Pussy Riot Could Win 50,000 Euros
The shocking punk band that stormed the altar in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior has been shortlisted for the 2012 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, all serving two-year sentences, are being considered for the prize along with the imprisoned Belarusian freedom fighter Ales Bialiatski, the Iranian human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh and the Iranian film director Jafar Panahi.
The winner will be announced on October 26 by the European Parliament. The awards ceremony is planned for December 12 in Strasbourg.
News of the nomination was leaked in September provoking outrage in Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the award would be disrespectful of the court’s authority because the band has nothing to do with the fight for freedom of thought.
The prize, named for Russian scientist and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov, is awarded annually to honor achievements in defending human rights and freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, respect for international law, and the protection of minority rights. The first recipients of the award, established in 1988, were South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela and Soviet dissident Anatoly Marchenko (posthumously, as he died in prison in 1986). In 2011, the award was presented to five Arab Spring activists from Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.
The Sakharov Prize is accompanied by a monetary award of 50,000 euros.
The candidates are nominated by parliamentary groups or European Parliament parties and must be supported by at least 40 signatures. Pussy Riot was nominated by Werner Shulz of the Greens/European Free Alliance group.
Russia to Establish New Financial Regulator
The regulation of the financial sector in Russia is to be retooled – the supervision of banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges and investment funds will be transferred from the government proper to a new mega-regulator based on the Central Bank of Russia. President Vladimir Putin supports the idea and said it needs to be implemented quickly.
“I propose that all interested parties join in the discussion of this issue,” Putin said. “It must be done quickly. The issue of radically improving the regulatory system is long overdue, and of course, it’s better not to delay this.”
Not all bankers and financiers understand the logic behind the upcoming restructuring, but there is no doubt that it will happen.
“The decision is a surprise for the financial community and it is seen as trying to reconcile the irreconcilable,” Yakov Mirkin, head of the department of international capital markets at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said yesterday.
“The Federal Financial Markets Service (FFMS) has received new responsibilities and authority over the past 10-15 years, but its resources have not changed. Therefore, the financial community has raised the issue of increasing FFMS authority,” Mirkin explained. “Since 2009, about 150 banks have folded, and 900 are left, i.e., the attrition rate is high. A transfer of these functions to the Central Bank will result in an even higher attrition rate. And what of the financial groups who often diversify with banks and insurance companies? Wouldn’t it be better to strengthen the FFMS, which, along with the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank, would be a powerful tool for the market?”
Vasily Solodkov, the director of the Banking Institute at the Higher School of Economics, believes that the current regulatory system does not need a mega-regulator.
“This came out of nowhere, and why it has appeared is unclear. Maybe because [former Finance Minister] Alexei Kudrin needs a job?” Solodkov said. “Today we have 900 banks, and the U.S. has 9,000. If we want to continue to reduce the number of financial institutions, creating a mega-regulator is the right decision. If we want to promote competition, it’s wrong. This is likely to lead to a slowdown in economic growth and competitiveness. Plus there will be a general increase in corruption.”
Alexei Kudrin has denied that he was offered the job to head the new agency.
FFMS expert Yury Danilov suggested that the new agency is being established to mask the authorities’ latest failure.
“It is now obvious that the goal to create a new international financial center in Russia has failed,” he said. “So we have new projects designed to mitigate the negative effects.”
Investcafe analyst Daria Pichugina said establishing a mega-regulator will mostly affect the activities of brokers, dealers and investment banks.
“As control over their operations increases, they will become more bureaucratized and this will lead to a less efficient investment business,” she said. The government will then lose credibility, she added.
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