Wheel of Fortune: The Battle for Oil and Power in Russia

Oil Well file photo

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Mackensie Knorr – February 19, 2013) Meeting Report As Russia’s Soviet-era oil legacy gradually runs down, the Russian oil industry will face new challenges and higher costs. “This will result in a lower flow of revenue to the Russian government at a time when the Russian state budget has become more dependent on oil than […]

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Medvedev Says Russia’s Democracy Needs 100 Years to Develop

Kremlin and Moscow Environs Aerial View

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – March 21, 2013) Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the success of democracy in Russia can be evaluated only 100 years from now, according to a transcript of an interview with Western media published Thursday. In an interview with European journalists on Wednesday evening that focused mostly on the financial crisis in Cyprus, the prime minister […]

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Bright Days for Putin’s Dark Knight

Igor Sechin file photo

(Institute of Modern Russia – imrussia.org – Donald Jensen – March 19, 2013) Despite rumors of his waning influence, Rosneft chief Igor Sechin remains one of the most powerful members of Russia’s ruling establishment. Donald N. Jensen, Resident Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, discusses Sechin’s latest “string of triumphs.” […]

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Putin Nominates Economic Aide as Head of Central Bank

Elvira Nabiullina file photo

MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) ­ President Vladimir Putin has submitted to the State Duma the candidacy of his economic advisor, Elvira Nabiullina, for the head of Russia’s Central Bank, the Kremlin said on Wednesday. Putin first proposed Nabiullina’s candidacy on March 12 at a meeting with incumbent Central Bank chief Sergei Ignatyev, who has served three successive terms and […]

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Investigators Close Case Into Magnitsky’s Death

Memorial Flowers and Photo of Sergei Magnitsky

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Yekaterina Kravtsova and Ezekiel Pfeifer – March 20, 2013) Investigators said Tuesday that they had closed the case into the 2009 death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose name is attached to a U.S. law that has caused tension in U.S.-Russian relations by seeking to punish Russians implicated in human rights violations. An inquiry into Magnitsky’s […]

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Does Putin Need His Parliament?

Duma Session file photo

(opendemocracy.net – Dmitri Travin – March 19, 2013) Dmitri Travin is Research Director at the European University in St. Petersburg’s Centre of Modernization Studies Russia’s ruling party, ‘United Russia’, is significantly weaker than previously. Does Putin still need ‘his’ party or is it now more of a millstone round his neck? The economy is stagnant and the electoral system is […]

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Russians don’t want return to monarchy, see no contender for throne – poll

File Image of Czar Alexander II

MOSCOW. March 20 (Interfax) – Over a quarter of Russians have nothing against the restoration of monarchy in the country but cannot name a person who could become the tsar now, a poll has indicated. In a choice between two forms of government – monarchy and republic – 11% of Russians opt for the former. Moscow and St. Petersburg have […]

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Most of Russian Cabinet Against US Adoption Ban – Deputy PM

File Photo of Russian Orphans with Mr. and Mrs. Dmitry Medvedev

MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) ­ The majority of Russian ministers are against a recently approved ban on US nationals adopting Russian children, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Wednesday. “A lot of people in the Cabinet, the majority, were against the legislation, at least in the form it was passed,” Dvorkovich said at a meeting with students, the Prime […]

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Medvedev’s $30bn giveaway

Map of Barents Sea and Polar Environs

(Business New Europe – bne.eu – March 19, 2013) The big dollop of egg on Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s face since it emerged a strip of water in the Barents Sea ceded by the then-president to Norway contains more than $30bn worth of oil and gas spells trouble for the already weakened premier. Russia and Norway had been negotiating […]

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Vladimir The Weak

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Sitting at Desk

(RFE/RL – rferl.org  Brian Whitmore – March 18, 2013) Vladimir Putin clearly likes to keep an eye on his enemies. Perhaps he should be taking a closer look at his friends. Consider, for example, Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov. The KGB veteran and was widely considered the odds-on favorite to be Putin’s successor back in 2007 until he was […]

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Is Russia Too Big to Be Democratic?

Map of Russia

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, March 19, 2013 – http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/03/window-on-eurasia-is-russia-too-big-to.html) Russia’s enormous size is the first thing that strikes observers, a leading Moscow geographer says, but he points out that the implications of its size have varied over time and argues that while size matters, there is no reason to believe that its size necessarily precludes freedom […]

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Few Russians Want to Identify as Putin Wants Them To, Survey Suggests

File Photo of Crowd of Russians with One Waving Russian Flag

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, March 17, 2013 – http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/03/window-on-eurasia-few-russians-want-to.html) More than 90 percent of ethnic Russians taking part in an online survey do not want to identify as “Rossiyane,” the non-ethnic civic identity President Vladimir Putin has been promoting as the primary self-designator for citizens of the Russian Federation, preferring instead to identify as ethnic Russians […]

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Russia’s Rogozin Lashes Out at Corrupt Officials

Dmitry Rogozin file photo

MOSCOW, March 15 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the country’s military-industrial complex, called on Friday for harsher punishments for corrupt officials who “betray the motherland” by siphoning funds from defense projects. “These crimes must be punished in the harshest possible manner,” Rogozin told a meeting of officials from the Russian Federal Service for Defense […]

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New Central Bank Chief likely to Focus on Growth

Elvira Nabiullina file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – Tim Wall, RBTH – March 15, 2013) Elvira Nabiullina will probably increase Kremlin control over the regulator, but have to balance conflicting demands for looser monetary policy and lower inflation. While President Vladimir Putin’s nomination of Elvira Nabiullina, a former economy minister, as Russia’s new Central Bank chief, has been hailed as a […]

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Nabiullina Likely to Pursue Dovish Policy, Yield to Political Pressure

Elvira Nabiullina file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Howard Amos – March 14, 2013) Asked to end speculation about the identity of the next chairman of Russia’s Central Bank, President Vladimir Putin promised an “unexpected” candidate who would be well received. When it did come, the announcement that presidential adviser and former Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina would fill the post was a […]

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Russian Presidential Rights Council Calls for Denationalization of TV Channels

File Photo of Russian Television Studio

(Interfax – Moscow, 13 March 2013) The Presidential Council for Human Rights has called for a reform to denationalize federal TV channels in the next few years because it believes that the level of the authorities’ influence on their information policy is blocking the formation of an appropriate picture of modern Russian society. “The Council considers it necessary to recommend […]

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Without an Inspiring Project, Russia Will Disintegrate, Moscow Scholar Says

Map of Russia

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, March 14, 2013 – http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/03/window-on-eurasia-without-inspiring.html) Unless Russia’s “ruling class” comes up with a sufficiently grandiose project capable to inspire the population and give it a new “passionate impulse,” there is little chance that the country will remain “a unified state,” according to a scholar at the Presidential Academy of Economics and State […]

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Kickbacks Still ‘Dwarf’ Top Officials’ Salaries, Despite Raises

File Photo of Man Placing Stack of Large Bills into Inside Pocket of Suitcoat

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Nikolaus von Twickel – March 14, 2013) The salaries of top state employees have doubled since December, but such remunerations remain minute compared with unlawful kickbacks to the echelons of power, an anti-corruption expert said Wednesday. Higher pay amounts to buying loyalty from bureaucrats, but state salaries can hardly act as an efficient tool against […]

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Kremlin Embarks on Personnel Intervention at Central Bank

Elvira Nabiullina file photo

MOSCOW. March 13 (Interfax) – One of the most suspenseful appointment decisions of the past year has come to an unexpected expected conclusion. On one hand, Kremlin adviser Elvira Nabiullina only recently emerged as a potential candidate to replace Sergei Ignatyev as chairman of the Central Bank of Russia (CBR). On the other, after President Vladimir Putin said that he […]

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Accusations of Plagiarism Become a Political Weapon

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Natalya Krainova – March 13, 2013) Members of the political opposition often accuse state officials of grandiose misdeeds, such as falsifying election results, stealing millions from state coffers, or even ordering the killings of their adversaries. Lately, they have begun accusing pro-Kremlin officials of a far less sinister offense, one more often leveled at schoolchildren […]

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Elections Commission Chief Slams Report Claiming 2011 Duma Elections were Rigged

Russian Duma Building

(Interfax – March 13, 2013) Russian Central Elections Commission (CEC) Chairman Vladimir Churov has criticized a report issued by a think-tank claiming that the 2011 elections to the State Duma were rigged and that the Communist Party actually garnered more votes in them than the United Russia party. A number of media outlets on Wednesday published conclusions from a report […]

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Russia Remains in Last Place for Public Trust

Cropped File Photo of Two Men in Business Suits Shaking Hands and Passing Cash

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Irina Filatova – March 13, 2013) The level of trust in government officials and business executives remains dramatically low in Russia, with most residents saying they are more inclined to rely on their colleagues and independent experts, a research company said Tuesday. Only 5 percent of Russians believe that any government official tends to tell […]

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Gazprom Belies State-Run Tag as Russia Can’t Get Answers

Russian Gas Facility file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Scott Rose – March 11, 2013) OAO Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas export monopoly, is thwarting efforts to boost oversight of its $28.9 billion in capital spending as the state seeks to improve investment, Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov said. “Despite the fact that it’s a state company, even we, to put it mildly, can’t always see […]

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Kremlin Probing State Companies Over Corruption

Cropped File Photo of Two Men in Business Suits Shaking Hands and Passing Cash

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – March 12, 2013) President Vladimir Putin has instructed major state companies to unofficially provide tax and financial authorities with information about their deals monthly in an effort to probe corruption. The Federal Tax Service and Federal Financial Monitoring Service receive the information in order to check whether corporate management is affiliated with any businesses, a […]

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The Magnitsky Money: From Russia … And Then What?

File Photo of Man Placing Stack of Large Bills into Inside Pocket of Suitcoat

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Robert Coalson, Richard Solash – March 11, 2013) What if $230 million went missing and no one wanted to get it back? That is the puzzling question posed by Russia’s years of unwillingness to investigate the well-documented fraud claims made by lawyer and auditor Sergei Magnitsky. At least half a dozen European Union countries, plus Switzerland, […]

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Scandal Hits Duma Anti-Graft Chief

Russian Duma Building

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Jonathan Earle – March 12, 2013) Irina Yarovaya, head of the State Duma’s powerful Anti-Corruption and Security Committee, on Monday became the latest United Russia deputy to face embarrassing allegations of ethics violations with the publication of a report accusing her of de facto owning a multimillion-dollar apartment. Despite declared earnings of 2.9 million rubles […]

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The Kremlin’s New Deal

Vladimir Putin file photo

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – March 11, 2013) Tsar Peter I once proposed to his prosecutor-general that corrupt officials be either exiled to Siberia or executed. “But then who will be left?” the prosecutor responded, according to the oft-repeated historical anecdote. “We’re all thieves.” President Vladimir Putin repeated this tale during his press conference in December to illustrate […]

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Prosecutor General Checks NGOs for Source of Foreign Funding

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Anya Aseeva – March 11, 2013) The Prosecutor General’s office, together with the Justice Ministry and the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, has begun conducting large-scale unscheduled checks into non-governmental organizations to determine sources of foreign funding, a news report said Monday. Marina Grudneva, a spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General’s office, said the inspection was being conducted […]

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“Moscow Trials” Puts Art on Trial, Trials in Art

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – John Freedman – March 11, 2013) Journalist and theater director Mikhail Kaluzhsky called it a “theatrical slam.” Olga Shakina, a journalist from the Dozhd television channel, said it was a moment when “one theatrical event replaced another.” What they were discussing on Saturday on Echo Moskvy radio was a now-notorious performance of “Moscow Trials,” a […]

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Hatreds of Deeply Divided Russian Population ‘Saving’ Putin, Commentator Says

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Sitting at Desk

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, March 11, 2013 – http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/03/window-on-eurasia-hatreds-of-deeply.html) The hatreds Russians feel toward others past and present domestic and foreign are an important reason why Vladimir Putin has been able to maintain himself in power even at a time when polls show that an increasing number of the citizens of his country do not actively […]

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Local Self-Government Flounders in Obscurity

Moscow Traffic file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Jonathan Earle – March 11, 2013) Two municipal deputies picketed outside the Moscow City Duma last month, but nobody seemed to notice. Few passers-by stopped to ask what their handmade signs meant, and only a handful of journalists showed up to record their entreaties. To be ignored, it seems, is the plight of the municipal […]

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A champion for businessmen’ rights uses influence against raiders

Boris Titov file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – www.rbth.ru – Tim Wall, RBTH – March 11, 2013) Russian Presidential Commissioner for entrepreneurs’ rights Boris Titov gives an insight he is helping businessmen successfully deal with pressure from officials through the courts. Boris Titov, Russia’s foremost producer of sparkling wines, knows all too well what it’s like to face pressure from officials. But now, […]

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300,000 Self-Employed Russians Quit Over Tax Hikes

Cash, Calculator, Pen

MOSCOW, March 11 (RIA Novosti) ­ – Almost 300,000 self-employed Russians have quit business in Russia in the past three months due to social tax hikes, an Economics Ministry official said on Monday. From January 1, 2013, the Russian government doubled the annual fixed-sum social security tax for individual entrepreneurs to 36,000 rubles ($1,200), in a move that directly affected […]

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NEWSLINK: Sergei Magnitsky: The enemy within: A saga that has been a parable of the self-mutilating way Russia is governed

Memorial Flowers and Photo of Sergei Magnitsky

[Sergei Magnitsky:  The enemy within: A saga that has been a parable of the self-mutilating way Russia is governed – The Economist – Editorial – March 9, 2013 – http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21573119-saga-has-been-parable-self-mutilating-way-russia-governed-enemy-within] The Economist issues an editorial on the Magnitsky saga and its aftermath, and what it shows about brutal, deadly elitism in Russia: Martyred human rights activists; fatally brave journalists: Russia, […]

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Knock, Knock: The Return of the Propiska?

Map of Russia

(opendemocracy.net – Mikhail Loginov – March 7, 2013) Mikhail Loginov is a journalist and novelist based in St. Petersburg. He is the author of the recently published bestselling political thriller “Battle for Kremlin”. Reports from Moscow of door-to-door passport checks and a proposed new bill criminalising registration infringements are rekindling uncomfortable memories of the Soviet past. Mikhail Loginov reflects on […]

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More Russians Support Idea Of Female President Than Oppose It, Poll Shows

Kremlin and Moscow Environs Aerial View

(RIA Novosti – March 6, 2013) Roughly two in five Russians would like to have a female president, a Levada Centre poll has shown, the RIA Novosti news agency reported on 6 March. The poll, available at http://www.levada.ru/06-03-2013/rossiyane-o-roli-zhenshchin-v-politike, surveyed people’s views on the role of women in Russian politics by gauging responses to three questions. The number of respondents who […]

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Children of Russian Officials and Businessmen Hold Top Posts

File Photo of Man Placing Stack of Large Bills into Inside Pocket of Suitcoat

(RIA Novosti – February 26, 2013) Aleksandr Lebedev, the co-owner of Aeroflot has nominated three people for the company’ board of directors, including his own son Yegor. According to open sources, Yegor was born in November 2011. Petr Fradkov (born in 1978), the eldest son of Mikhail Fradkov the director of the Russian Federation Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), heads the […]

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Fifty Shades of Gray: If Your Game Doesn’t Have a Safeword, Someone Could Get Hurt

File Photo of Vladislav Surkov with Mike McFaul

(Moscow News – themoscownews.com – Anna Arutunyan – March 4, 2013) Anna Arutunyan is the politics editor of The Moscow News In Russia, there were a thousand shades of gray before Vladislav Surkov, the so-called “gray cardinal” behind Vladimir Putin’s first 12 years in power, was replaced in late 2011. Now, one year into Putin’s third term as president, there […]

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From ‘Upper Volta with Missiles’ to ‘Nigeria with Snow’

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, February 28, 2013 – http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/02/window-on-eurasia-from-upper-volta-with.html) Twenty-five years ago, German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt characterized the Soviet Union as being an “Upper Volta with missiles.” Now, Russian analysts, in response to findings of a Swiss firm, have suggested that a better analogy might be between the Russian Federation and a “Nigeria with snow.” The […]

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Russia Eyes Efficient Management of State-Controlled Assets

Empty Boardroom

(Eurasia Daily Monitor: Volume 10, Issue 39 – Jamestown Foundation – jamestown.org – Sergei Blagov – March 1, 2013) The Russian government pledged to manage $3.3 trillion worth of its state-controlled assets more efficiently, including through the continued privatization of state-owned companies. However, the authorities have to prove that the latest privatization efforts could fare better than earlier attempts to […]

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TRANSCRIPT: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s interview with the Brazilian TV network Globo

Dmitry Medvedev file photo

(Governent.ru – February 26, 2013) Correspondent (via interpreter): Mr Prime Minister, thank you very much for finding time for Globo in your schedule. In your recent article in the influential Financial Times, you wrote that Russia should look to the East, to the Asia-Pacific Region. How, looking East, did you wind up in Brazil?  Did you follow Columbus who set […]

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Russians commend Putin’s performance, believe he can keep election promises – poll

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Sitting at Desk

MOSCOW. Feb 28 (Interfax) – Some 47% of Russians believe that President Vladimir Putin can keep the election promises, the Levada Center told Interfax after having polled respondents in 130 towns and cities in 45 regions this February. A third (34%) doubted that and 17% were hesitant, the sociologists said. In the opinion of 65%, President Putin has done more […]

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Re-Elected, Zyuganov Defends Stalin’s Grave

File Photo of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Natalya Krainova – February 27, 2013) Gennady Zyuganov, re-elected Saturday as leader of the Communist Party, a position he’s held for 17 years, said Tuesday that public calls to remove Stalin’s and Brezhnev’s graves from the Kremlin Wall Necropolis came from “provocateurs” and “SS loyalists.” He vowed that his party would continue to fight proposals […]

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Putin’s War on Three Fronts

Duma Session file photo

(Institute of Modern Russia – www.imrussia.org – Tatiana Stanovaya – February 25, 2013 – click here for original posting of article) Two important tendencies have marked Russian political life during the past few months. The first is the Kremlin’s attempt to control officials’ and lawmakers’ foreign accounts and real estate holdings. The second is the growing activity of independent bloggers […]

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Putin System Degenerating and Will Be Swept Away, Solovey Argues

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Sitting at Desk

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, February 25, 2013 – http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2013/02/window-on-eurasia-putin-system.html) The Russian Federation is “again entering a period of radical changes when entirely different and still unknown forces and figures” will replace those that President Vladimir Putin has assembled around him, according to Valery Solovey, an MGIMO professor who heads the New Force Party. In an interview […]

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Putin still seen best for presidency, though rating falls

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Speaking with Flag Behind Him and Microphones in Front

(Moscow News – themoscownews.com – Aleksandras Budrys – February 26, 2013) One-third of Russians still believe that President Vladimir Putin is the best choice for the post as head of state, although his rating continues to fall steadily, a survey conducted by independent agency Levada Center showed on Tuesday. The poll, conducted on February 15 to February 18, surveyed 1,600 […]

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Russia’s registration rules: what goes around…

Artist's Rendition of Pile of Papers Shaped Like Human, Wall of File Cabinets, Flying Pieces of Paper

(Moscow News – themoscownews.com – Natalia Antonova – February 25, 2013) Here is a solution on how to deal with Russia’s archaic registration system: don’t tie registration to real estate ownership. If registration is simply meant to let the authorities know where you’re residing, people should be able to fill out a single form on a website or at a […]

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Arrest and custody, Russian-style

Kremlin and St. Basil's

(www.opendemocracy.net – Grigory Okhotin – February 22, 2031) Grigory Okhotin is a journalist and co-founder of the grassroots police monitoring organisation OVD-Info [‘police-info’]. [Charts here: http://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/grigory-okhotin/arrest-and-custody-russian-style] Police custody, violence, trials and imprisonment have been all to common features on the Russian protest landscape since December 2011. A grassroots monitoring project called OVD-info has kept realtime data on the arrests; co-founder […]

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Presumed Putin Allies Get Most Construction Contracts

Moscow Traffic file photo

(Moscow TImes – themoscowtimes.com – February 25, 2013) Two companies co-owned by people seen as close to President Vladimir Putin were awarded the largest number of major road and bridge construction contracts by City Hall in 2011-12, Vedomosti reported Tuesday. In the period, a total of 150 road and bridge construction contracts worth 182.4 billion rubles ($6 billion) were awarded, […]

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Civil servants may have problems selling their foreign assets – Kremlin representative

Cash, Calculator, Pen

MOSCOW. Feb 22 (Interfax) – President Vladimir Putin’s representative in the State Duma Garri Minkh has acknowledged that government executives may have problems selling their assets and foreign company shares in compliance with the president-proposed bill. “The procedure of selling shares is not so easy. Not so easy as selling a glass of sunflower seeds,” Minkh said during the first […]

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