100 Detained at Largest Ever ‘Strategy 31′ Rally

100 Detained at Largest Ever ‘Strategy 31′ Rally

August 31st, 2010 • Related • Filed Under

Triumfalnaya Square on August 31, 2010. Source: Ilya Varlamov - Zyalt.livejournal.comApproximately 100 people have been detained in the Russian opposition’s latest rally in Moscow in defense of the constitutional right to freedom of assembly, Kasparov.ru reports.

Tuesday’s rally marked the eleventh iteration of the opposition’s Strategy 31 campaign. About 2000 people came out to Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square to take part in the event, making it the largest rally in the campaign’s history.

As with the previous ten rallies, Moscow city authorities turned down an application by Strategy 31 organizers to obtain legal sanction to hold the event. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov defended this permission-based system in a session of the city government earlier in the day, saying that the city’s decision to allow or disallow any given rally is not due to any “particular love” for certain rally organizers, but to considerations for public safety.

“Before every event in the capitol, we take all necessary organizational measures to assure total safety for the people,” said the mayor, noting that anyone who wishes to hold a demonstration can file an application with the city and receive a decision within ten days.

The system will remain as it is, he went on, “and in the future we will continue to carry out this work in accordance with the law.”

“We will now allow chaos in Moscow,” Luzhkov stressed.

Luzhkov’s statements appear to contradict the Russian federal law that governs rallies, marches and demonstrations, which requires only a notification – not an application for permission – to be filed with the city in order to hold such an event.

Tuesday’s rally was scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm, and by that time Triumfalnaya Square had already been completely cordoned off by OMON riot police and internal military forces. According to a Kasparov.ru correspondent, the police left no free space for ralliers to gather. About 50 police buses bordered the perimeter of the square, and police blocked all pedestrians from entering. Part of the sidewalk between the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall and Triumfalnaya Square, where Strategy 31 ralliers have previously gathered when the square itself was blocked off, was also cordoned off.

Strategy 31 organizers issued a statement of concern on Tuesday morning regarding an interview with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that had been published the day before. In the interview, the prime minister charged that the real goal of Strategy 31 participants “is to get bludgeoned upside the head,” and that ralliers routinely provoke police into acting violently. In their response, rally organizers rejected the accusation and stated that any “possible incidents” of violence at the rally would be Putin’s personal responsibility.

At the same time, Moscow City Police Chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev did promise to train his officers to detain activists using less painful methods. There was no apparent option to simply not detain any ralliers at all – Deputy Police Chief Vyacheslav Kozlov said that the unsanctioned rally would be duly broken up.

A three-person delegation from the European Parliament, headed by Human Rights Committee Chairwoman Heidi Hautala, was present at the rally at the invitation of Strategy 31 organizers. Deputy Chief Kozlov said ahead of time that the delegates would not be excluded from possible detention.

According to a count by Kasparov.ru correspondents, approximately 2000 ralliers gathered on Triumfalnaya Square despite the heavy police presence and the fact that the square itself is almost entirely barricaded off for construction. Nevertheless, participants managed to rally for nearly two and a half hours, chanting opposition slogans that called for Putin to step down and for the 31st article of the Russian constitution, which guarantees free assembly, to be observed.

Moscow city police and Federal Security Service (FSB) agents reportedly created a jam in the crowd while attempting to push the ralliers away from the square, but did not manage to break up the protest.

Kasparov.ru estimates that approximately 100 people were detained during the course of the rally, including leading opposition activists Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin, Sergei Udaltsov, and Roman Dobrokhotov. Two of the three Strategy 31 organizers, Eduard Limonov and Konstantin Kosyakin, were also detained. The third organizer, Moscow Helsinki Group head and former Soviet dissident Lyudmila Alexeyeva, was present at the rally but was not detained.

Official figures from the Moscow City Police cite 70 detainees, and put the number of people present at the rally at 400 people, including 300 journalists.

Eyewitnesses noted that police did not refrain from acting violently while detaining rally participants. Several activists were seen with bloody faces after having been beaten by law enforcement agents. The first participant to be detained was an activist holding a poster picturing Russia’s symbolic two-headed eagle – one head being that of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and the other of Vladimir Putin.

As of 10:00 pm, several of the most high-profile detainees had been released, including Nemtsov and Limonov. Nemtsov was told that he had supposedly blocked pedestrian movement during the rally and had been detained on that basis. They and several other activists were charged with “violating the established procedure for arranging or conducting a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession, or picket,” an administrative violation punishable by a small fine. As of Tuesday night, approximately 80 detainees remained in various Moscow police stations.

Strategy 31 rallies were also held on Tuesday in various cities throughout Russia, with several solidarity events also taking place in Europe. Approximately 80 out of 700 ralliers were detained in an event in St. Petersburg, and rallies were held with varying levels of success or suppression in Omsk, Yaroslav, Sochi, Voronezh, Makhachkala, and numerous other Russian cities. One event in London included the participation of refugee Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky and the widow of murdered ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko, Marina Litvinenko.

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Control Over Society: The Kremlin methods

Control Over Society: The Kremlin methods

Irina Borogan

Ezhednevnyi Zhurnal and Agentura.Ru has been investigating the government’s campaign against extremism, which was unveiled today, in our opinion, in order to gain control of civil society and strengthen the government’s police services.

In recent years, the Siloviki have often put pressure on political activists and public figures, citing the struggle with extremists; however, it has to date always targeted people who interfere with the government.

But now the government has widened such resources and powers include anti-extremism measures that will inevitably affect people far removed from politics as well.

Blacklists of alleged extremists, which currently include 10,000 Russians, will grow to include hundreds of thousands, and the freedom to make critical statements online will become a thing of the past.

Massive investments in systems for the electronic monitoring of citizens will make all popular movements in Russian cities impossible, as a consequence, eliminating not only unsanctioned meetings, but also flash mobs. And the “non-conformist youth” are marked out for surveillance as one the legislation’s goals.

For the first time in 18 years, the government, citing the need to fight the “destabilization of the situation” against a backdrop of the global crisis, has openly tasked the special services with ferreting out politically unreliable citizens, from soccer fans to separatists.

The lead role in this campaign was not given to the FSB, which in principal is tasked with defending constitutional order in Russia, but to the Interior Ministry.

Resources

The establishment of the Interior Ministry’s Department to Combat Extremism, which took place in September of 2008 and was based on the Department to Combat Organized Crime and Terrorism (DBOPiT), may be considered the starting point of this far-reaching campaign to control the politically unreliable.

On 23 April 2009, Yurii Kokov, the commanding General of the Department, announced that the new structure is fully prepared for deployment.

It is asserted that organized crime in Russia has decreased considerably and that the criminal investigation and economic crime departments can handle it. It is also asserted that extremism represents a threat to constitutional order in Russia, especially against the backdrop of a financial crisis in which all social groups may become active.

This explanation does not stand up to scrutiny. First of all, extremist crimes are not considered serious as compared with the activities of criminal organizations. In Russia, public utterances inciting racial, social, or other forms of hate are considered extremism – that is words, not actions. Secondly, the crime rate in our country is tens times higher for organized crime than extremist crime. According to data from the Interior Ministry’s Main Information Analysis Center, 36,601 of the crimes investigated in 2008 were committed by members of criminal organizations.

There were 430 extremist crimes recorded over the same time period. One can hardly consider them to represent a serious threat to the state, even if they were to see a several-fold increase.

It seems that the government is mobilizing the structure of the former Department to Combat Organized Crime and Terrorism, which earlier included the Directorate’s Bureau of Special investigation, “T” Centers, and even regional departments to Combat Organized Crime and Terrorism, in order to combat an insignificant number of minor crimes.

Centers for Combating Extremism (So called “E” Centers) were established country-wide by the Main Directorate of Internal Affairs and the Directorate of Internal Affairs, based on the former Department to Combat Organized Crime and Terrorism. There are thousands of experienced and efficient operatives throughout Russia, who have in the past dealt with real bandits and terrorists and who have developed well-defined methods in the course of this struggle.

A legal chain of command has been established under the struggle with extremism: it comprises the extremism departments in the public prosecutor’s office and the investigative committee. Of course, all these people will need something to do to keep them busy – at least, nobody avoided accountability to the Interior Ministry. And it is obvious that half a thousand crimes a year is clearly insufficient to justify the mechanism established, not to mention that almost half of the extremist cases collapse in court.

It is no secret that there are plans to use these anti-extremism units to suppress and disperse popular demonstrations. Yurii Kokov, the chief of the new department, did not exclude the department’s participation in suppressing social protests.

The government recently invested a massive amount of resources in the program for the suppression and repression of popular unrest. Two main steps were made in this direction.

In June 2008, the Center for the Protection of Public Order was established within the Interior Ministry, it’s task is to coordinate the activities of the internal affairs agencies and internal security troops during public events. We are reminded that the planned decrease in internal troops (VV), which currently number nearly 200 thousand, was delayed until better times.

By order of the country’s leadership, at the end of last year, a situation center was established by the Interior Ministry and the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) to monitor the state of affairs in the social sphere and migration. Information from the network of these centers throughout the country will converge there. The aim is to monitor the public mood and to control situations on-site.

Technology and Intentions

Judging by the Interior Minister’s announcements, the main focus is assumed to be efforts to suppress extremist crimes. “The Functions of the Department for the Struggle with Extremism is, other than operative-agent work, aimed at the discovery and prevention of crimes, and the prevention and monitoring of what is going on in the sphere of extremist activities,” – Rashid Nurgaliev, Interior Minister said in one interview.

Of course, many methods of controlling public order were used during the Soviet era, but technology has made great advances since then. Now, the Interior Ministry is prepared to utilize all modern developments in the sphere of electronic surveillance in order to establish the identity of malcontents and to track their movements. These are, for example, facial search and recognition programs assisted by cameras installed in train stations and airports.

The Interior Ministry has been setting up an electronic complex incorporating all data banks, including video surveillance data, data from the purchase of plane and train tickets, and all possible sorts of records into one system for the entire country. As a result, an ever increasing number of citizens are appearing on the databases and are beginning to have their freedom of movement and other rights limited. The reasons for people being entered into the database are deemed a purely internal matter within the Interior Ministry and the special services – and this procedure does not involve any judicial decision. The way such a system could work in theory can be seen in the movie the Bourne Supremacy. Jason Bourne boards a train headed from Berlin to Moscow, his image is captured by a camera, after which the CIA determines his itinerary and sends his information to Russia, where agents try to arrest him.

Naturally, in practice, such a system may fail. However, the arrest of political activists en route to other cities is something we have already seen repeatedly, and it has been established that this was possible thanks to the police quickly receiving information from ticket sales systems. All of this occurred even prior to the unified electronic system of these internal affairs agencies.

The Interior Ministry’s focus on suppressing extremist crimes, and not disclosing and transferring these cases to the courts suggests ample possibilities for agent field work, and for all types of intelligence surveillance – wire taps, the opening and inspection of email, and internet surveillance. As far as may be understood from the announcements made by the chiefs of the police and from departmental records, the following are designated target groups of this anti-extremist campaign:

  • Islamists – all associations and communities, independent of the Religious Administration of Muslims (DUM)
  • Non-systematic parties and public associations – such as the outlawed National Bolshevik Party, the Red Youth Vanguard, the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, the United Civil Front, environmentalists, and human rights activists.
  • Informal associations: from soccer fanatics and neo-Nazis to Pagan cults and associations.
  • Professional Unions
  • Non-politically motivated dissenters – such as those who came out in defense of the Khimkinskii Forest and who oppose high-rise developments.
  • Sectarians of several public figures of the Russian Orthodox Church, Hare Krishnas, Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.

In addition, ordinary people who participate in anything may become victims of this struggle: the more lists, records, and databases there are, the higher the probability of mistakes being made.

Having allotted powerful resources for the prevention of extremism, the government has allocated separate budgets for the purchase of technologies which may come in handy should a crisis arise. They are developing new domestic techniques for dispersing meetings and demonstrations which have not been worked on since the end of the 1980s. Three types of water-jet machines based on the Gazel, Kamaz, and the Ural are already being purchased by the Interior Ministry, and the Special Police Forces (OMON) and the Specialized Designation Police Detachments (OMSN) are training for new crowd dispersal techniques.

Agentura.Ru September 2010

The Kremlin’s Anti-Crisis Package: How and Why “Black Lists” Are Made

The Kremlin’s Anti-Crisis Package: How and Why “Black Lists” Are Made

Irina Borogan

It comes as no surprise that political and civic activists in Russia experience harassment from police. Members of the opposition have long complained that they have been followed, detained as they travel by train, or even threatened by the militsiya. Yet the scope and systematic nature of such activities is just beginning to come to light.

As it turns out, the Russian police are creating databases used to the track the movements of law-abiding citizens. The project is overseen by a new department for countering extremism within the Russian police, but often targeted at individuals for no reason other than their political views or activism.

This is the third in a series of articles documenting the government campaign to battle extremism and strengthen control over the public. The series is a joint project between the Yezhednevny Zhurnal online newspaper and the Agentura.ru web portal, which specializes in investigating Russia’s intelligence agencies.

Previous articles have focused on the nature of the new anti-extremism department of the Russian police and have questioned why emphasis has shifted from battling organized crime to extremism. The next article will examine electronic surveillance systems and their use to control the behavior of groups of people.

Since the spring of 2009, thousands of policemen throughout the entire country have been forced to engage in the search for extremists. It is already plain to see that there aren’t enough extremists to go around: according to the Ministry of Internal Affair’s [MVD] Central Informational-Analytical Center (GIATs), in 2008, there were 379 people in Russia identified for committing “extremist” crimes. For a whole Department of the MVD, which has units (the E centers) in nearly every region, this is clearly insufficient. Which means that the number of extremists must be supplemented. But doing this legally, through the courts, will be difficult: in the last year, the courts refused to recognize extremist motives in nearly half of all cases, and the cases fell apart.

In such a situation, the policemen will need to work on “preventing” crimes, as Minister [Rashid] Nurgaliev is constantly calling on them to do. And this calls for different methods for the tacit surveillance of suspects: tapping telephones, opening and inspecting mail, monitoring travel within the country and outside its borders, and so forth. But first, the circle of people suspected of extremism must be determined, designating the people whose potential crime consists of spreading radical views or simply points of view that don’t coincide with the views of authorities.

The fact that these “black” lists of citizens exist has not only been expressed by human rights activists, but by policemen themselves as they report on the work they have done. But now one can confidently assert that there is secret surveillance and data gathering being conducted on the citizen who ended up on such a list. And this has recently been deemed lawful.

Details that emerged in court

In April 2009, when [authorities] announced that the creation of anti-extremist units in the country was completed, a court ruled lawful the MVD’s tracking of the movements of Sergey Shimovolos, which was done on order from the local UBOP (now – the Center for Countering Extremism). During the trial, it came to light that 3,865 Russians were under this type of surveillance in 2007.

All of these people, including Sergey Shimovolos, the chair of the Nizhny-Novgorod Human Rights Society, were put on a police list, and a so-called “watchdog surveillance” (storozhevoy kontrol). Now, their names come up in the very same electronic card files that have data on criminals on the wanted list.

The assumption that the militsiya and FSB were creating “black lists” of political and social activists emerged several years ago. People began to notice that not a single trip to a public function, whether a “March of Dissent” or a human rights conference, happened without problems from the police. Moreover, people in uniform sometimes sprang up at nearly every stop along the social activist’s whole itinerary.

In May 2007, for instance, when Sergey Shimovolos was making his way from Nizhny Novgorod to Samara in order to conduct an independent investigation of restrictions put on protests during the G-8 summit, he was checked three times: in the Nizhny Novgorod and Samara Oblasts, as well as mid-trip – in the Republic of Mordovia. Each time, an officer of the transit police asked him to explain where he was headed and what he planned to do there. Clearly, the checks were planned and initiated, and notably in three regions at once. But how?

“In Samara I was lucky: the policemen honestly wrote in the report, that they detained me on the grounds a telegram (teletypogram) they received, and had to question me in line with crime prevention measures for conducting protest actions,” Sergey Shimovolos told the Yezhednevny Zhurnal. Afterward, through court, I received materials that bore witness to the fact that I was put under “watchdog surveillance” by a decision of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast UBOP [Organized Crime Unit], which allowed them to strategically monitor my movements through the ticket sales database.”

Shimovolos decided to protest his surveillance in court. He asked the court to recognize that these measures violate a person’s rights, and to compel the MVD to destroy all records of him and all citizens who had not been deemed to be extremists by a court, but had still been entered into this database. On April 22, 2009, the Nizhny Novgorod District Court refused the human rights activist on all counts.

What is “watchdog surveillance”

Shimovolos lost, but thanks to his lawsuit, we learned how the system of surveillance over law-abiding citizens is carried out.

Information about Shimovolos made its way into the “Rozysk-magistral” (“Wanted Line”) electronic database of the Russian Federation MVD on March 19, 2007. The decision to include his information into the database was made by officers in the UBOP GUVD for the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, based upon strategic reasons that comprise a state secret, in the opinion of the police. Shimovolos himself assumes this happened because he was among the organizers of a “March of Dissent” in Nizhny Novgorod.

Having put Shimovolos’s details into the “Wanted Line” database, the policemen put him on “watchdog surveillance:” one type of record that exists to track someone’s movements.

At first, the MVD’s “Wanted Line” hardware and software suite (PTK) was created to automatically assist in the search for criminals on the federal and local wanted lists. The PTK is “linked” to the “Express” and “Magistral” databases, which constantly receive information about train and airline tickets purchased by Russians. When a criminal buys a ticket, the information makes its way into the PTK server. Next, this information is communicated to the local transport police (OVD), located along the itinerary of the passenger train and in airports. The objective is clear – the arrest of the criminal.

At the same time, data about law-abiding citizens, like Shimovolos, were introduced into the PTK. They were then put on “watchdog surveillance.” The whole procedure is the same, except that instead of an arrest, policemen receive instructions of what kind of work they must conduct with the citizens who are not suspected of a criminal offense.*

The Yezhednevny Zhurnal received further proof of how this system works from Roman Dobrokhotov, a participant in the “For Human Rights” movement. On May 6, 2009, Dobrokhotov came by train from Volgograd to the capital’s Paveletsky Rail Terminal, where he was detained by a policeman waiting for him by the rail car’s exit. The UVD officer was ordered to have a preventative talk with him. As it turned out, Dobrokhotov was arrested on the basis of an [official] message, which spelled out in black and white how the Center for Investigative Information of the Moscow UVD for Transport reported that Dobrokhotov was put on “watchdog surveillance” by the Department for Countering Extremism of the RF MVD.

As result, the efforts of at least three police units were expended to track Dobrokhotov’s route. The activist has never been indicted on criminal charges, but has taken part in different non-systemic political movements.

New technologies

As far as one can judge from the circumstances of Dobrokhotov’s arrest, it was conducted in the old way, without the use of ultra-modern technologies that the MVD already has at its disposal. Such as, for instance, the portable terminal of the very same “Wanted Line” PTK: externally, it resembles a smartphone, weighing less than 200 grams, but in addition to text information, it can transmit photo and video-images. This pocket device is designed to give militsiya officers real-time access to federal and regional databases like “Wanted persons,” “Passports,” “Weapons,” “Theft,” “Automotive Transport Wanted by Interpol,” and others.

As the manufacturers report in the technical manual, this pocket terminal has access to the nearest database server in real-time over existing communication channels, which allows for the broadcast of digital information, including the use of WEB-technology.

Aside from that, practically every large rail terminal and airport in Russia, as well as a part of trains and commuter trains, are equipped with “Videolock” face recognition systems – with cameras in rail cars, waiting rooms, cash registers and on platforms. In principle, Dobrokhotov could well have been detained with the help of such a system. A policeman could have received his image, marked with a special symbol, on the hand-held console.

***

In such a way, the MVD Department for Countering Extremism is at present forming “black lists.” Data is added to them on the basis of “strategic reasons,” that are not even revealed in court. Having gotten on these lists, citizens end up under the microscope of electronic surveillance systems of travel which were created to capture actual criminals. Furthermore, a court has found this type of actions to be absolutely legal.

* – “watchdog surveillance” is also used by the Court Bailiffs Service to search for debtors, and the FSKN [Federal Drug Control Service] to track the movements of suspected drug couriers.

Russia Uses Microsoft to Suppress Dissent

Russia Uses Microsoft to Suppress Dissent

ABOVE THE LAW

Valeri Nistratov for The New York Times

Baikal Environmental Wave protested in June against a paper factory on the shores of Lake Baikal, months after security forces seized its computers. More Photos »

Surveillance video shot by the police shows plainclothes officers confiscating computers from Baikal Environmental Wave

New York Times

IRKUTSK, Russia — It was late one afternoon in January when a squad of plainclothes police officers arrived at the headquarters of a prominent environmental group here. They brushed past the staff with barely a word and instead set upon the computers before carting them away. Taken were files that chronicled a generation’s worth of efforts to protect the Siberian wilderness.

The group, Baikal Environmental Wave, was organizing protests against Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin’s decision to reopen a paper factory that had polluted nearby Lake Baikal, a natural wonder that by some estimates holds 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.

Instead, the group fell victim to one of the authorities’ newest tactics for quelling dissent: confiscating computers under the pretext of searching for pirated Microsoftsoftware.

Across Russia, the security services have carried out dozens of similar raids against outspoken advocacy groups or opposition newspapers in recent years. Security officials say the inquiries reflect their concern about software piracy, which is rampant in Russia. Yet they rarely if ever carry out raids against advocacy groups or news organizations that back the government.

As the ploy grows common, the authorities are receiving key assistance from an unexpected partner: Microsoft itself. In politically tinged inquiries across Russia, lawyers retained by Microsoft have staunchly backed the police.

Interviews and a review of law enforcement documents show that in recent cases, Microsoft lawyers made statements describing the company as a victim and arguing that criminal charges should be pursued.

The lawyers rebuffed pleas by accused journalists and advocacy groups, including Baikal Wave, to refrain from working with the authorities. Baikal Wave, in fact, said it had purchased and installed legal Microsoft software specifically to deny the authorities an excuse to raid them. The group later asked Microsoft for help in fending off the police. “Microsoft did not want to help us, which would have been the right thing to do,” said Marina Rikhvanova, a Baikal Environmental Wave co-chairwoman and one of Russia’s best-known environmentalists. “They said these issues had to be handled by the security services.”

Microsoft executives in Moscow and at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., asserted that they did not initiate the inquiries and that they took part in them only because they were required to do so under Russian law.

After The New York Times presented its reporting to senior Microsoft officials, the company responded that it planned to tighten its oversight of its legal affairs in Russia. Human rights organizations in Russia have been pressing Microsoft to do so for months. The Moscow Helsinki Group sent a letter to Microsoft this year saying that the company was complicit in “the persecution of civil society activists.”

Tough Ethical Choices

Microsoft, like many American technology giants doing business in authoritarian countries, is often faced with ethical choices over government directives to help suppress dissent. In China, Microsoft has complied with censorship rules in operating its Web search service, preventing Chinese users from easily accessing banned information. Its archrival Google stopped following censorship regulations there, and scaled back its operations inside China’s Internet firewall.

In Russia, leaders of advocacy groups and newspapers subjected to antipiracy raids said Microsoft was cooperating with the authorities because the company feared jeopardizing its business in the country. They said Microsoft needed to issue a categorical public statement disavowing these tactics and pledging to never cooperate in such cases.

Microsoft has not done that, but has promised to review its policies in Russia.

“We take the concerns that have been raised very seriously,” Kevin Kutz, director of public affairs for Microsoft, said in a statement. Mr. Kutz said the company would ensure that its lawyers had “more clearly defined responsibilities and accountabilities.”

“We have to protect our products from piracy, but we also have a commitment to respect fundamental human rights,” he said. “Microsoft antipiracy efforts are designed to honor both objectives, but we are open to feedback on what we can do to improve in that regard.”

Microsoft emphasized that it encouraged law enforcement agencies worldwide to investigate producers and suppliers of illegal software rather than consumers. Even so, it has not publicly criticized raids against small Russian advocacy groups.

With pirated software prevalent in this country, it is not surprising that some of these groups might have some on their computers. Yet the issue, then, is why the police choose to focus on these particular targets — and whether they falsify evidence to make the charges more serious.

Microsoft also says it has a program in Russia to provide free and low-cost software to newspapers and advocacy groups so that they are in compliance with the law.

But the review of these cases indicates that the security services often seize computers whether or not they contain illegal software. The police immediately filed reports saying they had discovered such programs, before even examining the computers in detail. The police claims have in numerous instances been successfully discredited by defendants when the cases go before judges.

Medvedev -vs- Putin’s Oligarchs–Is it for real?

Moscow mayor fights to keep job

Kremlin-sanctioned documentary accuses Yuri Luzhkov of caring more about his bee collection than the people of Moscow

Yuri Luzhkov and Dmitry Medvedev Yuri Luzhkov and Dmitry Medvedev. Photograph: Dmitry Astakhov/AFP/Getty ImagesMoscow’s veteran mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, is fighting to keep his job after an unprecedented Kremlin-sanctioned TV documentary accused him of caring more about his bee collection than the people of his city.

The film, screened on Friday, recalled how Luzhkov went on holiday to Austria in August as Moscow’s citizens were struggling to breathe in choking smog while forest fires enveloped Russia. On his return the mayor, a bee enthusiast, gave more money to beekeepers than to smog-affected Muscovites, it said.

“Why did Moscow choke while the mayor rescued his bees?” the programme’s title sequence asked, against a backdrop of pounding music. “How did his wife become the richest woman in Russia? And why does his deputy have a watch worth more than $1m?”

The film attacked Luzhkov’s opulent lifestyle and that of his wife, Yelena Baturina, the world’s third richest woman. Baturina was depicted in an unflattering light, shown enthusiastically eating a plate of bread rolls at a society party.

Tensions between Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, and Luzhkov,Moscow’s mayor since 1992, have been growing privately for some months. They burst into the open on Friday evening, when the pro-Kremlin NTV channel screened its 30-minute investigation, The Cap Affair, named after the mayor’s emblematically proletarian black flat hat.

It is the first time such frank criticism of Luzhkov has been aired on federal TV. NTV returned to the attack yesterday with another anti-Luzhkov broadcast. This time, it alleged that Baturina’s property company, Inteko – the source of her extraordinary wealth – had charged outrageous sums for the restoration of a much-loved Soviet-era statue, Worker and Collective Farm Woman.

Luzhkov is known to be close to Russia’s powerful prime minister, Vladimir Putin. But he appears increasingly at odds with Medvedev. Last week Luzhkov criticised the president’s decision to freeze construction of a new Moscow-St Petersburg highway after a public outcry over the demolition of the capital’s Khimki forest.

On Friday Medvedev hit back. Speaking at an international forum in the town of Yaroslavl, he rebuked Luzhkov and suggested that “officials should either participate in building institutions or join the opposition”. Some believe the attacks on Luzhkov reflect increasing tensions within Russia’s ruling Putin-Medvedev duumvirate, ahead of presidential elections in 2012.

The films amount to an extraordinary hatchet job, more redolent of the freewheeling broadcast scene of the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin than the tightly managed Putin era. NTV’s accusations of large-scale corruption are a severe blow. The programme questioned Luzhkov’s claim that his and his wife’s fortune – put by Forbes at $2.9bn – are entirely separate. Under Russian law Luzhkov is entitled to half of her assets, it said. It showed footage of the couple’s mansion in Rublyovka, Moscow’s most elite neighbourhood. The Luzhkovs’ stable is many times larger than the average Muscovite’s cramped flat.

Luzhkov has yet to respond directly to the attacks. On Friday he insisted he would see out his term in office, which is due to finish in June. Over the weekend his supporters took to the airwaves, saying the mayor was doing a good job.

Baturina has previously rejected allegations that her husband’s job had helped her to amass her wealth. She described claims by a former business partner that “no major project can succeed [in Moscow] without her backing” as “the exact opposite of reality”.

The campaign to oust Moscow’s mayor unites the Kremlin and Russia’s liberals, traditional enemies. Several people were arrested today after riot police broke up a small anti-Luzhkov rally outside the mayor’s office in central Moscow. The protesters’ slogans included “Moscow without Luzhkov” and “Give us back our city”.

Most experts now believe Luzhkov, who is 74, will be forced to retire next summer. But previous predictions of his imminent removal have not come to pass, not least because Luzhkov has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to fix a huge vote for United Russia, the ruling pro-Kremlin party, during city and national elections.

Against the protean backdrop of Russia’s politics Luzhkov has been an immovable point. Since becoming mayor two decades ago he has seen three changes of president, six parliaments and 10 prime ministers, not to mention two Chechen wars and a major financial crisis. This summer he marked 18 years in power.

Supporters say he has transformed Moscow from a crumbling communist shell into a vibrant modern metropolis. Opponents say he has knocked down Moscow’s unique architectural heritage, replacing it with vulgar fake palaces, and that he has been a disaster for the city’s ecology and public transport network.

US Ambassador Fears Discussion of Israeli Nukes

U.S. diplomat fears condemnation of Israel

VIENNA, Sept. 12 (UPI) — The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. nuclear watchdog fears Arab ambassadors may condemn Israel at the next board of governors meeting, Asharq al-Awsat reported.

In an exclusive interview with the newspaper Sunday, Glyn Davies, the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, called on Arab ambassadors to work within the international consensus achieved by the New York Conference which reviewed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in May.

The American diplomat told the newspaper of “the necessity of working as a united front to implement policies to encourage Israel to participate in the 2012 conference, and this is in order to achieve the objective that all parties seek, which is a Middle East region that is free of nuclear weapons.”

“What is more positive? For the IAEA General Conference to pass a resolution condemning Israel and for this [news] to adorn the headlines, or for a coordinated attempt to take place dissolve the confrontation and criticism which would facilitate the Israeli officials’ decision to participate [at the 2012 conference]?” Davies told the paper.

The earlier New York Conference reached an agreement on the issue of nuclear disarmament and the establishment of a zone free of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, the paper said. This agreement also called on Israel to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and open its nuclear facilities to international inspection, the report said..

The IAEA Board of Governors Meeting and the 54th IAEA General Conference is scheduled to begin next week, the newspaper said.

India forces battle Kashmiris in streets; 2 killed

An Indian paramilitary soldier guards a deserted national highway during a curfew on the outskirts of Srinagar, India, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010. Police in Indian-administered Kashmir formally accused a key separatist leader of treason Sunday for allegedly inciting violence after participants in a massive anti-India rally torched government offices. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

India forces battle Kashmiris in streets; 2 killed

By AIJAZ HUSSAIN (AP) – 51 minutes ago

SRINAGAR, India — Indian forces battled Kashmiri protesters in the streets of the disputed territory Monday in demonstrations fueled in part by a report of a Quran being desecrated in the United States. Two people were killed.

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets despite a rigid curfew clamped across the region, chanting, “Go India, go back. We want freedom.” Indian officials are searching for a way to end three months of deadly confrontations with separatists, while troops have orders to shoot on sight anyone who defies the region’s curfew.

In the town of Bandipore, paramilitary troops fired on rock-throwing protesters, killing one, while at least eight other protesters were wounded in clashes across Kashmir, said a police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with media.

The protests Monday were inflamed by reports on the Iranian state-run channel Press TV that the Quran was desecrated over the weekend in the United States.

Though a Florida pastor called off his plans to burn the Muslim holy book, the channel showed footage of a different man destroying a book described as a Quran.

Protesters in Kashmir chanted “Down with America” and “Down with Israel.”

In the town of Budgam, troops tried to disperse the demonstrators with tear gas and baton charges but began firing into the crowd after protesters attacked a police station with rocks, the police officer said. One protester was killed and at least 20 others were wounded, some critically, the officer said.

Protesters burned at least four government buildings as well as a schoolhouse in the town of Tangmarg.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India was searching for a peaceful resolution.

“We are willing to talk to every person or group which abjures violence, within the framework of our constitution,” Singh said in his speech to top army commanders.

Singh’s statement came hours ahead of a meeting of top Cabinet ministers that is expected to decide whether to lift the Armed Forces Special Powers Act — which gives sweeping powers to security forces in Kashmir — as a goodwill gesture in parts of the territory that have been relatively peaceful.

Some government officials strongly oppose the move as premature, pointing to the flare-up in violence in the Himalayan region over the weekend as justification for intensifying the crackdown.

The region has been roiled for months by protests. The demonstrations often descend into clashes with government forces and troops have often resorted to firing on the crowds to quell the unrest. They have killed at least 71 people this summer — mostly teenage boys and young men in their 20s — and the deaths tend to fuel the next round of protests.

Anger at India runs deep in Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in its entirety by both countries. The mainly Muslim protesters reject rule by Hindu-dominated India and want independence or a merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.

The current unrest is reminiscent of the late 1980s, when protests against New Delhi’s rule sparked an armed conflict that has so far killed more than 68,000 people, mostly civilians.

Singh said the grievances of the youth of Kashmir have to be addressed.

“We have to ensure better delivery of services and generate avenues for economic advancement for the people of that state,” he said.

However, Kashmiris main complaints are not over economics, but rather the presence of hundreds of thousands of Indian troops in the region, the use of harsh security laws there and the lack of progress toward independence.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a key separatist leader, said lifting the security laws would not satisfy Kashmiris. “We want end to Indian occupation here and have already laid out our proposal for initiating a dialogue,” he said.

This weekend’s violence began when thousands of protesters marched through the streets of the region’s main city, Srinagar, on Saturday following a special prayer marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Some in the group later attacked and burned a building housing the offices of the state police and electricity department.

In response, police accused separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who had called for the march, of treason, further enraging protesters, who then stoned the home of the state education minister.

On Monday, with orders to shoot-on-sight any protesters defying the curfew, armored vehicles patrolled the streets and security forces used steel and barbed-wire barricades to seal off public squares and neighborhoods in Srinagar.

Security forces did not allow journalists to move in Srinagar despite curfew passes issued by the government.

Sheikh Imran, a local reporter in Srinagar, said troops beat him up, even though he showed them his pass.