Showing posts with label Moscow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Moscow. Show all posts

September 7, 2018

This HIV Gay Man Had No Choice But to Seek Asylum in Moscow

In mid-July, a gay, HIV-positive foreigner arrived at an immigration office in Moscow seeking asylum in Russia. Unlike in his native Uzbekistan, where sex between men is punishable by up to three years in prison, Russia has not criminalized homosexual relations.

But as he and his lawyer discussed his case with an immigration officer, their interlocutor made clear she had no sympathy for people like him.

"If it were up to me, they would all be put up against a wall," the officer with the Moscow branch of the Russian Interior Ministry's Main Directorate of Migration Affairs said, according to audio of the conversation obtained by RFE/RL.

At one point in the conversation, the officer, who said she herself hailed from the applicant's Central Asian homeland, switched to the man's native language to express her disapproval of the man's sexual orientation.

"Cursed be your father. Do you understand me, dog?" she is heard saying in Uzbek.
The officer's comments are now the subject of a formal complaint to Russian authorities by the applicant's lawyer on behalf of a rare subset of individuals seeking refuge in Russia: gay men.

Advocacy groups have registered a spike in asylum applications by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Russians in the West since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial 2013 law that bans "promoting..nontraditional sexual relations" among minors.
But the number of people fleeing to Russia from governments with more restrictive laws on same-sex relations remains exceedingly small, according to Russian activists who work with such asylum seekers.

That number jumped slightly when Russia hosted the World Cup this summer, as some foreign gay men obtained official fan passes for the soccer tournament and sought refuge after arriving in the country, according to Varvara Tretyak, a counselor with the Civic Assistance Committee, a Moscow-based nongovernmental organization that helps refugees and forced migrants.
'They Think It's Like Europe'
Some of the gay men fleeing to Russia, such as the Uzbek man cited in the complaint by his lawyer, hail from predominantly Muslim former Soviet republics in Central Asia, where they risk criminal prosecution and unofficial persecution due to their sexual orientation.

While those applicants have a certain grasp on Russian realities, Tretyak says that others -- such as applicants from Africa -- were unaware of the trajectory of LGBT rights in Russia, which rights groups and Western officials have accused of fostering discrimination and emboldening violence against sexual minorities in recent years.

"They think that it's like Europe in Russia, and that they've found a safe space. And, of course, they are very disappointed when they apply for asylum because there they encounter very strong homophobia from officials who insult them," Tretyak told RFE/RL in a telephone interview.
Antigay protesters attack a gay-rights activist during an LGBT rally in central Moscow in May 2015.
Antigay protesters attack a gay-rights activist during an LGBT rally in central Moscow in May 2015.
Putin and other officials deny that Russia discriminates against sexual minorities and have said the so-called "gay-propaganda" law enacted in 2013 ismerely aimed at protecting children
Anton Ryzhov, a lawyer for the Russian LGBT organization Stimul representing the Uzbek man who was called a "dog" by the immigration officer, said he and his colleagues decided to file a formal complaint with the Interior Ministry in order to change what he called a "vicious" system for those seeking asylum and refugee status in Russia.

"We agreed that we won't just ignore it and will try to shine a light on this issue, otherwise it will happen again to everyone we bring in," added Ryzhov, who said he submitted the complaint by mail this week on behalf of the Uzbek man and gay men from Turkmenistan, Nigeria, and Cameroon seeking refugee status in Russia.

The complaint, a copy of which was reviewed by RFE/RL, accuses immigration officers dealing with refugees and asylum seekers of stonewalling Ryzhov's clients by demanding evidence that they are gay during the initial application.
'Everything Was So Great Under Stalin'
Russia is not alone in demanding evidence of sexual orientation from LGBT asylum seekers. The United States, for example, requires such proof as well, said Jackie Yodashkin, a spokeswoman for the New York-based Immigration Equality.

"For refugees fleeing a country where it is unsafe or even a crime to be LGBTQ, it can be immensely difficult to provide 'evidence,' as many are forced to live entirely in the closet for fear of being killed," Yodashkin wrote in an e-mail. 

But Ryzhov said the issue of evidence is to be considered at a later stage, noting that Russian law allows anyone the right to apply for asylum or refugee status.

"Authorities are required to accept [the application]. But they can't even do that," he said.

Ryzhov's complaint also accuses immigration officers of "insults and discrimination" against his clients.

The complaint cites several other remarks by the immigration officer to the gay Uzbek applicant, including her reference to HIV-positive individuals as "AIDS boys" and her remarks that it is "too bad that they developed a treatment" for the disease.

"A disgrace to society," the officer says during the exchange, according to the audio obtained by RFE/RL.

After the applicant says he hopes that he would eventually be allowed to marry his partner in Russia, the officer suggests he try his luck in Uzbekistan, whose deputy justice minister said in May that international calls for greater LGBT rights in the former Soviet republic are not on Tashkent's agenda.
After Ryzhov and his client point out that criminal punishment for homosexual relations is still on the books in Uzbekistan, the officer appeared to long for a return to the Soviet-era criminalization of sexual activity between men.

"Everything was so great under Stalin," she said.​
The Russian Interior Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the immigration officer's recorded remarks to the Uzbek asylum seeker or Ryzhov's objection to the treatment of his clients.

A ministry spokeswoman told RFE/RL that the inquiry was received on September 5 and had been passed along to its migrant-affairs directorate.
'It's Not As Bad As In Cameroon'
Thierry, a gay Cameroonian man in his late 20s, said he was unaware of what rights watchdogs call a deteriorating situation for LGBT rights in Russia when he decided to apply for refugee status there this year.

"I didn't know about [the 2013 'gay-propaganda' law]. I learned about it after coming to Russia," Thierry, whose case is cited in Ryzhov's complaint, told RFE/RL in a telephone interview.

Thierry, who agreed to speak on condition that his last name not be published, said he and his boyfriend were attacked "physically and verbally" in Cameroon after people learned that he was gay. He said he was also physically abused by his father and other relatives.

"My mother tried to support me by telling me to leave the country," he said.
Thierry said he ended up in Russia earlier in early 2018 after around four years of trying to flee Cameroon, where same-sex sexual relations are a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison.
A rainbow-colored ribbon is tied to a crucifix next to a Russian flag fluttering atop the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg last month.
A rainbow-colored ribbon is tied to a crucifix next to a Russian flag fluttering atop the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg last month.
He says he made his way to Morocco and tried to flee to Spain by boat, and that he was rescued after the vessel capsized. An acquaintance in Morocco recommended that he go to Russia, Thierry said.

"He knew someone who could easily send us an invitation to obtain a visa. So he helped, and thank God I obtained a visa. The first time I got a visa I didn't have money for the plane ticket, so the visa I had [expired]. So I got a second visa. That's how I came to Russia. I've been here about three, four months," Thierry said.

He said he left Cameroon "because of violence, because homosexuals are not accepted" there.

"LGBT people are not accepted in Cameroon. We face problems, even death threats in some cases," Thierry said.

He said he feels "a bit more secure here in Russia than in Cameroon."

"The LGBT are not accepted here in Russia, but at least here in Moscow things are different than in Russia's other regions. There are LGBT members that hang out together -- I've found a partner -- so it's not as bad as in Cameroon," Thierry said.
Grounds For Optimism?
LGBT applicants in Russia face a steep challenge in securing asylum or refugee status in Russia. The country had a total of 598 recognized refugees in 2017, the lowest number since 2008, according to official data.
Of the 228,392 people who received temporary asylum in 2017, nearly 99 percent were from Ukraine, where fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Kyiv's forces in the east have killed more than 10,300 since April 2014.

Tretyak of the Civic Assistance Committee said her organization doesn't know "of a single case in which an applicant was granted refugee status or temporary asylum by claiming that he or she is persecuted in their homeland due to their sexual orientation."

Regarding the six LGBT applicants in Russia the group has worked with this year, Tretyak said: "We're very interested to see what immigration services say this time about why they decide not to grant these individuals refugee status."

But there may be some grounds for optimism for the asylum seekers.

Anastasia Soltanovskaya, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Russia, told RFE/RL that while Interior Ministry data shows that "very few" people receive refugee status in Russia, "we have had LGBTI cases that received temporary asylum.
RFE/RL correspondents Golnaz Esfandiari, Merkhat Sharipzhanov, and Sirojiddin Tolibov contributed to this report.

December 26, 2017

Since US Packed and Went to Mar-a Lago-Britain Seems to be Picking Up Human Rights/LGBT /Russia

 People were proud of Johnson when he gave as good as he got in Moscow with his counter part

Gathered in the sumptuous, wood-panelled sitting room of the UK ambassador’s mansion in Moscow, overlooking the turrets of the Kremlin across the river, a group of human rights activists discussed their meeting with Boris Johnson.
The foreign secretary had invited them over to hear their stories of horrific abuses in Russia, promising to use his status to raise awareness and to do what he can to heap pressure on the Russian government.
The meeting on Friday, held behind closed doors, came toward the end of a whirlwind visit to Moscow – the first by a British foreign secretary in over five years – at a time when relations between the UK and Russia are at their worst since the Cold War.
"Mr Johnson was asking what could be done by him, by the UK side, to support Russian society," Galena Arapova, director of the Mass Media Defence Centre, told BuzzFeed News.
"It’s always a good question because when the relationship isn’t as friendly as it could be, and international partners have an active position and raise an issue, would that help or not? It might make the situation worse. Honestly, we don’t have an answer to this."
But the activists at least appeared to be glad he was trying to help. Johnson did not shy away from some hard truths on his whirlwind 24-hour visit, which was aimed at boosting cooperation between the UK and Russia on critical global issues such as North Korea’s nuclear threats and the Syrian civil war.
Whether his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov was in listening mode, however, is highly questionable. Lavrov is infamously obstinate and no-nonsense (he was once caught muttering"fucking morons" during a meeting with Saudi Arabian officials), and likes to be in control at all times, particularly on his own turf.
He did not appreciate Johnson correcting him at a joint press conference over suspected Russian interference in western elections – which led to an extraordinary public exchange – but privately, UK officials were thrilled that Johnson showed he would not be bullied and gave as good as he got. 
It was Johnson who insisted on making human rights a key part of the Moscow trip, asking his aides to schedule time with activists and a speech to university students outlining the economic benefits of freedom of expression.
"This is the worst human rights crisis we have seen in Russia’s contemporary history," Tania Lokshina from Human Rights Watch told us after the meeting.
Basic freedoms in Russia are being eroded: Gay men are being rounded up, tortured, and abducted in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya; journalists are being killed for writing about the abuses of the government; and Jehovah's Witnesses have been labelled an "extremist" organisation.
A spokesperson for the Russian LGBT Network, who declined to give their name, said 110 people had been evacuated from Chechnya as of Friday. "Violence towards LGBT people is still going on," they said.
"According to our evidence, the authorities that were involved in the LGBT purge are now threatening the families of the victims. I think the chance to speak about this with the foreign secretary is amazing; the more we raise this issue, the more we keep it in the spotlight, the more we pressure the Russian authorities to initiate an investigation."
Meanwhile, the Russian government has refused to acknowledge a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights in June that the Kremlin is encouraging anti-gay prejudice by adopting a law that bans gay "propaganda".
The law bans giving children any information about homosexuality, ramping up prejudice against LGBT people in Russia that is already deep-rooted and widespread. Lavrov has dismissed criticism over Russia’s treatment of gay people, however, saying in June: "On LGBT, we do not prosecute for this or that orientation."
Johnson did raise the issue of LGBT rights with Lavrov in their talks on Friday, but as expected, the Russian minister batted it away. Aides said Johnson was determined to raise awareness in other ways.
In his speech to Plekhanov University, in a hall packed full of Russian students, he spoke about the "freedom to live your life as you choose".
"We [in Britain] have just about the most diverse, open, welcoming culture that you will find anywhere in the planet," Johnson said. "We celebrate people’s choices about how to live their lives, including who to love and whomsoever they please to marry, a law that now permits same-sex marriage."
And he pressed the importance of a free media: "If you have a society where journalists are shot because they investigate the business dealings of the rich and powerful, then you will find countries that are less economically successful, less equal, and less attractive as places to invest."
He didn’t mention Russia by name, but then he didn’t have to. Some 357 journalists have been killed in Russia in the last 20 years, according to Mass Media Defence Centre director Arapova. And from one newspaper, Novaya Gazette, six have been killed in the last decade. Yet very few perpetrators are brought to justice.
"This creates a climate of impunity and a lot more problems than justice for one particular person," Arapova said. "It creates an atmosphere where others who don’t like criticism think OK, this is an easy, cheap, and quiet method to silence someone, because it won’t be investigated.” 
Earlier in the day, Johnson laid a bunch of red roses on Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge, where opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was assassinated in 2015 with four gunshots in the back. As deputy prime minister of Russia under Boris Yeltsin, Nemtsov was a key figure in pushing the country toward democracy and free markets, and a vehement critic of president Vladimir Putin.
His lawyer Vadim Prokhorov told Johnson that the real perpetrators had still not been brought to justice, and urged him to pile pressure on Putin to launch a proper investigation. It remains to be seen whether Johnson can actually affect change, but allies say he hopes his involvement will shine a far bigger spotlight on the abuses taking place on Europe’s doorstep.
"It’s really difficult to influence the Russian authorities," Arapova said. "These scandals concern all of us, but the population of Russia has two realities.
"One reality is seen by the people who are watching TV, who live in rural areas where there’s no position, and they see that everything is good, they see the federal propaganda state TV and they are quite happy with what’s going on in Russia because 'we are winning'.
"And the other group of people are getting information from the internet – and have a totally different understanding of what is going on in the country. They hear stories of human rights violations, they see it differently. Those realities don’t cross, it’s like we live in different countries.
"The tension in society is growing – but it’s not necessarily growing into something that will change the situation."
Emily Ashton
Emily Ashton

March 22, 2017

Trump Orders Tillerson to Skip NATO Meeting and Head to Moscow

America's smaller European allies have expressed concern about President Donald Trump's mixed signals on the U.S. commitment to protect them from Russia.

The uncertainty threatened to deepen this week when U.S. officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to skip what would have been his first official meeting with NATO in April. On Tuesday, the State Department said Tillerson has a scheduling conflict and suggested alternative dates that morning.

Moving the date would require a 28-nation consensus. A NATO official told NBC News “we are in contact with the State Department on scheduling." 
A State Department spokesman confirmed to NBC News that Tillerson will travel later in the month to a series of unspecified meetings in Russia.

Tillerson's trip to Moscow was not confirmed by the Russian side. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her official Facebook page that "we will not be confirming or denying this information at this stage."

The last time a secretary of state did not attend a NATO foreign ministerial meeting was in 2003.

But acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Tillerson would meet with all of the alliance's members Wednesday when the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS gathers in Washington. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will also attend.

"While [Tillerson] won't specifically be discussing in the group session all of NATO's equities, obviously he will have the opportunity to do pull asides with many of these countries," Toner said.

Trump, himself, meanwhile, still intends to travel to Brussels, Belgium, in May for a meeting of NATO heads of state, the White House said Tuesday night. It confirmed May 25 as the date for the visit, which was first announced in February.

Tillerson's decision will likely raise eyebrows among some of the United States' European partners.

Close to the Russian border, some people fear that Trump's thawing relationship with President Vladimir Putin could leave them exposed. Like NATO, Moscow has been ramping its military exercises and also annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
"Donald Trump's administration is making a grave error that will shake the confidence of America's most important alliance and feed the concern that this administration simply too cozy with Vladimir Putin," said U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, D- New York, who was one of the first to respond to Tillerson's decision.

He added: "I cannot fathom why the administration would pursue this course except to signal a change in American foreign policy that draws our country away from western democracy's most important institutions and aligns the United States more closely with the autocratic regime in the Kremlin."

He also labeled the move "an absolute disgrace."

Historically, NATO's promise to come to the defense of any partner under attack has reassured these countries, particularly those in the former Soviet Union, who believed they would be safe from Kremlin interference.

That's shifted under Trump, who has spoken warmly of Putin, called NATO "obsolete" and suggested he would not protect allies unless they upped their military spending. The FBI is also investigating links between his election campaign and Russian hacking. Tillerson has had dealings with Putin in his former role as ExxonMobil CEO.
Trump has recently spoken in more reassuring terms toward NATO, but many analysts say that even the suggestion that the U.S. might not respond to an aggression might leave allies vulnerable. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, at a brief photo spray Tuesday with his Finnish counterpart, expressed confidence that the U.S. will be represented at the upcoming NATO meeting.

"We'll take care of the representation," Mattis said. “This is something to be worked out, no problem.” 

It appeared that other U.S. officials were well aware of the negative signals likely generated by Tillerson's absence from the key meeting. Before the spokesman's official comment, one State Department told NBC News on condition of anonymity that there was a push within the agency to convince him to attend.
However, Tillerson is instead sending the State Department's second-most senior official, Tom Shannon, to the key NATO meeting on April 5-6.

A NATO official pointed out that "all allies are represented at NATO ministerial meetings ... it's up to allies to decide at what level they are represented," adding that such gatherings were "important regular events."

Reuters, the news agency that first reported Tillerson’s decision, quoted unidentified officials saying that the secretary of state would be staying in the U.S. to attending meetings between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

by and 

November 6, 2016

If We Loose Electric The Russians Will Also be in the Dark (Retaliation Plan)

Moscow Cathedral in the dark

U.S. military hackers have penetrated Russia's electric grid, telecommunications networks and the Kremlin's command systems, making them vulnerable to attack by secret American cyber weapons should the U.S. deem it necessary, according to a senior intelligence official and top-secret documents reviewed by NBC News.

American officials have long said publicly that Russia, China and other nations have probed and left hidden malware on parts of U.S critical infrastructure, "preparing the battlefield," in military parlance, for cyber attacks that could turn out the lights or turn off the internet across major cities.

It's been widely assumed that the U.S. has done the same thing to its adversaries. The documents reviewed by NBC News — along with remarks by a senior U.S. intelligence official — confirm that, in the case of Russia.

U.S. officials continue to express concern that Russia will use its cyber capabilities to try to disrupt next week's presidential election. U.S. intelligence officials do not expect Russia to attack critical infrastructure — which many believe would be an act of war — but they do anticipate so-called cyber mischief, including the possible release of fake documents and the proliferation of bogus social media accounts designed to spread misinformation.

On Friday the hacker known as "Guccifer 2.0" — which U.S. officials say is a front for Russian intelligence — tweeted a threat to monitor the U.S. elections "from inside the system."

As NBC News reported Thursday, the U.S. government is marshaling resources to combat the threat in a way that is without precedent for a presidential election.


The cyber weapons would only be deployed in the unlikely event the U.S. was attacked in a significant way, officials say.
U.S. military officials often say in general terms that the U.S. possesses the world's most advanced cyber capabilities, but they will not discuss details of highly classified cyber weapons.

James Lewis, a cyber expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that U.S. hacks into the computer infrastructure of adversary nations such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — something he says he presumes has gone on for years — is akin to the kind of military scouting that is as old as human conflict.

"This is just the cyber version of that," he said.

In 2014, National Security Agency chief Adm. Mike Rogers told Congress that U.S. adversaries are performing electronic "reconnaissance" on a regular basis so that they can be in a position to disrupt the industrial control systems that run everything from chemical facilities to water treatment plants.

"All of that leads me to believe it is only a matter of when, not if, we are going to see something dramatic," he said at the time.

Rogers didn't discuss the U.S.'s own penetration of adversary networks. But the hacking undertaken by the NSA, which regularly penetrates foreign networks to gather intelligence, is very similar to the hacking needed to plant precursors for cyber weapons, said Gary Brown, a retired colonel and former legal adviser to U.S. Cyber Command, the military's digital war fighting arm.

"You'd gain access to a network, you'd establish your presence on the network and then you're poised to do what you would like to do with the network," he told NBC News. "Most of the time you might use that to collect information, but that same access could be used for more aggressive activities too."
Brown and others have noted that the Obama administration has been extremely reluctant to take action in cyberspace, even in the face of what it says is a series of Russian hacks and leaks designed to manipulate the U.S. presidential election.

Administration officials did, however, deliver a back channel warning to Russian against any attempt to influence next week's vote, officials told NBC News.

The senior U.S. intelligence official said that, if Russia initiated a significant cyber attack against critical infrastructure, the U.S. could take action to shut down some Russian systems — a sort of active defense.

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, who served as NATO commander of Europe, told NBC News' Cynthia McFadden that the U.S. is well equipped to respond to any cyber attack.

"I think there's three things we should do if we see a significant cyber-attack," he said. "The first obviously is defending against it. The second is reveal: We should be publicizing what has happened so that any of this kind of cyber trickery can be unmasked. And thirdly, we should respond. Our response should be proportional."
The U.S. use of cyber attacks in the military context — or for covert action — is not without precedent.

During the 2003 Iraq invasion, U.S spies penetrated Iraqi networks and sent tailored messages to Iraqi generals, urging them to surrender, and temporarily cut electronic power in Baghdad.

In 2009 and 2010, the U.S., working with Israel, is believed to have helped deploy what became known as Stuxnet, a cyber weapon designed to destroy Iranian nuclear centrifuges.

Today, U.S. Cyber Command is engaged in cyber operations against the Islamic State, including using social media to expose the location of militants and sending spoof orders to sow confusion, current and former officials tell NBC News.

One problem, officials say, is that the doctrine around cyber conflict — what is espionage, what is theft, what is war — is not well developed.

"Cyber war is undefined," Brown said. “There are norms of behavior that we try to encourage, but people violate those."

PBS Report 3 wks ago 

December 8, 2013

Documentary About Rampant Corruption on Sochi Games Plays in Moscow

A controversial documentary about rampant corruption behind the scenes of Russia’s Winter Olympics that the Kremlin wanted silenced is screening at a heavily policed premiere in Moscow on Friday, followed by a repeat showing on Saturday.
The two screenings of Putin's Games at Moscow's 600-seater Khudozhestvenniy cinema have both sold out.
Russians living in Siberia will also have a chance Saturday evening to see the documentary after an independent television channel Tomsk T2 struck a deal to show the film.
The film's producer Simone Baumann told The Hollywood Reporter: "The head of police for Moscow city center interrogated cinema managers and ArtDoc Fest managing director Natalia Manskaya and said that due to the numbers of people attending there would be a heavy police presence. There are no legal ways to stop the screening; the only thing they could do is turn off the electricity."
The festival had originally planned one screening, Baumann said, but such was the demand for tickets that a Moscow city listings magazine stepped in to sponsor a second show on Saturday afternoon
Putin's Games, which reveals the ugly truth behind the Sochi Winter Olympics -- due to open in the sub-tropical Russian Black Sea resort in February -- sparked a political and media storm in Russia after its world premiere November 24 at Amsterdam's IDFA documentary festival.
Revelations that the Kremlin had approached German producer Simon Baumann through intermediaries with offers of more nearly $1 million to buy all rights -- effectively keeping the film from the public -- highlighted the levels of official anxiety. Attempts to stop it being shown at Moscow's ArtDoc Fest put Baumann and the festival's artistic director, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky under unprecedented pressure.
Kremlin officials, the minister of culture, Vladimir Medinsky and Moscow city government figures all tried to have the film pulled from the program. Medinsky, who was shown the film, expressed his displeasure at a film that reveals the massive scale of government corruption behind the most expensive ever Olympic games -- estimated to have cost $51 billion.
The films details the money the Kremlin spent on lobbying to secure the games for Sochi, the Olympic law that allows the seizure of private property and the reason why Russian president Vladimir Putinwas so keen to host the games in a sub-tropical resort where snow and freezing temperatures cannot be guaranteed.
And it features a building contractor who was threatened that he would be "drowned in blood" if he did not pay kickbacks of up to 50 of multi-million dollar contracts. The man, Valery Morozov, went public with his complaints about corruption by Kremlin officials before fleeing to the west with his wife and family.
Baumann insisted that since the film was supported by German Films, the international movie promotion body for Germany, a decision could only be made at foreign ministry level.
A compromise was struck under which the festival was forced to agree to screen a Russian-made, less critical documentary, about the Winter Olympics as well.

by Nick Holdsworth

December 3, 2013

Right Wing Christians Sabotage Theatre Production in Moscow

© RIA Novosti. Sergey Pyatakov

 Ultraconservative Christians who have previously targeted erotica exhibits, Pastafarians and supporters of feminist punk group Pussy Riot have attacked a theater performance in Moscow.

Dmitry Enteo and a female accomplice hijacked the stage during a performance of Konstantin Bogomolov’s “An Ideal Husband” at the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater late Thursday.
The duo spent about two minutes loudly extolling the public to fear God, before being dragged away kicking and screaming by guards, according to a video of the incident posted on YouTube.
The pair interrupted a scene in which a gay priest prays to a naked woman who is pretending to be crucified, Enteo told RIA Novosti.
A member of the audience said that some people in the audience mistook the crusaders’ intervention for the play’s scripted finale and left after they were taken away.
City police reported detaining two people on hooliganism charges, but did not elaborate.
Enteo, 24, told RIA Novosti the play violated a recent law that introduces jail terms of up to three years for offending the feelings of religious people.
Enteo and his radical Orthodox Christian supporters have a track record of flashy media stunts, including storming the G-Spot erotica museum in Moscow to “preach” to staff, assaulting in the streets people wearing T-shirts depicting Pussy Riot members as the Virgin Mary, and hijacking a rally by the ironic religion of Pastafarianism to pelt participants with macaroni.
The attacks are not endorsed by the Russian Orthodox Church, whose clergy have previously criticized them.
Bogomolov, 38, is one of the most popular and controversial theater directors in Russia. His staging of “An Ideal Husband,” based on Oscar Wilde’s works and on stage since February, is billed as a social satire.

October 24, 2013

Slice of America in Moscow

Expat finds a slice of America in Moscow
Will Folwer: "The most American place in Moscow for me is the American Embassy." Source: Iliya Pitalev / RIA Novosti
American English teacher Will Fowler says that Kolomenskoye reminds him of home and talks about other Western places in Moscow:
“I'm originally from Seattle but, in recent years, have lived in different exotic places — South Korea, Japan and now Russia.
“I don't miss the U.S. that much anymore. But when I am feeling down, I know places that make me feel better — for example, Kolomenskoye. It is a nice big park where a person can have some privacy. In my home town of Seattle, we have Madison Park, which is somewhat similar to Kolomenskoye — a wide-open space where you can sit by yourself.

An American's experience with Russian education, culture and red tape
“Of course, the most American place in Moscow for me is the American Embassy. Recently, I had to get my passport renewed, and so I went there. I saw public drinking fountains at the embassy, which I really miss living here in Russia. True, the embassy only has them in the section for American citizens. It's such a small thing, but how cool it was to see them.
“While in Moscow, I sometimes miss the U.S. sodas — not Pepsi or Coke, but the independent brands. But I have been able to find something similar here. I sometimes miss Mexican food, which is very easy to find in the States — not only in the South, but everywhere. Even Seattle is full of Mexican restaurants.
“In Moscow, there are restaurants with Mexican cuisine, but it isn't really authentic. Casa Agave actually isn't a bad spot. But still something's not quite right with both the food and the atmosphere. Moscow also lacks cafés with good burritos and fast food. I don't mean McDonalds. I don’t go there, or to Burger King. Fast food can be different.
“I love Moscow architecture. I wouldn't say that it is similar to American, but maybe in some way. Not far from Tverskoi, I saw the Anglican Church of St. Andrew. In the U.S., there are a lot of these types of churches. And there's also the big Catholic cathedral on Malaya Gruzinskaya that is not a typical Russian church. Here, Western churches are not very common and, every time I see them, I think of the States. They've got a Western feel.
“In Kropotkin, there are new apartment buildings that are built in the same style as the yuppie suburbs of Seattle. It is very strange architecture for Russia, atypical. To be honest, I don't like buildings like that myself. But they look American.

My life in Russia: Hugh Mc Enaney from Dublin, Ireland“English-speaking people can be found in Krizis Zhanra, Gogol Café, Molly Gwynn's and Coyote Ugly — although it is a strange place, even for me. I also feel at home in Jagannath, a vegetarian café. Seattle has a lot of vegetarians and Jagannath is similar to places they typically eat. Another decent and comfortable place for expats is Gorod.Social Café. This place has a very American feel: It's got a lot of space between tables, and even the café decor seems very familiar to me. And they brew good coffee, which is rare for Moscow.”
“One of the most Western places in Moscow is the Vinzavod [winery], which I really like. Probably all Westerners would feel at home there, because it's got a sense of freedom.
First published in Russian in Moskovskie Novosti.

October 21, 2013

Moscow Police Raids Migrants’ Apartment Every Friday

Police conducts mass detention during a raid at a vegetable warehouse in Zapadnoye Biryulyovo. (RIA Novosti/Grigoriy Sisoev)

In the latest step by authorities to fight unlawful immigration following an anti-migrant riot earlier this month, the city's police chief said that Moscow police will raid apartments reportedly occupied by illegal migrants every Friday until the end of the year.
The initiative, announced by top cop Anatoly Yakunin on the order of Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, was promptly condemned by the head of Russia's top migrant organization, who said it would instigate "immigrant phobia" in society. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny also ridiculed it, saying it would breed corruption — and allow illegal migrants to hide.
As the government rolls out more anti-migrant measures in reaction to the riot in Moscow's Biryulyovo district, nationalists have stepped up their activities as well, with police preventing more than 120 activists, some armed with baseball bats, from raiding residences of migrants outside Moscow over the weekend.
Anatoly Yakunin
Yakunin told a City Hall meeting Friday that police will "hold a massive crime-prevention operation code-named 'Signal' on Fridays," RIA Novosti reported.
As part of the operation, city police working jointly with vigilantes, private security guards and other law enforcement organizations will raid apartments where migrants are reported to be living and patrol the streets in search for migrants, Yakunin said.
About 130,000 apartments in Moscow are leased illegally, Sobyanin told the meeting, RIA Novosti reported. All of them will be examined by the year's end, Yakunin said.
Sobyanin asked Yakunin to "reinforce this work."
"Until we know who lives in our houses, until the major part of them are registered, there will always be serious problems with public order," the mayor said.
The new police measures were triggered by a riot of more than a thousand local residents and nationalists last weekend in Biryulyovo to protest the stabbing death of 25-year-old Yegor Shcherbakov on Oct. 10. The rioters blamed the killing on a migrant who worked at a local vegetable warehouse.
Police later detained Azeri national Orkhan Zeinalov for the crime, and initially he admitted his guilt but Thursday rescinded the confession. On Saturday, Azerabaijan sent Russia the second of two notes of protest over Russian authorities' failure to organize a meeting of Azeri diplomats with Zeinalov, Interfax reported.
Muhammad Amin Madzhumder, head of the Russian Migrants Federation, told The Moscow Times on Sunday that he was "disappointed with the initiative" of police to carry out raids on migrants.
"Recently, our authorities have set a course for immigrant phobia," Madzhumder said.
"Not only the police hold raids, but they take nationalists on them, which is a very dangerous trend," he said, in an apparent reference to the numerous vigilante groups that participate in raids on residences where illegal migrants supposedly live and report them to police and migration officials.
In one example of cooperation between the authorities and civilians in finding illegal migrants, top Moscow region migration official Oleg Molodiyevsky on Saturday offered to let residents of the local town of Dolgoprudny take part in anti-migrant raids, Interfax reported.
The confusion that could be engendered by such raids was also on display over the weekend.
On Sunday, police detained five organizers of a civilian anti-migrant raid in the town of Khimki, just north of Moscow, and rounded up some 40 participants at a local park, nationalist leader Dmitry Dyomushkin told Interfax. But police later said that only three organizers were briefly detained after police mistook them for "apartment burglars," the news agency reported.
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, an outspoken proponent of stricter immigration policies, ridiculed the idea of police raiding apartments every Friday, saying it would only serve to increase corruption.
"The Interior Ministry simply made an official announcement: on Fridays, we will be visiting construction sites and markets, collecting dough. So prepare envelopes and hide migrants so that we 'do not find' them," Navalny wrote Sunday on his Livejournal blog.
Anton Orekh, a commentator on radio Ekho Moskvy, said in a blog entry Friday that he wondered whether the declared campaign meant that police "can break into any apartment."
Some observers have accused the authorities of encouraging anti-migrant sentiment in an attempt to redirect popular discontent with government policies. In a demonstration of rising nationalist activity, authorities prevented nationalists in the Moscow region towns of Lyubertsy and Khimki from holding anti-migrant raids over the weekend, media reports said.
In Lyubertsy on Saturday, police detained 78 people armed with baseball bats, 60 of them minors, Interfax reported. The young people had gathered to beat migrants in reaction to the suspected beating and rape of a local woman by three Kyrgyz nationals Thursday in the neighboring district of Novokosino.
Most of the adult participants were fined for being drunk in a public place.
The New Moscow Times

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