincarnation of any political union, and particularly of the now-defunct Soviet Union," Nazarbayev said.
      Touching on those countries involved in the Customs Union, he stressed that "Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus remain independent states with their own national interests."
      Any suspicions about the aims of the Eurasian integration process were groundless, he said, ascribing talk of any creeping "re-Sovietization" to media, experts and politicians who remain stuck in the Cold War era.
      Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia have since January 1, 2012, been part of a Common Economic Space (EEP), or a Customs Union. It allows free movement of capital, goods and services across the three states' national borders. Kazakhstan's Central Asian neighbor Kyrgyzstan has applied to join.
      Russia views this grouping as a precursor to a broader Eurasian Economic Union, and has even touted membership to Ukraine and Moldova, although Kiev has long harbored ambitions of moving closer to the EU.
      Russia has been calling for more CIS countries to join the union, a process regarded with concern by Washington. In December 2012, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the new post-Soviet integration initiative in an address to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
      " It's going to be called a Customs Union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that. But let's make no mistake about it," Clinton said, branding the move as "re-Sovietization."
      Russian President Vladimir Putin responded by defending these post-Soviet integration initiatives as part of a "natural process" driven by the countries' mutual economic interests.
      " It is strange for me to hear some of our colleagues abroad say that we are moving down the path of integration and that this is the revival of Russia's ambitions as the former Soviet Union," he said. "What utter nonsense."

      http://en.rian.ru/world/20130118/178861309/Eurasian-Integration-No-Reincarnation-of-USSR---Nazarbayev.html
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      Russia Confirms Existence of 'Guantanamo List' Against US
      RIA Novosti, January 18, 2013

      MOSCOW, January 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russia confirmed on Friday the existence of its "Guantanamo List," which it said was a retaliatory measure for the US Congress' passage of the Magnitsky Act.
      " In our relations with the United States, we have so-called 'blacklists.' The makeup of these lists, as well as the criteria on which they are based, is not a matter of general discussion," the Foreign Ministry's Deputy Head Sergei Ryabkov said. "As for the 'Guantanamo List,' some information that is now publicly available is not far from the truth. The contents of these lists may change with time," he added.
      Russia had previously blacklisted only 11 Americans. Visa restrictions had been put in place on those Americans who had violated the human rights of Russian citizens in the United States and in zones under American jurisdiction (such as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba). Duma Foreign Affairs Committee representative Alexei Pushkov told Russian media on Friday that the list had been extended to include 60 people.
      Ryabkov said Russia had determined several occasions on which "the US government and legal establishments had raced to unjustifiable conclusions, extending US jurisdiction to the territory of third states," and also violated human rights, including those of Russian citizens in the United States.
      " This cannot be left without a response. One of the forms of this response is the restriction of entry to Russia for those people who participate in these violations," he said.
      Russia had been forced to retaliate with symmetrical measures, Ryabkov said. "An answer with symmetrical measures is not our choice," he said. "We simply have to act in such a way. But responsibility for this lies with the United States," he added.
      The US government passed the Magnitsky Act in December of last year, introducing a blacklist of Russian officials allegedly linked to the death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky at a Russian prison in 2009. Russia immediately promised to retaliate for the measure.

      http://en.rian.ru/russia/20130118/178869884/Russia-Confirms-Existence-of-Guantanamo-List-Against-US.html
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      Presidential Council on Human Rights calls for rejection of bill on insulting feelings of believers
      HRO.org (info), 18 January 2013

      Freedom of conscience The head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, has criticised the bill on the punishment of those insulting the feelings of believers. According to Fedotov, the bill must be returned to its initiators and a new bill should be prepared in its place. Earlier, the expert group of the Presidential Council suggested that administrative responsibility should remain, and that criminal liability for insulting the religious feelings of citizens should not be introduced, reports Rosbalt. The bill concerning the protection of the feelings of believers was sent by President Putin to be reworked, and now it is being finalised by two members of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, Professor Iosif Diskin and the lawyer Vladimir Ryakhovsky. This bill was introduced to the State Duma by representatives all Duma fractions and by a member of the Federation Council, Boris Shpigel. The bill proposes imprisonment for a term of up to five years for a person insulting the feelings of believers or profaning a sacred place or object. Also, this document substantially increases the fines payable for such an act. The Public Chamber of the Russian Federation does not support this bill as it conflicts with a number of principles enshrined in the Constitution of the Russian Federation and international law.

      http://hro.rightsinrussia.info/archive/conscience/legislation/insulting-believers
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      Religious actions to be given the same status as rallies
      ITAR-TASS, January 18, 2013

      Russian Press Review - Russia's Ministry of Justice has drafted amendments to the Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations, allowing to stage unauthorized outdoor religious actions only on the territories of places of worship. A sanction from the authorities will be needed in any other case. Violators will be subject to punishment in accordance with the new law on rallies. No criticism has been voiced by religious confessions so far.
      The bill lists all the places where public religious actions can be conducted without permission, writes the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily. Such places are mostly places of worship, or, to put it in secular terms, churches, mosques, synagogues, etc., and sites of pilgrimage, cemeteries and crematoria, and residential premises. To hold a religious ceremony in any other place an authorization from the local authorities will be needed. Such an authorization will be issued in accordance with the procedure fixed in the law on rallies, marches and demonstrations.
      Igor Kovalevsky, the Secretary General of the Russian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told the RBC daily that Catholics had already staged some of their street actions in compliance with the new law and had had no problems with that. "Security considerations are what matter most. There were attempts to apply the toughened law on rallies against organizers of mass Moslem services in the Kaluga region and in the Primorsky Territory, although they were not fined," he said.
      However, according to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, leading religious associations are worried over the new document. The newspaper cites Damir Gizatullin, the first deputy chairman of the European Russia Spiritual Moslem Directorate, who said that, as a rule, believers are law-abiding citizens, and Russian Moslems had been practicing notification of local secular authorities about their actions for years.
      The Moscow Patriarchate has voiced no criticism of the justice ministry's initiative either. "This document in no way violates the Church's rights. Maybe, it needs some adjustment. The very definition of the "public religious action and ceremony" might be somewhat specified," the newspaper quotes nun Xenia (Chernegi), the head of the Patriarchate's legal service.
      Lawyer Anatoly Pchelintsev, professor of the Centre for the Study of Religions of the Russian State University of the Humanities, said it was a predicted amendment. Nonetheless, he noted, such regulation of religious ceremonies is excessive. "The goal of this amendment is to abridge the right of conscience for religious minorities. This amendment will tell only on them. In particular, it targets Jehovah's Witnesses who practice holding their actions at stadiums. The law will in no way affect major religions," he said.
      However, Pchelintsev noted, more detailed elaboration is needed in what concerns immolation practices during the Moslem Kurban Bayrami Feast of the Sacrifice. "The bill should be more exact about sacrifice offering practices. It should fix both the sanitary hygienic norms, and ethic norms, since this rite is not a comfortable sight," he said.
      According to the expert, the bill is to be subject to a general discussion. "It might cause some problems if not in Russia, but in North Caucasian republics. Religion is the mode of life there and the bill may disturb the harmony," he said.
      The situation around the bill is ambiguous, political scientist Pavel Salin told the Novye Izvestia newspaper. "On the one hand, it catches up the screw-tightening policy, when the authorities look upon any mass action, whatever its aims might be, as a potential threat to themselves. Whereas previously only socio-political actions used to be subject to authorization, now, judging by the developments in St. Petersburg, such authorization is needed to stage a mass snowball fight. On the other hand, religious holidays and feasts often cause problems, especially in big cities," the expert said and added that the requirement to obtain a permit would be binding upon all confessions.

      http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/624722.html
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      Activists of extremist religious organization Nurjular to stand trial in Novosibirsk 21 Interfax, January 21, 2013

      Moscow - Active members of a cell of Nurjular, a banned international extremist religious organization, will be tried in Russia.
      " A cell of the international extremist religious organization Nurjular has been crushed in Novosibirsk," the Russian Interior Ministry told Interfax.
      Files of a criminal case, started against this organization, with an indictment attached, have been referred to a court in Novosibirsk, it said.
      The Interior Ministry's regional center for combating extremism received intelligence in 2009 indicating that a cell of this banned religious organization was active in Novosibirsk, the ministry's press service said.
      " Center E for combating extremism carried out a search operation between 2009 and 2012, establishing the identities of the cell's leaders and active members, their contacts in other Russian regions and abroad, as well as videos showing people reading extremist literature, popularizing the radical ideology and recruiting new members," a ministry spokesman said.
      A criminal case was started against the leaders and active members of the local organization, based on the intelligence provided by Center E, the Novosibirsk police and the regional branch of the Federal Security Service.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=10219
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      Migrant crime rates not growing in Russia - Federal Migration Service
      JRL Russia List, January 23, 2013

      MOSCOW. Jan 21 (Interfax) - The majority of foreign migrants arriving in Russia come from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Ukraine. There is no growth of migrant crime rates, Federal Migration Service head Konstantin Romodanovsky told Interfax." Only 3.4% of solved crimes are committed by migrants. Most frequently migrants are charged with document forgery," he said. Migrant arrivals in Russia have grown by 23% since 2009, while migrant crime rates have declined from 3.5% to 3.4% over the same period, Romodanovsky said. "Certainly, the rates are higher in megalopolises. Additional measures will be taken there jointly with the Interior Ministry. Judging by migration statistics, the number of foreign migrants in Russia has declined although the decline is insignificant," the service head said." Slightly more than 2 million citizens of Uzbekistan are staying in Russia now. They have arrived with various purposes. Almost 760,000 of them have work permits or patents, and another 885,000 Uzbek citizens declared work as the purpose of their stay in Russia when they crossed the border and were registered as migrants but did not obtain a work permit or a patent. Presumably, they are employed illegally," Romodanovsky said." More than one million citizens of Tajikistan are staying in Russia, and 271,500 of them have work permits or patents. Some 397,000 are in the risk group. The other 330,000 are staying for a period of less than 90 days. They have violated nothing so far," he said. "Over 1.3 million have arrived from Ukraine, and 109,000 of them have work permits. Some 551,000 Ukrainian citizens are in the risk group," Romodanovsky said.

      http://russialist.org/migrant-crime-rates-not-growing-in-russia-federal-migration-service/
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      Pussy Riot member suspected of deal with prosecution and "betrayal"
      Interfax, January 21, 2013

      Moscow - A lawyer has expressed suspicion that there are string indications that the release of one of the three convicted members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band was part of a "bargain" between her and the prosecution and represented "betrayal of common interests."
      Correspondence between the two other convicts, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, which they authorized their attorneys to publish, confirms suspicions that Yekaterina Samutsevich struck a deal with the prosecution, Violetta Volkova, a former defense lawyer for the Pussy Riot defendants, told Interfax.
      "One can only make guesses about the true nature of the bargain, but Samutsevich did change her position, saying that the action at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior wasn't political and that there was a crime though she wasn't to blame for it," Volkova said.
      The lawyer posted in her blog the text of handwritten letters of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina to each other in which they discussed Samutsevich's volte-face.
      "In all her interviews, Samutsevich said she wasn't repentant but when the appeal against the sentence was being considered she said the opposite. Afterwards she was mounting attacks on the lawyers, on our reputation: we were accused of crimes - stealing money, stealing the brand name, - though she didn't go as far as appealing to law enforcement. It was all sudden and brazen," Volkova said.
      " All that we did we did professionally. The change of position, namely confession to a crime, is a huge present to the prosecution because until then all three young women had denied being guilty of a crime. This may be why they are in prison now. I'm glad that Katya is out, but there's betrayal of common interests behind this," the lawyer said.
      Volkova expressed suspicion that Samutsevich's decision to ask for another defense lawyer was part of a scheme devised by the prosecution. Namely, the prosecution might specially have put up a woman in her cell who talked her into asking for another attorney.
      Volkova said Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina would most likely have been able to take Samutseich's route but opted against it.
      " Samutsevich now has [travel] restrictions and says she has no plans to stay in the band. She said she's getting ready to take foreign citizenship," Volkova said.
      Another Pussy Riot lawyer, Mark Feigin, told Interfax the allegations that Pussy Riot's lawyers stole the band's brand name were senseless.
      Interfax has been unable to obtain comments from Samutsevich. Nor has her new lawyer, Irina Khrunova, been available for comments.
      The source of the three women's conviction was a performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior on February 21 in which the musicians, with balaclavas covering their faces, sang a rock-style prayer, asking the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from Vladimir Putin, who was then running for president.
      They were arrested and charged with "hooliganism," but protested their innocence, claiming that the performance was a political act and that they did not want to offend anyone's religious feelings.
      On August 17, they were sentenced to two years in prison. Their lawyers appealed the sentences, arguing that the performance had not been criminal or hatred-motivated. On October 10, the Moscow City Court upheld the sentences of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina but released Samutsevich.
      Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were sent to different prisons.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=10213
      ----

      Activists clash over gay propaganda bill outside parliament
      Moscow News, January 22, 2013

      RIA Novosti - Supporters and opponents of a proposed federal law banning gay propaganda clashed on Tuesday outside the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, a RIA Novosti correspondent reported from the scene.
      The bill was to be debated by the State Duma on Tuesday, but the discussion and vote in the first reading were adjourned until Thursday. Gay rights activists, however, said they would go ahead with their planned protest outside the State Duma building in central Moscow.
      The rally was titled "For traditional values: love, family and respect for human dignity." A few minutes after the protest began at midday, a fistfight broke out between LGBT activists and their opponents, who also came to the venue. A RIA Novosti correspondent estimated the total number of people attending the event at around 30, half of whom partook in the fight. Some local media outlets estimated the number of LGBT activists attending to be slightly higher.
      Proponents of the bill also bombarded the gay rights supporters with raw eggs and sprayed them with ketchup. Local media identified Christian Orthodox activists, among them Dmitry Tsorionov, also known as Enteo, among those partaking in the fight.
      " Four police officers interfered about five minutes into the clash," a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.
      LGBT rallies against the bill were also planned in other Russian cities - Samara on Volga, Tomsk in Siberia and Arkhangelsk in northern Russia.
      The bill, introduced by the Novosibirsk Region Legislative Assembly, bans promotion of homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender practices among minors and stipulates that "gay propaganda" should be viewed as an administrative offense.
      The bill also stipulates administrative fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($170) for individuals, up to 50,000 rubles ($1,700) for officials and up to 500,000 ($17,000) for legal entities.
      Similar laws have been passed by regional legislatures in Novosibirsk, St. Petersburg and other Russian regions.

      http://themoscownews.com/russia/20130122/191164125.html
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      Migrants to undergo drug tests - Russia's Chief Narcologist
      Moscow News, January 22, 2013

      RIA Novosti - Migrant workers will have to undergo drug tests when applying for jobs in Moscow, the chief narcologist of the Russian Health Ministry said Tuesday.
      " The order has been signed," Yevgeny Bryun said. "I think we will start working from next week."
      " Migrants will undergo testing at drug abuse clinics when receiving work permits," Bryun told journalists in the Russian capital.
      He said earlier migrant workers had to be examined by doctors at drug abuse clinics to obtain work permits, but from now on they will also have to pass tests. Other Russian regions may soon employ this practice as well.

      http://themoscownews.com/local/20130122/191164614.html
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      U.S. report on religious situation in Russia biased - Russian Foreign Ministry
      Interfax, January 22, 2013

      Moscow - Moscow was surprised to read the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom's report, titled "Unruly State of Law in Russia," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
      " We note a biased, unobjective and tendentious character of information that the authors of this 'opus' placed as the base of their report. Unfortunately, the report does not reflect the content of the committed consultations which Commission head Lantos Swett held with the Foreign Ministry's commissioner for human rights, democracy and rule of law," the Russian Foreign Ministry's Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov said in a commentary, posted on the Foreign Ministry's website.
      " Our extensive arguments that confirm the positive trend towards stronger inter-confessional accord and cooperation in Russia, fell on deaf ears," he said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=10224
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      Putin to meet with Lebanese president, Georgian Church leader
      Interfax-Religion, January 23, 2013

      Moscow, January 23, Interfax - Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to meet on Wednesday with his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Suleiman, who has arrived in Moscow to receive the annual prize "For Services in the Promotion and Assertion of Christian Values in the Modern World" from the International Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples.
      Putin and Suleiman are planning to discuss prospects for proposed closer Russian-Lebanese economic and cultural relations and key international issues, including the situation in the Middle East, the Russian president's office told Interfax.
      The last meeting between the two leaders took place on February 25, 2010, during a visit of Suleiman to Russia.
      Putin will also meet with the head of the Orthodox Church of Georgia, Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, who has come to the Russian capital to receive another prize from the Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples, one called "For Special Services in Strengthening Fraternal Ties between Orthodox Nations and Churches," the president's office said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=10227
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      Moscow-Tbilisi relations will improve if Russia changes its Caucasus policy - Georgian president
      Johnson's Russia List, January 23, 2013

      STRASBOURG. Jan 22 (Interfax) - Problems facing Russian-Georgian relations could be resolved easily if Moscow agreed to give up its "territorial claims" , Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said.
      " Russia ought to give up its imperial ambitions, its territorial claims, and Georgia should rebuild its territorial integrity," he said at the winter session of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Strasbourg.
      The head of Russia's delegation to PACE, Alexei Pushkov, for his part, asked the Georgian president to comment on "multiple violations of human rights in his country, including torture of prison inmates."
      Answering the question, Saakashvili said that he "welcomes Russia's unwavering and full-scale commitment to human rights."
      " Maybe we could learn it from you," the Georgian leader said.
      Georgia, however, is performing far better than Russia today in many areas, Saakashvili said.
      " I am proud that we have emerged out of the state of illegality and high crime rates, which, according to international experts, have dropped by five times in recent years," he said.
      Georgia is in 80th place in the international corruption index, which is better than Russia's ranking, he said.
      " As far as the state of the business climate is concerned, we hold the ninth place, which is much higher that Russia's results. Serious economic and GDP growth has also been observed in our country in the past few years," Saakashvili said.
      Asked by a United Russia Party parliamentarian, Robert Shlegel, to comment on the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Saakashvili said: "You have one map of Georgia, but my map is different."
      Moscow's efforts to encourage different countries to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states "will not change anything" , he said.
      " I could be the last Georgian leader who speaks the Russian language well. I can quote Pushkin, Brodsky and other great Russian poets. I have a much better command of the Russian language than the current Georgian premier," Saakashvili said.
      Regrettably, problems plaguing relations between Tbilisi and Moscow have dented the popularity of Russian language in Georgia, he said.

      http://russialist.org/moscow-tbilisi-relations-will-improve-if-russia-changes-its-caucasus-policy-georgian-president/
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      People's freedom can be restricted for security, moral reasons - Russian Church
      Interfax, January 23, 2013

      Moscow - A representative of the Russian Orthodox Church believes people's freedom can be restricted for security and moral reasons.
      " Freedom is not absolute. Freedom can and should be restricted for security and moral reasons," Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, the head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, said at the meeting of the Presidential Human Rights Council on Wednesday.
      He said "international law documents and the entire historical heritage of mankind state" that freedom can be restricted.
      The Presidential Human Rights Council discussed the amendments to the bill toughening punishment for insulting believers' feelings.
      The bill was criticized by independent human rights activists, the council's chairman Mikhail Fedotov, and human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin.
      The law was supported by Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Yaroslav Nilov (the head of the State Duma committee on public associations and religious organizations), Alexander Boroda (president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia), and Shafig Pshikhachev (executive director of the International Islamic Mission and a representative of the Directorate of Muslims of the Caucasus).
      " The bill we are talking about is a step in the right direction," Father Vsevolod said.
      " We have no desire to crack down on anyone. A person who encroaches on holy things should feel that they will be held responsible," Pshikhachev said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=10232
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      Pussy Riot Members Say No Regrets For 'Punk Prayer'
      RFE/RFERL, January 23, 2013

      In comments published by a Russian newspaper, the imprisoned members of the feminist performance group Pussy Riot say they have no regrets for the "punk prayer" against President Vladimir Putin that resulted in their incarceration.
      The independent newspaper "Novaya gazeta" on January 23 printed excerpts from interviews done with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.
      Tolokonnikova described her work sewing jackets and living conditions in jail, saying what she missed most was opportunities to read books.
      Alyokhina, who is at a different prison, noted she was currently in solitary confinement after receiving threats from fellow inmates, but added it was easier to read there away from the noise of the crowded barracks.
      The two were ordered jailed for two years for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred."
      A third group member received a suspended sentence.

      http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-pussy-riot-no-regrets/24881721.html
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      Zhirinovsky Wants to Ban English Words
      The Moscow Times, Issue 5052, January 23, 2013

      Nationalist rabble-rouser Vladimir Zhirinovsky said his Liberal Democratic Party is preparing legislation that would ban the use of English and other foreign words that have Russian equivalents.
      " Why say 'dealer' when there is 'posrednik,' or 'performance' instead of 'predstavleniya'? 'Boutique' in Russian is 'lavka.' 'Mouton' is 'ovchina,' Zhirinovsky said in a statement on the party's website.
      " All across town there's 'sale,' 'sale,' 'sale.' Soon they'll even force us to use English pronunciation," the Liberal Democratic leader said.
      The legislation would include a list of 100 English words, he said. If Russians were to use those words, they would face fines or even dismissal from their jobs.
      " We've been tormented by these Americanisms and Briticisms," Zhirinovsky said. "We will fight for this law to be passed and so that this list will be on the desk of every journalist, television or radio host, teacher, scientist and writer.
      " We need to free the language from this trash, from foreign words," Zhirinovsky said. He told Interfax that lawyers were currently preparing the bill for submission to the State Duma.
      The proposed bill is the latest in a series of moves targeting foreign influence in recent months.
      Late last year, Russia passed the so-called anti-Magnitsky Act, banning adoptions of Russian orphans by U.S. families. It also adopted a law requiring nongovernmental organizations that conduct "political activity" and receive foreign funding to register as "foreign agents."
      Last month, Duma Deputy Sergei Zheleznyak of the majority-wielding United Russia party called for movie theaters that show foreign films to pay a tax that all other movie theaters would be exempt from. He also called for a quota on foreign films.

      http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/zhirinovsky-wants-to-ban-english-words/474386.html
      ----

      The police will decide who from foreigners should leave Russia
      ITAR-TASS, January 23, 2013

      From now on, the foreigners, the stay of whom in Russia the law enforcers find undesirable, will be informed about it and will be asked to leave the country without waiting for a court verdict. The interior minister and his deputies will be able to sanction the foresaid procedure, the RBC daily reported.
      From January 29 the decree of Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev will enter into force and will change drastically the procedure of deportation of undesirable people from Russia. Now this is a too procrastinating mechanism, which envisages a court verdict, only after this court verdict the Federal Migration Service will begin to get rid of "bad guests" .
      In the new procedure the sanction of the court will not be needed, the police will decide on those foreigners that will be banned to live in Russia. The territorial law enforcement agencies will process the documents for undesirable foreigners or people without Russian citizenship and will submit them in the central staff of the Russian Interior Ministry in Moscow. In the Russian capital the police officials will study the materials within 14 days and in case of consent they will put them on the table of the interior minister or one of his deputies. The top police officials will decide on the fate of "a Varangian" , signing the proper order.
      All checks and coordination with the police officials from the moment the documents over the undesirable stay of a foreigner are submitted should take no more than a month. After that a resolution will be submitted within three days to a police station at the residence place of a foreigner, and a copy of the resolution will be submitted in the Federal Security Service. The police should find a future foreigner subject to expatriation and hand in the expatriation order to him that he should sign. After that a foreigner will be given a few days (individually in each case, but no more than a month) for a voluntary leaving of the country, otherwise, the Federal Migration Service will be involved that is to deport the undesirable guest from the country forcibly.
      The police generals can deport from the country illegal migrants as well as foreign guests legally staying in Russia. The latter, according to the addendum to the order of the minister, are facing expatriation, "if the stay (residence) of a foreign citizen poses a real threat to the defence capability or security of the country or the public order or the health of people."
      The previous procedure envisaged that the decision on the deportation of a foreign citizen from Russia was taken by the court, the police and the Federal Migration Service only fulfilled the measures for the deportation and administrative expulsion, lawyer of the law firm Khrenov and Partners Elvira Gadelshina contemplates. She is concerned that the deportation decisions will be taken within the new procedure with a detailed inquiry over whether there are sufficient reasons to take a deportation decision.

      http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/628598.html
      ----

      Russian pollster says approval for Putin at 12-year low
      By Alissa de Carbonnel
      Reuters, Jan 24, 2013

      MOSCOW (Reuters) - Concerns over Russian President Vladimir Putin's ability to improve living standards have pushed his public approval rating to its lowest in more than 12 years, an independent polling agency said on Thursday.
      A survey by the Levada agency found that 62 percent of respondents voiced approval for Putin's performance in Russia's highest office, down from 65 percent in December.
      That is still higher than many Western leaders. But the figure from the January 18-21 survey was the lowest since June 2000, a month after the start of his first presidential term.
      His approval rating in the monthly survey has fluctuated since he started a third term in May from a high of 69 percent that month to 63 percent in August and November.
      " This is a very stable trend: Falling confidence, the declining legitimacy of the authorities," Levada director Lev Gudkov said.
      The most important factor was "the loss of belief that Putin can guarantee an economic path for the country that leads to an improvement in living standards" .
      The former KGB officer's approval rating exceeded 70 percent for most of his 2000-2008 presidency, a time of spectacular growth driven by rising world oil prices, and sometimes rose above 80 percent.
      Inflation overtook wage increases in Russia for the first time after the global financial crisis and economic growth has not fully recovered, coming in at 3.7 percent last year after averaging 7 percent during Putin's first stint as president.
      The Euro zone recession and a poor grains harvest helped push inflation up last year to 6.6 percent and cut the rate at which the spending power of Russian households is growing.
      Unemployment has also spread, moving up to a rate of 5.4 percent of the workforce in November, or 4.1 million people, from 5.3 percent the previous month.
      After four years as prime minister, Putin won the presidency again in March 2012 despite a series of opposition protests that drew tens of thousands of people and underscored discontent among the urban middle class with is prolonged dominance.
      Despite growing dissatisfaction over corruption and failings in public services such as health care, law enforcement and schools, Gudkov said Putin can count on a broad support base that ensures his rating will likely never dip below 30 percent.
      Asked to name politicians they trusted most, 38 percent of those polled by Levada in January named Putin, up from 34 percent in December. Levada polled 1,596 Russians adults nationwide, with a margin of error of 3.4 percent.
      Putin has not ruled out seeking another six-year term in 2018. He has used choreographed television appearances to sculpt the image of a tough, sharp-minded leader in command of economic facts and figures but with a finger on the pulse of the people.
      (Reporting By Maria Tsvetkova, Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel, Editing by Steve Gutterman and Angus MacSwan)

      http://news.yahoo.com/russian-pollster-says-approval-putin-12-low-123336940--business.html
      -----------------

      Communists urge revival of moral values in Russia
      RT.com, 25 January, 2013

      The Russian Communist party (KPRF) blames the media for bringing the society to moral and spiritual decline and urges the government to introduce tougher censorship and preserve the country's culture and traditions.,,The West constantly accuses Russia for the lack of freedom. On the contrary - there is not enough control, Communists say.,," Freedom lets out both the best and the worst qualities of a person," the KPRF believes. There must be legal limitations to prevent "the release of the worst," the party stated in a resolution published on its official website.,,The document was signed on the results of a round-table discussion on the protection of spiritual and moral traditions of Russian peoples. State Duma deputies, scientists and public activists took part in the gathering chaired by Gennady Zyuganov, the KPRF's long-time leader.,,Just like their predecessors, the Soviet Communists, the party's modern members believe that the state should supervise the nation's morality. Methods they suggest are also similar to those in the USSR: censorship and tough control over the media. They describe the latter as "today's most dangerous weapon which harms the minds and hearts of millions." ,,The participants of the meeting agreed that modern "aggressive" information environment poses a threat to the youth and children, who are not able to distinguish between the truth and myths.,," Public speeches on TV and radio abound in strong language and thieves' talk," the resolution pointed out. "Dominance of scenes of violence, vulgarity, sex, and evil destroy entire populations in Russia." ,,Besides that, Soviet-style heroes such as scientists, workers, dairymaids, cosmonauts, workers and officers have been replaced with successful businessmen, criminals, gays, dissidents and pragmatics.,,Largely thanks to the media, people strive for physical pleasures rather than spiritual excellence, the document observed.,,Others threats to the community come from foreign cartoons picturing mainly "robots, monsters and never-ending fights between children," as well as videogames that promote information about prostitution, pornography and drugs.,,Social networking services also came under fire as an instrument that is used to "deform the Russian language" and impose an alien morality on society. The process of Russia's Westernization is in full swing "disguised as communion with modern civilization," the Communists asserted.,Demolition of the Annunciation church in Labor square, Leningrad, Russia, 1929 (RIA Novosti),Demolition of the Annunciation church in Labor square, Leningrad, Russia, 1929 (RIA Novosti),,As a way to improve the situation, the KPRF urged the State Duma to set up a Council on the Protection of Morality on Russia's TV and radio, develop a national program on the matter, and form a new state policy on education based on Russian classical literature and culture. In addition, the party believes it is necessary to counter "negative influence of foreign religious organizations." ,," Lately, we've been witnessing barbaric attacks on the Orthodox faith and our historic traditions," Zyuganov told the meeting, adding that such a trend is absolutely unacceptable.,,Meanwhile, Zyuganov's party comrades remain split on the role of religious faith in the society and harshly criticize the KPRF leader for being too loyal to the Orthodox Church and betraying one of the party's basic principles - atheism.,,In the Soviet era, religion was considered "opiate for the masses" and did not fall in line with Marxist-Leninist ideology. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, the Soviet government launched a huge anti-religious campaign, destroying cathedrals, mosques and temples. Thousands of clerics were arrested and executed.

      http://rt.com/politics/communists-moral-spiritual-crisis-728/
      -----------------------

      State Duma passes bill banning propaganda of homosexuality among children in first reading
      Interfax-Religion, January 25, 2013

      Moscow, January 25, Interfax - The State Duma passed the bill banning the propaganda of homosexuality among minors in the first reading on Friday.
      The document proposes amendments to the Code of Administrative Violations, in accordance with which citizens can be fined 4,000 to 5,000 rubles for promoting homosexuality among children. Similar actions are punishable by a fine of 40,000 to 50,000 rubles for officials and 400,000 to 500,000 rubles for legal entities.
      The document was submitted to the State Duma by the Legislative Assembly of the Novosibirsk Region in March 2012.
      A total of 388 deputies voted for the bill, one voted against it and one abstained from voting.
      The State Duma committee on family, women and children, which is in charge of passing the bill in the State Duma, backed the bill and recommended that the State Duma pass it in the first reading, on condition that amendments are made to it in the second reading. For example, the committee believes the term "propaganda of homosexuality" needs specification.
      " In particular, it would be expedient to specify the disposition of the article proposed by the bill, envisioning that propaganda of homosexuality among minors is expressed in the organization, in places accessible to children, of entertainment events involving homosexuals, in calls for and approval of homosexual relations on television and radio at times accessible to children," the committee said in its comments to the bill.
      The committee believes this needs to be taken into account when the document is prepared for the second reading.
      Positive comments on this document have been received from 47 regions, the committee said.
      Legislative acts against such propaganda have already been adopted at the local level in some regions of Russia, including in the Ryazan, Arkhangelsk, Kostroma, and Novosibirsk regions, and also in St. Petersburg.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=10238
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      Construction of 200 Orthodox churches in Moscow may take 10-20 years - Moscow mayor's aide
      Interfax-Religion, January 28, 2013

      Moscow, January 28, Interfax - The implementation of a program for the construction of 200 Orthodox churches in Moscow may take 10 to 20 years, Vladimir Resin, an advisor to the Moscow mayor and a State Duma deputy, told journalists.
      " I think the whole program may take 10 to 20 years. It is important not only to build them, but also make them habitable," Resin said.
      The program will take such a long time as the construction is being financed only by donations, he said.
      " Our goal in implementing the program is to commission at least 10 [churches] a year," Resin said.
      Seventeen sites for the construction of Orthodox churches will be allotted on the territories of industrial zones being liquidated in Moscow, Resin said.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=10239
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      School teacher sacked for taking part in gay rights demonstration
      HRO.org, 28 January 2013

      Moscow city and the Moscow region Sexual minorities The scientist and journalist Ilya Kolmanovsky has been fired from Moscow's School-2 State Lyceum, where he taught biology, for taking part in a demonstration against an anti-gay law. As Kolmanovsky writes on the Radio Svoboda website, the school's Director, Vladimir Ovchinnikov, informed him of his dismissal on Monday, "in order to save the school" . Kolmanovsky had worked in the school for 7 years. [Read more] The people who made the accusation that reached the school's management alleged that Kolmanovsky was openly gay, and they asked that the children be protected from him. On 25 January, the day that the law on penalties for "promoting homosexuality" was passed, Kolmanovsky took part in a 'Day of Kisses' demonstration. He approached the State Duma together with LGBT activists and several other equal rights campaigners. The activists and journalists were attacked by confrontational anti-gay people. LGBT activists were detained, along with their lawyers. "I had a public confrontation with them (the homophobic people - ed.); they didn't beat me, they just threw an egg," Kolmanovsky says, describing his role in the demonstration. He was chanting "Fascism will not be tolerated" and "Moscow is not Iran." "I know that I had to speak out in defence of the rights of these minorities and against conservatism, against hatred, and against all things that divide the nation," writes Kolmanovsky. "I must also do it as I am not gay. Sorry for being emotional. We need to give our support to these people because it will be our turn later." Kolmanovsky is well known as a journalist and writer. He is the host of the The Pocket Scientist podcast, the author of numerous popular science publications and leads theatrical and interactive guided tours for children. In 1996 he and his friends founded the Centre for the Adaptation and Training of Child Refugees as part of the Civic Assistance Committee, and within 7 years had become a co-director of the Centre. Ilya Kolmanovsky:," I feel ashamed before the students: I have put our association at risk. Kids, I'm really sorry and I want to apologise to you for this. I have really enjoyed our meetings - you impressed me every time with your ability to make progress during lessons. We didn't have time to finish genetics, and there is still the theory of evolution and ecology left to cover. I will always be happy to answer your questions or to help in any way I can - you have my email address. I hope that you will do everything you can to make it easy for my successor to work with you - this would be the most mature and right thing for you to do. I feel bad for the head teacher and our relationship. He knows better - his superiors are truly unpredictable and dangerous; the school really is hanging by a thread financially (because of the new Education Act). I could not have acted otherwise. There are situations when you can no longer keep quiet; "when they have done away with the Jews and they Communists they will come for you, and there will no longer be anyone there to protect you" . I feel that I had to speak in defence of the rights of these minorities and against conservatism, against hatred, and against national divisions of all kinds. I must do it because I am not gay. Sorry for being emotional. We need to put a stop to these people because it will be our turn later. The time has come when silence is even more dangerous than talking. We must all speak up in one voice so that fear and hatred will collapse like a house of cards, and we will go back to school. Source: Grani.ru

      http://hro.rightsinrussia.info/archive/lgbt-rights/moscow/kolmanovsky
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      World powers, Iran need to end quarrels, start talking - Lavrov
      RT, January 28, 2013

      Russia's Foreign Minister accused international mediators in the Iran crisis of "behaving like little children," imploring them to set a date for negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program.
      " Some of our partners in the six powers and the Iranian side cannot come to an agreement about where to meet," Sergey Lavrov told reporters after talks with Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders on Monday.
      The hawkish government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to beat the drum for a military offensive against Iran, at the same time that US naval forces are silently building up forces in the Persian Gulf.
      On Sunday, in a speech marking International Holocaust Day, Netanyahu once again accused Tehran of plotting "the destruction of the Jewish state."
      The Israeli leader, recently reelected to his leadership position by a narrow margin, declared that his government's main priority is to ensure that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons.
      Tehran, which is bearing the brunt of a harsh international sanctions regime, insists that its nuclear energy research is for peaceful purposes.
      It is within this tense environment that Russian diplomats are working to ensure that "common sense will prevail" in the escalating standoff, but this will require that both sides "stop behaving like little children," Lavrov declared.
      Arguing that the "essence of our talks" is far more important (than the site), Lavrov emphasized that Russian mediators "are willing to meet at any location."
      In June, Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Russia, Britain, China, France, the United States, plus Germany - met for talks in Moscow to little avail.
      Another round of negotiations had been expected to take place in January, but those plans collapsed.
      Lavrov called the latest breakdown in the negotiation process between Tehran and the international mediators "unsatisfactory."
      " The meeting has really been adjourned and, to my big disappointment, I deem the cause of this delay absolutely unsatisfactory," the minister said.

      http://rt.com/politics/russia-iran-nuclear-talks-israel-us-892/
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      Gay Propaganda Turns Entire Population of Russia Gay
      By TGE correspondent Jello Marx
      The Global Edition, 29 January 2013

      MOSCOW (The Global Edition) - A handful of leaflets distributed by a few energetic gay activists in Moscow and other cities, coupled with three rainbow flags reportedly flown in Saint Petersburg, Kirovo-Chepetsk, and Norilsk, have apparently turned the entire nation of Russia gay over the span of just two weeks, Russia Today reports.
      Unable to resist the heavy homosexual propaganda by simply ignoring it by using their own minds, the last straight Russian citizen stepped out of the closet today, rendering the entire country "totally fabulous" , according to one confidential source.
      Stroking his new handlebar moustache, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured the Russian people that the unfortunate case of every adult male having become attracted to the same sex virtually overnight "will not impact the country's way of life."
      " The Russian people can rest easy now that they are free of those who live differently than they do," Mr. Putin said. "Russians have come to cherish their freedom, and those who are different must be stopped. Also, isn't the new Katy Perry single amazing?," the Russian president, who donned a Marc Jacobs cashmere v-neck sweater and a faux leather thong, told a large crowd.
      A heated debate about a ban on homosexual propaganda, with the hope that it would somehow reverse the process, was held at the newly painted and decorated Kremlin. The building which was previously recognizable for its drab grey, was recently painted pink and surrounded with freshly planted tulips, which the Russians recently acquired from Holland.
      Frumpy suits, a trademark of the Russian politician going back to the Soviet era, have also been replaced by stylish coifs and muscle t-shirts worn under well-tailored and snug-fitting blazers that proudly display male politicians' toned physiques.
      The debate on the ban, which ultimately resulted in a landslide victory for the bill, was delayed numerous times because the lone dissenter, Sergei Dimitrovitch, had to be consoled many times by his colleagues after breaking down in tears after his colleague Konstantin Perchenkov told him he was "acting like a diva" and called him a "bitch."

      http://www.theglobaledition.com/gay-propaganda-turns-entire-population-of-russia-gay/
      -------------------

      Venice Breaks With St. Petersburg on Anti-Gay Law
      The Moscow Times, 30 January 2013

      MILAN, Italy - Venice is seeking to break off cultural relations with St. Petersburg because of the Russian city's legislation curbing gay rights. The city council invoked Venice's "history, international prestige and conscience" in a motion unanimously approved Monday evening asking the city administration to refrain from cultural exchanges as long as anti-gay laws are in place. The motion says "the city of Venice cannot ignore what is happening in the institutions" and asked officials to communicate the reason for the unilateral action. Two of Europe's cultural jewels, Venice and St. Petersburg signed an agreement in 2006 to pursue cultural and other exchanges. St. Petersburg is one of a number of Russian cities that have passed laws banning what they call "homosexual propaganda." The Kremlin also is pushing such a law. (AP)

      http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/venice-breaks-with-st-petersburg-on-anti-gay-law/474726.html
      -----

      Extremist books seized from mosque library in Primorye - prosecutors
      Interfax-Religion, January 31, 2013

      Vladivostok, January 31, Interfax - The leader of a Muslim religious organization in Russia's Primorye Territory has been fined for distributing books that promote extremist ideas.
      " Books included in the federal list of extremism materials were found by prosecutors as they inspected the reading room of a mosque's library, located in the town of Nakhodka in Primorye," Yelena Telegina, senior aide to the regional prosecutor, said on Thursday.
      Administrative sanctions were imposed on the chairman of Nakhodka's Islam religious organization.

      http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=10244
      ------------------------

      Pussy Riot Video Banned for 'Extremism'
      The Associated Press, 31 January 2013

      Samutsevich speaking ahead of the extremism hearing on Wednesday. Reuters Samutsevich speaking ahead of the extremism hearing on Wednesday. Footage of feminist rockers Pussy Riot's irreverent protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral last year has been banned in Russia and must be removed from the country's Internet. The Moscow City Court on Wednesday rejected band member Yekaterina Samutsevich's appeal of a lower court's ruling in November, meaning that its ban of the video now takes effect. Samutsevich said the decision amounted to censorship and vowed to fight on. Pussy Riot shot to global fame last year after three band members, including Samutsevich, were convicted in August on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for their "punk prayer" against Putin's return to the presidency in March's election and the outspoken support for his bid by the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. They were sentenced to two years in prison, but Samutsevich was later released on appeal. The trial was widely seen as a political vendetta and attracted international attention to Russia's intolerance of dissent. Internet providers face fines up to $3,000 if they fail to block the footage. The decision, taken on the request of a conservative lawmaker who said the videos offended religious believers, is largely symbolic, since Russians will be able to access the video on foreign servers not subject to the law. Pussy Riot's videos were banned under Russia's vaguely defined "extremism" law, which is supposed to restrict neo-Nazi and terrorist groups but has been used to restrict Scientologists and the television cartoon "South Park." Critics accuse the Kremlin of exploiting the law to stifle opposition and free speech. In September, Russian courts banned "The Innocence of Muslims," a low-budget film produced in the U.S. that mocks Muslims and the prophet Muhammad.

      http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/pussy-riot-video-banned-for-extremism/474801.html
      ==============================


      II SURVEYS, ANALYSES, COMMENTS

      Plan for Far East Development Unveiled
      By Anatoly Medetsky
      Johnson's Russia List, January 16, 2013

      (Moscow Times - themoscowtimes.com - January 16, 2013)
      Far East Development Minister Viktor Ishayev on Tuesday publicly reviewed the first draft of a program to pull the regional economy out of a slump.
      Presented to an assembly of officials, lawmakers and businesspeople at the Moscow office of the Sakha republic, the program immediately revealed a couple of points of contention that pitted Ishayev against some of the attendees.
      The plan, which runs through the unbelievably distant year of 2025, seeks to increase the area's population and the average profit margin of doing business there. The profit rate is 12 percent, Ishayev said.
      " With the cost of credit at 14 to 16 percent, we are in a stalemate," he said in an opening speech that called for more action to put the region on a fast development track.
      Developed by economists from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Economic Forecasting Institute and the Center for Strategic Research think tank, the 1.3 trillion ruble ($42 billion) program is scheduled to go to the Cabinet for consideration by March 21.
      If approved, it will be one of the dozens of state programs that will come together, as the government decided, to form the federal budget starting next year.
      The Far East development proposal's first draft, which has been in the works for the past three months, revealed several controversial issues.
      Ishayev argued with one of the authors, Kirill Yankov, economic policy director at the Center for Strategic Research, that the plan should pay more attention to use of the sea route across the Arctic. Skirting Russia's coast, the shipping lane has been described as a viable alternative to the route connecting Asia and Europe through the Suez Canal.
      Yankov set off the argument by refusing to pin great expectations on the new route.
      " We are very cautious about the prospect that the Arctic route will be a competitor," he said.
      Yankov also drew disapproving rumblings from Ishayev when he announced that the program doesn't incorporate projects to build an exorbitantly expensive bridge to Sakhalin island and connect Yakutsk and Magadan with a railroad.
      " We consider these projects to be beyond the scope of 2025," Yankov said.
      In another disagreement, Ishayev dismissed suggestions by former Sakha President Vyacheslav Shtyrov, now a ranking lawmaker, to consider a proposal to slash the value-added tax for new business in the Far East.
      Ishayev did say he hoped for rebates on some taxes, but he was adamant that the VAT was off-limits. He said that was a directive from President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
      The state program proposal calls for increasing the population in the Far East and the Lake Baikal area from the current 10.9 million to 12.4 million by the time of its completion.
      It also aims to raise the region's share of national gross domestic product from the current 8.5 percent to 10.4 percent.
      In the latest bid to add momentum to regional development, Russia hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in the Pacific port of Vladivostok in September after pouring billions of dollars into sprucing up the city and building various structures in the vast area.
      Business in the Far East revolves around logging and the extraction of natural resources, which provide relatively low added value. High transportation and electricity costs also press on margins.
      Izvestia said Tuesday that Ishayev had been named as one of the least efficient Cabinet ministers in a poll of undisclosed high-ranking Kremlin officials.
      Contact the author at medetsky@...

      http://russialist.org/plan-for-far-east-development-unveiled/
      --------------------

      In Russia, Culture as an Axis of Propaganda
      By CELESTINE BOHLEN
      The New York Times, January 17, 2013

      PARIS - It was June 1935 and Romain Rolland, a noted French author, had just had a long interview in Moscow with Stalin. The next day, Aleksandr Arossev, a Soviet official who had acted as Mr. Rolland's guide and translator, dashed off an obsequious note to his all-powerful boss, telling him what a hit he had been. "Romain Rolland, to be honest, was personally charmed by you," Mr. Arossev wrote in a letter to Stalin dated June 29, 1935. "He said so several times, that he hadn't expected it, and never would have imagined Stalin in such a way." The note, annotated by Stalin with a red pencil - "for my archives "- was on display, with a 21-page original transcript of Mr. Rolland's interview, at a recent exhibition in Paris titled "Intelligentsia." The collection of original documents tracing the tortuous links between French and Russian intellectuals during the Soviet era included the original 1974 decree that sent the dissident writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn into exile and stripped him of his passport. The exhibition told multiple tales of blind idealism and harsh awakenings, the result of the hypnotic power of Communism and the cynical brutality of the Soviet regime. It also described how cultural figures were manipulated for political purposes, a familiar story that has a weird, albeit silly, echo today in the red-carpet treatment given to the French actor GĂ©rard Depardieu by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. Mr. Depardieu's antics in Russia have become a seemingly en<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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