Russia claims killer demands Pussy Riot freed

Daniel Zimnikov via Associated Press

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Free Pussy Riot

MOSCOW (AP) — The bodies of two slain women were found in Russia beneath a scrawled message demanding freedom for the jailed members of the Pussy Riot band, officials said Thursday.

While a Russian investigator cautioned that the killer was possibly trying to mislead police by drawing attention to the punk provocateurs, the alleged link between a killer and anti-Putin protesters was immediately seized upon by Russian media and pro-Kremlin publicists.

Some publications ran headlines claiming that Pussy Riot supporters “committed” or “inspired” a double homicide. The coverage was full of the mostly negative terms used by Kremlin-friendly television networks and media in their coverage of the protesters’ trial.

A Moscow court earlier this month sentenced three Pussy Riot members to two years in jail for performing a “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin at a Moscow cathedral in February. The trial, widely seen as Kremlin-orchestrated, caused an international furor, with celebrities such as Paul McCartney urging Russian authorities to free the band.

The jailed band members’ attorney said on Twitter that “what happened in Kazan is horrible,” calling the case “either a horrendous provocation or a psychopathic” case.

“I am sorry that some freaks are using Pussy Riot’s band name,” Nikolai Polozov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said the women, aged 76 and 38, were killed late last week in their apartment in the central city of Kazan with the words “Free Pussy Riot” written on the wall in English, “presumably” with blood.

The substance has not yet been confirmed, it said in the statement.

The agency did not provide the women’s names or reveal details about their occupations or whether they had any connection to the band. The Russian tabloid Lifenews quoted an unnamed investigator as saying their faces and bodies were disfigured by multiple stab wounds.

An investigator in Kazan said the murderer was either psychotic or a drug addict who was trying to cover up the crime by attributing it to the band’s supporters.

The killer “was trying to avoid suspicion” by misleading police, investigator Andrey Sheptitsky said in televised remarks.

That sense of caution was ignored by many Russian media outlets.

Kristina Potupchik, a pro-Putin blogger and former spokeswoman for a militant youth group known for its violent pranks against opposition and Kremlin critics, said in a post that the band’s supporters “will not get away” after the killing. She also compared them to U.S. mass murderer Charles Manson, who also used the blood of his victims to write on the walls of their houses.

The leader of an Orthodox youth group that has accosted and assaulted Pussy Riot supporters claimed that they are capable of committing “any” crime.

“The infernal force that drives them hates God, believers and humankind in general,” Dmitry Tsorionov told Interfax on Thursday. “These people are capable of committing any crime, and nothing but force and law can stop them.”

The country’s dominant Orthodox Church has called the band’s stunt sacrilegious but hundreds of artists, musicians and other intellectuals have signed petitions urging authorities to free them.

Several wooden crosses that stood outside Orthodox churches in Russia and neighboring Ukraine have been toppled by people who have claimed to be the band’s supporters.

The band’s manager and the husband of one of the jailed rockers, however, said the band disapproved of the vandalism.

A poll released Thursday by the state-run VTsIOM polling agency showed that one-third of Russians considered the two-year jail sentence for the band members too harsh, while another 31 per cent found it appropriate. The survey questioned 1,600 people nationwide on Aug. 25-26 and gave a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Daniel Zimnikov: NO Freedom in Russia

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Russian President Putin Lives Large With Pricey Perks, Report Says

Daniel Zimnikov via abc News

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Vladimir Putin

To paraphrase the comedian Mel Brooks: it’s good to be the President of Russia.

According to a report released today by a pair of Russian opposition leaders, President Vladimir Putin enjoys the use of 20 official villas and residences around the country, a billion-dollar fleet of government jets, and a mini-armada of state-owned luxury yachts.

The authors, former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov and opposition activist Leonid Martynyuk, say these perks allows Putin to live like a “Gulf King” or an oligarch, all while ordinary Russians struggle to make ends meet. They claim the budget for the Office of Presidential Affairs is over $2.7 billion, which they say is about the same as the budget for the entire city of Nizhny Novgorod, which is home to 3.3 million people.

Most of the assets listed in the report are owned by the state, not Putin, but they dwarf his relatively modest official salary of about $120,000.

At that salary, the opposition leaders point out, Putin would have to refrain from eating, drinking, or doing anything for about six years just to pay for his luxury watch collection, which is said to be worth about $700,000.

The report says the number of palaces, villas, and residences available to President Putin has doubled since he took office in 2000, including several that were built on Putin’s orders. Others are old palaces that belonged to Russian czars. Some are appointed with pools, tennis courts, helipads, bowling allies, and movie theaters.

When Putin has to fly anywhere, he has his choice of 43 airplanes. The report says a toilet on one of them cost $75,000. He also has 15 helicopters at his disposal.

Putin also has use of four luxury yachts, including one that the report claims is among the world’s top 100 mega-yachts. The 187-foot boat reportedly boasts mahogany finishes, a Jacuzzi, and is alone worth $50 million. Another of Putin’s yachts, valued at $37 million, was acquired in 2011 and has its own wine cellar and a spa complete with a waterfall.

Putin’s spokesman Dimitry Peskov told the Russian newspaper Kommersant that he hadn’t read the report, but said the government resources available to President Putin are no state secret.

“Information on the residences and transportation of the president is absolutely open,” he said.

Nemtsov was quoted as telling the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets that no publishing house would agree to publish the report, which he said was a sign of the “level of fear there is of the authorities.”

Daniel Zimnikov: No Freedom in Russia!

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Taisiya Osipova Jailed: Wife Of Russian Opposition Sentenced To 8 Years In Prison

Daniel Zimnikov via Huff Post

Daniel Zimnikov

Taisiya Osipova

MOSCOW — A Russian opposition activist was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison in a review of her drug-related case _twice as long as prosecutors had requested in a ruling that drew immediate opposition outrage.

Taisiya Osipova and her supporters have maintained that police planted four grams of heroin in her home in 2010 in revenge for her refusal to testify against her husband, Sergei Fomchenkov, also a senior figure in The Other Russia opposition movement. A witness for the defense testified at the trial that he saw a police officer put the drugs in Osipova’s apartment.

Osipova had originally been sentenced to 10 years, but a higher court ordered a review of her case.

Tuesday’s unexpectedly harsh verdict comes two weeks after three members of punk provocateur band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for a surprise anti-Vladimir Putin performance in Moscow’s main cathedral. The decision sparked criticism in Russia and abroad as disproportionate.

It’s also being viewed as an ominous sign ahead of the trial of 11 people who were arrested on suspicion of taking part in clashes with the police at a protest rally in May this year.

Eduard Limonov, the leader of The Other Russia party, told Interfax on Tuesday that “this verdict is not only a political one, it’s also terrifying revenge.”

Fomchenkov reported the verdict on his Twitter account. The court in Smolensk was not available to confirm the verdict.

Prosecutors had asked for four years in prison for Osipova.

Osipova, 28, has been in jail since her arrest in 2010 and was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2011. A higher court in February overturned that decision, ordering the review of her case, while Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview that the sentence was too harsh.

Left-wing opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov described the verdict in his Twitter as “a triumph of lawlessness and cynicism.”

Osipova was one of the most prominent names on a list of people activists described as political prisoners submitted to then-President Medvedev in February.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential council on human rights, in an interview with the Interfax news agency on Tuesday described the verdict as a “legal mistake.”

Like her husband Osipova is a member of The Other Russia, although he hasn’t been active since her daughter was born in 2006.

Opposition activists have staged regular protests against Osipova’s prosecution, arguing that charges against Osipova were aimed to pressure her for information on her husband, Limonov’s right hand man, who was trying to get the movement officially registered as a political party at the time of her arrest.

Osipova’s supporters also said that witnesses confirmed police discovering drugs at Osipova’s place were members of pro-Kremlin youth groups.

Police searched Fomchenkov’s Moscow apartment shortly before Osipova’s arrest in connection with “an economic case,” details of which were never communicated to the Other Russian functionary.

Osipova’s lawyers on Tuesday pledged to appeal the ruling. The Other Russia activists are planning one-man pickets across Moscow on Saturday to protest the verdict

Daniel Zimnikov: No Democracy in Russia

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Daniel Zimnikov: Russia dismisses foreign critics of female punk rock band trial

Daniel Zimnikov via Reuters

Russiadenounced foreign criticism of the trial of punk band Pussy Riot as politically motivated on Wednesday and said there were “elements of a clash of civilizations” in Western condemnation.

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Ruusian Metro

Three members of the band were sentenced to two years’ jail last week for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” when they performed a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main cathedral, calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin.

Western governments have said the sentences handed down to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were disproportionate. Rights groups and musicians have called for their release.

Critics of Putin, who returned to the presidency for a third term on May 7 after a four-year spell as prime minister, say the Pussy Riot case illustrated his lack of tolerance of dissent.

“The case … has served only as an occasion for the latest wave of rushed, biased and politically charged evaluations,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

“It seems that what is important to certain human rights structures and media outlets is not so much the fate of these young women as the opportunity to create yet another scandal on anti-Russian grounds,” Lukashevich said.

He said the West must respect Russia’s need to protect the “millions of Orthodox Christian believers and people of other faiths adhering to traditional concepts of morality” that he said had been offended by the protest.

“This situation, without a doubt, has elements of a clash of civilizations,” the statement said.

“Many in the post-modern West forget about Europe’s Christian roots and also do not want to respect the feelings of the followers of other faiths, thinking that religion limits democracy,” Lukashevich said.

He said that international human rights conventions had established that “freedom of expression is not absolute” and stipulate that restrictions are needed to protect the security of nations and the well-being of their citizens.

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Daniel Zimnikov: Russia enters WTO

Daniel Zimnikov via Robert Amsterdam

Russia enters WTO; on verge of securing oil deal with Syria, Russia promises the former will not use chemical weapons; Putin pumps diesel industry, Gazprom’s exports plummet?  Think-tank says Kremlin is grooming Politburo 2.0; Pussy Riot to trademark name; Gudkov wants warning dropped; would-be Putin assassin’s extradition delayed.

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Russia enters WTO

Russia has ended its 19-year wait to enter the World Trade Organisation as its 156th member; but its commodity-based economy is unlikely to now see the kind of export growth boost that the same accession led to for China.  Syria is about to secure a deal with Russia, whereby the latter will provide the former with oil products to keep its economy and military afloat.  Russia assures the world that Syria will not use chemical weapons against rebels.  President Vladimir Putin is looking to boost economic growth by investing in the refining industry, looking to boost diesel exports by over 50% next year.  Sberbank teamed up with the Royal Bank of Scotland to give Gazprom a $500 million credit line to build a polyethylene production facility, although this article argues that Gazprom’s output and European exports are plummeting.  The company’s long-planned St Petersburg skyscraper has won its final building permits.

A new report by the Minchenko Consulting Group alleges that the Kremlin ‘is grooming influential figures such as liberal-leaning former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and nationalist Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin as possible leaders in the case of a political crisis’.  The name ‘Pussy Riot’ is being trademarked to prevent outsiders from profiting through use of the group’s image, with one record producer estimating the trademark to be worth tens of millions of dollars worldwide.  Simon Jenkins accuses British politicians of ‘hypocrisy’ for criticising the Kremlin over the Pussy Riot imprisonment.

State Duma Deputy Dmitry Gudkov wants the warning issued to him after his participation in the May 6 March of Millions to be dropped.  Sergei Udaltsov has been fined for organising an unpermitted action on August 9.  Artem Osmayev, the Chechen detained in Ukraine and accused of plotting to assassinate President Putin, has had his extradition to Russia postponed by the European Court of Human Rights.  Orthodox Patriarch Kirill’s visit to Poland marks ‘the unification of churches that actively oppose homosexuality, permissiveness and other “liberal values”’.

 

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Daniel Zimnikov: Russian court Web site defaced over Pussy Riot verdict

Daniel Zimnikov (BBC News)

Daniel Zimnikov

Russian Court

A group claiming to be associated with Anonymous has taken responsibility for the attack.

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Russian Court Website

A Russian court Web site has been defaced following a verdict that saw the all-female punk rock band Pussy Riot sentenced to two years in jail.

The Khamovnichesky District Court was hacked today by a group claiming to be affiliated with the U.S. branch of Anonymous. The site uploaded a message in Russian saying that it doesn’t “forget” or “forgive.” The group also posted a Pussy Riot song, called Putin Is Lighting the Fires of the Revolution, and video of Bulgarian singer Aziz.

Pussy Riot band members were arrested in March after performing a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main cathedral, requesting the Virgin Mary save Russia from president Vladimir Putin. A judge last week sentenced all three members to two years in prison for their alleged dissent. The arrest and subsequent sentencing has lit a firestorm across the world over individual rights in Russia. Many “hacktivist” groups have come out in support of the band.

Last week, one of those groups, Anti Leaks, took action in its distaste for the Pussy Riot handling, taking down Russian news site RT.com with a DDoS attack.

Pussy Riot band members were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”

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Daniel Zimnikov: Case of hitherto unidentified Pussy Riot singers severed into separate proceedings

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Moscow Police Building

Daniel Zimnikov – NO freedom of speech in Russia

 Moscow, August 20, Interfax – The criminal case of hitherto unidentified Pussy Riot punk band singers has been severed into separate proceedings and the search for them has begun, the Moscow city police department told Interfax.

“The criminal case of hitherto unidentified singers has been separated from the main Pussy Riot case,” it said.

The search is in progress.

The Moscow Khamovnichesky District Court sentenced three Pussy Riot singers to two years in a general penitentiary on August 17. The defense said they would appeal the sentence at the Moscow City Court and make complaints to the Supreme and Constitutional Courts of Russia. An appeal will also be lodged with the European Court of Human Rights.

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Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot band members wearing balaclava helmets staged a performance at the Moscow Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, 2012. The performance brought about a strong public reaction. The police opened a criminal case on the hooliganism charges.

Daniel Zimnikov – NO freedom of speech in Russia

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