Russia May Legalize Possession of Handguns
Federation Council Vice-Speaker Alexander Torshin intends to propose a bill that would allow Russians to possess handguns and use them for self-defense without fear of being exposed to criminal liability. Presumably, the bill will be proposed in the State Duma early next year.
In the meantime, the Federation Council has launched an active indoctrination effort meant to influence the public into adopting a sober-minded attitude toward the Torshin initiative. On July 24, the vice-speaker himself will deliver an expert report to legislators, senators, Public Chamber members and representatives of gun associations. The same report will be submitted to the President’s Executive Office.
The report suggests amending the Federal Law On Weapons that allows the possession of shotguns, non-lethal weapons, gas guns, stun guns, pneumatic weapons, and cold steel arms (knives), but says nothing about handguns. Proponents insist that violent crime statistics tend to decline as the number of legal firearms owners increases.
Currently, Russian law allows for the victims of violent crime to be criminally liable for what is known as excessive self-defense. To avoid this situation, the report suggests that the self-defense doctrine, “my house is my fortress,” should be formalized in legislation.
Alexei Rogozin of the Practical Shooting Federation believes that handgun permits should initially be issued to certain categories of people, such as masters of (shooting) sports, hunters, war veterans, and police officers, while phasing out non-lethal weapons.
Experts estimate the current potential market for handguns at 1.5 million buyers annually, a number that is likely to grow by 10 percent each year. According to even conservative estimates, sales could reach as much as 746 billion rubles (around $20 million) over ten years.
The report comes to the conclusion that the Russian public will accept handgun availability. Firearms possession can enhance personal protection, would boost Russia’s military equipment industry and even strengthen national security.
Yulia Tymoshenko Denied Contact with Outside World
Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister, who has been languishing behind bars for several months, has again hit the news. Ukraine’s State Penitentiary Service says Tymoshenko flew into a rage and threatened to break and then shout through the windows, claiming it was her only alternative for communicating with the outside world.
If the information released by the state service is to be believed, Tymoshenko recently told Colonel Ivan Pervushkin, head of the Kachanovsky women’s labor camp, that she would break the Kharkov hospital’s windows if they didn’t allow her the right to make phone calls anytime she wanted.
Faced with this demand, Pervushkin decided to portray Tymoshenko as a “flagrant violator of prison and hospital rules.”
After briefly considering the matter, the Penitentiary Service press office issued the following statement: “…Today the prisoner applied to the camp’s administration requesting the right to make telephone calls. The penitentiary’s staff explained to Tymoshenko that under existing legislation she has this right and can take advantage of it in a special room, from a pay phone, as provided for by the regulations of Ukraine’s criminal penal system.”
The legal counsel for Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party easily picked out a number of inaccuracies and distortions in the statement. They said, among other things, that according to Article 110 of the Criminal Penal Code, any persons deprived of freedom had the right to an unrestricted number of supervised telephone calls.
Batkivshchyna said, “Tymoshenko is the only incarcerated person in the country who, under the directive of the Viktor Yanukovych regime, is denied the right to talk over the telephone.”
Batkivshchyna demanded that the Penitentiary Service “stop perpetrating the lie that a telephone conversation must be conducted from a specially equipped room, because there is no such requirement in the law.”
The statement added that, contrary to claims by high-ranking officials, there is a telephone on the ninth floor of the hospital, opposite Tymoshenko’s ward, and one on the floor below.
In an interview with Moskovsky Komsomolets, Ukraine’s State Penitentiary Service said that while Tymoshenko was being treated in the hospital she was visited by relatives, defense lawyers, members of parliament and other people, including high-placed foreign dignitaries. All these meetings lasted a total of over 170 hours according to hospital estimates. Sometimes, Tymoshenko would receive two or three delegations a day. As many as 52 foreign guests managed to make their way in to see the disgraced prime minister.
The Criminal Penal Code says a prisoner in a Ukrainian prison camp is allowed four telephone calls over the course of a year, each supervised and lasting no more than 15 minutes. The prisoner is required to pay for the calls.
Government Approves Budget Reform
The Russian government has approved amendments to the Budget Code that introduce the budget reform proposed by former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. They stipulate the drafting and implementation of the budget based on targeted programs beginning in 2014. The amendments to the Administrative Offences Code introduce stricter penalties for violations of budget discipline.
According to the amendments, the chief budget administrators will have the right to redistribute funds allocated for the current fiscal year and for the planning period. They also formalize the common practice of redistributing budget allocations within the framework of public obligations. At the same time, the amendments introduce new elements of fiscal control, in particular, giving the Federal Service for Financial and Budgetary Oversight and regional control agencies the right to review reports on the implementation of state programs and contracts. The Administrative Offences Code will also include a complete list of budget legislation violations and stipulate fines for officials and agencies. Some especially serious financial crimes will be punishable by personnel disqualification.
The Budget Code amendments stipulate the replacement of low-level subsidies with a single subsidy to be provided within the framework of state programs. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said this should enhance the responsibility of the authorities and introduce clear and strict requirements for requesting funds. “The heads of the federal agencies that are responsible for implementing such state programs should present and defend them in the federal government, in parliament, as well as in the Audit Chamber and during public discussions,” the finance minister said. Under the new regulations on covering regional cash deficits, money will be loaned for up to 30 days with interest. The treasury will be able to confiscate resources from regions with overdue account balances.
The systemic amendments to the Budget Code signal the end of the conceptual stage of the budget reform that the Finance Ministry launched in 2008-2009. The program ground to a halt during the last days of Putin’s premiership, but Dmitry Medvedev revitalized the reform as soon as he took office in May. Moreover, his government approved the amendments almost three months prior to the deadline, which was set for the fourth quarter of 2012.
Yulia Tsepliayeva, chief economist at BNP Paribas in Moscow, said the squandering of funds within the targeted federal programs and in the transfer of funds to the regions had caused the biggest budget gap since 2008. She said preventing this inefficiency was difficult due to the lack of public control. Unusually for Russia, the government has shown that it “expects a crisis, although the situation is not so bad that it needs stricter budget regulations,” she said. “Still, this does not mean that these decisions will be implemented.”
Nevertheless, the government has approved the amendments unanimously. Even the author of the reform, Alexei Kudrin, who has regularly commented on the government’s proposals on Twitter, has not posted his opinion yet.
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