Daily Archives: August 10, 2007

August 10, 2007 — Contents

FRIDAY AUGUST 10 CONTENTS


(1) Russia: Stop Raping Your Children

(2) Annals of the Holy Russian Empire

(3) The Khodorkovsky Feeding Frenzy Continues

NOTE: Yesterday, La Russophobe collected her 2,000th link to one her posts from another member of the blogosphere, as reported by Technorati, dwarfing the number received by any other Russia blog. 17 readers, a huge number relative to other Russia blogs, have now supported us by creating a Technorati account and “favoriting” this blog with it. Why not consider doing the same? It’s fast, free, easy and anonymous, and it’s a good way to take a stand against the rise of dictatorship in Russia.

Russia: Stop Raping Your Children

Writing in the Moscow Times Dr. Cesar Chelala, an international public health consultant and a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights and the author of “AIDS: A Modern Epidemic,” describes yet another horrific peril faced by Russia’s children:

One of the worst tragedies of post-Soviet Russia has been the increase in child abuse, particularly child prostitution. Besides the moral and ethical implications, the impact that sexual exploitation has on children’s health and future development demands urgent attention. It is a problem that shows no signs of abating.

Sexual abuse of children takes several forms. They are used in pornographic publications and films and exploited as prostitutes. They are also traficked to other countries, particularly in the Middle East. Victims of child sexual abuse are often lured by the fake promise of being published in mainstream fashion magazines. Some victims believe that prostitution and contact with rich businessmen will allow them the kind of lifestyle that they could not have otherwise.

Russia is now one of the main producers of child pornography in the world, and it registers significant incidences of child prostitution and child trafficking for sexual purposes, according to the Russian National Consultation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. St. Petersburg and northwestern Russia report a high incidence of sex tourism, which is widely advertised on the Internet and is aimed at people from neighboring Scandinavian countries. Child prostitution is the most common form of child exploitation in that region.

Those who recruit children for sexual exploitation frequently target street children or children from dysfunctional families. They initiate a vicious circle of entrapment and, as they become older, children end up in brothels. The recruiters prey on these children’s needs and deceive them into a life of dependency. In Russia, many of the young prostitutes are from the provinces or from the former Soviet republics. They come to Moscow or to St. Petersburg hoping to hide in the anonymity of huge cities. Sometimes pregnant or with children, and with scant education or skills, children turn to prostitution as an essential tool for survival.

Children engaged in prostitution frequently belong to families at risk — those in extreme poverty or with alcohol and drug addiction. In other cases, they are orphans who have made the street their homes. Many adults who sexually abuse children believe that by engaging with children, they are protected against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Children are less prone to practice safe sex, however, either because they don’t think they need it or because they are unable to oppose the pressure or intimidation from adults.

Because of the transnational character of transactions involving children, it is imperative to strengthen international collaboration to counter the sexual abuse of children. Although Russia has signed and ratified important international conventions, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, it has not yet developed a national plan of action against commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The Angel Coalition, one of the few Russian nongovernmental organization working solely to combat human trafficking, has produced a video called “Inhuman Traffic,” with the participation of actress Angelina Jolie. The documentary gives a shocking view of the tragedy of trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation in Russia and all across Europe. Moreover, it gives an insight into the trafficking chain and how it can be broken. It should be required viewing for all government officials who are involved in combatting this scourge.

Child abuse in Russia is an issue that demands concerted and long-term actions to prevent it. The UN convention is clear in the need to respect the rights of children, and by following its directives, Russia will have taken an important step in the battle against the abuse of children.

Annals of the Holy Russian Empire

It’s little wonder that the “intelligent design” yahoos at Russia Blog spend so much time French-kissing the Kremlin’s butt these days, when one reflects on a story like this one from the Moscow Times, which must be giving Russia Blog’s Discovery Institute overlords wet dreams:

A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said Wednesday that the country’s schools should teach religious principles and moral values, and accused some leading scientists of trying to impose the “ideology of science” on the school system. The church spokesman, Father Vsevolod Chaplin, was rebutting a group of prominent scientists who recently protested the church’s growing influence on Russian society. Chaplin, in reply, urged teachers to instruct children not to follow the examples of “homosexuals and prostitutes.”

His remarks come after 10 leading academics wrote to President Vladimir Putin in late July to protest the introduction of a new class on Orthodox Christian culture. The group also opposed an initiative to give Russian universities the power to award degrees in theology. “The scientific viewpoint cannot be a state ideology,” Chaplin told journalists at a round-table discussion between clerics and scientists Wednesday. “It never made anybody happy and has failed to answer fundamental questions about human existence.” The church, he said, should play a leading role in setting moral standards for youth. “We have to show them an unhappy homosexual in his 40s and an aging prostitute,” he said. “Otherwise, in 30 years our children will turn into animals influenced by the cult of glamour and debauchery.”

Government and religion are separated under the Constitution, but some who consider themselves atheist claim that religious symbolism is as omnipresent as atheism was in Soviet times. An outspoken Orthodox cleric at the conference called on the government to exercise more control over religious affairs and help the church fight superstitions spread by poorly educated priests. “We are ready to put part of our life under government control,” said theology professor Andrei Kurayev. “The Church has been living without censorship for too long.”

The revival of the Orthodox Church’s centuries-old ties to the state, meanwhile, have prompted concern among religious minorities and scientists. “Education of schoolchildren should be based on teaching scientifically proven knowledge,” Andrei Vorobyov, a leading medical researcher and one of the authors of the letter to Putin, told journalists. “Interference of the church in government affairs has always been deplorable in Russian history.”

Over half of the country’s population identifies itself as Orthodox Christian, but church attendance is falling, according to a survey published by the Levada Center on Wednesday. The number of Russians who said they were Orthodox Christians was 56 percent, 11 percent said they were members of other religions, including Islam, and 33 percent said they were atheists, Levada Center said, Interfax reported. But 59 percent of the 2,000 people surveyed for the poll said they never attend religious services, up 4 percent from a survey by Levada conducted two years ago.

The Khodorkovsky Feeding Frenzy Continues

Those who hoped that the Kremlin’s bloodlust for private property and paranoid fear of independent power centers would end with the outrageous railroading of oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky were sadly mistaken. Just as was the case with Hitler and Stalin, if the neo-Soviet regime is not stopped at the first grab, it makes a second. The Moscow Times reports:

The Interior Ministry announced Wednesday that a Moscow court had granted its request to freeze the assets of Russneft, the oil company owned by billionaire Mikhail Gutseriyev, who is facing a tax probe and what he called “unprecedented hounding” from the state. Moscow’s Lefortovsky District Court ordered all of Russneft’s assets frozen on July 31, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s investigative committee said late Wednesday. “In proceeding with the criminal case over nonpayment of taxes and illegal business activities … we have requested the freezing of [Gutseriyev’s] assets, and the court has granted that request,” she said. “This gentleman is accused of these crimes, and while the investigation is proceeding, his assets will remain frozen.”

Russneft vice president Eduard Sarkisov said the company had not received notice of the order from either the Interior Ministry or the court. “As of now, Russneft and all of its subsidiaries are working as normal and meeting all of our supply commitments,” Sarkisov said.

The announcement was the second from a court this week concerning the company’s assets. On Monday, Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court said it had reviewed the same request from the Interior Ministry, but had refused to issue a freeze order. A ministry spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the request had been filed with the two courts simultaneously, “in order to be sure,” he said, declining to elaborate or give his name. Pavel Gritsevsky, a lawyer with Moscow-based firm Status, said multiple filings were common practice as a form of “insurance” in legal matters. “If I were unsure which of the two courts would grant this request, I would have done the same thing in the prosecutors’ place — filed with both courts in the hope that one of them gives you what you want,” Gritsevsky said. “It’s a tactical move.”

In a faxed statement, the Interior Ministry said the request to freeze the assets fell within the jurisdiction of the Tverskoi District Court “because of the location of the preliminary investigation.” The request also fell under the jurisdiction of the Lefortovsky District Court “because of the location of the holder of the company’s assets,” the statement said. Gutseriyev owns an 80 percent stake in Russneft. While the company’s assets are frozen, Gutseriyev will not be able to sell them or transfer them in any way, Gritsevsky said. But Sarkisov, the Russneft vice president, said it was not yet clear that this was the case. “There are different legal formulations for arrested assets, and I don’t know which one applies in our case,” he said. “But most likely, yes, it is true that we cannot sell the assets.”

Last week, Gutseriyev said he had been forced to sell his stake in the company after “unprecedented hounding” from authorities. He later retracted the statement, saying the choice to sell the company was in line with the wishes of Russneft’s shareholders. Basic Element, owned by billionaire Oleg Deripaska, has said it is in talks to buy the company. Basic Element spokesman Sergei Rybak said Wednesday that his company had applied to the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service for clearance to buy a controlling stake in Russneft before the freeze order was granted. After learning of the court’s decision, Rybak said he did not know how it would affect Basic Element’s attempts to purchase the company. “For now, we are just waiting for some response” from the anti-monopoly service, he said.

Deripaska has made a number of big-ticket corporate purchases over the last year, leading to much speculation that he has the Kremlin’s blessing to expand his holdings both at home and abroad. Gutseriyev’s troubles were believed to date back to his attempts to buy several Yukos assets without Kremlin approval this year, but Russneft said last month that on Gazprom’s request, it had dropped plans to buy any of Yukos’ remains. The Federal Tax Service has targeted Russneft with a total of eight lawsuits against 11 companies that are or have been shareholders in the oil firm, the country’s seventh largest, producing 300,000 barrels per day. On July 23, a Moscow court upheld a 3.4 billion ruble ($134 million) lawsuit against the firm on tax evasion charges.

Calls to the Lefortovsky and Tverskoi district courts and to the Moscow City Court went unanswered Wednesday evening.