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Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, December 12

© Alex StefflerRussian Press - Behind the Headlines, December 12
Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, December 12 - Sputnik International
Duma Drafts Hasty Response to Magnitsky Act / Yota Devices Designs “Russian Smartphone”/ Vishnevskaya Set Standard for Doing the Right Thing

MOSCOW, December 12 (RIA Novosti)


Duma Drafts Hasty Response to Magnitsky Act

The Russian parliament will use an accelerated procedure for a bill drafted as a response to the divisive Magnitsky Act. Sources say the president will be able to sign it into law before the end of the year, two weeks after the first Duma hearing.

On Tuesday, the State Duma committee on constitutional law recommended the lower house pass the Magnitsky Act response bill in the first reading. The US Congressional act imposes sanctions on several Russian officials accused in the death of imprisoned Hermitage Capital lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.

The bill, sponsored by State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin and the leaders of the four parliamentary parties, will ban US officials who are guilty of abusing any Russian nationals’ rights, from travelling to Russia or involvement in any investment deals in this country. It will be considered in the first reading on December 14 and in the second reading three days later.

Nine of the ten committee members supported the bill, the exception being A Just Russia’s Dmitry Gudkov who said the bill shows that Russia “protects crooks and killers.” Ilya Ponomaryov from the same party said he would support Gudkov during voting.

The Communists “fully support” the bill: Vadim Solovyov, a member of the committee, said it was Russian lawmakers’ “constitutional responsibility” to protect Russian citizens from any potential abuse of their rights. On the other hand, he described Russia’s “US partners’” move as unwise given that “Russia is perfectly capable of dealing with individuals who abuse human rights.”

“They often say we aren’t doing anything to uphold human rights. Well, we are!” he said.

The Liberal-Democrats believe the bill should be extended to prevent abuse of Russian citizens’ rights in other countries, not just the United States. “What about other NATO countries?” A Liberal-Democrat member of the committee asked. “The United States has already recommended that their allies adopt similar restrictions.”

At this point, the country under discussion is the United States because it just took the “unacceptable step” of passing the Magnitsky Act, said United Russia’s Vladimir Pligin who heads the committee.

Pligin described the bill as an “advisable, adequate and well-considered” move. When asked how effective it is expected to be, Pligin said this aspect was also “well-considered” and that the bill will be “very effective.”

The Federation Council, the Russian parliament’s upper house, is also ready to support the bill. First deputy speaker Alexander Torshin said the upper house committee on constitutional law will meet on December 13 to discuss the bill even before its first reading in the Duma “to be ready for the hearing” and “to see if any amendments are needed.”

United Russia’s Vyacheslav Nikonov, first deputy head of the Duma foreign affairs committee, said he “did not rule out” that the president would be able to sign it into law before the end of the year.

The US Embassy would not comment on the bill on Tuesday.


Yota Devices Designs “Russian Smartphone”

Yota Devices, which split from Scartel in 2011, will present YotaPhone, a smartphone with an LCD display on one side and an e-ink screen on the back, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, in February 2013, chief executive Vladislav Martynov told Vedomosti.

The Android-based phone has GSM, 3G and fourth-generation LTE capacity and a 12-megapixel camera. It took Yota Devices two years to create this smartphone, Martynov said.

The phone’s main feature is a 4.3-inch e-ink screen on the back that consumes several times less energy than the main display and will not fade. It is possible to move data – text messages, email, books, schedules etc. – to the secondary panel when desired, to remove surplus information from the LCD display, Martynov said.

The e-ink screen was designed by Taiwanese E Ink, whose chief marketing officer, Sriram Peruvemba, said the companies had been working on the project for two years. The e-ink screen will continue working even if the battery is low.

Yota buys the phone’s microchips from Qualcomm and the main display from Japan Display, Martynov said, adding that most large companies use a partner’s components and outsource assembly. Yota Devices has an assembly contract with “a large Asian producer that assembles premium devices for Apple and Google.”

The project cost “millions of dollars,” said a source with close ties to Yota Devices. Martynov declined to comment on costs. He only said that capital was raised from company shareholders and that a return on investment was expected in about two years. The phone will be upgraded every year and its retail price in Russia will be around 20,000 rubles ($650), Martynov said. Yota Devices plans to work with Scartel and several large foreign operators to retail the new device.

Scartel’s chief executive, Igor Torgov, said they weren’t ready for a discussion because they are still unaware of marketing plans or pricing. Mobile operators VimpelCom and MegaFon declined to comment. An MTS representative said they know nothing about the phone’s specifications and that no talks have been held with Yota Devices.

Scartel’s intention to create “the first Russian 4G phone” became public knowledge in the fall of 2010, when Russian Technologies Director Sergei Chemezov demonstrated a concept phone to President Dmitry Medvedev.

There have been both successful and failed attempts at creating and branding a smartphone in Russia. For example, the sale of Explay devices is growing 20-25 percent per year, although they have barely 1 percent of the market, said Eldar Murtazin, a leading analyst with Mobile Research Group. MTS- and MegaFon-branded smartphones also sell well.

Despite the attempts to create a “Russian smartphone” or sell Chinese-made phones under local brand names, Russians prefer expensive smartphones from famous global producers, said Alexander Vengranovich, an analyst with Otkritie Capital. Local designers rarely create the technology that would distinguish their products from those of their rivals.

“A black-and-white screen on the back is cool, though not really necessary. But such tricks sometimes sell,” said Evroset President Alexander Malis.


Vishnevskaya Set Standard for Doing the Right Thing

Conductor and violinist Yury Bashmet on Galina Vishnevskaya

The death of Russian opera’s Galina Vishnevskaya created a great void in the country’s artistic life. To me, she was someone who set a standard for doing the right thing in life. When people like this pass, I’m at a loss: who will tell the truth now? At least someone should. Vishnevskaya abhorred lies. Maybe this is something that attracted Mstislav Rostropovich.

I met the Rostropovich family just before they emigrated from the Soviet Union. At his farewell concert, Rostropovich conducted Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6. I was in the viola group, and I cried like everybody else there. After the concert we literally drowned him in flowers. I will never forget the people who somehow broke through to his dressing room moaning: “Who will be left when you go?”

Unlike today’s young people who wear those ribbons protesting against I don’t know what, we faced a real risk in openly supporting Soviet dissidents. People from the security service attended every rehearsal.

Vishnevskaya’s amazing autobiography was written with a clear principle: simply tell the truth. Can you imagine what this means, for someone as stunning as she was, and a Bolshoi prima in the bargain? Everyone was in love with her, including members of the Communist Party Central Committee.

Once Nikolai Bulganin actually came to take her away, but Rostropovich climbed on the window sill with his legs hanging outside and yelled: “If you go, I’ll jump.” She was wise not to go through with it. She sensed that if she continued, she might be forced to tell a lie.

She and I developed a certain bond, even though I was much younger. There were a lot of funny incidents I won’t talk about now, except perhaps this one. Once she invited me to a “ladies’ choice” dance.

“Is that your new crush?” she mocked. “Who’s the girl anyway? I’d understand if you dated a princess or a queen.”

“Where do you get a queen these days?” I sighed.

She hugged me:

“Here’s one, right in front of you,” she said.

She was 66, and I was 40.

Galina was a very wise woman. She knew Rostropovich’s mind and heart. They carried the flame that can burn between a man and a woman throughout their entire lives. Their talk, their light bickering, revealed how they were still interested in each other.

I often saw them together, for example at Rostropovich’s festival in Evian. But she was always the queen in their family, which actually resembled the British royal court. Rostropovich was the emperor, but not of the family – of the Planet of Music. In the family, he listened to his wife and allowed himself to be led.

What amazed me most about Vishnevskaya was that she somehow combined being Rosropovich’s loving wife with keeping the world on its toes: even years after she finished her singing career, she is still remembered as Galina Vishnevskaya.

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