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 Post subject: Protests against corruption
Post Number:#1  PostPosted: 19 Feb 2012 04:14 
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Toys cannot hold protest because they are not citizens of Russia
Siberian authorities ban protest by 100 Kinder Surprise toys, 100 Lego people, 20 model soldiers, 15 soft toys and 10 toy cars
Image
The toy protest in Barnaul, Russia, last month.
Photograph: Sergey Teplyakov/Vkontakte


There hadn't been many – indeed any – rallies like it before in Russia.
Last month saw dozens of toys, from teddy bears to Lego figurines, standing out in the snow of a Siberian city with banners complaining about corruption and electoral malpractice.

At the time, Russian authorities in Barnaul declared the protest "an unsanctioned public event".

Now a petition to hold another protest featuring 100 Kinder Surprise toys, 100 Lego people, 20 model soldiers, 15 soft toys and 10 toy cars has been rejected because the toys have been deemed not to be "citizens of Russia".

"As you understand, toys, especially imported toys, are not only not citizens of Russia but they are not even people," Andrei Lyapunov, a spokesman for Barnaul, told local media.

At the last rally, baffled police did not know what to do with the toys, which held up banners with the words: "I'm for clean elections," and "A thief should sit in jail, not in the Kremlin." After taking photographs and video of the plastic offenders, they asked prosecutors to investigate its legality.

The number of people, and their toys, wanting to take part has risen dramatically since then.

"It probably wouldn't be that popular if the reaction of the authorities hadn't been so harsh and absurd," said the activist Lyudmila Alexandrovna.
Authorities though are not willing to back down.

"It is possible that the people who have applied are inspired by their toys … and consider them their friends but the law unfortunately has a different point of view," said Lyapunov. "Neither toys nor, for example, flags, plates or domestic appliances can take part in a meeting."

The response to the original ban is typical of the new wave of demonstrations in Russia characterised by witty banners and a degree of absurdist humour. After a mass Moscow rally in December, the protest was re-enacted with Lego models and posted on YouTube within days. Toy rallies have caught on and taken place in four other Russian towns in the wake of the Barnaul protest.


From The Guardian, Wednesday 15 February 2012, for the complete story click the Image
For more articles by the Author ImageKevin O'Flynn in Moscow,


The part that I find most entertaining is -
Andrei Lyapunov, a spokesman for Barnaul told the local media:
"As you understand, toys, especially imported toys, are not only not citizens of Russia but they are not even people,"

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 Post subject: Re: Protests against corruption
Post Number:#2  PostPosted: 19 Feb 2012 05:23 
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Anger over corruption in Russian city of Novosibirsk

Russia's presidential elections are two weeks away. It looks as though Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will return to the top job, but with a substantial reduction in support.

Parts of Russia, including many of the big cities, have turned against Mr Putin's United Russia which opponents have nicknamed the "party of crooks and thieves".

Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city, returned one of the lowest votes for United Russia in December's parliamentary elections.

The ruling party was beaten into second place by the Communists in every district of the city.

As in many places in Russia, the big issue in Novosibirsk is corruption, which now affects much of people's lives.

They have stopped just blaming local officials who are stealing from them, and they have started blaming Moscow - and even the man at the centre of Russia's unusual political system, Vladimir Putin.

'Threatened'

The money-grab by some officials seems to be shameless. In the Novosibirsk region even veterans of the "Great Patriotic War" - as World War II is called in Russia - have been targeted.

The veterans are hugely revered in the country, and in the last few years there has been a scheme to provide the few surviving soldiers from the war with new housing. But some officials appear to have seen it as a way of making money.
Lubov and Ivan Ivan Uvarov, who received a grant for war veterans, was persuaded to accept a tiny one-room house

Ivan Uvarov is from Maslyanino, a small town some 200km (120 miles) from Novosibirsk.

During the war he was an engineer, and walked all the way to Berlin, accompanying infantry as they fought their way to the German capital.

Under the veterans' housing scheme he qualified for a grant of 5m roubles - more than $150,000 (£96,000). He was entitled to choose his new home, and dreamed of buying a traditional wooden Siberian house in his village.

But some local officials persuaded him to accept a tiny one-room flat, in a block built for veterans out of bricks from a factory owned by one of the officials. Anti-corruption campaigners believe the flat was worth half of the 5m roubles Ivan Uvarov had been awarded. No-one knows where the rest of the money went.

To make matters worse, the officials also cajoled him into signing a clause saying the flat should return to the state after he died, and it took a protracted legal battle to reverse that.

We found Ivan Uvarov, and his terminally-ill wife sleeping in the small room they shared with their elderly daughter Lubov Uvarova, who had become their full-time carer.

There was just one room. It was the living room and bedroom for all three of them. The only other rooms in the flat were a bathroom and a tiny kitchen, and many of the flat's facilities are faulty.

Lubov Uvarova agreed to talk to us, but she was very careful. All she said was: "No-one asked him what he wanted. They just gave him this. And everything keeps breaking."

A soon as we left Maslyanino, local officials asked Lubov Uvarova to retract everything she said to us, though she would not.

Then her daughter was taken to the local police station and threatened. She was told she might lose her job. Still the family insisted that we should tell their story.

'Like fascism'

Just days later, Ivan Uvarov and his wife died of illness and old age, within a few hours of each other.

Vladimir Kirillov is one of the campaigners who worked with the family.

"Corruption in Russia is like fascism," he said. "When they are stealing from war veterans it really is fascism. But sometimes even fascists treated people like people, while these officials have no boundaries."

Attempts to make contact with the Administration of the Maslyanino Region to ask why war veterans were not given the housing they had a right to were unsuccessful.

But it is not only the poor who suffer from the rampant corruption.

Nikolay Olkhovsky is a senior executive in a cable-laying company, and lives in a luxury flat in Novosibirsk itself. He seemed to be living a comfortable life separated from many of the difficulties of life in Russia.

Then on the 4 September 2010 his son Oleg Olkhovsky was arrested. He was accused of dealing in drugs.

A trained engineer with a good job and a wealthy family, he had no reason to be involved in Novosibirsk's drug trade. The family are sure the drugs were planted in Oleg's car after he was arrested.

No-one could understand why the police would want to target Oleg. Then the requests for bribes started coming in.

Three days after his arrest someone telephoned Nikolay suggesting that he should pay 1m roubles ($30,000) and his son would be freed.
'No control'
Nikolay Olkhovsky Nikolay Olkhovsky says he never expected his son, Oleg, to be targeted

Three months later, the price went up to 2.5m roubles. Then it became 15m roubles ($500,000.) The family refused to pay. Oleg Olkhovsky is still in prison awaiting trial. He has been there for a year and a half.

Nikolay Olkhovsky now finds himself unexpectedly on the frontline of corruption in Russia.

"I get the impression that nobody cares about people," he said. "They only think about themselves. It never even occurred to me that someone would try get to me through my son."

Olga Safronova has been helping Nikolay Olkhovsky, and is head of a local anti-corruption committee.

"Vladimir Putin has been an important person for Russia," she said. "But I don't think that he should be running for president again. He has been in government for 12 years. So why does corruption still exist? There is just no control."

From the BBC 18 February 2012 for the full article clickImage

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 Post subject: Re: Protests against corruption
Post Number:#3  PostPosted: 19 Feb 2012 08:56 
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Does it matter who will be the next president of Russia?

In two weeks time, the presidential elections will take place in Russia. It appears and it’s a wide held view that the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will return to the top job, but with a reduced public support.

But does it matter whether President Medvedev had continued as a candidate for the top job or Mr Putin, the official candidate for United Russia, returns or someone else takes over?

The short answer is No!

During his time on the President’s job, Mr Medvedev appears that he had very little influence on aspects of economic and foreign policy, and everyone knows who was/is in charge. Whatever position Mr Putin hold after the elections, he will remain the dominant figure.

Vladimir Putin will be the next president and judging from his past/present comments and actions, it’s unlikely that he will allow a more pluralistic political system; neither will he significantly strengthen the rule of law or tackle the endemic corruption. He is not likely to steer the economy away from dependency on natural resources and exports, so that manufacturing and services play a greater role. That’s because by adopting such policies would threaten his power base and the wealth of the ruling clans.

The next president may face a budget crisis because soaring spending means that a balanced budget now requires an oil price of $115 a barrel, compared with about $30 five years ago and he has to increase taxes (rumoured) on oil exports.

Next year the figure will be $125 and it will go up more later. Mr Medvedev’s supporters said that if he carried on he would have fostered economic modernisation by privatising more than Mr Putin.

The truth is that Mr Medvedev has reformed very little over the past three years. In any case the Liberals, Alexei Kudrin, the ex finance minister, and Igor Shuvalov, deputy prime minister – are Mr Putin’s men. So whoever has the top job in the Kremlin, together with the liberals and nationalists will determine the county’s economic policy.

I don’t foresee any dramatic changes in foreign policy. I read somewhere the comments of a parliamentarian in the ruling United Russia party, who said: “Foreign policy did not change much when Putin left the Kremlin, so why should it change now if he returns?”

The most significant development of recent years, the “Reset” with the US, will continue because it’s in both counties interest. It’s clear that the US has accepted Russia’s primacy in their near surroundings, including Ukraine. We must not forget that Russia is helping the US on the transit of supplies to Afghanistan and on sanctioning Iran.

Russia’s broad foreign policy is unlikely to change, maybe some of the details might change with Mr Medvedev’s departure. His decision to abstain on the UN Security Council resolution allowing the west and NATO countries to intervene in Libya, rather than wield a veto, had almost no support within Russia. Furthermore, Medvedev has worked hard to get Russia into the World Trade Organisation, whereas Mr Putin has made that goal harder to achieve by raising tariffs on imported cars.

Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have built strong relationships with Mr Medvedev, but not with Mr Putin. Mr Obama and Mr Medvedev had to make some hard decisions and intervened to abolish the chicken imports from the USA to ensure the success of the talks that led to the new Start treaty, limiting nuclear weapons. Mr Putin’s style, on the other hand, is more confrontational and he tends to see international relations in zero-sum terms.

In the latest documentary on the BBC about “Putin and the West” we heard that Mr Obama’s plans for missile defence are also ruffling Russian feathers. In the final phase, starting in 2020, the US is due to deploy interceptors designed to bring down intercontinental ballistic missiles. Of course Russia’s defence establishment fears such a system could neutralise its strategic nuclear forces so they are using, as pretext, the American plan to justify a surge in spending. We heard that Russia’s defence budget is due to rise by 60 per cent between 2010 and 2013.

The events in Libya have created a lot of bad blood. NATO’s operations have exceeded the terms of the UN resolution without consulting the Russians. As a result, Mr Medvedev has criticised the west for their actions in Libya. To make its point, Russia now is blocking any UN resolution against Syria, where they have substantial investments thus scampering their plans.

We now know that Mr Medvedev has failed to transform Russia during his Presidency and he only acted as a cushion between the west and the Russian elite. Without him and with Putin as President we will see more friction. In any case, the US and Europe should prepare to deal with an increasingly economically troubled Russia that may become more confrontational. They can’t do much to influence events, although they should do what they can to support economic modernisation over there.

The truth is, whoever is in charge in Russia, relations with the West are unlikely to be easy or improve.

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