St. Petersburg Hospital Ordered to Make Way For Supreme Court Staff Clinic
The news that one of the largest and best equipped hospitals in St. Petersburg is to be relocated to accommodate a clinic for Supreme Court and Supreme Arbitration Court staff has shocked both City Hall and the general public.
The biggest political scandal to erupt since Gazprom tried to build a high-rise in St. Petersburg has led to protests against the plans to move City Hospital No. 31 with its unique children’s cancer department from Krestovsky Island.
Emotions were running high after the publication of the protocol of a meeting of a working group on relocating Russia’s top courts to St. Petersburg. The plan is to develop an entire neighborhood after the purchase of a 25-acre plot owned by VTB Group. Other plans call for the historical Old Stock Exchange to be modernized to house the Palace of Justice. The 50 billion ruble ($1.66 billion) project is aimed at building housing and infrastructure to relocate 215 judges and 2,000 auxiliary staff. The group working on it includes VTB chief Andrei Kostin, representatives of the high courts, the presidential office and the St. Petersburg government.
Governor Georgy Poltavchenko was absent from the meeting in question. But the protocol says that within two weeks he and Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova are to draft a plan for clearing out hospital equipment and staff in preparation for the building’s renovation.
A former exclusive clinic for Soviet officials, the hospital is located in one of the city's few green oases. It also features over 200 million rubles ($6.6 million) worth of high-tech equipment, which for the most part cannot be moved, and a large team of outstanding specialists. Given the overall shortage of government-financed hospital beds and the recent scandal surrounding the Dima Yakovlev Bill, the idea of expelling sick children from the hospital has sparked an unprecedented public outcry in the city.
Opposition deputies in the city legislature have petitioned President Vladimir Putin to intervene and the State Duma to block the relevant amendments. Protesters have organized pickets and rallies, the next one scheduled for January 23. The governor, for whom the scandal could cause a significant loss of image, has made a cautious statement that he would not allow any worsening of the situation for sick children.
However, a protocol of a City Hall meeting on healthcare has refuted this statement. In that meeting the chief doctors of city hospitals were ordered to work out within 24 hours proposals and motivated analytical information on the possibility to relocate the hospitals’ patients and staff.
People lobbying for the move are counting on massive profits from all the new development as well as from selling the old property of the courts.
A Healthcare Ministry source said they did not know anything about plans to wind up or reorganize the hospital and the decision is in any case up to the city's government. The governor’s press office was unavailable for comment. A spokesman for Vladimir Kozhin, head of the Presidential Administrative Directorate, declined to comment.
71 Americans on Lavrov List
The list of US citizens banned from entering Russia has been extended from 11 to 71 people, according to Alexei Pushkov, Head of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs.
It does not, however, include any politicians such as Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney, whom the Foreign Ministry holds responsible for the Guantanamo Bay facility.
The list drawn up last fall in response to the Magnitsky Act initially included 11 American officials allegedly involved in human rights violations and torture at the Guantanamo Bay facility and in secret CIA prisons across Europe. Sixty more people linked with the criminal prosecution of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, as well as violations against adopted children and the authors and lobbyists of the Magnitsky Law have been added.
The Foreign Ministry list of people banned from entering Russia is classified. The law allows any Americans involved in human rights violations to be added to it, says Vyacheslav Nikonov of the Committee on International Affairs. Some of the names may have been mentioned in the ministry’s report on human rights violations presented last October.
In addition, former Guantanamo Bay chief, Navy Rear Admiral Jeffery Harbeson, was refused entry to Russia even before the adoption of the law in response to the Magnitsky Act.
The Foreign Ministry report names the officials who sanctioned the torture of prisoners in 2002. They include former Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, US Attorney General John Ashcroft, CIA Director George Tenet and some other officials such as employees of the US Department of Justice who worked on the legal justifications of the torture techniques.
The report also lists people “guilty of violations against adopted children.” They include 10 adoptive parents, the court in York, Pennsylvania, the court in Bristow, Virginia, and the prosecutor in Walworth County, Wisconsin. “The parents must be on the list. Murderers of Russian citizens have no place in this country,” Nikonov said.
The ‘persecutors’ of Viktor Bout, arrested in 2008, and Konstantin Yaroshenko, arrested in 2010, are not in the report. Nikonov suggests that current US Attorney General Eric Holder could be on the ‘Lavrov list.’
Congress read the Magnitsky Act several times. Some 12 members of the House of Representatives and 15 senators proposed it for consideration, including Benjamin Cardin, John McCain, Jon Kyl and Joseph Lieberman. Pushkov confirmed Cardin is on the list.
Nikonov is ‘not aware of’ whether Rice or Cheney are included, but logically. If they are on the list it could strain diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Russia and the United States are continuing to exchange shots but media interest should not be exaggerated. Russia is not the biggest international issue in the States. The Obama office is interested in improving relations with Moscow. No economic consequences are expected as a result of the entry ban. Only a small percentage of Americans are interested in close cooperation with Russia.
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