Posts Tagged ‘Pussy riot’

11
February 2014

Pussy Riot: Magnitsky ‘not an isolated case’ in Putin’s jails

EU Observer

Two members of the Russian punk band “Pussy Riot” on Monday (10 February) rubbished President Vladimir Putin’s amnesty law and said prison conditions are still as inhumane as they were for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower who died in jail in 2009.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who spent two years in prison for an anti-Putin punk song performed in a church, thanked all those in Europe who campaigned for their release.

“We are sitting at this table after two years in prison, but there are still people in Russia facing five-six years in prison for the same reasons as us,” 25-year old Alyokhina said through a translator.

Tolokonnikova, who is 24 years old and has a young daughter, rejected the charges and said their song did not incite religious hatred, as ruled by the judge who sentenced them.

“We want religion to be free of political influence such as the corrupt link between Partriarch Kyrill and Putin,” she said, referring to the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Released under a special presidential amnesty just before Christmas last year, the two denounced the move as a mere PR trick by Putin.

“It’s not a real amnesty, it’s a fake – just Putin trying to polish his image. The number who got released is very small,” Alyokhina said.

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03
January 2014

A Good Week for Some Political Prisoners in Russia… a Bad One for Russian Democracy

Huffington Post

Last week was a good week for some political prisoners in Russia: Mikhail Kodhorkovsky and Pussy Rioters Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are free. It was a terrible week for Russian democracy, a proof that prison terms are handed out and cancelled not as a result of fair and open trials, as a result of the ruling by independent courts, but as a decision by its president, who rules as he feels fit. The timing of the amnesty smacks of old school: a major international event coming up [the Sochi Olympics], open the jails, suggest that there is humanism, disarm critics. Just like during Soviet times, before major talks. But have no doubt, Putin’s message is that its all happening because “I took the decision”, because ” I want it to happen”, and I could decide otherwise as I please.

Putin seemingly feels invulnerable. He did pull off some big stunts this year : Snowden (not his natural ally), Syria (by default). He is for sure proud of how he used the liberal New York Times to chastise the West. He looks down on Western leaders as weaklings. Mr.Putin mistakenly thinks that a temporary lack of strong leadership in the West is a sign of decline. He has no idea about the resilience of our societies, that our weak moment will pass, like the flu. He sells anti-western sentiments in Russia and the world, not admitting to himself that this rhetoric is way past its “sell by date”, and like relabeled, but bad perishable food perhaps quells hunger, but soon causes severe stomach ache. He surely knows, (it used to be his job to figure it out) that the west is no military threat to Russia. Of course he also knows, that the real threat to his everlasting position as president are the decaying economy, the spread of values of democracy and freedom, transparency and the rule of law, the apparent suffocating of creativity, freedom of speech and organization.

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04
June 2013

Former Bush Advisor: Keep Calm and Submit to Putin

PJ Media

It’s hard to imagine how someone could be more discredited regarding Russia than by being intimately associated with both the George W. Bush and Richard M. Nixon administrations. That’s the case with Russia pundit Paul J. Saunders: he worked for Bush as a key Russia advisor and now works for the Center for the National Interest, known as the Nixon Center until 2011.

Recall Bush infamously looked in Vladimir Putin’s eyes, glimpsed his soul, and declared him trustworthy. And hosted a Russian war criminal in the Oval Office, before Putin invaded Georgia and annexed two huge chunks of territory. The Center for the National Interest is actually run by a Russian, Dimitri Simes, another discredited figure who has urged the same disgraceful policy of appeasement towards Russia that has been embraced by the disastrously failed “reset” policy of Barack Obama.

In the May 23 Washington Post, Saunders published an editorial fully supportive of the Obama reset. The column is one of the more dishonest and outrageous pieces of writing about Russia I’ve come across in my career of monitoring Russian affairs.

Saunders argues that the United States should not oppose dictatorship in Russia until Russian troops begin “massing on the country’s Western border” and “opposition activists are being executed by the hundreds.” Yes, really.

He denies that dissidents are being sent to psychiatric wards, Siberia, or being subjected to show trials like those that occurred in Soviet times, and therefore urges Americans to do as Obama says and to thank their lucky stars, because things are just fine in Russia as far as Americans are allowed to be concerned.

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29
May 2013

Human Rights in Russia

The Greens / European Free Alliance

The Human Rights Committee of the European Parliament held a hearing on Russia today with members of the band “Pussy Riot”, William Browder and others. Chair of the Committee, Green MEP Barbara Lochbihler and the vice chair of the Parliamentary Committee on EU-Russia Cooperation, Green MEP Werner Schulz welcomed the speakers and were deeply concerned by their contributions. Commenting after the hearing, they said:

“The hearing revealed the alarming deterioration of the human rights situation in Russia after the retaking of office by Vladimir Putin. Two representatives of Pussy Riot pointed to the increasing number of political prisoners, while the well-respected Russian judge Karinna Moskalenko described the perversion of justice in an increasingly politicaly motivated judicial process. William Browder underlined this with the example death of his assistant and Russian advocate Sergej Magnitsky, the circumstances of which are still not clear.

The European Union may not continue with its strategy of diplomatic reservation and has to assume responsibility. Therefore we demand a clear change of paradigm in European politics. The EU must commit to clear messages and demands at government level and to an active support of Russian civil society.

The political developments and human rights in Russia are on the agenda for discusison at the next EU-Russia-Summit, which will take place at the beginning of June. The dialogue on human rights must not be pushed off to one side. The growing number of political prisoners and politically motivated trials and convictions must be condemned in the strongest terms.

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21
January 2013

Keeping the pressure on Putin – Moscow is turning into a bully again

New York Daily News

Alex Goldfarb had an idea.

The veteran Russian dissident and longtime New York resident was standing in Union Square when it came to him.

He was there a week ago for an anti-Kremlin rally to protest Russia’s new law banning American adoptions of Russian orphans. It’s an especially vindictive measure that is solely intended to serve as political revenge for recent U.S. legislation that blacklists human rights-abusing Russian officials. Goldfarb, however, was thinking beyond a day’s worth of street theater.

“We should start a campaign to get Mayor Bloomberg to name a street in New York after Pussy Riot,” he said, referring to the feminist punk band made world famous after three of its members were arrested and subjected to a ridiculous show trial for performing a “punk prayer” denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.

Two of the members of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, are serving out their two-year sentences in a labor camp. One of the women, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released in October.
In many ways, that trio has become the face of the protests against Putin’s ineradicable grip on the Kremlin. The three young women turned into an unlikely cause célèbre, with the likes of Madonna and Paul McCartney showing their support.

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19
December 2012

Tough Talks Expected At EU-Russia Summit

Moscow Times

President Vladimir Putin will meet with European Union leaders in Brussels on Friday for a pre-Christmas summit, but the mood will hardly be festive.

Disputes involving visas, trade and energy have cast a shadow over EU-Russia relations in recent months, giving both sides tough issues to discuss. More broadly, the Europeans are expected to voice concern about the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent, while Moscow’s stance toward Europe is cooling following its recent foreign-policy emphasis on Eurasia.

“I have no high expectations of this summit,” said George SchЪpflin, a member of the European Parliament from Hungary’s conservative Fidesz party.

Schopflin said feelings among Brussels officials toward Moscow had definitely cooled over the past months.

“There is considerable unease about human rights,” he said by telephone.

In a highly critical motion passed last week, the European Parliament demanded that Russia end “politically motivated persecutions, arrests and detentions” among opposition members.

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13
December 2012

EU should impose entry ban on those incriminated in Magnitsky case

The Greens / European Free Alliance

Commenting on the report on Russia adopted today in plenary, Green MEP Werner Schulz, Vice-Chair of the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, said:

“The adoption of this report shows that the European Parliament is as clear as ever that any cooperation with the Russian Federation must be conditional on the respect by Russia of democratic standards and compliance with fundamental human rights and the rule of law.

In his recent state of the nation speech, Vladimir Putin lamented the country’s so-called moral decline. At the same time a flood of restrictive and immoral laws maintain a stranglehold on civil society. Any hopes that the controversial president could loosen the reins of the “managed democracy” have faded.

The Members of the European Parliament supported my proposal by a large majority and called for immediate release of the detained members of the punk band Pussy Riot. I expect Commission President Barroso and Council President van Rompuy to repeat this demand to President Putin at the upcoming EU-Russia summit.

For years now Russia has been viewed and discussed as an indispensable strategic partner of the EU. But vast natural resources and exports of western technology and consumer goods have not led to any strategic cooperation. Corruption and arbitrary behaviour by the authorities are not consistently opposed, as in the case of the lawyer Magnitsky who dared to uncover a hugely complex network of corruption. Unlike the officials guilty of his death, he is still being persecuted, even posthumously. Visa liberalisation without binding human rights criteria is not acceptable. The European Union should impose an entry ban for all people incriminated in the Magnitsky-Case and should simultaneously facilitate visas for Russian citizens.”

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26
November 2012

Russia: Introducing the Putin Doctrine

Daily Beast

Six months after returning to power in the face of mounting opposition, Russian President Vladimir Putin is exercising his political capital—and doing so in imperial fashion. The most recent example: earlier this month, sitting at a small table in his ornate, oak-walled office in the Kremlin, Putin announced that Russia was creating the world’s largest publicly traded oil company. The goal: to restore the glory of Russia the only way Putin seems to know how—the raw acquisition of power. “He is trying to keep stability, as he sees it, with billions of dollars in oil,” said Evgeny Gontmakher, an analyst at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, a Moscow-based think tank. “I predict chaos.”

The announcement—which featured what appeared to be a staged tête-à-tête with one of the president’s advisers—seemed to crystallize what analysts are now calling “The Putin Doctrine.” Its essence is to consolidate political control at home and expand his country’s influence in Central Asia at the expense of the West. Earlier this year, as protesters crowded Moscow’s cold streets, demonstrating against the government in a way that hasn’t been seen in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, Putin said his third term would give rise to a stronger military, improved social programs, and the creation of a Eurasian Union, a confederacy of states that resembles a watered-down version of the old USSR.

Apparently he wasn’t bluffing. Once the protests faded, Putin announced that he would boost the Russian Army’s budget from $61 billion in 2012 to $97 billion by 2015. Last month, he flew to Tajikistan and extended the lease on three Russian military bases for 30 years. Meanwhile, the Russian Air Force has begun joint exercises with its counterparts in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and a special Kremlin committee is mulling the best ways for the country to further unite with its neighbors in Central Asia: “We take the Putin Doctrine as verbatim instructions for how to create revolutionary change,” said Yuri Krupnov, a Kremlin adviser who is trying to invest $12 billion in state money into the economy of Tajikistan.

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23
November 2012

Moscow-on-Thames

Foreign Policy

When most people think of British-Russian relations, they imagine Bond films, iron curtains, Cambridge double agents, irradiated dissidents, and billionaire oligarchs who dress like Evelyn Waugh but behave like Tony Soprano and then sue each other in London courts. But there’s another element underwriting this not-so-special relationship.

British elites, elected or otherwise, have grown highly susceptible to the unscrutinized rubles that continue to pour into the boom-or-boom London real estate market and a luxury-service industry catering to wealthy Russians who are as bodyguarded as they are jet-set. This phenomenon has not only imported some of the worst practices of a mafia state across the English Channel, but it has had a deleterious impact on Britain’s domestic politics. And some of the most powerful and well-connected figures of British public life, from the Rothschilds to former prime ministers, have been taken in by it. Most surprising, though, is how the heirs to Margaret Thatcher’s fierce opposition to the Soviets have often been the ones most easily seduced by the Kremlin’s entreaties.

On Aug. 21, a new lobby group called Conservative Friends of Russia (CFoR) was launched at the London home of Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to Britain. The launch was attended by some 250 guests, including parliamentarians, Conservative Party members, businessmen, lobbyists, NGO representatives, and even princes. Yakovenko and Member of Parliament John Whittingdale, who chairs the Culture Select Committee in Parliament and is an “honorary vice president” of CFoR, both delivered keynote addresses. The lavish do in the backyard of the Kremlin envoy featured, as the Guardian reported, a “barbecue, drinks and a raffle, with prizes of vodka, champagne and a biography of Vladimir Putin,” and it came just days after the Pussy Riot verdict. It was an open invitation to controversy. If CFoR wanted to portray itself as merely a promoter of “dialogue” between Britain and Russia, it was an odd beginning for a group born looking and sounding a lot like “Tories for Putin.”

CFoR was founded by Richard Royal, a public affairs manager at Ladbrokes, a popular chain of betting parlors in Britain. He also owns his own company, Lionheart Public Affairs, which has no website but shares a registered address with the new pro-Russia lobby group. Responding to the storm of criticism his new project has provoked, Royal took to the Guardian’s website to defend the initiative against what he called “armchair critics on Twitter,” in language you’d expect from a PR professional. “Whether we like it or not,” Royal wrote, “Russia is an influential and essential part of the international community and its importance will only grow over time. We need to stop making decisions based on misconceptions that are decades old, and deal with reality.”

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