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Putin loyalists likely to win Russia local votes

October 14, 2012

KHIMKI, Russia (AP) — President Vladimir Putin’s loyalists appeared likely Sunday to retain their hold in thousands of local elections that offered slightly more room for competition, but were marred by opposition claims of widespread vote fraud.

The Kremlin eased stiff election laws in response to major protests against Putin’s rule last winter, but introduced new restrictions after the demonstrations abated. Kremlin-approved governors and most of the incumbent mayors appeared poised to preserve their seats and the Kremlin’s main United Russia party will likely keep dominating local legislatures and municipal councils.

In one of the most visible races Sunday, opposition activist Yevgeniya Chirikova was challenging the government-backed acting mayor of Khimki, a town just outside Moscow. Chirikova, a 35-year-old mother of two who helped organize the anti-Putin protests in Moscow, filed two petitions — alleging her rival broke campaign rules and that election officials manipulated voter lists. Authorities rejected her complaints, and it was unclear when a court could issue its verdict.

“If the elections were fair, then I’d have some kind of chance,” Chirikova said Sunday. “But since the elections in this country are what they are, then my chances are different.” With 30 percent of precincts counted, Khimki acting Mayor Oleg Shakhov was winning the race with 47 percent of the vote, while Chirikova was trailing him with 20 percent. Full preliminary results are expected Monday.

Local authorities repeatedly denied Chirikova a public space to hold a rally; when she and Ksenia Sobchak, a glamorous TV host who became a face of Moscow protests, leafleted a tram this week, an obviously nervous conductor announced the vehicle was broken down and forced all passengers off, after which it drove away, apparently without any problem.

Chirikova’s supporters allege that her Kremlin-backed rival is prepared to go to any lengths to prevent her winning, citing alleged ballot irregularities and even threats of violence to observers. “I’m convinced they decided to do everything with pen and paper after the polls close,” Nikolai Lyaskin, Chirikova’s campaign manager, said. Observers reported seeing “carousel” voters being ferried on buses between polling stations to vote multiple times, a practice applied frequently in the fraud-tainted parliamentary elections in December that triggered anti-Putin protests.

With turnout low at 28 percent and antipathy towards Chirikova from pension-age voters high, few expected she had much chance of winning in the first place. Chirikova won fame a few years ago by conducting a fiery campaign to save a local forest from being chopped down to build a highway. She lost that battle to powerful commercial interests, but has since become a prominent opposition figure.

Khimki resident Evgeny Orekhov said he voted for Chirikova “because she is part of the opposition” and “with representatives of the opposition, you want to see how the government will begin to act.” But another voter, Alexandra Zlotnikova, said she did not support Chirikova because she lacked executive experience. “I don’t see her as a mayor. The girl is young, she only has thoughts about the forest, the forest, the forest.”

Chirikova’s campaign reflected challenges also faced by other opposition candidates in nearly 5,000 local elections held Sunday in 77 of Russia’s 83 regions. The opposition Just Russia and Yabloko parties, and Russia’s only independent election monitoring group, Golos, pointed at activists’ reports on “carousel” voting in many regions of Russia and said that authorities at some polling stations failed to allow observers to verify that ballot boxes were properly sealed. Monitors also witnessed evidence of ballot stuffing and were often denied permission to check voter lists.

Opposition politician Vladimir Ryzhkov said violations in Sunday’s vote appeared to be even more blatant and widespread than in December’s parliamentary elections. In western Russia’s Tula region, an observer from Yabloko had her finger broken in a scuffle with group of people who tried to stuff a ballot box.

“This kind of open impudence looks scary,” Grigory Melkonyants, Golos deputy head, said of the vote violations registered by the group on Sunday. Responding to protests that drew up to 100,000 people in Moscow, the Kremlin had restored direct elections of provincial governors, which had been abolished by Putin nearly eight years ago. But after Putin’s inauguration for a third presidential term in May, he struck back at his foes with repressive bills, and the government put forward new requirements for the gubernatorial vote to retain control.

For instance, the Kremlin introduced “municipal filters,” which obliged would-be gubernatorial candidates to get approval for their bid from 5-10 percent of members of local legislatures. With most local legislators heeding Kremlin orders, the requirement made it hard for many opposition candidates to enter races.

As a result, incumbents faced only token competition in gubernatorial races held Sunday in five provinces and were poised to win the vote, according to early returns. The governor’s race in the Ryazan region at one point seemed less sedate than others, with Gov. Oleg Kovalyov facing a rival backed by another pro-government party. But challenger Igor Morozov eventually threw his support behind the incumbent in exchange for a promised seat in the upper house of the federal parliament.

In some of the regions where opposition candidates managed to get registered, they were later barred from the race by courts for various technical reasons. Earlier this year, the Kremlin also sought to quell public anger by simplifying registration rules for political parties. Sunday’s ballot saw dozens of new parties, but only few of them were genuine opposition while most others were loyal to the government or were created as spoilers to steal votes from Kremlin critics.

The Kremlin’s United Russia party was leading in the early count from far eastern regions where the vote ended, appearing to retain a majority of seats in the city council of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and the regional legislature on the Sakhalin Island.

Observers still expected a few leading opposition parties to make headway in elections of city councils in big industrialized cities, where they have the strongest support. The lack of real competition in many regions has contributed to public apathy, and voter turnout often was low. On the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula, less than 15 percent of eligible voters turned out Sunday for a local city council election — the lowest turnout in 15 years.

“Political reform has been conducted in the interests of the ruling party,” Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov said after the vote ended. “People are reluctant to vote because they realize that.”

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report.

Russian riot police staged mass beatings of Muslims and desecrated Koran in GULAG

1 October 2011

Russian concentration camp # IK-41″ in Jurga (Kemerov region), is on a verge of revolt.

KC sources report that on September 28, punitive gangs of riot police entered the camp and staged mass beatings of prisoner Muslims.

In the course of the punitive raid, arranged by infidels, the infidels deliberately desecrated the Holy Koran, tore it apart and trampled on it.

They shouted derisively – “Where is your Allah?! Why isn’t He helping you!? ”

In a video, posted on YouTube, a prisoner tells in Chechen how the riot police beat prisoners, tortured them with electric shocks and desecrated the Koran.

About a hundred Muslims are kept in the GULAG camp. They went on hunger strike, demanding the dismissal of the current head of the Kemerov branch of GULAG.

The camp inmates call for help them in order to not let the infidels commit further violence and desecrate the Koran.

The KC sources report that Muslims are supported by Russian prisoners in their demands. Now the camp is surrounded by riot police. The relatives of prisoners, journalists and human rights activists are not allowed to approach it.

Department of Monitoring

Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.

Link: http://kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2011/10/01/15199.shtml.

Moscow court frees 1 of 3 Pussy Riot members

October 10, 2012

MOSCOW (AP) — A Moscow appeals court has freed one of the jailed Pussy Riot members but upheld the two-year prison sentence for the two others.

All three women were convicted in August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for an irreverent protest against President Vladimir Putin. They argued in court on Wednesday that their impromptu performance inside Moscow’s main cathedral in February was political in nature and not an attack on religion.

The judge ruled that Yekaterina Samutsevich’s sentence should be suspended because she was thrown out of the cathedral by guards before she could take part in the performance.

National Post: Russia over centuries is always tyrannic, only labels change

28 September 2011

The Canadian newspaper National Post reported on a new self-appointed of Putin as gang leader of Russia:

“To nobody’s huge surprise, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s latest red tsar, is headed back to the country’s top job next year.

Only the hopelessly naive would suggest Putin still has to win a presidential election, in which Russians allegedly get to choose from an array of candidates.

It doesn’t work that way in the new Russia. Rule by strongmen (and a few women) has a hallowed history, from tsars Ivan the Terrible through Peter and Catherine – both with soubriquets the Great – to the Bolsheviks rulers Lenin and Stalin.

Only the ideologies change. The tyranny remains remarkably consistent, whatever the label. And thanks to changes to the Russian constitution, enacted while Putin’s poodle Dimitry Medvedev occupied the president’s office, he can stay in power for another 12 years.

A commentary in the Canadian newspaper illustrated by a photograph from Reuters, on which Putin was filmed with a pistol in the dash. Putin’s words under photo: “Now put up the photo of Khodorkovsky”.

Department of Monitoring

Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.

Link: http://kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2011/09/28/15185.shtml.

Russian army prepares to suppress popular uprisings

28 September 2011

According to Moscow media reports, Operational and Strategic Exercises Center-2011, conducted by the Russian army, showed that the army was preparing for bloody suppression of food riots.

The experts found a lot of inconsistencies in the “exercises”. In particular, it remains unclear why the military demonstrated mainly the ability to perform police duties, and no answer was found to the question why the military exercises were called strategic, but were devoted to the elaboration of tactics.

The exercises were conducted in Putin’s Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and on the Caspian Sea. The final stage of the maneuvers was held in Chebarkul, Chelyabinsk region, and was watched Putin’s poodle Medvedev.

The “Russian supreme commander” Medvedev saw “a special operation to free hostages”, apparently, imprisoned KGB officers, cops and gang members of the Putin’s ruling United Russia party.

There was nothing strategic in the special operation of capturing a village from “bandits”, i.e. rebellious people, by a tank brigade, special forces and interior troops.

Participants of a popular uprising were “disarmed” and “neutralized” with tanks, infantry and drones. “Probably, military leadership envisages such a warfare in the future”, noted the media.

According to Lieutenant General Yuri Netkachev, a scenario, under which the troops acted, brings sad thoughts. Indeed, based on the alleged progress of events, we can conclude that Russian leadership envisages uprising in many Russian communities, he says.

Colonel General Vladimir Popov, in turn, expressed surprise that army and police forces are engaged in such exercises, when there is still no Putin’s “stability” in the North Caucasus.

Military experts do not understand why the General Staff focuses on teaching the troops to conduct combat operations in populated areas. However, everything gets clear, if we assume that popular uprisings start in populated centers throughout Russia. In this scenario, such military exercises by the Russian Army get some sense, the media concludes.

Department of Monitoring

Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.

Link: http://kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2011/09/28/15189.shtml.

Russia, Tajikistan agree to military base deal

October 05, 2012

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan (AP) — Russia and Tajikistan agreed Friday to extend the presence of Russian troops in the ex-Soviet nation on Afghanistan’s northern border until 2042.

An aide accompanying Russian President Vladimir Putin on a visit to the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, said Moscow would be assured use of the facility “virtually free of charge.” Central Asian nations are apprehensive at the prospect of the NATO coalition’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 and have expressed fears that violence could spill over, prompting them to see security guarantees from their Russian and U.S. partners.

“The Russian base in Tajikistan is an important factor in stability in this republic, with which we are bound by special, brotherly and very close strategic relations,” Putin said. Tajikistan is believed to have sought large rental payments from Russia for use of the base, but those requests appeared to have been successfully resisted.

“We are talking about certain sums, but we are getting this base virtually free of charge,” said Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov. The current base lease is due to expire in October 2014. The Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division deployed in Tajikistan numbers around 7,000 servicemen and is the largest current deployment of Russian troops abroad. It is based in three garrisons — near Dushanbe and in the southern cities of Kulyab and Kurgan-Tube.

Russia’s military presence played a part in negotiating an end to the five-year civil war that devastated Tajikistan in the 1990s. Tajikistan economy is heavily reliant on the money sent home by the roughly 1.1 million migrant laborers working across Russia. Remittances from Russia in 2011 totaled around $3 billion, equivalent to around half Tajikistan’s gross domestic product.

Putin and President Emomali Rakhmon reached an agreement Friday to relax bureaucratic procedures for Tajik migrant laborers seeking to work in Russia, many of whom are frequently compelled to work illegally due to the complications of registration. Under the new terms, migrants will be granted work permits valid up to three years from one year, as currently.

“This will positively impact on the state of the labor market in (Russia) and enable the citizens of Tajikistan to form their life plans on a more solid basis,” Putin said.

Russian NGOs defy law naming them ‘foreign agents’

September 27, 2012

MOSCOW (AP) — Leading Russian non-government organizations said Thursday they would defy a new Kremlin law requiring those who receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”

The heads of nine prominent NGOs have issued a joint statement saying they would ignore the law, which was approved by the Kremlin-controlled parliament over the summer in a bid to undermine the groups’ credibility.

Failure to comply would bring fines of up to 5,000 rubles (about $150) for members, 50,000 rubles ($1,150) for the heads of these organizations and up to 1 million rubles ($31,000) for the organizations themselves. Anyone who continues to participate in organizations that violated the rules can be fined up to 300,000 rubles ($9,000) or sent to prison for two years.”We survived the Soviet power, and we’ll survive this,” Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissident who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, said Thursday. The law passed in July requires any NGO that receives foreign funding — from governments, groups or private citizens — and engages in vaguely defined political activity to register itself as a “foreign agent,” provide detailed quarterly reports of its finances and identify itself as a foreign agent in any material it distributes.

The law is part of a package of repressive bills initiated by the Kremlin after President Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a third term in May. Putin has repeatedly accused the U.S. of staging major protests against his rule to weaken Russia. His claims played well with his core support group of blue-collar workers and state employees, many of whom remain suspicious of the West.

The supporters of the new law described it as a necessary shield against foreign meddling in Russian affairs. Alexander Sidyakin, one of the bill’s authors, claimed during its passage that NGOs had “smeared” Russia’s parliamentary and presidential elections last winter with “mud.”

“We’ll let citizens know whose megaphone this mud is crawling out of, and they can draw their own conclusions,” he added. Alexeyeva and other rights activists also criticized a plan by Radio Liberty, a station funded by the U.S. government, to shift its broadcasts to the Internet, urging it to stay on the airwaves.

“We cannot lose a station with an active civil stance based on the universal values of freedom, democracy, and human rights,” they wrote in a letter, adding that these values “are under attack from the Russian government.”

Earlier this month, Moscow declared an end to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s two decades of work in Russia, saying it was using its money to influence elections — a claim the U.S. denied.

And last week, parliament gave a quick preliminary approval to a new treason bill drafted by the main KGB successor agency that vastly expanded the definition of treason to include such activities as financial or consultative assistance to an international organization.

Lawmakers also gave the government sweeping powers to blacklist websites in July, ostensibly to combat child pornography. Last week, however, Russia’s communications minister tweeted that the law could be used to shut access to YouTube over a U.S.-produced anti-Islam film that has provoked riots across the world.

The parliament is also considering making offending religious beliefs a criminal offense, punishable by up to five years in prison. The move follows a public outcry over the hooliganism conviction three members of feminist rock band Pussy Riot received in August for a “punk prayer” against Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral.

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