Russia 101118 Basic Political Developments

Moscow jury frees nine retail executives

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Moscow jury frees nine retail executives

By Courtney Weaver in London

Published: November 17 2010 23:40 | Last updated: November 17 2010 23:40

Nine executives of one of Russia’s biggest retailers have been freed by a Moscow jury after two years in detention.

The jury acquitted the men unanimously, dismissing 97 charges of kidnapping and extortion that had been levied five years after the alleged incident took place.

The case was seen as an attack against Yevroset, Russia’s biggest handset retailer, and its founder Yevgeny Chichvarkin, a sharp critic of Russia’s interior ministry.

Mr Chichvarkin has lived in self-exile in London since 2008 and is currently awaiting an extradition hearing on similar charges.

The acquittal comes amid heightened speculation in the Russian media and online that Rashid Nurgaliev, the interior minister, may be forced to resign as President Dmitry Medvedev responds to claims of police corruption.

Mr Medvedev launched a purge of the interior ministry in February, firing 18 senior police officers, and has said he will sack 140,000 of Russia’s 1.4m police by 2012.

Mr Chichvarkin’s defence lawyers said the jury’s decision offered hope that the charges against the businessman would be dropped as well.

In a radio interview from the UK, Mr Chichvarkin called for vengeance against the interior ministry on accusations that it had fabricated the case against his colleagues and brought others to their deathbeds because of the aggressive nature of its raids.

“They need to be judged. Those who investigated the company, those who held innocent people in prison for two years, those who are responsible for the deaths of several people directly or indirectly, should stand before a court,” Mr Chichvarkin told Ekho Moskvy radio station.

Lilia Shevtsova, an analyst at Moscow’s Carnegie Centre, said that while the verdict represented a small victory for Russia’s judicial system it came amid conflicting messages from the Kremlin and the country’s law enforcement.

President Medvedev last year called for an end to pre-trial detention for persons charged with economic crimes, but the change never came into effect, while there have also been conflicting messages regarding the late lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, Ms Shevtsova said.

Mr Medvedev has called for an investigation into the death of Mr Magnitsky, who died in prison last year after testifying against police for alleged participation in a $230m tax fraud. But this week prosecutors accused the deceased Mr Magnitsky for being the mastermind behind the fraud.

“It’s a Kafkan theatre,” Ms Shevsova said.

Russia oks draft bill on church property restitution
Yesterday at 22:36 | Reuters

MOSCOW, Nov. 17 (Reuters) - Russia on Wednesday adopted a draft bill allowing the Russian Orthodox Church to reclaim up to 17,000 buildings and churches nationalised after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution.

The bill, which sailed through its second and main reading in Russia's lower house of parliament, provides for the hand-over to the increasingly powerful orthodox church of property confiscated by Soviet authorities

The head of Russia's parliamentary committee on culture said that religious institutions could claim up to 17,000 buildings, mainly those already being used by the church.

The bill carries a provision barring the repossession of museum pieces, such as icons, and public buildings.

"We will only hand over a state facility to the church where it will be directly used for religious purposes," Grigory Ilyev told Reuters. The bill must now pass a perfunctory third reading before being signed into law by the president.

The Russian Orthodox Church was reinstated in the Soviet Union during World War II following the Bolshevik Revolution. The Soviet takeover of churches, monasteries and convents left the church severely depleted amidst an official policy that scorned religion.

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18 November 2010, 10:01

Patriarch Kirill asks Slovenia to promote Slav culture in Europe

Moscow, November 18, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia expressed hope at a meeting with Slovenian President Danilo Turk on Wednesday that Slovenia, as a European Union member, would help ensure that "Slav culture takes a worthy place in the life of Europe."

"I have specially chosen our joint attitude to Slav culture and to sustaining this culture as a separate subject because Slovenia is a member of the EU and would be able to make its contribution to ensure that Slav culture takes a worthy place in the life of Europe," Patriarch Kirill said.

He said that there are more than 1,000 people who live in Slovenia and who have ties to Russia and that most of them are Orthodox believers who are members of Serbian Orthodox parishes.

Turk presented Kirill with a book about a Russian chapel on the Vrsic Pass, and the patriarch gave the Slovenian leader an icon of Our Lady and a book.


Baturina's Inteco to sell stake in Moscow luxury project
11:23 18/11/2010

MOSCOW, November 18 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian construction company Inteco, owned by Yelena Baturina, the billionaire wife of Moscow ex-mayor Yury Luzhkov, will sell its 50 percent stake in a wedding registry office in the capital's sky-high City Palace complex by the end of November, company spokesman Gennady Terebkov said.

Inteco will sell its share to Viktor Rashnikov, owner of Russia's Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works, the Vedomosti daily reported earlier on Thursday. Inteco's partner, Alexander Chigirinsky's company Snegiri, is mediating talks with Rashnikov over the bargain.

Rashnikov will buy Inteco's stake for $35-40 million which is comparable to Baturina's investment in the project.

Inteco has taken the decision to ditch the wedding registry office in order to "consolidate its resources in current projects," Terebkov said.

Another reason for the move was that the dates of the completion of the wedding office project shifted which may affect its returns, Terebkov continued.

"Inteco swiftly spread information about substantive bargains... that's why speculations concerning other deals related to the company are improper," he emphasized.

On Wednesday, Terebkov came out with a statement that Inteco is functioning as usual despite rumors that it could be sold.

Before Luzhkov was fired by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev over "loss of trust" in late September, the ex-mayor was subject to widespread public criticism for using his position to help his wife amass her $2.9 billion wealth through construction contracts in the Russian capital.

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