SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The US government has published the names of the people on the ‘Magnitsky List,’ despite warnings of counter-measures from Moscow and the risk of straining ties between the two countries.
The SDN list published on the US Treasury Department website includes the names 18 people from Russia and the CIS countries, who are blacklisted under the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012.
The law commonly known as the Magnitsky Act imposes visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials allegedly involved in the death of Russian lawyer Sergey Magnitsky and in other human rights abuses in the country. The 37-year-old Magnitsky died in a Moscow pre-trial detention center in November 2009.
Russia will respond with an ‘anti-Magnitsky law’ in two days’ time, the Head of the State Duma International Relations Committee Aleksey Pushkov said on Friday, adding it will be “proportionate” to the US list.
Earlier on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that the timing of the publication of the US blacklist was extremely poorly chosen, considering forthcoming visit of the US National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon. Lavrov also told reporters that if the list is published, Russia would react accordingly, and that the US side is aware of this.
“In our response we will abide by the rules of parity. We will not publish anything substantially different in terms of the numbers [of names] published by the American side,” the Foreign Minister indicated.
Despite sending a “negative” signal, the White House acted “more reasonably” than the US Congress by choosing to publish a shorter list, Aleksey Pushkov said.
The Obama administration “has chosen not to go for a severe political confrontation with Moscow,” particularly prior to Thomas Donilon’s visit to Russia, Pushkov judged. Had the extended version of the list been published, and had it included high-level government figures, Donilon’s visit would have been “doomed to failure,” he said.
Donilon, who is expected to hold bilateral talks on the anti-missile shield in Europe, the Korean peninsula crisis, and the Syrian conflict, is also bringing a “secret message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Pushkov.
Top Russian officials have repeatedly blasted the Magnistky Act as an attempt to subvert the laws of a sovereign country, and also to exploit a human tragedy for political ends.
Earlier reports said the list would include the names of the 16 Russian officials “directly responsible” for Magnitsky’s death according to the US version of events, as well as two other persons not connected to the Hermitage Capital case.
An original version of the ‘Magnitsky list’ included 60 names, with some proposing to extend it to some 280 blacklisted citizens of Russia. The latest – and the largest – variation was handed to the Obama administration by Congressman James P. McGovern, who threatened to lobby for a harsher law, should the White House shrink the document in question.
Sergey Magnitsky was a lawyer working at the British investment fund Hermitage Capital. In 2007, the company got involved in a large-scale tax evasion scandal. Magnitsky, who insisted that the money had been embezzled by a group of security services and tax officials, was arrested on suspicions of assisting the firm with evading taxes and housed in a Moscow detention center awaiting trial.
Almost a year after his detention Magnitsky died of what medics identified as a heart attack. His family demanded an investigation into the circumstances of his death, claiming he had been denied medical help. Magnitsky’s supporters asserted that he was tortured to extract a confession and to withdraw his accusations.
The criminal case into the death of Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital, has been closed for “the absence of a crime,” Russia’s Investigative Committee announced in March. Magnitsky’s family said they will appeal the decision.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A rare two-headed albino snake is on display in Moscow Zoo. Scientists say it is so rare it would not be able to survive in the wild. The snake was born six years ago and zoo keepers hope it will live for another six years. It is unusual for such a reptile to live for more than 12 or 15 years due to the genetic mutation which makes it more susceptible to diseases. Zoo keepers have to feed the two-headed reptile two times a week, which is more than the other species of reptiles at the zoo.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Moscow has denied its fighter jets breached Japanese airspace. The Japanese Defense Ministry earlier said two Russian combat fighter jets briefly entered Japan`s airspace just off the northern island of Hokkaido.
Russian aviation of the Pacific navy has been performing scheduled flights in the area and no airspace violation took place, a Russian military spokesman told the press.
“Naval aviation flights by the Pacific Fleet in this area are conducted regularly in strict accordance with international regulations of using the airspace, without violation of other countries’ borders,” Roman Martov said.
Meanwhile, Tokyo lodged a protest saying two of its own combat jets were sent to scramble the violators which they identified as SU-27 aircraft.
A similar incident happened a year ago on February 8, 2012, when several Russian war planes flew close to Japanese territory. Japan admitted that the planes did not violate its airspace, but Japanese fighter jets were alerted.
On Thursday Japan marks the anniversary of an 1855 treaty which Japan says supports its claims over the Pacific island chain which Russia calls the Southern Kurils and Japan terms the Northern Territories. The islands became Soviet territory after its victory in WWII, but Japan did not agree with this division. The over 60-year-old dispute is ongoing.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Notorious Russian crime boss Aslan Usoyan was buried in a tightly controlled ceremony in Moscow on Sunday, after efforts to fly his body to his hometown in Georgia fell through.
A sniper fatally shot Usoyan in the neck in central Moscow on Wednesday. Known in the mafia world as "Grandpa Hassan," Usoyan, 75, was the head of a gang that is reportedly the most powerful in the former Soviet Union.
Journalists were kept away from the burial site, where Usoyan, a Yezidi Kurd, was laid to rest.
Several hundred mourners, most of whom appeared to be of Kurdish ethnicity and sang songs in the native language, attended the funeral, an AFP correspondent saw.
Security personnel at the snow-covered Khovanskoye cemetery, a large burial grounds in Moscow's southwestern outskirts, told journalists to stay away for their own good and barricaded the main entrance.
Police maintained a discreet presence, though filmed mourners as they arrived at the cemetery.
Usoyan's family apparently initially wanted to bury him in Tbilisi, Georgia, his hometown and first stomping ground.
Reports on Saturday said a charter plane with Usoyan's body on board had been flown to Donetsk in Ukraine, and then on to Tbilisi, where his widow and daughter live.
But the plane never landed and returned to Moscow.
Georgian channel Rustavi 2 on Saturday showed a reporter speaking with someone at the Usoyan residence in Tbilisi through a tiny crack in the massive gate.
The woman behind the gate alleged Georgia's government didn't allow the plane to land.
Tbilisi international airport told AFP they don't comment on "special" flights, and the interior ministry refused to comment.
Usoyan's criminal career spanned more than five decades. He served numerous sentences in Soviet times for robbery, "speculating," and disobeying police.
He walked out of jail for the last time in 1991 and had survived several assassination attempts, including one in 2010, also by a sniper.
In 2009, an assassin killed one of his closest associates, Vyacheslav Ivankov, nicknamed Yaponchik. Ivankov's funeral was also held under tight control, with authorities checking the grounds before the black-leather-jacketed crowd arrived to pay their last respects.
Like Ivankov, Usoyan was a high-ranking "thief-in-law", belonging to a caste of notorious criminals originating from the Soviet gulag system, which ruled the gang world and followed a strict honour code.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- The death toll from a plane crash in Moscow has risen to five, Russian state-run media said Sunday.
A flight attendant who was among the four wounded has died at a hospital, Ria Novosti reported, citing Red Wings Airlines.
Families of those killed will be given 1 million rubles, which is about $33,000, in financial aid from the Moscow government, Ria Novosti reported.
The passenger plane overshot a runway at a Moscow airport on Saturday, emergency management officials said. The plane was arriving at Vnukovo International Airport from the Czech Republic when it crashed through a fence, Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations said.
All eight people on board were crew members.
The plane, a Tupolev Tu-204, is capable of carrying 210 people.
Video taken from a nearby highway shows debris from the plane, including a tire and what looks like a row of seats, flying onto the roadway. No serious injuries were reported on the highway.
The cause of the crash is under investigation. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a special commission to be established to investigate, Ria Novosti reported.
Moscow prosecutors are launching a probe into the airline's compliance with Russian aviation safety rules, the report said.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – According to IQNA’s branch in Europe, the program will be attended by representatives of Islamic organizations, religious scholars and intellectuals from different parts of Russia, lecturers and students of Islamic educational institutes of the country, officials of Moscow Municipality and diplomats from Islamic countries residing in Moscow.
Tawasheeh (choral religious song) groups from Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kyrgyzstan will perform programs on the auspicious occasion. - www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A passenger plane overshot the runway at a Moscow airport Saturday, killing four of the eight people on board, according to emergency management officials.
The four others were injured in the crash of the Tupolev airliner, officials said. All eight were crew members; initial reports indicated 12 people were aboard the plane, but authorities later revised that figure.
The Russian Red Wings Airlines flight was arriving to Vnukovo International Airport from the Czech Republic. - www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - Thousands of opposition supporters gathered Saturday outside the old KGB headquarters in central Moscow to mark a year of mass protests against Vladimir Putin and his government.
The turnout was far smaller than the tens of thousands who filled Moscow streets in protests that erupted after fraud-plagued parliamentary elections last December. But unlike most of those protests, Saturday's gathering was not authorized and those who came risked arrest and heavy fines.
Soon after Mr. Putin returned to the presidency in May, Russia passed a law raising the fine for participating in unauthorized rallies to the equivalent of $9,000, nearly the average annual salary.
Even if the protest had been authorized, the opposition would have struggled to draw a crowd. Enthusiasm for street demonstrations has waned, in part because of disillusionment with the opposition leaders, while polls show that discontent with Mr. Putin's government has continued to rise.
Police dispersed the rally after 2 1/2 hours. Several prominent opposition figures were among dozens detained in the course of the gathering, but all were released within hours.
There was a heavy police presence around the approximately 3,000 people who came to Lubyanka Square for the rally. The square is outside the headquarters of the Federal Security Service, the main successor agency of the Soviet KGB.
The square also holds the Solovetsky Stone, a monument to the victims of political repression during the Soviet era. The stone comes from the Solovestky archipelago, the site of early prison camps considered the beginning of the Gulag system.
Many rally participants laid flowers at the stone, among them Boris Nemtsov, a veteran Russian politician now in the opposition.
“The people who have come here are free, honest and decent people,” Mr. Nemtsov said “I'm very proud of our people, of Muscovites, of Russians. They (the government) wanted to scare us, there's a helicopter flying over us and they've surrounded us with policemen. They think that we're slaves, but we're not. We're free people, and thank God for that.”
About 90 minutes into the rally, police arrested about a dozen people who were walking around the monument chanting “Free political prisoners.”
Earlier, police detained protest leaders Sergei Udaltsov and Alexei Navalny, along with other prominent opposition figures including Ilya Yashin and Ksenia Sobchak, a glamorous TV personality.
“They fear their citizens, they fear their people. But you can't forbid the people (from coming),” Mr. Udaltsov said shortly before he was bundled into a police van.
One person who braved frigid temperatures of -15 C and the threat of huge fines to come to Saturday's gathering was 67-year-old Andrei Lyakhov, a retired physicist.
“At a minimum, the government will understand that there is some kind of opposition,” he said about why he came.
Mr. Lyakhov noted that the protest mood of the past year had put pressure on nominal opposition parties in Russia's parliament to criticize the dominant Kremlin party, producing some of the most contentious debates in years. “This pressure on the government, even if we don't succeed in changing the government, this pressure will force it to do something,” he said.
The goal, Mr. Lyakhov said, is a real democracy that allows a change of leadership. Putin, whose term runs through 2018, has already been in power for nearly 13 years.- www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Several hundred people rallied in central Moscow to mark the one-year anniversary of massive anti-government protests despite receiving a no-go for the event from city authorities. Arrests were made after some of the protesters refused to disperse.
The opposition says people came to honor political prisoners and to lay flowers on a monument which is located on Lubyanskaya Square.
Up to 40 people were detained, including opposition leaders Sergey Udaltsov and Aleksey Navalny, police said in the wake of the event. Police added only those were arrested who did not follow the law enforcers' orders.
Police counted around 700 people rallying in Lubyanskaya Square.
Both Udaltsov and Navalny claim that their detention was unlawful, saying people just came to the square for a stroll. Udaltsov, the head of the Leftist Front movement, was detained by police while holding some kind of banner in contravention of legislation banning unsanctioned rallies in Moscow. Later they were released without being charged.
Most of the arrests were made once the rally had thinned out and police ordered the remaining protesters to disperse. In response, several demonstrators attempted to form a human chain to hold their ground. Coming under a shower of insults, police advanced on those remaining on the square.
The unsanctioned rally was preceded by several rounds of negotiations between the opposition and authorities, but the sides could not reach an agreement on a march route.
Last December tens of thousands took to the streets of Moscow to protest against the results of parliamentary elections which they claimed were fraudulent. The rally on Bolotnaya Square marked the beginning of mass protests that continued throughout winter and spring, though the protest movement lost steam as time went on.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Russia says it welcomes regular contact between Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and the European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton.
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told IRNA on Thursday that Jalili and Ashton’s direct talks keep the process of negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 -- Russia, China, France, the US, the UK and Germany -- dynamic.
Lukashevich emphasized that Russia is against a long hiatus in talks between Iran and the P5+1, adding that Moscow’s stance regarding negotiations has not changed.
The Russian official went on to say that Moscow believes continuation of talks between Iran and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is necessary and will work towards this goal.
Deputy Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Baqeri and Helga Schmid, deputy to the EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton, held daylong talks in the Turkish city of Istanbul on July 24.
The meeting was held three weeks after Iran and the P5+1 held expert-level talks in Istanbul with the participation of representatives and experts from both sides.
The United States, Israel and some of their allies have accused Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program.
Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that as a signatory to Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of IAEA, it is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.— www.shafaqna.com/English