Daily Archives: March 29, 2007

Annals of the Neo-Soviet Union: Human Rights into the Crapper

The Associated Press reports:

Russia’s human rights climate is deteriorating, and Soviet-style restrictions on freedom of speech and expression are multiplying, Russian and international activists warn.

Nina Tagankina, of the Moscow Helsinki Group, said there has been an “overall worsening” of the situation in Russia and that authorities are prohibiting more peaceful protests and rallies.

The Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation said in a report that Russian authorities have imposed tighter restrictions on the freedom of association and were resorting to intimidation and abuse of opposition activists.

“The actions of the police … remind one of the intolerance of political pluralism that existed here in the Soviet Union,” Executive Director Aaron Rhodes said in a statement Tuesday. “Russia is moving toward a one-party state.”

Over the weekend, police in the central city of Nizhny Novgorod violently dispersed an anti-government rally dubbed the March of Those Who Disagree. Three weeks earlier, police in St. Petersburg clubbed protesters and dragged them into waiting buses during a demonstration against President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin policies. An anti-government protest in Moscow in December was similarly quashed by a huge police presence that dwarfed the demonstrators.

The crackdown in Nizhny Novgorod led the United States on Monday to decry “Russian government heavy-handedness” against people trying to exercise democratic rights.

It “raises serious concerns about Russians’ ability to exercise their rights to assembly, free speech and peaceful protest,” State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

In a letter to Russia’s human rights ombudsman, leading rights activists said the breakup of the demonstrations was blatantly illegal. They also quoted Putin as saying earlier this month that “no one has the right” to deprive dissenters of the right to protest.

“A legal question arises: to what extent is policy in the country determined by the guarantees of the Constitution and to what extent by law-enforcement agencies and local governments?” said the letter, signed by Moscow Helsinki Group chairwoman Lyudmila Alexeyeva, For Human Rights chairman Lev Ponomaryev and 18 other activists.

Tagankina also said a new law imposing tighter restrictions on rights groups violated their freedom of expression and prevented many from operating freely.

A Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Putin’s administration does not believe there is a human rights crisis in Russia or that “democracy is in bad condition,” but acknowledges that “like in any country … there is still plenty to be done to improve democratic mechanisms.”

He said he was not familiar with the International Helsinki Federation report, but that foreign asessments of human rights in Russia are often subjective and biased.

What’s Next? A Fry Cook for President?

A few weeks ago, La Russophobe reported on the interesting decision of the Kremlin to make an accountant its Defense Minister. Now, continuing the same “logic,” the Kremlin announces that a physicist will be placed in charge of electoral fairness. What’s next, a pastry chef at the United Nations? Monsters & Critics reports:

With presidential and parliamentary elections looming in the next year, Russia’s Central Elections Commission Tuesday voted Vladimir Churov, a physicist and acquaintance of President Vladimir Putin, as its new chairman.

The commission voted 13-2 to make Churov its head. There were no other candidates for the position. Churov’s appointment came after Putin chose not to renominate two-time commission chair Alexander Veshnyakov following regional elections earlier this month. Veshnyakov, whose tenure began in 1999, had made it clear he was interested in a third term. No explanation has been given for his omission from the elections body.

Media have speculated that criticism of initiatives launched by United Russia, the country’s main pro-Kremlin party, caused Veshnyakov to be considered a possible risk during 2008 presidential elections and 2007 parliamentary elections. After being elected Tuesday, Churov told members of the elections commission that, unlike Veshnyakov, he was ‘inclined to a lesser degree to comment on the existing law and more (inclined) to carry it out,’ Interfax reported.

The former physicist, who worked under Putin in St Petersburg’s city hall in the 1990s, said the commission would be not ‘indifferent, but equally close, to all parties.’ Lyubov Sliska, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament and a member of United Russia, called Churov a ‘very responsible person and a brave deputy.’ Churov was elected to parliament in 2003 as a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party. During the new commission’s first meeting on Tuesday, ex-head Veshnyakov used his parting address to criticize recent legislation increasing the minimum number of members a political party must have to 50,000 from 10,000. He also spoke out against the practice of prominent party members winning party-list nominations, only to step down and give their seat to a less-known party member. But, he said, his departure should not be seen as ‘an expulsion of people who advocate democratic principles in Russian elections,’ adding in remarks quoted by Interfax, ‘it’s certainly not that way.’

Vladislav Surkov, an adviser to Putin, said Tuesday the Russian president would award Veshnyakov for his ‘service before the fatherland.’

What’s Next? A Fry Cook for President?

A few weeks ago, La Russophobe reported on the interesting decision of the Kremlin to make an accountant its Defense Minister. Now, continuing the same “logic,” the Kremlin announces that a physicist will be placed in charge of electoral fairness. What’s next, a pastry chef at the United Nations? Monsters & Critics reports:

With presidential and parliamentary elections looming in the next year, Russia’s Central Elections Commission Tuesday voted Vladimir Churov, a physicist and acquaintance of President Vladimir Putin, as its new chairman.

The commission voted 13-2 to make Churov its head. There were no other candidates for the position. Churov’s appointment came after Putin chose not to renominate two-time commission chair Alexander Veshnyakov following regional elections earlier this month. Veshnyakov, whose tenure began in 1999, had made it clear he was interested in a third term. No explanation has been given for his omission from the elections body.

Media have speculated that criticism of initiatives launched by United Russia, the country’s main pro-Kremlin party, caused Veshnyakov to be considered a possible risk during 2008 presidential elections and 2007 parliamentary elections. After being elected Tuesday, Churov told members of the elections commission that, unlike Veshnyakov, he was ‘inclined to a lesser degree to comment on the existing law and more (inclined) to carry it out,’ Interfax reported.

The former physicist, who worked under Putin in St Petersburg’s city hall in the 1990s, said the commission would be not ‘indifferent, but equally close, to all parties.’ Lyubov Sliska, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament and a member of United Russia, called Churov a ‘very responsible person and a brave deputy.’ Churov was elected to parliament in 2003 as a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party. During the new commission’s first meeting on Tuesday, ex-head Veshnyakov used his parting address to criticize recent legislation increasing the minimum number of members a political party must have to 50,000 from 10,000. He also spoke out against the practice of prominent party members winning party-list nominations, only to step down and give their seat to a less-known party member. But, he said, his departure should not be seen as ‘an expulsion of people who advocate democratic principles in Russian elections,’ adding in remarks quoted by Interfax, ‘it’s certainly not that way.’

Vladislav Surkov, an adviser to Putin, said Tuesday the Russian president would award Veshnyakov for his ‘service before the fatherland.’

What’s Next? A Fry Cook for President?

A few weeks ago, La Russophobe reported on the interesting decision of the Kremlin to make an accountant its Defense Minister. Now, continuing the same “logic,” the Kremlin announces that a physicist will be placed in charge of electoral fairness. What’s next, a pastry chef at the United Nations? Monsters & Critics reports:

With presidential and parliamentary elections looming in the next year, Russia’s Central Elections Commission Tuesday voted Vladimir Churov, a physicist and acquaintance of President Vladimir Putin, as its new chairman.

The commission voted 13-2 to make Churov its head. There were no other candidates for the position. Churov’s appointment came after Putin chose not to renominate two-time commission chair Alexander Veshnyakov following regional elections earlier this month. Veshnyakov, whose tenure began in 1999, had made it clear he was interested in a third term. No explanation has been given for his omission from the elections body.

Media have speculated that criticism of initiatives launched by United Russia, the country’s main pro-Kremlin party, caused Veshnyakov to be considered a possible risk during 2008 presidential elections and 2007 parliamentary elections. After being elected Tuesday, Churov told members of the elections commission that, unlike Veshnyakov, he was ‘inclined to a lesser degree to comment on the existing law and more (inclined) to carry it out,’ Interfax reported.

The former physicist, who worked under Putin in St Petersburg’s city hall in the 1990s, said the commission would be not ‘indifferent, but equally close, to all parties.’ Lyubov Sliska, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament and a member of United Russia, called Churov a ‘very responsible person and a brave deputy.’ Churov was elected to parliament in 2003 as a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party. During the new commission’s first meeting on Tuesday, ex-head Veshnyakov used his parting address to criticize recent legislation increasing the minimum number of members a political party must have to 50,000 from 10,000. He also spoke out against the practice of prominent party members winning party-list nominations, only to step down and give their seat to a less-known party member. But, he said, his departure should not be seen as ‘an expulsion of people who advocate democratic principles in Russian elections,’ adding in remarks quoted by Interfax, ‘it’s certainly not that way.’

Vladislav Surkov, an adviser to Putin, said Tuesday the Russian president would award Veshnyakov for his ‘service before the fatherland.’

What’s Next? A Fry Cook for President?

A few weeks ago, La Russophobe reported on the interesting decision of the Kremlin to make an accountant its Defense Minister. Now, continuing the same “logic,” the Kremlin announces that a physicist will be placed in charge of electoral fairness. What’s next, a pastry chef at the United Nations? Monsters & Critics reports:

With presidential and parliamentary elections looming in the next year, Russia’s Central Elections Commission Tuesday voted Vladimir Churov, a physicist and acquaintance of President Vladimir Putin, as its new chairman.

The commission voted 13-2 to make Churov its head. There were no other candidates for the position. Churov’s appointment came after Putin chose not to renominate two-time commission chair Alexander Veshnyakov following regional elections earlier this month. Veshnyakov, whose tenure began in 1999, had made it clear he was interested in a third term. No explanation has been given for his omission from the elections body.

Media have speculated that criticism of initiatives launched by United Russia, the country’s main pro-Kremlin party, caused Veshnyakov to be considered a possible risk during 2008 presidential elections and 2007 parliamentary elections. After being elected Tuesday, Churov told members of the elections commission that, unlike Veshnyakov, he was ‘inclined to a lesser degree to comment on the existing law and more (inclined) to carry it out,’ Interfax reported.

The former physicist, who worked under Putin in St Petersburg’s city hall in the 1990s, said the commission would be not ‘indifferent, but equally close, to all parties.’ Lyubov Sliska, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament and a member of United Russia, called Churov a ‘very responsible person and a brave deputy.’ Churov was elected to parliament in 2003 as a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party. During the new commission’s first meeting on Tuesday, ex-head Veshnyakov used his parting address to criticize recent legislation increasing the minimum number of members a political party must have to 50,000 from 10,000. He also spoke out against the practice of prominent party members winning party-list nominations, only to step down and give their seat to a less-known party member. But, he said, his departure should not be seen as ‘an expulsion of people who advocate democratic principles in Russian elections,’ adding in remarks quoted by Interfax, ‘it’s certainly not that way.’

Vladislav Surkov, an adviser to Putin, said Tuesday the Russian president would award Veshnyakov for his ‘service before the fatherland.’

What’s Next? A Fry Cook for President?

A few weeks ago, La Russophobe reported on the interesting decision of the Kremlin to make an accountant its Defense Minister. Now, continuing the same “logic,” the Kremlin announces that a physicist will be placed in charge of electoral fairness. What’s next, a pastry chef at the United Nations? Monsters & Critics reports:

With presidential and parliamentary elections looming in the next year, Russia’s Central Elections Commission Tuesday voted Vladimir Churov, a physicist and acquaintance of President Vladimir Putin, as its new chairman.

The commission voted 13-2 to make Churov its head. There were no other candidates for the position. Churov’s appointment came after Putin chose not to renominate two-time commission chair Alexander Veshnyakov following regional elections earlier this month. Veshnyakov, whose tenure began in 1999, had made it clear he was interested in a third term. No explanation has been given for his omission from the elections body.

Media have speculated that criticism of initiatives launched by United Russia, the country’s main pro-Kremlin party, caused Veshnyakov to be considered a possible risk during 2008 presidential elections and 2007 parliamentary elections. After being elected Tuesday, Churov told members of the elections commission that, unlike Veshnyakov, he was ‘inclined to a lesser degree to comment on the existing law and more (inclined) to carry it out,’ Interfax reported.

The former physicist, who worked under Putin in St Petersburg’s city hall in the 1990s, said the commission would be not ‘indifferent, but equally close, to all parties.’ Lyubov Sliska, deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament and a member of United Russia, called Churov a ‘very responsible person and a brave deputy.’ Churov was elected to parliament in 2003 as a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party. During the new commission’s first meeting on Tuesday, ex-head Veshnyakov used his parting address to criticize recent legislation increasing the minimum number of members a political party must have to 50,000 from 10,000. He also spoke out against the practice of prominent party members winning party-list nominations, only to step down and give their seat to a less-known party member. But, he said, his departure should not be seen as ‘an expulsion of people who advocate democratic principles in Russian elections,’ adding in remarks quoted by Interfax, ‘it’s certainly not that way.’

Vladislav Surkov, an adviser to Putin, said Tuesday the Russian president would award Veshnyakov for his ‘service before the fatherland.’

It Takes one to Know One

RIA Novosti reports that Alexander Lukashenko believes Russia is a “monster.” Well, takes one to know one, so it’s hard to argue. Once again, Russia is shown to be alienating every potential friend on the face of the earth, just as in Soviet times.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday his country will strive for a good relationship with Russia despite recent bilateral problems but called its eastern neighbor “a monster.”

Earlier this year, the neighbors were embroiled in an energy dispute after Russia doubled the natural gas price to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters and Minsk in response introduced a transit levy of $45 per metric ton for Russian crude pumped to Europe via Belarus. Russia briefly halted supplies to Europe, accusing Belarus of tapping its oil transits. Lukashenko said Belarus will develop good-neighborly relations with Russia and the West. “We have a huge monster – Russia – in the east and the European Union in the West,” he said, adding that his country has developed trade with the EU. “As soon as we began talking to the European Union, Russians started crying that Lukashenko was betraying Russia. But Lukashenko is not a man to betray anyone,” he said.

Lukashenko said Belarus is Russia’s stronghold given U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in Central Europe and plans by Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO. He said Belarus, which is building a union with Russia, will fulfill its defense obligations despite recent difficulties in bilateral relations. “We will not blackmail Russia despite recent complications,” the president said adding that defense was not a subject for blackmailing. “I think common sense and a desire to continue our relations on a decent basis will prevail in Russia. We are ready,” he said. Lukashenko also said he will soon meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral issues and further steps on the creation of the Union State.