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Bulletin 3:13 (2009)

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  • andreumland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 3, No. 13(55), 3 June 2009 Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland I NEWS:
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2009
      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 3, No. 13(55), 3 June 2009
      Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 16 – 31 May 2009

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      I NEWS: 16 – 31 May 2009

      Gay protest broken up in Moscow
      BBC News, May 16, 2009

      Police in Russia have broken up a protest by gay rights activists in Moscow, staged to coincide with the final of the Eurovision Song Contest.
      Some 30 campaigners had gathered near a university in defiance of a ban on their march and many were dragged away by police when they shouted slogans.
      British gay rights activist, Peter Tatchell, was among those detained.
      A counter-demonstration by nationalist and religious groups was allowed to go ahead elsewhere in the Russian capital.
      Equal rights
      The gay rights group had been waving flags and chanting slogans demanding equal rights and condemning the treatment of gays and lesbians in Russia.
      At least 20 were arrested as police moved in to disperse the protest.
      As he was being taken away by police, Mr Tatchell shouted: "This shows the Russian people are not free."
      Speaking from a police station, he later told the BBC: "The way the police violently broke up our peaceful protest is an indication of a drift toward authoritarianism that is affecting all Russians."
      The organiser of the gathering and leading campaigner, Nikolai Alexeyev, was also detained at the event, which took place in the south-west of the city.
      The Eurovision Song Contest traditionally has a large gay following and activists in Russia had seen its staging in Moscow as a great opportunity to highlight what they say is deep prejudice, says the BBC's Moscow correspondent, Richard Galpin.
      There have been many attacks on members of the gay community - they also say they risk being sacked by their employers and shunned by their families.
      The Moscow mayor Yuri Luzkhov has described gay parades as "satanic".
      Anti-gay groups had threatened to take matters into their own hands if the police failed to stop the protest.
      Several dozen nationalist and religious protesters earlier staged an anti-gay march near central Moscow.


      Experts Call For Opinion Studies While Giving Cities Pre-Soviet Names
      Itar-Tass, May 18, 2009

      MOSCOW, May 18 (Itar-Tass) - A return of historical pre-Soviet names to cities, towns and streets is welcome but it requires a thorough scrutiny of opinion polls and qualified historical studies, say conclusions of a roundtable conference that was hosted by Russia's Public Chamber.
      "We support the idea of returning historical names to the objects that were renamed during the Soviet era," Dr Vladimir Lavrov, the director of the Institute of Russian History said.
      "History has shown the utopian nature of socialist ideology and that's why symbols of the Soviet era are gradually receding into the past," he claimed.
      "We've held a range of expert studies already and they show, for instance, the importance of renaming the city of Kirov back into Vyatka," Dr Lavrov said.
      "A return to historical -- and in many cases Russian Orthodox -- names quite often opens up the road to our spiritual rebirth," he said.
      At the end of his speech, he complained that some departments are too reluctant to reconsider toponymical habits -- for instance, the railway passengers going to Yekaterinburg in the Urals still have to buy tickets through to the station named 'Sverdlovsk', which was Yekaterinburg's Soviet-era name.
      Participants in the meeting agreed, however, that "one cannot cross out all the /city and street/ names related to the Soviet period."
      "The Soviet epoch had quite a few moments of glory, like victory in the Great Patriotic War," recalled historian Pyotr Maltatuli, a research of the rule of Czar Nicholas II. "But the fact that many geographic objects still carry the names of Sverdlov, Voikov and Dzerzhinsky causes indignation."
      "This is the kind of Soviet legacy that we must fight with," Maltatuli said.
      Jacob Sverdlov, the Chairman of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, is widely believed to be the mastermind of execution the abdicated Czar Nicholas II, his spouse Czarina Alexandra and their five children, including Crown Prince Alexis.
      Lazar Voikov, a chemist by training, was in charge of destroying the bodies of the slain Imperial Family members. He took up a diplomatic job later and was assassinated by a young Russian immigrant in Warsaw in 1927 while in the capacity of Soviet ambassador to Poland.
      Felix Dzerzhinsky /Dzierzynski/, a Polish-born revolutionary, founded the All-Russia Emergency Commission /Cheka/ that would turn into a machinery for mass repressions and brutal executions.
      Historian Maltatuli believes, however, that memories of history must be protected by safeguarding Soviet symbols on the buildings that were commissioned during that period of Russian history.
      Vladimir Medinsky, a member of the lower house of Russian parliament, claimed that the renaming procedures are not extremely expensive ones -- something that the opponents of renaming insist on.
      "As is shown by the experience of renaming streets in Moscow in the 1990's, the only costs involved were those of the street name plate on the walls of houses," Medinsky asserted. "These costs were not very big."
      Experts believe in general, though, that the motions to rename cities and streets should take account of public opionion and be based on the findings of historical expert studies taking due account of the value of geographic names as parts of cultural heritage.

      Neo-Nazi Faces Hate Crimes Charges in Kostroma
      UCSJ, May 18, 2009

      Prosecutors in Kostroma, Russia have charged a neo-Nazi with a hate
      crime in connection with the beating of a 16-year-old ethnic Russian
      boy, according to a May 12, 2009 report by the Sova
      Information-Analytical Center. The 21-year-old suspect allegedly
      assaulted his victim in January, reportedly already confessed to the
      crime, and has a previous conviction for attacking "a person of
      non-Slavic appearance."
      What makes this case different from the hundreds of attacks on ethnic
      and religious minorities that take place in Russia every year is that
      the suspect faces hate crimes charges for attacking a "member of a
      social group"--in this case, a fan of punk rock music. Since neo-Nazis
      regularly attack anti-fascist activists and routinely face nothing
      more than "hooliganism" or assault charges, this case could therefore
      set an important precedent.


      African Students at Russian Military Academy Attacked
      UCSJ, May 18, 2009

      A group of youths attacked African students at a military academy in
      Blagoveshchensk, Russia (Amur region), according to a May 13, 2009
      report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. Police are
      investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. The attack took
      place on Victory Day (May 9) on the banks of the Amur River, and
      resulted in at least one student being seriously wounded after someone
      smashed a beer bottle on his head. Rumors on local Internet fora claim
      that paramedics refused to come to the scene out of fear of drunken
      revelers. So far, no detentions have been reported in connection with
      the incident.


      Famous Russian missionary calls gay pride parades a crime against children
      Interfax-Religion, May 18, 2009

      Moscow, May 18, Interfax - According to Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy Archdeacon Andrey Kurayev, homosexuals' claim to publicity is a crime against children.
      "To my mind, homosexual propaganda is a crime against childhood anyway," Fr. Andrey told Interfax-Religion commenting the intention of the gay community to hold the so called Slavic Pride Parade in Moscow last Saturday.
      Fr. Andrey said that "when these "paraders" started their shameless efforts twenty years ago, they were seeking to withdraw the relevant article from the Russian Criminal Code, because what was going on between two adults in a locked room was nobody's business. We believed them and cancelled this article. Now they state that this should be everybody's business."
      "You were looking for a dark room, so stay there. Why should you get out to the street?" Fr. Andrey wonders.


      Russia panel to 'protect history'
      BBC News, May 19, 2009

      Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the creation of a commission to act against what the Kremlin terms falsifications of Russian history.
      The commission will attempt to defend the official version of Soviet history before, during and after World War II.
      Correspondents say Russia is immensely proud of its role in defeating Nazi Germany, and is angered by attempts to re-evaluate the period.
      The Kremlin is drawing up plans to make such moves a criminal offence.
      The laws could see people fined, or even imprisoned for up to five years, for deviating from the official history.
      Mr Medvedev said earlier this month: "We will never forget that our country, the Soviet Union, made the decisive contribution to the outcome of World War II, that it was precisely our people who destroyed Nazism, determined the fate of the whole world."
      The commission will be headed by the president's chief of staff, Sergei Naryshkin, and include MPs, intelligence officials, historians and bureaucrats.
      Critics say the official view from Moscow glosses over Soviet-era crimes.
      In many former Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet republics, the years of the Soviet Union are seen as a hostile occupation.
      Russia has strongly objected to its former allies' moving or removing Soviet-era memorials, or attempting to ban Soviet symbols, saying this equates Communism to Nazism.
      And it has rejected negative interpretations of Soviet actions, such as Ukrainian claims that a famine in the 1930s was a deliberate genocide.
      Some critics, like Heorhiy Kasyanov from Ukraine's National Academy of Sciences, say the Kremlin is trying to whitewash Soviet history in order to justify its denial of human rights.
      "It's part of the Russian Federation's policy to create an ideological foundation for what is happening in Russia right now," he told the Associated Press.


      Aggressive xenophobia manifestations in January – first half May 2009
      MBHR, May 19, 2009

      During the period since January 1 till May 15, 2009 86 attacks and attempted attacks motivated by xenophobia were committed, and 26 people perished and 80 people at least were wounded as a result of them. These data are incomplete: the head of Department of Ministry of home affairs of RF on counteraction to extremism Yuri Kokov informed that during first quarter of this year 164 crimes based upon ethnicity and religion were recorded in Russia.
      According to the data of the Office of general public prosecutor, more than 200 extremist associations number in the country, and about 10 thousand people are their members.
      The attacks were recorded in Moscow and Moscow region (18 dead, 53 wounded), Nizhniy Novgorod (1 dead, 7 wounded), St. Petersburg and Leningrad region (1 dead, 8 wounded), Kaliningrad (1 dead, 2 wounded), Ingushetia, Ryazan, Novosibirsk region, Ulyanovsk, Kemerovo (1 dead each), Kabardino-Balkaria (4 wounded), Yaroslavl (2 wounded), Blagoveshchensk, Tambov, Syktyvkar, Yekaterinburg, Volgograd, Kostroma, Izhevsk (1 wounded each). The victims of attacks include Uzbeks (10 dead, 5 wounded), the Kirghiz (4 dead, 10 wounded), Tajiks (2 dead, 7 wounded), the Vietnamese (2 dead), natives of Africa (1 dead, 15 wounded), Azerbaijanis (1 dead, 7 wounded), the Chinese (1 dead, 2 wounded), Armenians (1 dead, 1 wounded), the Ingush, Chechens (1 dead each), Russians (4 wounded), Daghestanis (4 wounded), Jews (3 wounded), Indians, Kalmyks, Bangladeshis, Buryats, Kurds, Latin Americans (1 wounded each).
      During first two weeks of May five attacks motivated by xenophobia were recorded on the territory of RF, and 1 dead and 4 wounded at least were their results.
      The attacks took place in Moscow (1 dead and 3 wounded), Blagoveshchensk (1 wounded). The dead and the wounded include Jews, Indians, Africans.
      On May 4 the cook of an Indian restaurant, citizen of India Sakhan Okh Singh was beaten.
      On May 5 the skinheads killed a militiaman in Moscow. According to some data, one militiaman else was wounded in Moscow on the evening of the same day.
      On May 9 in Blagoveshchensk the Africans-cadets of Far-Eastern higher military-command college were beaten. According to the evidence of some eye-witnesses, one of the African students got a serious wound of his head from a broken bottle.
      On May 11 unknown persons had beaten the Israeli journalist D. Yaron on the territory of the sports complex "Olympic" where the song contest "Eurovision-2009" started.
      During two weeks of May 10 attempts of vandalism and terrorism at least on the part of the ultra-right were recorded. Such a flash can be caused to a great extent by announcement of May 5 "The revenge day" in memory of the skinhead leader M. Bazylev who was killed (or committed suicide).
      Early in May the facts of putting the drawings of swastika on the walls of several buildings in Stavropol and Kaliningrad were recorded.
      On May 2 a video-reel appeared on the Internet with arson of a motorcar that belonged to militia employee as the accompanying inscription told.
      On the night of May 5 unknown persons poured the black paint over the monument to Lenin installed in Kaliningard. They also drew the shapes of bodies and wrote "Remember victims of the red terror" near the pedestal.
      On May 5 in Nizhniy Novgorod three unknown persons bombarded the building of Directorate of home affairs of Leninsky district with the bottles with fire-mixture. The fire was extinguished quickly.
      On May 5 a skinhead group tried to set fire to a district militia point in Novoyuzhny district of Cheboksary.
      On May 5 in Norilsk the monument "To the Jews – prisoners of Norillag" included into the memorial complex "Norilsk Golgotha" was desecrated. The malefactors covered the monument to prisoners of Norilsk correctional-labor camp with paint, broke the memorial nameboard and also damaged the pedestal and the stele.
      On the night of May 5-6 an attempt of arson of the military comissariat was committed in Perovo district (Moscow).
      On May 8 the swastika was discovered on the wall of one of the houses at Petrogradskaya side in front of underground station in St. Petersburg.
      On May 12 a package with a note of extremist contents was found on the territory of the synagogue in Nizhniy Novgorod.
      Xenophobic moods in the society
      On April 4-5, 2009 VTsIOM conducted the interrogation devoted to attitude towards the Gypsies. According to interrogation results, 35% of the population treat the Gypsies "mostly badly" and 17% else – "very badly". Just 25% of interrogated treated the Gypsies good. Most often the idea of Russians concerning the Gypsies is formed basing upon the personal experience of contacts (49%). 37% judge about them basing upon the discriptions of relatives, friends, acquaintances, 26% - basing upon the movies and belle-lettres and 21% - basing upon the mass media reports. At the same time the negative idea was formed basing upon either personal experience or discriptions of relatives and friends, 55% stated they had exclusively negative experience of contacts with Gypsies.
      Law-enforcement practice
      During the period since January till May 15, 2009 95 persons were convicted for crimes motivated by xenophobia. 8 persons were sentenced to 10-20-year imprisonment, 5 – to 5-10-year imprisonment, 22 – to 1-5-year imprisonment, 5 – to imprisonment in colony-settlement, 28 got suspended sentences, 9 – were sentenced to correctional and public work, 4 – got educational effect measures, 1 – was sentenced to two days of arrest, 7 – to penalties, 2 – were released from liability due to exceeding of the statute of limitation, and the case was terminated against 1 person due to his repentance. One else of the accused was found not guilty completely.
      During first two weeks of May 12 persons were convicted for crimes motivated by xenophobia. Among these 4 were sentenced to 5-10-year imprisonment, 5 – to 1-5-year imprisonment, 1 – to imprisonment in colony-settlement and 2 got suspended sentences.


      Russian media decry commission against historic 'falsifications'
      AFP, May 20, 2009

      MOSCOW, May 20 2009-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's order to form a commission to defend Russia from historical "falsifications" was a throwback to Soviet times when dissent was not tolerated, Russian media said Wednesday.
      The media criticized the makeup of the commission, with Vedomosti business daily saying it would force discussion to be politicised.
      Chaired by Medvedev's chief of staff, Sergei Naryshkin, the 28-member commission includes pro-Kremlin lawmakers and spin-doctors as well as officials from the armed forces and the FSB security services.
      "There are only three historians there, and even they are not recognized among professionals," prominent historian Roy Medvedev told Kommersant daily.
      "I am afraid that the commission will be used for witch-hunts and the settling of scores," military historian Aleksei Isayev added in comments to the paper.
      Russian media said the move effectively sought to place the country's Soviet past beyond criticism.
      "If we are going back to those years then hopes for Medvedev the liberal, in whose name the commission is being established, are somewhat unjustified," Alexei Malashenko, an analyst with the Moscow Carnegie Center, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
      Russia views its role in the war as heroic and beyond reproach, given the immense human cost sustained by Soviet forces in pushing back Nazi Germany.
      In recent years, the celebration of anti-Soviet wartime resistance movements in Ukraine and the Baltic States has angered the Kremlin, which argues that the resistance fighters collaborated with fascist Germany.
      Earlier this month, Medvedev criticized "malicious and aggressive" efforts to cast doubt on the "heroic deed" of the Russian people during the war.
      The government has also brought forward a controversial bill that would make it a crime punishable by up to three years in prison to "rehabilitate Nazism" by denying the Soviet Union's role in the World War II victory over Germany.
      Vedomosti cautioned, however, that the strengthening of the "victory cult" surrounding the Soviet defeat of Adolf Hitler's forces might be dangerous.
      "Plenty of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes of the past have been built on similar 'social religions'," it said.

      Izhevsk Antisemite Planned to Destroy Courthouse in Suicide Bombing
      UCSJ, May 20, 2009

      A man who was given a suspended sentence by an Izhevsk, Russia court
      for vandalizing a Jewish center planned to carry out a suicide bombing
      at the courthouse as an act of revenge before being thwarted by
      police, according to a May 18, 2009 report by Jewish.ru. The suspect,
      who was not named in the report, allegedly prepared a large bomb to
      explode on May 9, the one year anniversary of his sentencing. Police
      became suspicious after he turned up at a hospital as a result of
      injuries sustained while preparing the bomb.
      Friends of the suspect, described in the report as a neo-Nazi,
      reportedly told police that they went to the woods with him to test a
      bomb he had made. When the electric detonator malfunctioned, the
      suspect decided to light a crude fuse, despite the protests of his
      friends. Yelling that he was "ready to go to the end" in order to
      reach his goal of bombing the courthouse, the suspect reportedly was
      blown several feet in the air and sustained serious burns, but was so
      fanatical that he refused doctors' orders to stay overnight in the
      hospital. He has reportedly confessed to the crime.
      The story of this bumbling would-be suicide bomber reveals the
      continuing radicalization of the neo-Nazi movement in Russia, which
      earlier this month crossed another threshold by, for the first time,
      explicitly targeting police officers in a one day bombing campaign.


      Migrants are the most involved Russia's religious and ethical problem, film director Lungin believes
      Interfax-Religion, May 20, 2009

      Moscow, May 20, Interfax - Film director Pavel Lungin is eager to discuss religious matters in a new film about migrants.
      "I would like to make a film about migrants. To my mind, this is the most involved problem of Russia, both religious and ethical," Lungin said in an interview published by Izvestia daily on Wednesday.
      This year at the Cannes Film Festival, Lungin, director of The Island, is presenting his new film The Tzar about dramatic relations between Ivan Grozny and Metropolitan Phillip. According to him, after his return to Russia he "almost physically" felt the society's demand for films on Orthodox themes.
      "The society has made recourse to Orthodoxy. It is quite understandable. It is horrified at dishonesty of some democrats, total freedom and complete chaos in people's souls," he said.


      Commission against history falsifications must present absolute truth –Lukin
      Interfax, May 21, 2009

      MOSCOW. May 21 (Interfax) - Russian Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said he would retain the right to his own historical viewpoint until the newly formed presidential commission for the prevention of history falsifications harmful for Russia presents 'the absolute truth' of WW2.
      This commission "is a perfect idea if it works in two steps: first, it must establish and present the absolute truth of WW2 so that everyone understands that this truth is really absolute. I think they can do that in two or three days," he told Interfax on Thursday.
      If that happens "and I understand what deviations from the absolute truth have been made, I will take the most active participation in the prevention of incorrect interpretations of the historical events," he said.
      "Before they accomplish this mission, I reserve the right to my own opinion, which I think is absolutely correct," Lukin said.

      Gorbachev Doubts Expediency of Commission Bound to Fight History Falsifications
      Interfax, May 21, 2009

      MOSCOW. May 21 (Interfax) - Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev is not optimistic about the activity of a newly formed presidential commission for the prevention of history falsifications harmful for Russia.
      "I still do not understand what this commission is and what it may do. Results may be the opposite?" he said.
      The commission formed by a presidential ordinance is led by Presidential Administration Head Sergei Naryshkin. Deputy Education and Science Minister Isaak Kalina and Assistant Head of the Presidential Administration Igor Sirosh are his deputies. Head of the Presidential Department for Domestic Policy Ivan Demidov is the commission's executive secretary.
      The commission includes representatives of the Presidential Administration, the Foreign Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Justice Ministry, the Culture Ministry, the Education and Science Ministry, the Federal Science and Innovations Agency, the Federal Archive Service, the State Duma, the Public Chamber and academicians.
      The commission will sum up and analyze information concerning falsification of historical facts and events aimed to lessen the international prestige of Russia. It will also draft reports for the president and proposals on the prevention of history falsifications harmful for Russia.

      Slap on the Wrist for Racist Policeman Who Attacked Armenian Family
      UCSJ, May 21, 2009

      A suspended sentence handed down by a court in the Russian Federation
      republic of Adygeya has gone into force against a police officer who
      attacked an Armenian family, according to a May 19, 2009 report by the
      Sova Information-Analytical Center. Adam Tlekhuray was convicted of
      "hooliganism motivated by ethnic hatred" in connection with the July
      6, 2008 attack. According to the verdict, on that day in the village
      of Enem, officer Tlekhuray was driving around town drunk when he
      noticed an Armenian family and started yelling at them. He then got
      out of his private car, threatened the family while mentioning that he
      was a police officer, and began to punch and kick a 12-year-old boy
      while threatening to have the family deported. He then assaulted a
      passerby who tried to calm him down. Despite this shocking abuse of
      his authority, officer Tlekhuray got off with a two year suspended
      sentence and the loss of his job on the force.


      Neo-Nazis Murder, Severely Wound Two in Moscow
      UCSJ, May 21, 2009

      Over a dozen neo-Nazis ambushed two men from the Kabardino-Balkariya
      republic in Moscow, killing one and putting the other in the hospital
      in serious condition, according to a May 15, 2009 report by the
      Kavkazsky Uzel web site. Akhmed Maskov and Artur Borukaev reportedly
      cut through an alley on May 1 near the Kozhukhovskaya metro station
      when the extremists, armed with pipes, attacked them. Both men were
      beaten unconscious and left for dead. Akhmed Maskov, a 26-year-old
      urology resident at a local medical school, died in the hospital seven
      days later. No arrests have been made in connection with the attack.


      Two Students Die in Stavropol, Police Focusing on Neo-Nazis as Possible Suspects
      UCSJ, May 22, 2009

      Two ethnic minority medical students died in Stavropol, Russia in what
      police believe may have been neo-Nazi attacks, according to a May 21,
      2009 report by the web site Kavkazsky Uzel. On May 18, Yanis
      Kasiteridi, a medical student, died from multiple stab wounds to the
      stomach and chest. The next day, a group of unidentified assailants
      stabbed to death a medical student from Dagestan near his dormitory.
      Police are focusing on local neo-Nazi groups in their search for
      suspects. In 2007, Stavropol was the scene of an anti-migrant riot and
      an inter-ethnic brawl that resulted in the death of a Chechen student
      and dozens of injuries. Minority students from the Caucasus held a
      protest that year calling for a crackdown on neo-Nazis and threatening
      retaliation. Since then, the situation has remained relatively calm.


      Neo-Nazis Charged With Hate Crimes Murder
      UCSJ, May 22, 2009

      Police in Balakhna, Russia (Nizhny Novgorod region) detained three
      members of the neo-Nazi group Russian National Unity and charged them
      with murder motivated by ethnic hatred, according to a May 22, 2009
      report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. The three reportedly
      confessed to killing Gennady Dyu, an Uzbek citizen, on May 9 near a
      railway station. His body suffered 46 stab wounds as well as head
      trauma. The suspects reportedly confessed that the killing was
      motivated by ethnic hatred. In the 1990s, Russian National Unity was
      Russia's largest neo-Nazi organization, and grew so powerful that its
      members held joint patrols with police in at least five cities.
      However, it then split into several components and now has only a few
      surviving cells left throughout the country.


      Bigotry Monitor-UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 9, Number 20, May 22, 2009

      Some 100 protesters gathered in Yekaterinburg to demand the immediate release of a human rights activist, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported on May 19. Aleksei Sokolov, a member of the Public Monitoring Commission that deals with the rights of inmates in Russia's prison system, was charged with a robbery that took place five years ago in the town of Bogdanovichi, in Sverdlovsk Oblast. The protesters in front of the Russian presidential representative's building held signs calling the arrest "a sham."
      Sokolov was arrested on May 13. His wife, Gulya Sokolova, told RFE/RL that the arrest is politically motivated and connected to his professional activities. The protesters signed an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev urging him to get involved in the case.


      Ukraine Should Not Choose Between West And Russia-US Ambassador
      Itar-Tass, May 23, 2009

      Ukraine can have solid productive relations both with the West and Russia, US Ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor who is winding up his diplomatic mission in the country, said in an interview published by the Ukrainian newspaper Zerkalo Nedeli (Mirror of the Week). He noted that Ukraine needs positive, fruitful relations with all the neighbours based on mutual respect. The United States rejects the thesis that Ukraine should choose: the West or Russia.
      Taylor again stated that Ukraine is an important partner for the United States. He said that President Obama had visited Ukraine when he was a senator and understands the importance of this country. Over the past 18 years the United States spent time, energy and finances in order to help Ukraine develop into a strong democracy. These relations will be developing also in the future, because the new US administration relies on the existing projects and partnership and considers new spheres of cooperation based on the mutual interests and values, the American diplomat noted.
      He is certain that Ukrainians should unite for the sake of further development of a healthy economy and democracy. He said that Ukraine is going through an uneasy period in the political and economic aspects, and complex decisions cannot wait till the presidential election.
      As for the economy sphere, in the view of the US ambassador, the overcoming of the aftermath of the crisis will be started already this year. However, the Ukrainian leadership all the same will have to make hard and unpopular decisions in the economy sphere, therefore Ukraine is to face serious challenges. Taylor advised the Ukrainian leaders top work in coordination with the IMF, World Bank, other international donors, to take measures that reform the pension system and the Naftogaz company. It is necessary to work out the foundations for the reform of the fragile banking sector that would make capitalisation of banks and the settlement of the issues of problem banks transparent and meeting the world practice, believes the US ambassador.

      Russian PM quotes White general on indivisibility of Russia and Ukraine
      Interfax, May 24, 2009

      Moscow, 24 May: Today Prime Minister Vladimir Putin laid flowers at the tombstones on the graves of Russian migrs whose remains had been brought to Russia not long ago. These were writer Ivan Shmelev, philosopher Ivan Ilyin and General Anton Denikin. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill conducted an office of consecration of these tombstones here, at the Donskoy Monastery.
      After a chat with prior Tikhon, who accompanied the prime minister around the monastery's churchyard, Putin met the press. "Have you read Denikin's diaries?" (Putin asked). "No, it seems we have not... but we will," the journalists said, embarrassed. "Do read, by all means!" the prime minister urged them. "He shared his thoughts on Little Russia, that is Ukraine, and Russia as a whole in them." "He said that nobody should be allowed to meddle in relations between us. This has always been a matter for Russia itself!" Putin stressed.
      Talking to journalists prior Tikhon said that in conversation with him Putin told him that reading Denikin's diaries had completely changed his attitude to the general and changed "his perception of Denikin in history".
      "Putin recalled that he had read in Denikin's memoirs that, despite his total rejection of Soviet regime, even thinking about splitting Russia was a crime." "Preventing a partition of Russia, especially when it's a question of Little Russia, that is, Ukraine, was one of the main ideas of Denikin's works and political activity," the prior recalled Putin as saying.
      "It's a crime if someone only begins to speak about splitting apart Russia and Ukraine, even if members of the White movement or foreigners speak about this," Putin said quoting Denikin's memoirs. "The general absolutely could not stand such ideas," the prime minister added in conversation with Tikhon. He also remembers that it was the general who introduced the expression "the Balkanization of Russia", that is, the geopolitical tendencies which, as Denikin had forecast, emerged after the revolution and the Great Fatherland War.

      Rights group slams Kremlin history commission
      AP, May 26, 20009

      MOSCOW (AP) - A prominent rights group is criticizing a new government commission set up to fight what the Kremlin claims are efforts to harm Russia by rewriting history.
      The rights group Memorial warns that the commission could violate the Russian constitution's ban on compulsory ideology.
      President Dmitry Medvedev established the commission last week amid tensions with Russia's neighbors over Moscow's role in the turbulent history of eastern Europe.
      Many Russian leaders contend the Soviet Union was a benevolent force that liberated Europe from the Nazis and bristle at opposition to that portrayal.
      Memorial said Tuesday the commission is likely to be counterproductive and urged the government to promote an open and evenhanded assessment of Russian history.

      Would Be Suicide Bomber Sentenced in Izhvesk, Russia
      UCSJ, May 26, 2009

      A neo-Nazi on trial for allegedly plotting a suicide bombing of an
      Izhevsk, Russia courthouse was sentenced to three years in prison on
      separate charges of assaulting a local anti-fascist activist,
      according to a May 26, 2009 article in the independent newspaper
      "Novaya Gazeta." Aleksandr Krinitsyn, who was previously given a
      suspended sentence for twice vandalizing the city's Jewish center,
      attacked 19-year-old Galina Shutova on January 14 after seeing her
      picture on an anti-fascist web site and encountering her later on the
      street. He asked her to confirm her membership in the anti-fascist
      group, at which point he beat her to the ground and kicked her several
      times in the head before running off.
      He was sentenced to 10 months in prison after confessing to hate crime
      "hooliganism" after the court determined that he attacked Ms. Shutova
      out of ideological enmity. The court tacked on the remaining prison
      time from the earlier suspended sentence. Mr. Krinitsyn still faces
      charges related to the attempted bombing, which if he had carried it
      out, would have been the first suicide bombing by a member of Russia's
      increasingly radicalized neo-Nazi movement.


      Russian official warns of dangerous growth of race-hate groups
      RIA Novosti, May 28, 2009

      MOSCOW, May 28 (RIA Novosti) - Extremist groups in Russia including neo-Nazis are actively using the Internet to spread propaganda and recruit new members, contributing to the current rise in racist violence, a state prosecutor said.
      Vyacheslav Sizov told lawmakers: "Over the past few years, a steady rise in nationalist, racial and religious hate crimes has been observed."
      In 2008, Russian police registered 460 extremist crimes committed by youth groups, but in the first quarter of 2009 alone, 187 have been registered, he said.
      "One of the reasons for this is the distribution of ideas on nationalism, neo-Nazism, and racial supremacy among youths, which results in the activization of various ultranationalist groups."
      Sizov, who heads the Department on Combating Extremism and Implementing State Security Laws at the General Prosecutor's Office, said extremists are increasingly using Internet servers outside Russia's legal jurisdiction to disseminate race-hate propaganda and information.
      He said entire books can be found on websites that encourage young people to engage in extremist and terrorist activities, while also giving detailed information on how to prepare explosives and blow up buildings.
      Around 200 extremist groups with over 10,000 members have been identified in Russia, many of which are involved in race-hate crimes, he said.
      Describing the racist propaganda, he said they often focus on reports of crimes committed by foreigners, mainly from post-Soviet countries in Central Asia and the South Caucasus, and call on Russians to take revenge. Many sites feature discussion forums.
      "Such discussions are dangerous because they expand the circle of nationalists who are ready to shift from empty discussions to violent action," he said.
      As an example of a crime that sparked racist violence, he cited an incident last October, when a girl was raped and killed by a migrant worker in Moscow.
      "Regardless of the fact that the crime was solved and the culprit arrested, some individuals demonstrated their power and defiance to authorities by killing a migrant worker from Tajikistan, leaving his decapitated head near the administrative building in the area where the girl was raped and killed," he said.

      Commission For Countering Falsification of History Will Not Be Oversight Agency – Official
      Interfax, May 31, 2009

      BARNAUL. May 31 (Interfax) - The Russian presidential commission for countering attempts to falsify history that may damage Russia's interests should primarily be involved in organizing the work of historians rather than force them to make opportunistic conclusions, the commission's chairman and Russian presidential secretariat head Sergei Naryshkin said.
      "The commission of course will not be an oversight agency forcing historians to make opportunistic political conclusions from their studies. The commission should first of all organize the work of historians. The commission should make conclusions on what falsified historic facts or events infringe Russia's interests," Naryshkin said on the air of Chanel One Russia on Sunday.
      "Falsified history enters many offices of the heads of party groups and even the heads of neighboring states which try to lodge various claims: territorial, political and material to Russia instead of fine-tuning normal political dialog with it. Of course we cannot tolerate this," the official said.
      Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree establishing the commission on mid-May.

      Jewish Gravestones Vandalized in Nizhny Novgorod
      UCSJ, June 1, 2009

      Vandals damaged 19 gravestones in the Jewish section of a cemetery in
      Nizhny Novgorod, Russia according to a May 27, 2009 article posted on
      Jewish.ru. Police are investigating the incident, one of several times
      in recent years that vandals have targeted the Marina Roshcha
      cemetery. So far, however, prosecutors have not filed hate crimes
      charges in relation to the case.


      May, 2009. Monthly Summary
      SOVA Center, June 1, 2009

      In May, 2009, not less than 22 people, including 5 fatalities, became victims of hate motivated violence. In all, from the beginning of the year, there have been 147 victims of such attacks, including 30 fatalities (in 2008, in the same period of time, there were 307 victims, including 66 fatalities).
      In May, racist and neo-Nazi attacks were reported in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Blagoveshchensk, Krasnodar, Nizhny Novgorod and Stavropol. In all, from the beginning of the year, violent racist attacks took place in 20 regions of Russia.
      A publication on one of the neo-Nazi websites attracted public attention: the "Day of Anger" was announced on May 5, 2009. This information was also republished by the mainstream Mass Media.
      On this day, there were at least one explosion (a kiosk in Moscow) and three arson attacks (police departments and a military commissariat in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Cheboksary respectively). We consider, that chances are high that far-right groups are responsible for these incidents. There were other actions on this day, the neo-Nazis claimed responsibility for, but some of them, we believe, simply never happened, and some seem to be "ordinary" non-political crimes.
      In May, we registered not less than 9 cases of hate motivated vandalism: 4 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism, 4 cases of neo-Nazi vandalism against memorials of the World War II, and one case of desecration of a Muslim cemetery.
      In all, from the beginning of the year, we registered not less than 34 acts of vandalism which we with no hesitation attribute to radical nationalists. For the first time in many years, actions against Jewish objects (9 incidents) "gave the pas" to ideologically motivated attacks on memorials of the World War II and neo-Nazi graffiti (13 incidents). Objects of Russian Orthodox Church are on the third place in this row (7 incidents).
      Federal List of Extremist Materials was enlarged on 13 and 20 of May. Paragraphs 368-374 were added to the List. We consider paragraphs 373 and 374 to be rather doubtful (a website "Ufa Gubernskaya" and a book on history "Waffen SS").
      In May, there were not less than 3 verdicts for violent hate crimes. In Moscow, 2 teenagers were convicted for 2 racist attacks; in Adygeya, a policeman was convicted for an attack on an Armenian family; in Izhevsk, a neo-Nazist was convicted for an attack on an antifascist girl. Noticeably, it was the policeman who was the only one of the 4 convicted people who got a suspended sentence.
      In all, in 2009, there have been not less than 11 verdicts for violent racist crimes against 28 people (including 5 people who got suspended sentences).
      There were 2 verdicts for hate propaganda in May. On May 28, 2009, Alexander Belov (Potkin), a former (in fact, a still operating) leader of Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) was sentenced to 1,5 years of suspended imprisonment for incitement to ethnic hatred. Despite the fact that Belov went basically unpunished, this is one of a few guilty verdicts against prominent Russian far right leaders. On May 29, 2009, a nationalist activist from Arkhangelsk was convicted for hate propaganda. In all, from the beginning of the year, there were not less than 13 verdicts against 17 people (including 6 of them with suspended sentences).
      Besides, in May, in Sverdlov region, a satanist was convicted for repeated desecration of cemeteries committed out of hate motive.
      In May, 2009, the Supreme Court of Russian Federation doomed as an extremist international religious organization "Tablighi Jamaat". We consider this decision as unlawful. Lawyers from a human rights Association "AGORA" have filed a cassational appeal concerning this case.
      We also consider as unlawful anti-extremist warnings given by Roskomnadzor to "Krasnoyarsky Rabochy", "Permsky Obozrebatel" and "Chernovik" newspapers. It is already the second warning in a year term to "Chernovik", which means, that a process against it may be initiated to close the newspaper. (Besides, at the moment, 5 journalists from "Chernovik" are being charged – unlawfully, in our opinion – with incitement to hatred.)
      However, the most outrageous "anti-extremist" action of the month became introduction of a draft bill on criminalization of rehabilitation of Nazim and "offences against historical memory" concerning the World War II. The draft bill was obviously introduced in connection to the creation of the president commission for counteraction to "falsification of Russian history". We share the opinion of "Memorial" Society on this question and consider this initiative to be rather doubtful. The draft article of the Criminal Code introduced to the State Duma is defined quite inaccurately, in particular, if the bill is adopted, it will be forbidden to call a crime any actions committed by state-members of anti-Hitler alliance. This is an outrageous violation of freedom of scientific discussion (e.g. to call a crime the execution of Polish officers in Katyn or the bombing of Hirishima).



      Russia and its image: Put in more flags
      What military parades and song contests say about Russia's future
      The Economist, May 16-22, 2009

      AMID Russia's anti-crisis measures, the military parade on Red Square on May 9th was spectacular. Some 9,000 soldiers goose-stepped past political leaders. Tanks, rocket launchers and ballistic-missile carriers scratched the cobblestones; bombers, jets and helicopters flew above St Basil's Cathedral. The show is meant to mark victory in the second world war. But this genuinely national holiday has long been appropriated by the Kremlin for ideological ends. Rather than celebrating the war's end, this military parade represented Russia's readiness for a new fight.
      President Dmitry Medvedev affirmed in his address that the lessons of the war against the Nazis were "relevant today, given the outsiders who are interested in embarking on military adventures." And, making the reference to Georgia even more explicit, he added that "among the descendants of war heroes marching in the square are those who in actual battle have demonstrated the great fighting efficiency of the modern Russian army."
      There was no room in the celebrations to mention Russia's wartime allies or to re-examine Stalin's destructive war strategy. "The country that won the war has disappeared, self-destructed," Viktor Astafyev, a late Russian writer and war veteran once wrote in a letter. "The more you lie about the past war, the quicker you bring about the next one," he declared in another.
      On his video-blog Mr Medvedev hit out at attempts to falsify history by former Soviet republics. Anyone who questions the official version of Russia's victory or talks of Soviet occupation may soon face criminal charges in Russia. The Kremlin has massively rewritten history, approving textbooks that rehabilitate Stalin as an "effective manager." And it often turns a blind eye to the fascist talk of ultra-nationalists.
      At a time of financial crisis, this posturing is meant not only to project Russian invincibility but also to compensate for falling incomes and rising unemployment. To maximise the therapeutic value of the parade it was preceded by full-scale public rehearsals that won top billing in news bulletins. That some 100,000 Russian war veterans do not even have flats took second place to a show that cost an estimated 3 billion roubles ($94m), half of it for patching up the road surfaces it damaged.
      Nor is Russia economising on another flag-waving event, the Eurovision song contest, which it is hosting. The coincidence of the two shows exemplifies the glitzy entertainment and sabre-rattling that are so close in Kremlin ideology. Konstantin Ernst, who commands Russia's main state TV channel and is in charge of Eurovision, said it was the "external political effect" that mattered. The impact was heightened when Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, came fresh from the victory parade to the Olympic arena on May 9th to check up on preparations for the song contest. In the past Kremlinologists monitored Soviet leaders by their line-up above Lenin's mausoleum. Now it is by their appearance at Eurovision.
      After a year of Mr Medvedev's presidency, a third of Russians feel that Mr Putin is still in charge; only 12% believe that Mr Medvedev has supreme power. In an interview with the Japanese media ahead of his visit there, Mr Putin did not duck the question of who might be Russia's next president. "President Medvedev and I will decide what we will do, depending on the results of our work," he said, adding that Mr Medvedev was a "very honourable man who would consider his political future according to the country's interests." This suggests that Mr Putin expects his protégé to honour whatever agreement they have reached. A popular vote does not seem to feature in the process.
      Mr Putin's comments have reinforced expectations that he will return as president (for two six-year terms) when Mr Medvedev's term expires in 2012. As for Mr Medvedev, the Moscow rumour mill says he may fancy becoming boss of the constitutional court, a job that also falls vacant in 2012. Mr Medvedev recently suggested that the next head of the court should be chosen by the president. As a top lawyer, he would be in a position to ensure that none of Russia's recent history was falsified.

      Moscow Militia Play Up Ethnic Crime to Justify Crackdown on Minorities
      By: Paul Goble
      Window on Eurasia, May 16, 2009

      Baku, May 15 – The Moscow militia, in league with media outlets interested in sensationalism, is vastly overstating the extent and nature of ethnic crime in the Russian capital in order to get approval for a sweeping crackdown against minorities, according to a former interior ministry officer.
      Dmitry Berkut told Kavkaz-Uzel.ru this week that the authorities do not keep the kind of ethnically specific statistics on crime many newspapers and websites report and that there is no basis to talk about "the beginning of `a major war between ethnic criminal groups,' … or between clans of one of the national criminal groups" (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/154116).
      Of course, there are cases of violence by members of one ethnic group against another, he continued, but any suggestions that these constitute the opening of an ethnic "'apocalypse' is a "cynical" effort by the militia to secure a green light for the kind of crackdown against these minorities that many members of the many militiamen took part in the North Caucasus.
      "As soon as people begin to talk about some kind of `ethnic war,' Berkut said, "I assure you, a directive will come to conduct raids in the marks, construction sites, auto services and other places where people called in the language of the militia `persons of Caucasus appearance' are working."
      At that point, he continued, "the OMON will receive carte blanche for `soft cleansings' in these places," a kind of official blessing in advance that will allow the militia to operate with even less attention to legality than normally and with their work being celebrated by the media as a valiant defense of public order.
      Berkut said that when he worked in the militia it often happened that after a murder or attack on or by a member of a non-Russian minority, the militia would be given unwritten orders to "restore order" and show "who is boss in the city," orders the militiamen on the street interpreted to mean that they were free to act as they pleased.
      "As a result, the militia, which hardly famed for its tolerance, simply begins to conduct itself as many of its officers became accustomed to act during the special operations in the North Caucasus," with the militiamen focusing not on the actions of individuals but on their assumptions about groups.
      Such ethnic profiling has become especially common in Moscow, he continued, where specific ethnic groups are typically connected in the public mind with specific sectors of the economy – the Azerbaijanis with construction and markets, for example, and the Armenians with restaurants, clubs, and automobile dealerships.
      And this pattern which has some basis in fact, the former interior ministry officer continues, provides the basis for the media reports about "inter-ethnic wars," conflicts that have supposedly begun because the economic downturn is forcing members of some nationalities to try to take over sectors controlled by members of another nationality.
      Some of that may be happening, Berkut concedes, but media reporting about it is vastly overblown. Indeed, such reports about "new ethnic wars" are in almost all cases simply efforts by the interior ministry to justify its call for tougher laws and for more public understanding of and support for the militia's need to use harsh measures.
      To the extent Berkut is correct – and both his own experience and the internal consistency of his argument make that seem very likely – the current upsurge in media reporting about ethnic "crimes" in the Russian capital suggests that more clashes are likely to be ahead not so much between the various nationalities as between the nationalities and the Russian militia.


      Gay activists in Moscow thwarted
      By: Megan K. Stack
      Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2009

      Russia's gay and lesbian community was determined to stage a march this weekend, but the protesters were no match for the large band of plainclothes security men and uniformed police officers.
      Reporting from Moscow — The plainclothes security men came first, clustering in jeans, leather jackets and pointy black shoes. Then the policemen in gray uniforms and stiff hats; bulky men in dark suits who appeared to be in charge; a bus load of riot police in camouflage.
      A raw wind swept off the Moscow River on Saturday morning, past the souvenir peddlers with their tables of bright wooden matryoshka dolls and T-shirts emblazoned with Soviet iconography. The sky was low and dark over Sparrow Hills, a popular backdrop for wedding photos, a place for limousines, brides and champagne.
      The crowd of plainclothes security officers grew, and tension thickened as noon drew closer. One of the security men laughed rudely, pushing at a colleague. "They are not even here yet and Max is already flirting with me," he joked. "Take him away from me, guys."
      Nearby, a stocky policeman held his portable radio, listening to scratchy commands from above.
      "Get all of them!" the unseen supervisor barked.
      "Yes," the officer said. "But how do we know who's gay?"
      They were girding their force and setting their traps to sweep down on what the city authorities have repeatedly described as a threat: the attempt by dozens of gay rights activists to hold a march in the Russian capital. Yuri M. Luzhkov, the Kremlin-backed mayor of Moscow, describes gay marches as "satanic."
      And yet Russia's gay and lesbian community was determined to stage a march this weekend. Moscow was hosting the final round of the Eurovision song competition, a campy and wildly popular show perhaps best known for launching the career of ABBA. Activists hoped to capitalize on the event to draw attention to the sorry state of gay rights in Russia.
      Most of them never made it; they stayed away out of fear, or were pounced on and hauled off before they reached Sparrow Hills. Shortly after noon, about a dozen activists stood on a nearby lawn of thick grass and blossoming lilac bushes and began to shout slogans.
      "Homophobia is a shame!" they chanted. The demonstration lasted for about a minute before the police set upon them from all sides, clambering through the shrubs and knocking news cameramen out of the way to seize the demonstrators, pin their arms behind their backs and drag them off into waiting buses and patrol wagons.
      They knew it would be a struggle. The city government has repeatedly denied their permit requests. Police in the past have stood aside while ultranationalist skinheads beat gay activists bloody -- then arrested the activists, not the skinheads. (Skinheads, unlike gays, have been permitted to march in Moscow.)
      This year, the government seemed particularly incensed. Eurovision should have been a proud moment for the Russian authorities, a lighthearted celebration badly needed after bitter conflict with Europe over the war in Georgia and natural gas shut-offs.
      "The Moscow government is declaring that no gay parades have been or will be held in Moscow," Sergei Tsoi, the mayor's spokesman, told journalists last week.
      Gay activists threaten "not only to destroy the moral pillars of our society but also to deliberately provoke disorder, which would threaten the lives and security of Muscovites and guests of the city," Tsoi said.
      A few minutes after the first demonstration was broken up Saturday, a second group of activists arrived and began to march along behind a banner reading "Equal rights without compromise." They too were immediately pounced on by police, who snatched away the banner and hauled the men off to the buses.
      A man in a wedding dress arrived, only to be shoved kicking and screaming into a bus. After that, the scene melted into a sort of free-for-all, as frustrated police set upon and took away anybody who talked to reporters.
      "It's a shock," a gay rights activist named Ksenia Prilepskaya said, watching policemen circle menacingly through a crowd of journalists and a few remaining protesters. "It's against Russian law. It's direct violence against us."
      As she spoke, police officers noticed Prilepskaya and lunged, wrestling her toward the bus as she screamed and squirmed. Her glasses were knocked to the mud and trampled underfoot, her purse lost. Her clothes had been shredded from her body by the time she was forced to the steps of the bus; police pushed her inside stripped down to her bra.
      "Scoundrels!" somebody yelled.
      That was the end of it. There was no march. The vendors kept on hawking their souvenirs. A bride and a groom arrived, stared in bewilderment at the crowd of police, then shrugged and headed for a parapet to pose for the cameras, a cheering wedding party at their heels.


      Police Violence Clouds 'Best Ever' Eurovision
      By: Anna Malpas
      Moscow Times, May 18, 2009

      Russia won high praise from organizers and participants alike for its hosting of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest final on Saturday, complete with hovering swimming pools, Dima Bilan "flying" over the audience and a live speech from an astronaut in the international space station.
      But international reaction was clouded by the violent suppression of a gay rights protest earlier in the day that threatened to tarnish a national image that Russia had spend millions of dollars trying to buff.
      The winner, Norway's "Fairy Tale," performed by Belarussian-born Alexander Rybak, 23, won a record 387 votes, against 218 for second-place Iceland.
      The event was reported around the world alongside stories about the gay rights protest in Moscow. The New York Times gave scant coverage to the contest in a story about riot police breaking up the gay rally. Britain's Sunday Herald newspaper headlined its story, "Inside: Eurovision, The Campest Show on Earth. Outside: Riot Police Round Up Moscow's Gays."
      For Russia, hosting the contest was a costly prestige project. The exact price tag remains unknown, but Channel One director Konstantin Ernst, who organized the event, said it totaled more than 24 million euros ($32.3 million). A government official told Vedomosti this month that the show cost more than $42 million, a figure in line with promises made when Russia won the right to host the contest last year. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov announced at the time that the Russian government would give 1 billion rubles (then worth about $40 million), while the Moscow city government, which oversaw the crackdown on the gay rally after banning it, said it would allocate 200 million rubles ($8 million).
      President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have described Russia's victory last year that gave it the right to host the event as important for the country. Putin even sent Dima Bilan, last year's winner, a telegram saying his achievement was "another triumph for all of Russia," coming after Zenit St. Petersburg winning the UEFA Cup football final and Russia winning the World Ice Hockey Championship.
      With such high expectations, Eurovision 2009 was under unprecedented media scrutiny, with a record 2,238 accredited journalists.
      Gay rights activists said Russia ruined its reputation internationally with the police clampdown on the rally.
      "In the minds of most European people, this year's Eurovision Song Contest will be linked to the violent suppression of a wholly peaceful protest," British activist Peter Tatchell said Sunday. He was detained at the march but released without charges.
      "The universal reaction from journalists, politicians and members of the public [in Britain] is utter revulsion at the scenes of police brutality and suppression that they saw on the television news," Tatchell said.
      He said he was "disappointed" that no contestants spoke out against police brutality. "They were under huge pressure from their own managers and from the Russian organizers not to bring any politics to the event," he said.
      Gordon Heuckeroth, an openly gay singer in The Netherlands' entry, De Toppers, had said he planned to go to the rally but did not show.
      The organizer of the protest, Nikolai Alexeyev, said he believed that he was detained overnight to keep him from disrupting the final. "I think the main idea was to keep me and other people in the police station to prevent us doing anything during Eurovision," he said.
      The strategy misfired, Alexeyev said: "I can tell you the image of Russia after all that is totally spoiled. Obviously, this is not a democratic country that respects human rights."
      European Broadcasting Union, which owns Eurovision, has declined to enter the controversy. "As guests in Moscow, we feel obliged to organize the event within the limits of local law. If organizers of other events decide differently, that is up to their judgment," the association's spokesman Sietse Bakker said last week.
      At a news conference after the final, Bakker called the event "the best Eurovision Song Contest we have ever had."
      However, one of the first questions from reporters was about the police action against the gay rally.
      "I think it's a little bit sad that they chose to have the protest today. They spent all their energy on that parade, while the biggest gay parade in the world was tonight," Rybak, this year's winner, said in an answer that skirted around the police violence.
      Talking on the sidelines of the contest, former State Duma Deputy Alexei Mitrofanov criticized the treatment of the protesters. "I think it was completely unnecessary. They shouldn't have done it. In what way could 30 young men be a public danger? It's not even as if they blocked any roads," he said.
      The Eurovision final ran smoothly -- most of the time, anyway -- and was warmly received by the audience.
      Hours before the 11 p.m. start, the Olimpiisky Sports Complex was surrounded by flag-waving fans. Sporting Union Jack flag face paint and a beaded Russian headdress, Helena Davidson from London praised Russia for its handling of the semifinals. "It's putting on an amazing show. I can't wait for tonight," she said.
      Moscow police said there were no incidents at the event. Officers were courteous as crowds maneuvered through multiple barriers and metal detectors.
      The show began with last year's winner, Bilan, suspended from a wire in the roof and swooping onto the stage, where he launched into his Eurovision song, "Believe."
      The hosts were popular comedian Ivan Urgant and pop singer Alsou. Making his English-language debut, Urgant seemed relaxed in his interaction with the audience. "Are you enjoying my flawless British accent?" he asked the crowd to screams of approval.
      There were a few hitches: Bilan couldn't free himself from his flying harness and had to be helped by a backing dancer. The screen flickered as Azerbaijan announced its votes and a bizarre interval act involving performers splashing in suspended swimming pools drew a muted reaction. The linkup with the international space station had unclear sound at times.
      Because of the time difference with Western Europe, about a third of the audience drifted away before all the votes were announced, leaving conspicuously empty spaces. Nevertheless, Norway's victory with "Fairy Tale" was greeted with deafening cheers.
      In his acceptance speech, Rybak switched between English and unaccented Russian, repeating, "Thank you so much, spasibo bolshoye, Rossiya."

      Behind Moscow's Eurovision extravaganza, a less harmonious Russia: The same day it hosted the finals of the 42-nation singing contest, police quashed a gay rights parade.
      By: Fred Weir
      Christian Science Monitor, May 18, 2009

      MOSCOW – Two very different Russias, the paradoxical outcome of nearly 10 years of relative prosperity dubbed "the Putin era," were on full display in the streets of Moscow this weekend.
      One Russia, keen to excel in all forms of international competition, opened its collective heart to participants of the 42-nation Eurovision contest, which climaxed Saturday night with a boisterous, stan<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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