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    Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, April 26

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    Moscow Concerned About Tymoshenko / President Medvedev Orders an Investigation into ex-Major’s Indictment / Opposition Criticizes United Russia-Sponsored Bill on Parliamentary Control

    Nezavisimaya Gazeta
    Moscow Concerned About Tymoshenko

    Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday that Moscow is concerned about the deteriorating health of the former Ukrainian prime minister.

    The last time Russia expressed its attitude to the Tymoshenko case was in October 2011, when she was sentenced to seven years in prison. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said he did not understand why Tymoshenko was sentenced at all, because she had not signed any documents and gas supply contracts were signed in compliance with Ukrainian, Russian and international laws. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia was concerned about the obvious political overtones in her case.

    As it was six months ago, Russia’s current stance fully coincides with that of the West. The United States and the EU issued similar statements on the same day as the Russian Foreign Ministry. They demand to know what happened to Tymoshenko in prison, to allow diplomats to meet with her and to ensure that she receives the required medical care.

    Tymoshenko was allegedly secretly taken to a Kharkov hospital at night on April 20 and was returned to her cell only on April 22. Ukrainian Deputy Healthcare Minister Raisa Moiseyenko said Tymoshenko had refused to undergo a medical examination or treatment. Tymoshenko’s lawyers could not meet with her because the prison is off limits on weekends and was also closed on Monday.

    On Tuesday Tymoshenko sent a letter to the media saying that after her cellmate was taken away at night on April 20, three men came into her cell and told her to get dressed. Afraid that they had come to kill her, Tymoshenko called for help, but received a strong blow in the stomach. The men bound her hands and feet, wrapped her in a sheet and carried her outside. She lost consciousness from the pain in her back and came to only in hospital.

    The hospital doctors claim she was conscious, did not ask to be examined or show any bruises. Kharkov Region Prosecutor Gennady Tyurin said they had to use force because after getting dressed and packed Tymoshenko lay down on her bunk and refused to go. The law permits the use of force in such cases. But lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko and human rights commissioner Nina Karpachova claim Tymoshenko had received physical injuries.

    Tymoshenko has started a hunger strike and her supporters have blockaded the Ukrainian parliament demanding a report from the prosecutor general. Several opposition deputies, doctors and Tymoshenko’s daughter went to Kharkov yesterday to demand a meeting with her. Her husband Alexander earlier made an appeal to the world’s leaders and international organizations to help save his wife from attempts on her life.

    Kiev did not expect Russia to side with the West this time, especially before the planned meeting between President Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin.

    Director of the Ukrainian Institute for Public Policy Viktor Chumak said: “Russia has signaled its dissatisfaction with the Ukrainian authorities. It is a warning that Yanukovych should bring to Moscow proposals that would satisfy Russia.”

    Moskovsky Komsomolets
    President Medvedev Orders an Investigation into ex-Major’s Indictment

    On March 5, 2012, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate the legitimacy of indictment passed on ex-Major Igor Matveyev, who made a video appeal a year ago, alleging that the personnel of an Interior Ministry brigade in Vladivostok were being fed dog food.

    According to Sergei Krivenko of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, the president’s order unexpectedly triggered reprisals against four witnesses who had testified in favor of Matveyev. The four – Viktor Seredenko, Andrei Ivanov, Ivan Sorokin, and Oleg Karasyov – are being charged with “intentional misrepresentation.” “This is done to consolidate the largely dubious court ruling,” said Krivenko.

    Matveyev himself was sentenced to a four-year prison term on September 9, 2011, after being charged with having inflicted bodily harm on Warrant Officer Lukanin. Human rights activists believe, however, that he has been punished for “fouling his own nest.”

    Another lawsuit against Matveyev, which is soon to come to court, is much alike the first one: a deserter, Zebnitsky, unexpectedly “recalled” that Matveyev had tried to extort 300,000 rubles from him and  threatened to kill him. Interestingly, both Lukanin and Zebnitsky stated that the misdemeanors they ascribed to Matveyev had occurred in the summer of 2010, or almost a year before the dog food story.

    Human rights activists claim that recent investigations have confirmed the reality of almost all infringements reported by ex-Major Matveyev. Among other things, an FSB enquiry revealed that the brigade’s personnel had indeed been treated to dog food, a fact the Interior Troops command had repeatedly denied.

    Opposition Criticizes United Russia-Sponsored Bill on Parliamentary Control

    State Duma deputies will not be allowed to intervene in the work of the government and law-enforcement agencies under a new law on the parliament’s control over government, a bill harshly criticized by the opposition.

    Opposition parties have long lobbied for an act setting clear rules for executive bodies’ accountability to the parliament. A Just Russia member Gennady Gudkov has sponsored a similar bill even before this one, submitted by United Russia’s Irina Yarovaya, head of the lower house security and anti-corruption committee.

    Critics of the bill believe it lacks substance and largely repeats the existing lower house regulations. However, it also requires that every bill discussed in the Duma should go through an anti-corruption appraisal conducted by a ministry concerned.  Duma members who sit on supervisory boards of state corporations will have to formally report to the parliament, something that had not been required before.

    On the other hand, the bill forbids lawmakers to “intervene” in execution of justice and criminal investigations, or the operation of the federal and local governments carried out within their competence. In fact, every inquiry made by the parliament concerns the operation of government agencies, and many of them have to do with investigations.

    “Law-enforcement agencies must do their work,” Yarovaya explained. “The interference of Duma deputies breeds corruption, which is unacceptable.”
    Gudkov, the writer of an alternative bill, is confident that this ban is damaging and may paralyze whatever authority the parliament has to control law enforcement agencies. If the parliament loses the right to interfere, the police will be able to cover up major corruption and kickback cases.

    Neither does he think much of the idea of anti-corruption appraisals performed by government ministries. “Anti-corruption appraisals are done by parliaments in the rest of the world. What do we have the security committee’s expert council for? There are academics on it as well as former ministers and generals. We do not need any more appraisals. We can think for ourselves and we have better experts than those of the government,” Gudkov said.

    In the bill he submitted three years ago, Gudkov proposed setting up a parliamentary control commission headed by an opposition party member. Its members should be authorized to enter any office, summon any official and interview any employee of an executive body.

    He dismissed Yarovaya’s bill saying it is a “dead mouse,” just like most bills sponsored by United Russia these days.
    Yarovaya argued that her bill was entirely different from Gudkov’s initiative and contained innovative ideas.

    Sergei Ivanov from LDPR said parliamentary control is a much needed initiative. “Tougher sanctions are needed for officials who fail to respond to parliamentary inquiries. Some delay or dodge responsibility. Secondly, a parliamentary commission established to address a major problem needs greater authority. They should be authorized to visit the sites and order government officials to immediately improve their performance. This will be true parliamentary control and accountable government,” he said.

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