Opposition Activists Leave Russia
Opposition leaders yesterday signed a letter to Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastyrkin to stop the investigation into the unrest in Bolotnaya Square and to release those arrested. Anastasia Rybachenko, activist with the Solidarity opposition movement, may stay in Germany after the police searched her apartment.
Sergei Davidis, a member of the Russian opposition’s May 6 Committee, said that over 30 public figures and politicians, including Boris Nemtsov, Alexei Navalny and Sergei Udaltsov, had signed the letter. The committee’s plans for the summer include a Hot July action on July 26 in support of those detained after the Bolotnaya rally. One more event was added to the agenda following the Krymsk flooding.
According to the latest information, Solidarity activist Anastasia Rybachenko may stay in Germany after the police searched her apartment as part of the investigation into the Bolotnaya incident. “It is unclear what they can charge me with,” Rybachenko said. “I have not lived in that apartment for over a year. The police confiscated a fleece jacket in which I allegedly attended the May 6 rally, and warned me that I should give myself up because they would find me anyway.”
Rybachenko, whose visa expires in five days, thinks she could be deported from Germany. She is not the first opposition activist to choose exile over persecution after the Bolotnaya rally: a month ago, Russian missile designer Alexander Dolmatov requested political asylum in the Netherlands.
A Nezavisimaya Gazeta source in the German diplomatic community said Rybachenko could be granted asylum in accordance with the German Constitution and legislation. The source said you do not have to return to Russia in order to request political asylum in Germany. Boris Nemtsov, co-chairman of the RPR-Parnas political party, told NG that Bastrykin’s recent statements are an indication of the authorities’ intention to “mop up” the opposition ahead of the new political season. “This is why the terms of detention are being extended and apartments being searched,” he said.
Alexei Makarkin, deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies, said emigration has not yet become large-scale but “the situation could deteriorate if the recent laws on NGOs, fines for participating in rallies and online censorship are applied.” Makarkin said that according to the Levada Center, only 17 percent of Russians have foreign passports and only 5 percent of them travel abroad (not counting the former Soviet republics). “When people go to the West, it’s a real eye-opener for them.”
There are also non-political émigrés who are leaving Russia for the same reasons. “Apolitical young people feel that the country cannot join the global mainstream, that the gap between Russia and the West is increasing, and that too few people there understand our realities, such as the Pussy Riot case or who will be Russia’s president in 2024,” Makarkin said. But the authorities are not worried, because “the more people leave, the fewer protesters will remain in Russia,” he said.
Defamation of Judges and Prosecutors Becomes More Costly
An amendment to return the article on defamation from the Code of Administrative Offences to the Criminal Code will have its second and third readings in the State Duma today. The final version of the law will also feature an article which specifies a fine of up to 5 million rubles for defaming a judge, prosecutor or investigator. Experts believe this law will be directed primarily against journalists and social activists.
United Russia deputies suggested restoring Article 129 on defamation back to the Criminal Code on July 6, although it had only been moved to the Code of Administrative Offences at the end of 2011 on President Medvedev’s initiative. Article 298 on the slander/libel of judges, jurors, prosecutors, investigators, court marshals and officers of the law was also decriminalized. Before the first reading, however, President Vladimir Putin said the article on defamation should be reinstated into the Criminal Code, though without imprisonment as a punishment (United Russia deputies had proposed a term of up to five years).
The bill’s authors agreed: in the version prepared for the second and third readings prison terms had been removed. But now, in addition to Article 129 on ordinary defamation, it was decided to reinstate Article 298, which specifies punishments for slandering or libeling judges, prosecutors and investigators. Defaming a judge carries a fine of up to 2 million rubles (or 360 hours of public works), while the fine for defaming a prosecutor, investigator or bailiff is 1 million rubles (or 320 hrs). Defamation of any of these people involving a charge of a grave or particularly grave crime carries a fine of up to 5 million rubles (or 480 hrs).
On the day before the adoption of the amendments, journalists began collecting signatures for a petition against the bill, which has already been signed by 1,500 people. “In 2009-2011 alone, about 800 people were sentenced under Article 129, mostly regional journalists and bloggers,” the petition states.
But the reaction of the press failed to sway the bill’s authors. Deputy Irina Yarovaya told Kommersant that she was championing “the moral principles of society.”
“The deputies have no common sense,” says lawyer Genri Reznik, member of the Public Chamber. “They have lost all sense of reality: they have no idea what 5 million means.” He stressed that “only specific people, most likely journalists and members of public organizations,” will be punished. “Slander is a subjective crime, deciding what constitutes defamation is highly error-prone and the penalty is out of proportion with the gravity of the offense,” he said. Reznik believes the Strasbourg Court could “remedy” the law because “its leading principle is freedom of expression and restrictions should only be allowed if there is an urgent need for the state to interfere.” In his view, the draft law is a logical follow-up to the increased administrative fines introduced for mass event offenses – “one legal inconsistency leads to another.”
Argumenty i Fakty
Moscow Edges London in Quality of Cell Communications
Cell phone quality tests were conducted in Moscow and in London. Europe’s Systemics-PAB carried out network & service quality benchmarking tests for Beeline, Megafon and MTS in Moscow, and “3,” O2, and Vodafone in London. Moscow’s providers were rated higher.
Testers used seven special vehicles in each city, measuring voice service and data transfer rates, including voice service accessibility, voice cut-off call and data transfer cut-off ratios, voice service access times, and FTP mean user data rates.
The tests concluded that providers in Moscow were in no way inferior to their London counterparts. Moreover, Moscow residents enjoyed slightly better quality voice and SMS/MMS service as well as comparable data transfer rates. Providers in Moscow put calls through in 98.35 percent of the cases, the same indicator for London being 90.09percent. The call cut-off ratio in Moscow was 0.6percent as against 1.54 percent in London. Average voice service access times were 4.19 seconds in Moscow and 4.25 seconds in London.
The quality of the 3G network is approximately the same in Moscow as it is in London at 10.2 kbps and 7 kbps respectively. However, London edged out Moscow in the mean indicator (3 kbps vs. 2.8 kbps). Megafon led in IP-service access time (2.13 seconds), followed by MTS (2.81 seconds) and Vodafone (3.09 seconds).
Thus, in addition to the nation’s landmarks: the Kremlin, St. Basil’s Cathedral, and the Moscow Metro, the City of Moscow can now be proud of its communications technology.
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