Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lawmakers might tighten law on rallies to prevent ‘abuse of rights’


A group of MPs are seeking to introduce additional punishment for repeated violation of the law on rallies, saying there is a need to protect citizens from ‘professional’ protesters. The amendments are being prepared by three State Duma deputies representing the conservative majority party United Russia and the center-left Fair Russia caucus. The lawmakers have presented statistics showing the majority of trouble makers at rallies are repeated violators. According to Interior Ministry data, of 36 people who were detained for illegal protest in the Moscow city center on February 6 this year, 21 had been previously been found guilty of administrative offense. Two of these people had each violated the law on rallies 16 times. A similar situation occurred on February 24 - of the 49 detained for illegal protest, three had a record of over 10 convictions for the same offense. “There is such a term as abuse of right and we face this phenomenon at mass events,” one of the bill’s sponsors told the mass circulation daily Izvestia. “Multiple violations of the law over a short period of time demonstrates that the offender is not afraid of the current punishment. This is why we decided to tighten the responsibility for repeated violations of mass events rules,” the MP added. The suggested amendments provide that those who violate the law on rallies more than twice during a period of six months must face criminal justice instead of administrative one. The suggested punishment ranges from fines of between 600,000 and 1 million rubles ($16600 - $27700) or up to five years behind bars. The punishment for organisers of mass events who refuse to comply with law enforcers’ lawful demands is increased to 30 days of administrative arrest. The MPs suggest introducing separate articles to the administrative code for disrupting transport and social infrastructure and for blocking public access to these facilities. Violating public order in areas adjacent to dangerous industrial and transport sites, courts and prisons and residences of leading officials could also become an offence punishable with up to 20 days of administrative arrest. The draft also aims to bring rally rules in line with modern realities – it forbids bringing poisonous, flammable and explosive objects to rallies (as well as means of making such objects) – an obvious lesson from the recent tire fires and firecracker attacks in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. The planned amendments also demand that reporters who cover mass events wear distinctly visible marks of their profession. According to the authors, this is caused by frequent incidents in which reporters provoked the police to detain them and only after detention presented their press cards. The initiative caused mixed reaction in parliament. The heads of the Communist Party of Russia Gennady Zyuganov and the leader of the Fair Russia party Sergey Mironov called the suggested measures excessive, and said that tightening the punishment was not good for dialogue between the authorities and opposition. The head of the Lower House committee for security, MP Irina Yarovaya (United Russia), said that the suggested procedures and measures were absolutely lawful and transparent and that the sanctions provided by the bill were “more than humane”. A member of the State Duma Committee for Civil and Criminal Law, MP Raphael Mardanshin (United Russia) commented that tougher punishment for repeated violators existed in other spheres of the law and it was only just to apply this rule to troublemakers and radicals who disrupt peaceful protests.


RIA Novosti / Vladimir Astapkovich


Venezuela protest death toll reaches 39 amid govt calls for dialogue (PHOTOS, VIDEO)


The death toll of the violent protests that have shaken Venezuela for the last month and a half has reached 39. To avoid “civil war”, the country’s Foreign Minister Elias Jaua has called for dialogue with the opposition. Clashes erupted once again in the Venezuelan capital on Monday night, as hooded activists erected barricades on the streets of Caracas, causing massive disruption. Protesters smashed shop windows and set fire to cars before the riot police arrived and dispersed them using tear gas and water cannons. Elsewhere in the west of Venezuela violence was reported in the cities of Maracaibo and San Cristobal, killing two people and bringing the total death toll in Venezuela to 39. One protester was electrocuted in San Cristobal while trying to reinforce a barricade, and another died in Maracaibo when a homemade explosive device detonated in his hands before he could throw it at police. Anti-government activists clash with riot police during a protest, in Caracas on March 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto) Anti-government activists clash with riot police during a protest, in Caracas on March 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto) Protests have been held throughout Venezuela for the past month and a half, with the population frustrated over inflation, mass power cuts and a lack of basic goods. The Venezuelan government claims that the largely peaceful protest movement has been hijacked by extremist, right-wing, political elements backed by the US, whose aim is to ouster President Nicolas Maduro. On Monday, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua called for dialogue with the opposition to avoid the threat of civil war. He told the private channel, Globovision, that there was an element of the opposition loyal to the United States that is pushing for an armed conflict. A National Guard member shoots during anti-government protest, in Caracas on March 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto) A National Guard member shoots during anti-government protest, in Caracas on March 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto) “The president has said: ‘let’s negotiate without conditions, without preconceived agendas to stop this irrational violence that has killed almost 40 men and women,’” said Jaua, adding the Venezuelan government is waiting for a gesture of goodwill from the opposition. The US has denied any involvement in the mass protests in Venezuela and has accused Maduro’s government of using Washington as a scapegoat. Last week US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said that the US had not ruled out the possibility of imposing sanctions on the Latin American country. She said financial penalties could become an “important tool” in pressuring Maduro into negotiations with the opposition. A water cannon of the national police burns after being hit with Molotov cocktails thrown by anti-government protesters during riots in Chacao district in Caracas March 31, 2014. (Reuters / Christian Veron)A water cannon of the national police burns after being hit with Molotov cocktails thrown by anti-government protesters during riots in Chacao district in Caracas March 31, 2014. (Reuters / Christian Veron) In response, the Venezuelan government accused Washington of meddling in Venezuelan affairs and “ignoring the democratic process.” Venezuela’s Latin American neighbors have also rallied in support of Maduro’s government. Uruguayan President Jose Mujica told the press on Monday that the US should respect Venezuela and let it find its own way out of the current crisis. "The first thing that Venezuela and all of Latin America needs is to be respected,” said Mujica. “When the whole world urges the US to rescind its embargo policy on Cuba, voices in Washington threaten sanctions on Venezuela. Have they learnt nothing from history?”


Anti-government activists clash with riot police during a protest, in Caracas on March 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto)


A National Guard member shoots during anti-government protest, in Caracas on March 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto)


A water cannon of the national police burns after being hit with Molotov cocktails thrown by anti-government protesters during riots in Chacao district in Caracas March 31, 2014. (Reuters / Christian Veron)



Riot policemen protect themselves from molotov cocktails thrown by anti-government activists during a protest, in Caracas on March 31, 2014. (AFP Photo / Juan Barreto)



Discount over: Gazprom hikes Ukraine gas prices 44%


​Russia’s state-owned gas major Gazprom announced a new price for gas exports to Ukraine of $385.50 per 1,000 cubic meters as of April 1, 2014. The price increased by $117 after Gazprom cancelled its discount agreed in December. "This follows Ukraine’s default on its obligation to repay its debt for gas supplies in 2013 and the 100 percent lack of payment for current supplies,” Gazprom chief Aleksey Miller said Tuesday. Gazprom had until April 10 to decide on a new price. Ukraine, which imports about half its natural gas from Gazprom, owes the company $1.7 billion for gas that has already been delivered in 2013 and 2014. The Russian government and Gazprom had announced they would stop providing Ukraine with a 33 percent discount after the first financial quarter of the year. Transit fees for gas moving through Ukraine will also be bumped up 10 percent following an agreement reached in 2009. Gas pricing disputes and unpaid bills have led Gazprom to turn off supplies through Ukraine twice, once in 2006, and again in 2009. Gazprom has a multi-tier pricing system for its clients- offering the generous subsidies to domestic buyers, cheaper gas for former Soviet states, and the most expensive prices for European customers. Under the 2010 Kharkov Agreement, Russia guaranteed Ukraine a $100 gas discount in return for using the Sevastopol port to host its naval fleet. Now that Crimea has joined the Russian Federation, the additional $100 could be added to the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas. Last December, Russia offered Ukraine’s Yanukovich-led government a $15 billion loan and a 33 percent discount on natural gas, a lifeline to help its faltering economy. As tensions in Kiev escalated and President Yanukovich was ousted, Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, which is home to an ethnic majority Russian population.

AFP Photo / Yuri Kadobnov


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