Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, August 20

© Alex StefflerRussian Press - Behind the Headlines, August 20
Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, August 20  - Sputnik International
Three Women Sentenced to Two Years of Hell\ Putin Admits to Problems with Russian Courts\‘Oil Shale Revolution’ Underestimated by Russia

Moskovsky Komsomolets

Three Women Sentenced to Two Years of Hell

Pussy Riot’s lawyers said they are going to appeal against their two-year sentences. MK researched their options, all equally grim.

The verdict can be appealed within ten days, and the City Court will have to hear the appeal within one month; meanwhile, the convicted women will remain in custody. Once the sentence is final, they will be delivered to a designated penitentiary after a short meeting with their families.

The young women are going to end up in a remote women’s prison. Once there they will be allowed to purchase extra food and staples with whatever money they earn or their relatives send them, although their monthly spending cannot exceed 13,800 rubles ($433). Each year, they will be entitled to six three-hour non-contact visits with a glass partition between the prisoner and her visitors, and four longer ones – up to three days in a special hotel. They will also be allowed to receive six large packages and six small parcels containing essentials.

In reality, a prisoner’s conditions largely depend on the attitude of the prison administrators and staff.

Correspondent Svetlana Samodelova visited a women’s prison in the Oryol Region on New Year’s Eve. Even the most hardened criminals deserve a New Year party and holidays: they were allowed to wear evening dresses and take a few days off.

For the rest of the year, they get up at seven and spend the day at an industrial facility where they sew worker overalls, army underwear and industrial work gloves. If the prison administration receives a pressing order, they have to work two hours extra, like slaves. Coming down with flu in prison is a bad idea, because only a temperature of 102F or higher gets you time off sick.

The food female prisoners get would give even the most miserable beggar nightmares. Their menu generally consists of broth with compound lard, thin porridge, some vegetables and tea.

The prison is divided into smaller units; each building – living quarters for one unit – is surrounded by a tall fence, which prevents any visits between units. Seventy-four women of various ages and criminal backgrounds share one room filled with rows of bunk-beds.

They spend day after day cooped up in the same close company, irritation mounting until it erupts into a noisy brawl: women yelling obscenities at each other and pulling each other’s hair.

“A woman locked up and driven to the limit is scarier than a man,” one prison worker said. “They can break a window and use shards of glass to slash at each other’s faces, with no thought to the consequences.”

It is virtually impossible to keep anything secret in a female group, one inmate said. They love reporting things to the guards, and to each other.

Women serving long sentences suffer from the lack of a sexual partner and many enter into same-sex relationships. Those acting as male partners get lots of attention, service and food from the others.


Moskovskiye Novosti

Putin Admits to Problems with Russian Courts

President Vladimir Putin has admitted that court problems are a major issue. At a meeting with regional human rights representatives, he said that the court system’s independence must be ensured and that ombudspersons should sit on qualification commissions that alone have the authority to dismiss judges.

“There have been too many unjust decisions. You have the competence to appoint and dismiss judges. Why haven’t you dismissed anyone?” asked Yuri Zelnikov from the Kaluga Region. “Over a third of all complaints concern the violation of the constitutional right to a fair trial,” Ummupazil Omarova from Dagestan added.

“We must ensure the independence of the judicial system,” Putin said. He told Zelnikov that the president cannot dismiss judges and that he agreed that ombudspersons should sit on the qualification commissions.

Vasily Olnev from Nizhny Novgorod said: “According to the press, about 100,000 innocent people have been sentenced across the country.”

That figure was provided at Dmitry Medvedev’s meeting with Open Government experts on the rights of businesses and competition in March 2012.

Olnev said that the link between law enforcement and the courts had not been severed and that the predominance of guilty verdicts has not been reversed. “Tens of thousands of innocent people sentenced translates into tens of thousands of children deprived of their parents and into families who have little faith in their country.” He said he had drafted amendments to the Criminal Code to reduce the number of wrongful sentences.

“You’ve touched on a very important issue,” Putin said and asked about the essence of the proposed amendments. Olnev said he proposes clearer criteria for the work of investigators, the courts and also prosecutorial supervision of court decisions. Putin instructed the Justice Ministry to analyze these proposals.

Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin supported the idea of including human rights representatives in qualification commissions that can review a judge’s suspect actions. “This would be the right thing to do,” he said. “We could express the public’s general opinion about the work of judges. Ours is an independent body, so we could do this without looking to anyone else. Of course, it is judges who pass sentences, but they should be aware of expert or public opinion.”

Mikhail Fedotov, Chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights: “I don’t think judges who make wrongful decisions should be punished. You cannot punish judges for this. Judges should be punished only if they deliberately make decisions that are contrary to the law. They should not be punished for making a judicial error. Why have we been speaking so much about the courts? Because it is a key issue today. We not only need independent, effective and fair courts; we also need the people to believe that the courts are independent and fair.”


Nezavisimaya Gazeta

 ‘Oil Shale Revolution’ Underestimated by Russia

Forecasts and the latest trends in the oil and gas industry over the past six months show that Russia’s main source of revenue, hydrocarbon exports, will begin to gradually run down.

RIA Ratings experts suggest that Gazprom has underestimated the ‘oil shale revolution’ in the United States and should be looking to diversify its markets more. The belief that Europe is handcuffed to Russia’s gas pipelines might be misleading and even dangerous for the Russian gas industry. While Russia had no rivals as a European supplier five years ago, the situation has unexpectedly changed.

A new technology that could boost the recent growth in oil shale production is allowing the United States to sell gas for the lowest price on the market: $85 per thousand cubic meters, a price even lower than Russian domestic prices.

Due to an oversupply of gas in the U.S., the entire gas and oil industry there is changing. It appears that for the first time American gas producers that until recently only constructed terminals for importing fuels are now considering exporting them.

At the end of July, Gazprom’s contractual price for gas at the German border was around $450 per thousand cubic meters. By contrast, the rapidly developing spot market price was averaging $350. With buyers having a greater choice, traders are seeking to maximize profits and consumers to minimize expenses. However, Russia, a major gas producer with the world’s largest reserves, cannot afford to be more flexible, for two reasons.

First, Gazprom refuses to admit the competitive potential of oil shale extraction, this in spite of the fact that official records indicate that Russia has produced 3.1 percent less gas this year compared to the same period last year. More specifically, Gazprom’s sales have dropped 17.8 percent.

Second, Gazprom should have made a greater effort to diversify its markets by now. LNG sells for $525 per thousand cubic meters in Japan, which makes Asia the most profitable gas market. China, South Korea, North Korea and Japan could compensate for Gazprom’s losses in Europe, but the gas giant continues to pursue growth in the west.

Changing its trade policy could help Russia. The oil shale revolution might be a serious threat, but the Asian market remains a low priority for Gazprom. China’s gas consumption continues to increase, but it will not need to import more gas until 2015, meaning there could be a breakthrough in Russian-Chinese gas price talks sooner. The question is who will come out ahead in those talks.

Theoretically, the U.S. has a fair chance of becoming a gas exporter and could sell up to 140 billion cubic meters per year by 2030. Gazprom appears to be oblivious to this prospect and is responding to the decreased demand in pipeline gas to the west by building more pipelines in that direction.


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