Kudankulam N-plant: Safety norms gains primacy over commissioning deadline


, TNN | May 16, 2013

Kudankulam N-plant: Safety norms gains primacy over commissioning deadline
Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.
NEW DELHI: Regardless of the recent promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Durban about the early commissioning of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (KKNPP), the government has instructed theAtomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) that safety reviews of KKNPP should be run with a “fine-toothed comb” without being pressured by commissioning deadline. In fact, the government had recently invited the Operational Safety Review Team of the IAEA to do an independent safety assessment of other Indian reactors, particularly RAPS (in Rajasthan).Last week, the Supreme Court cleared the power plant, paving the way for early commissioning. Originally, the plant was scheduled to be commissioned in 2007.A whole new set of safety checks were conducted by the AERB after four valves that came from a Russian supplier were found to be “deficient”.Stung by a series of popular protests about safety issues in Kudankulam, which has inspired protests by a large number of NGOs, the government is keen that no stone is left unturned. If this means the Russians are less than pleased, sources said, so be it. They added that some of the supplies from Russian companies have been found to be below par.

NPCIL has that the commissioning of KKNPP would now happen only in June, after another set of checks are carried out. The company said the physical progress of the plant was 99.6% complete.

This week a group of 60 leading scientists wrote a letter to the PM, and chief ministers of Tamil Nadu and Kerala asking for more stringent safety checks of the KKNPP. They have sought “renewed study” of safety issues by an independent panel of experts. The scientists — most of them serving in state-run institutions — have expressed doubts, “particularly with reference to possible sub-standard components” used in the plant.

These are not scientists advocating against nuclear energy, but concerned about safety issues. “These safety concerns are compounded by the fact that Russian authorities arrested Sergei Shutov, procurement director of Zio-Podolsk, on corruption charges for having sourced cheaper sub-standard steel for manufacturing components that were used in Russian nuclear installations in Bulgaria, Iran, China and India,” they wrote in the letter, The arrest of Shutov, they cited, led to several complaints of sub-standard components and follow-up investigations in both Bulgaria and China.

While the AERB gave an in-principle clearance for fuel loading of the plant in April, hopes that it would be commissioned by May were dashed after faulty valves made news. In an effort to quell the protests and spiralling negative perception about the power plant, the government has been on an information overdrive to educate and be transparent. This week, minister of state V Narayanasamy said, “All nuclear power projects undergo an elaborate in-depth safety review during the consenting stages, like siting, construction, commissioning, etc. After satisfactory review during project stage, AERB issues operating licence to an NPP for a period of up to five years.”

Last week, responding to a question in Parliament, government assured that components supplied to KKNPP are “tested in an integrated manner during commissioning to verify their performance in accordance to design performance criteria. Any shortfall noticed in performance is addressed/corrected as a part of the commissioning programme”

 

Zio-Podolsk Scandal – Save Our Souls – Part -1 #Nuclear


By- CharlesDigges

Corruption in Russian Nuclear Industry

If corruption in general is dangerous, it is quite deadly when it happens in the nuclear industry. The ecological group Ecodefense! believes the risks are high enough to result in another Fukushima, while the National Anti-Corruption Committee (NAC) has urged Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to initiate investigations into the broadly reported violations and abuses in the nuclear industry, including at new nuclear power plant (NPP) construction sites.

The NAC further refers to reports by the official national daily RossiiskayaGazeta as it says: “[…] in the past six months alone, removed from their posts on suspicion of corruption and other abuses were heads of twelve Rosatom enterprises. In 2010, 35 industry officials were dismissed for the same reasons. In a notorious development last summer, officials with the Main Department for Economic Security and Countering Corruption of the Ministry of Interior of the Russian Federation detained former Rosatom deputy director YevgenyYevstratov and charged him with embezzling budget funds allocated toward the construction of a number of the corporation’s sites.”

Some of the details concerning the urgent issue of “abuses perpetrated with respect to the industry’s purchases in NPP construction and modernisation projects,” as highlighted by the NAC, which cites media reports, are, in particular, purchases of technological equipment for the cooling towers of the fourth reactor of Kalinin NPP, in Udomlya (some 200 kilometres northwest of Moscow) and the second line of construction at Leningrad NPP, near St. Petersburg:

“Recently, equipment purchases for NPPs have been conducted outside the tender procedure, which is contrary to the law. […] a specially issued regulation […] adopted in 2007 by [Rosatom’s daughter company, national NPP operator] Concern Rosenergoatom allows for the selection of equipment to be bought without conducting a tender – or solely based upon the decision of the design organisation.”

The consequences of corruption schemes that are allegedly employed by Rosatom companies – such as the use of counterfeit and non-certified equipment in the construction of new nuclear reactors – could not have escaped the scrutiny of the federal industrial and ecological safety oversight agency, Rostekhnadzor. As evidenced by facts published in Rostekhnadzor’s yearly report of 2009, new reactor construction is compromised by run-of-the-mill theft – perpetrators substitute cheaper, subquality materials for the ones approved for construction. The federal service reports, for instance, the following incidents at the construction sites of Rostov and Leningrad NPPs:

Problems that apparently plague the construction of new reactors in Russia finally manifested themselves vividly on July 17, 2011, in the crumbling of steel structures and the carcass of a containment building under construction for a new reactor at the site of Leningrad NPP-2.

Besides implementing a number of domestic projects, Rosatom is also building or preparing to build new reactors in other countries – such as the former USSR republics of Ukraine and Belarus, where environmentalists and NGOs are likewise concerned that corruption and below-par construction quality may eventually affect the safety of the future reactors.

“The numerous violations of construction norms and standards, and working conditions, which lead to even serious incidents at NPP construction sites in Russia, cast doubt on the capability of the State Corporation Rosatom and its subcontractor companies of carrying out quality and reliable construction projects as per [Rosatom’s] export contracts, in particular, in Ukraine,” said, for instance, a statement on the website of the National Ecological Centre of Ukraine.

And the Belarusian Anti-Nuclear Campaign, which is one among many Russian and Belarusian organisations trying to prevent the construction, in Belarus’s town of Ostrovets, of a new nuclear power plant to an as-yet untested Rosatom design, wrote this in an address to Russia’s Putin and Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko: “The known incidents and deficiencies in the operation and construction of Russian-built NPPs in Russia, Iran, and China, as well as the recent collapse of reinforcing steelwork at the construction site of the containment building at [Leningrad] NPP-2, are evidence that Rosatom and its structures have serious problems of a systemic nature and cannot guarantee the quality of their sites. This propagation of dangerous nuclear technologies places a special responsibility on the Russian government.”

What the Belarusian Anti-Nuclear Campaign is referring to is the less than perfect performance record Rosatom has been showing in its international construction contracts, such as problems with completing and launching the reactor at Iran’s Bushehr or the 3,000 or so complaints brought by China to Rosatom’s notice with regard to the quality of the equipment supplied to a station Rosatom is building there.

At the end of 2010, the Moscow-based ecological group Ecodefense! and Transparency International Russia presented a study that took a look at corruption risks in Rosatom’s purchasing practices – the results of an analysis of some 300 orders placed by the state corporation and posted on its website for open access.

At issue are contracts concluded by Rosatom with external organisations for goods or services needed for particular projects – orders paid with budget funding – and the study highlights prominent corruption risks present in Rosatom’s purchasing activities. Because of a special status the corporation enjoys in the country, Ecodefense! and Transparency International Russia conclude, Rosatom’s purchases are not subject to the jurisdiction of the federal law that establishes procedure for procuring goods or services for state or municipal needs. And even though Rosatom itself provides a set of guidelines for such activities in its Unified Industry Purchases Standard, the restrictions these impose on the purchaser or ordering party are less clearly defined than in that federal law.

Furthermore, a monitoring study of a selected sample of 200 purchasing agreements made by Rosatom revealed numerous violations of the Industry Standard, such as with, for instance, the selection of a particular method for placing an order, failure to provide cost estimate documentation when ordering construction or renovation works, and more.

Altogether, violations of Rosatom’s own purchasing standard were found in 83 contracts – 27 percent of the total sample or 41 percent of the 200 contracts selected for in-depth analysis. Another conclusion was that the laws and regulations that govern Rosatom’s activities where buying goods and services for the corporation’s needs is concerned are fraught with serious deficiencies that leave ample room for corruption risks.

“Corruption in the nuclear industry leads to an impaired safety culture, substandard construction quality, and, as a result, accidents at nuclear sites. With respect to Rosatom, there is no outside control, so there are truly gigantic opportunities there for corruption,” Ecodefense!’s co-chair Vladimir Slivyak told Bellona. “There was corruption [within Rosatom] before, too […] But it is just recently, brought along with a new wave of NPP construction, that corruption processes [within Rosatom] may have reached a record high in the [corporation’s] history.

Rosatom’s former functionary Yevstratov was charged with embezzling 50 million roubles ($1.8 million) in state funding earmarked for the development of spent fuel management technologies. The arrest was hailed as a success in an anti-corruption crusade undertaken jointly by Rosatom and the Ministry of Interior, but it did not look convincing to Bellona’s Alexander Nikitin.

Nikitin, who heads the St. Petersburg-based Environment and Right Center Bellona, said that the term “corruption” is tossed around in contemporary Russia as frequently as charges of espionage, and that a possible explanation for the arrest could be Rosatom’s ardent post-Fukushima efforts to polish its image – something that would make Yevstratov, the head of safety programmes, a sitting duck for an anti-corruption sweep.

Notes:

[1] Corruption: A new Russian Fukushima in the making? (2011 article).

[2] http://www.bellona.org/articles/articles_2011/corruption_rosatom

https://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/zio-podolsk-scandal-save-our-souls-part-2-nuclear/

https://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/zio-podolsk-scandal-save-our-souls-part-3-nuclear/

https://kractivist.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/india-zio-podolsk-scandal-save-our-souls-part-4-nuclear/

Letters from Pussy Riot’s Prison blog #womenrights #womensday


The thoughts of a prisoner

Anastasia Kirilenko 8 March 2013

Today is International Women’s Day, a holiday in Russia, though possibly with few celebrations in the penal colonies where the Pussy Riot women are being held. Open Democracy Russia is proud to publish two letters from the prison blog of one of them, Maria (Masha) Alyokhina, to Anastasia Kirilenko.


The thoughts of a prisoner – they’re not free either. They keep returning to the same things.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich

‘Unfortunately, by the time you get this letter my thoughts will probably have changed completely; perhaps even my problems will have radically changed. Most importantly, I could be sent to another penal colony before the parole hearing.  So I will limit myself to talking about the present, and there’s quite a lot to say about that. As to what happens later on, we’ll see.

‘I’m still in solitary, but this absolutely doesn’t stop me thinking about how to change the system. Indeed, it’s impossible not to think about that here. The word “system” is itself a cliché, but even the phrase “improve the efficiency of prisons” is wrong, mainly because efficiency is a result. A result can be achieved by a combination of methods: here the method is a statute.  It is, of course, a very tall order to change things (lots of them) at the level of legislation, but I increasingly realise that the method/result is not at all what’s so upsetting.

‘There is a kind of objective reality in Putin’s policies whereby one can go to prison for nothing. Inside the prison one can also be punished for nothing, and prison, like any institution, is usually a mirror of the way things are.

‘When we try to change the state of affairs, be it at the micro (prison) or macro (politics) level, we become involved in a process. This is what gives me no peace: that process is enacted by live people, who are zealous, while at the same time hating their work (not quite the right word, it’s probably more that they’re sick of it and don’t really like it – we have to keep an eye on the censor!), but they nevertheless carry on meticulously contributing to that process.  It’s not days or months, but years and years…and what do they get for it? What are they doing it for? True, they have families and children, but the children carry on their work, they are the heirs, who have automatically absorbed it all. Time goes by and we see those children working zealously, sometimes wilful, at other times giving the commands.  Giving orders is the real thing, which is perhaps why our people are so unwilling to work.

‘When I arrived here and started to write to human rights campaigners, and then to complain, it was of course not because I had failed to understand the system and was relying on their honesty, but because I simply couldn’t do anything else. To behave differently would have meant contributing to something that no one actually likes. To this life of simply doing time. I think that it’s here, in the area of action (decision) that human will is the key.  An action carried out acquires a life of its own; it is the basis of an identity, perhaps not even the basis but something absolutely vital, the essence of what is right, a completely intuitive thing.

‘We women prisoners will get hold of shawls, we’ll work for 200 roubles a month and say nothing, we’ll wash in a dirty barn, 50 of us together hosing ourselves down from an old mayonnaise bucket (a very necessary commodity!), duck and weave, inform on people and play double games.  The same things go on in the world outside, but they’re called by different names there. Do you remember what Mandelstam wrote “We were decent people and have become scum”?  Though now I wonder if there were ever any decent people.’

Maria Alyokhina, one of the members of the controversial Pussy Riot group, is serving a two-year term of imprisonment. Photo: (cc) Demotix/ Anton Belitskiy

Kirilenko:  ‘Is Mandelstam your favourite poet?  What about his poem about Stalin, the one for which he was exiled? Did that poem mean anything to you?  Did it have any bearing on your part in the protests?’

Alyokhina:

‘Of course his poem has a resonance for me.  Once you have become acquainted with the life described in it, it couldn’t be any other way.

‘I am amazed by the people who put up barriers: this is art and that is modern art. Real art is always contemporary, because it’s on that astonishing boundary with time or outside it, while at the same time (☺) breaking down the barrier.  It’s a gesture from Freedom to eternity. An artist understands this, but a person looking at it from an ordinary, everyday point of view sees only the form.

‘One has the impression that 20th century philosophy in its entirety has passed us by, because people seem to have forgotten the values of things, despite the many years of work on conceptualisation put in by the existentialists.  Any action or assistance rendered in everyday life has to be regarded first and foremost as an attempt to come just a little nearer to each other to try and find an opportunity for dialogue.

‘The gloom inspired by the presidential representative [mechanical engineering assembly shop manager] Kholmanskikh or the ‘comrade deputies’ who languish inside the Duma is the result pure and simple of the failure of communication between people in Russia. It seems to me that we, as a society, or, if you like, a nation, have allowed this to happen and we are thus responsible.

‘[The philosopher Merab] Marmardashvili had the wonderful idea that all concepts –“freedom”, “honour” or, for instance, “democracy” – only have any meaning because for centuries people have given them substance with their blood and their bodies, but what are we doing?  One has only to listen to the words on the wind to understand.

‘Putin can spend a thousand hours on the air droning on about “sport-patriotism”.  Everyone will understand – or perhaps not everyone, just us?  In the Moscow pre-trial detention centre I actually went to talk to a priest, not at a service, just in an attempt to establish some kind of a dialogue.  It became apparent that for him there was no difference between the president and the tsar (seriously!) and that our society is held together by resignation (for resignation, read ignorance).  He then suggested I should kiss his hand! It’s both terrible and strange, but this kind of truth is very close to us.

‘I’m all right: I’m not taking tranquillisers any more – I only took them for a week, mainly for insomnia.

‘Everyone has seen our (mine, Katya’s and Nadya’s) faces, but I don’t want us to be just faces. It’s not just that I don’t want it, but that would be worse than anything else. I can only hope that with time the image of the revolutionary woman will be backed up by a serious narrative, rather than just emptiness.’

 

Today the Pussy Riot women in prison are being isolated from society to prevent them stirring up the Russian electorate with their political ideas. But even in Stalinist times the prisoner was entitled to correspondence. And progress doesn’t let the grass grow under its feet: the combination of internet technology and the postal service now means that the prisoner doesn’t need to disappear completely from the public eye.

Masha was a student of journalism at the Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing [former Maxim Gorky Institute, Moscow].  She wrote prose and verse, so I hope she will find writing a blog interesting too.  Since she’s been inside, she’s been trying to defend the rights of all the prisoners in the penal colony, which resulted in the ‘bitches’ (habitual criminals) being sent along to sort her out.

So now she’s in solitary confinement. Perhaps no bad thing. ‘In prison one cannot avoid thoughts about how to change the system.’ She continues to write poetry, but she regards herself as still a student, so her poetry is just for her close friends.

Putin’s India Visit: A Review


Rajorshi Roy, http://www.idsa.in/
January 4, 2013

President Putin paid an official visit to India on 24 December 2012 as part of the 13th Annual India-Russia summit. This was his first visit to New Delhi after assuming the office of President for the third time. President Putin held detailed discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and also met President Pranab Mukherjee. Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the Opposition, and Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of UPA, called on the Russian President. But there was no customary media briefing by the External Affairs Ministry prior to the summit nor was there any joint press conference of the two Heads of States. Putin’s official engagement itself was an extremely short one and got over in less than a day.

Historically, India has shared a multidimensional and strong partnership with the Soviet Union and then with Russia. The year 2012 marks 65 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations. It is Putin who is often referred to as the main architect of the current strategic dialogue because it was under his aegis that the “Declaration of Strategic Partnership between India and the Russian Federation” was signed in the year 2000. It is against this backdrop that one needs to analyze whether Putin’s visit added any real substance and value to the strategic partnership.

Despite the low media attention, 10 bilateral documents were signed during Putin’s visit. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish an Indo-Russia Joint Investment Fund, worth US$ 2 billion, will encourage direct investment and acquisition of assets in critical infrastructural, manufacturing and hydrocarbon extraction sectors. The Joint Venture (JV) to set up a modern industrial facility for the manufacture of Russian helicopters in India will promote the development of a high technology based domestic aerospace industry. The joint collaboration to manufacture pharmaceuticals in Russia along with the IT agreement for developing software, systems integration and emergency response systems can help in producing niche products. The pilot project to assess the feasibility of the Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) in areas such as disaster management, telephony and long distance communications can pave the way for India to have a useful alternative for the American Global Positioning System (GPS). The two contracts for the supply of 71 Mi-17 helicopters and 42 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter jets worth US$ 3.5 to 4 billion were signed will give a boost to India-Russia defence cooperation.

While there are many areas of cooperation between the two countries, yet some irritants continue to trouble the relationship. It is important to highlight some of these, which need to be addressed in order to further cement bilateral ties.

Sistema remains a major irritant and the possibility of Russia seeking recourse to international arbitration, under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPA), cannot be ruled out. The fact that Russia’s titanium Joint Venture in Orissa has also run into rough weather has not helped matters. In a way, Russia has linked Sistema to India’s request for tax concessions in the overvalued and underperforming Imperial Energy Company, which was bought by ONGC Videsh Ltd. (OVL) in one of its biggest foreign acquisitions. Moreover, the imposition of the Nuclear Liability Law on Units 3 and 4 of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant project remains a sticking point. Russia is also peeved at the suggestion that Roerich’s estate near Bangalore be converted into a waste treatment plant.

India’s weapons diversification policy also remains a matter of concern for Russia since India accounts for close to 30 per cent of Russian revenues from arms exports.1 In certain quarters in the Russian establishment, this issue is looked at through the broader framework of India’s perceived drift towards the West. From India’s perspective, the repeated delay in the delivery of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya and reports of technical problems affecting the leased Akula nuclear submarine are issues of concern.

Bilateral trade continues to be the most unsatisfactory part of the Indo-Russian partnership, with total trade standing at less than $ 10 billion. While there has been a 30 per cent increase in trade this year as compared to the previous year,2 the true economic potential remains untapped. In terms of sheer numbers, India’s share in Russia’s total trade is a mere 1.11 per cent, while Russia as India’s trade partner in terms of exports ranks 36th and in terms of imports at 27th.3 In fact, most of the thorny issues in the bilateral partnership remain far from being resolved.

While these irritants need to be addressed, there is a positive side to India-Russia bilateral engagement. Russia’s importance for India lies in the fact that the bilateral relationship has withstood the test of time, with the two countries sharing similar views on most matters of international concern. Russia is an independent and powerful country, a member of the P5 and in many ways can be considered as a pole in international diplomacy. Moreover, it holds the key for India in different multilateral forums such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and in the effort to activate the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), which can solve the problems of ‘connectivity and accessibility’ with the Eurasian region.

In the defence sector, joint development of equipment not only gives India access to high technology but also modernises its armed forces. The fact that no other country is willing to provide such technology, without attaching any pre-conditions, cannot be overlooked.

At a time when there exists fundamental differences between Russia and the West (lack of missile defence guarantees from the US, EU’s Third Energy Package and NATO expansion Eastwards) and apprehensions about China’s growing assertiveness intensify, India as an emerging and powerful country remains one of Russia’s most reliable partners on the global stage.

In terms of opportunities, there is a need to focus on strengthening economic ties. Russia’s entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has opened up substantial economic opportunities for India to explore. Lowering of tariffs and import barriers, greater market accessibility and a general improvement in the investment climate bode well for bilateral trade and can provide an impetus to achieve the trade target of $ 20 billion by 2015. It can also facilitate the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between India and the Customs Union comprising of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

India and Russia can explore common synergies in co-developing more weapons platforms. Sharing of both costs and efficient practices and interaction of best scientific and research minds can augment their military capabilities. This may also be seen within the context of Russia’s own massive military modernisation programme, wherein it has earmarked close to $ 700 billion for modernising up to 70 per cent of its armed forces, involving cutting edge military technology, by 2020.4

There are a lot of opportunities in the Science and Technology (S&T) sector for the two countries to take advantage of. The need is to attempt diffusion of high technology from the military into the civilian sphere in order to build national capabilities. This is where R&D and innovation projects come into the picture. Russia still has some of the world’s best scientific minds and research facilities. The opening of an Indo-Russian Science & Technology Centre, one each in Delhi-NCR and Moscow, to tap this potential is a step in the right direction.

For energy deficient India, the opportunities of cooperation with resource rich Russia is immense. Nuclear energy is a key element of the India-Russia partnership. Moreover, with West Asia in a state of perpetual turmoil, India can look to diversify its energy imports by exploring hydrocarbon investment opportunities in Russia’s Far East, Arctic and Siberian regions. The opening up of the Arctic and advances in technology indicates that Russia’s Arctic energy reserves will be exploited in the near future. Russia’s offer of a stake in the Madagan 2 oil-field along with GAIL’s 20 year, 2.5 million annual tonnes-of LNG deal with Gazprom5 can just be the beginning of a more robust India-Russia energy cooperation. There is also a need for greater people to people interaction, especially between the younger generation who can be made aware of each other’s histories and national capabilities.

On the foreign policy front, both India and Russia share apprehensions about China’s assertiveness, despite significantly improving their bilateral ties with it. Together, they can attempt to engage China in SCO and Russia-India-China trilateral meetings. Moreover, current developments in Afghanistan remain a matter of concern for both India and Russia. They can work together to achieve the similar objective of bringing stability and prosperity to that country. This is where SCO offers a common platform for all the regional countries to work on Afghanistan in the post 2014 American withdrawal scenario. India and Russia can also explore common synergies in their endeavour to create a multi-polar world order and reforming global governance structures.

Putin’s visit to India does show some mixed results. While an effort was made to strengthen the strategic partnership, some difficult issues have proved to be a stumbling block. Nevertheless, Manmohan Singh’s statement about ‘Indo-Russian partnership having a special place in the hearts and minds of Indians’ and his ‘commitment to further strengthen ties’ do hold promise for the future. India and Russia cannot afford to dilute their bilateral relations and they both require each other. Therefore, they need to synergise cooperation in the economic and security arenas in particular. In the present context, the challenge is to reinvigorate the current state of the partnership. As Russian Ambassador Kadakin aptly put it ‘India is Russia’s closest friend’.6 The reverse also holds true.

  1. 1.“Russia and USA to fight for India’s defense billions”, Pravda, July 25, 2012,http://english.pravda.ru/world/asia/25-07-2012/121734-russia_usa_india-0/, Accessed on January 1, 2013.
  2. 2.“Prime Minister’s statement to the media at the 13th India-Russia Annual Summit”, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, December 24, 2012, http://www.mea.gov.in/in-focus-article.htm?20990/Prime+Ministers+stateme…, Accessed on January 1, 2013.
  3. 3.“India, Russia strengthen ties via $4 bn defence deals”, The Economic Times, December 25, 2012,http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-12-25/news/35999304_1_…, Accessed on December 28, 2012.
  4. 4.“Russia to prioritize modern weaponry in new arms acquisition program”, Rianovosti, March 3, 2011,http://en.rian.ru/military_news/20110311/162956743.html, Accessed on January 1, 2013.
  5. 5.“Gazprom and GAIL enter into long-term LNG purchase and sale contract”, Gazprom, October 1, 2012,http://www.gazprom.com/press/news/2012/october/article145120/, Accessed on January 1, 2013.
  6. 6.“We have no other friend closer than India: Kadakin”, Russia and India Report, December 25, 2012,http://indrus.in/articles/2012/12/25/we_have_no_other_friend_closer_than… Accessed on January 1, 2013.

 

2013- A New Year Wishlist # Humor


 

 

My New Year Wish List For 2013

By Satya Sagar

30 December, 2012
Countercurrents.org

Here are some things I fervently wish will happen in the coming year.

1. Scientists find a way to render in an instant every real or wannabe rapist (including scientists) permanently impotent.

2. All policemen are put away in prison and the inmates put in their uniforms to improve the law and order situation.

3. A fisherwoman is appointed Chairperson of the Department of Atomic Energy and the Koodamkulam nuclear reactor is turned into an aquarium.

4. Manmohan and Montek Singh finally become eligible for pension from the United States government and migrate leaving the people of India in peace.

5. Rahul Gandhi finally becomes Prime Minister, of Robert Vadra’s real estate.

6. Atal Behari Vajpayee’s knees finally get better while Narendra Modi’s get worse.

7. The Sheikhs of Saudi Arabia are overthrown by their people after it is found they are aliens with petrol instead of blood in their veins.

8. Mahinda Rajapaksa and his coterie flee Sri Lanka and seek asylum in the Congo and the company of the many genocide artists there.

9. Vladimir Putin tries to impress the Russian people by shooting off alone into space in a rocket, with enough fuel to reach Mars but not return to Earth.

10. Barack Obama undergoes plastic surgery and becomes a white man. Since he is no different from earlier US Presidents why pretend to be Black?

11. China and Japan decide to stop fighting over ownership of a tiny, insignificant islandand instead jointly take over the United States.

12. All those who predicted Apocalypse in December 2012 have their property confiscated and distributed to the poorest of those who didn’t believe their prophecy.

Happy New Year!

Satya Sagar is a writer, journalist and public health worker based in New Delhi. He is also an associate editor at countercurrents.org. He can be reached atsagarnama@gmail.com

 

Protesters plan sea siege at Kudankulam on December 10, Human Rights Day


PTI

  • In this October 8, 2012 photo, fishermen shout slogans as they protest against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project. Activists have planned a similar protest on December 10, 2012.
    APIn this October 8, 2012 photo, fishermen shout slogans as they protest against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project. Activists have planned a similar protest on December 10, 2012.
  • A file photo of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy leader M. Pushparayan.
    The HinduA file photo of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy leader M. Pushparayan.

With the commissioning of the much-delayed Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project expected by this month-end, anti-nuclear activists are planning to lay siege to the facility on December 10 to press for scrapping the project.

“We will lay a siege to the Kudankulam nuclear plant on December 10, Human Rights Day. Our support organisations and some political parties are going to block the roads on that day. We will lay a siege from the seaside,” M. Pushparayan, a leader of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, spearheading the over year-long stir against KNPP, told PTI over phone.

The activists had on October 8 laid a similar siege to the site, pressing their demands.

“Our demands remain the same. Scrap the plant, release those who were arrested and stop the police control on our activists,” he said, adding fishermen and supporters from 10 fishing hamlets would take part in the siege.

Preparatory work is in full swing at Kudankulam, as the commissioning of the plant is expected during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin this month-end.

The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has already granted the plant its permission for the ‘second heat up’ — a process which will put to performance tests various systems of the nuclear reactor.

“We are busy with the preparatory works at the plant. But every step has to be reviewed by AERB. But it is possible to start the operation by the end of this month,” official sources had said.

According to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, units 1 and 2 of the project were initially scheduled to start commercial operation in December 2007 and December 2008 respectively. But, as of October this year, units 1 and 2 have completed 99.63 per cent and 92.66 per cent of physical progress.

Commissioning of the first unit of the Indo-Russian project was originally scheduled for December last year but has been delayed due to protests.

The anti-nuclear activists on Saturday held a meeting at Idinthakarai, the epicentre of the protests for over a year, to plan the siege.

“Both the Centre and state governments are continuously violating the human rights of people from this area. The continuous promulgation of Sec 144 here is against the wishes of the fishermen and locals of this area,” S.P. Udayakumar, PMANE convenor, told reporters at Idinthakarai.

The siege was to highlight the “violations” of rights by the Central and State governments, he said.

Struggle committee members, village committee members and locals participated in the meeting.

 

#Russia -#Censorship f’Internet blacklist law takes effect #FOS #FOE


Children using a computer

Nov 1, 2012  BBC

A law that aims to protect children from harmful internet content by allowing the government to take sites offline has taken effect in Russia.

The authorities are now able to blacklist and force offline certain websites without a trial.

The law was approved by both houses of parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin in July.

Human rights groups have said the legislation might increase censorship in the country.

The law is the amendment to the current Act for Information.

The authorities say the goal is to protect minors from websites featuring sexual abuse of children, offering details about how to commit suicide, encouraging users to take drugs and sites that solicit children for pornography.

If the websites themselves cannot be shut down, internet service providers (ISPs) and web hosting companies can be forced to block access to the offending material.

It will be [an attack on] the freedom of speech on the internet”

Yuri VdovinCitizens’ Watch

Critics have described it another attempt by President Vladimir Putin to exercise control over the population.

“Of course there are websites that should not be accessible to children, but I don’t think it will be limited to that,” Yuri Vdovin, vice-president of Citizens’ Watch, a human rights organisation based in Saint-Petersburg, told the BBC.

“The government will start closing other sites – any democracy-oriented sites are at risk of being taken offline.

“It will be [an attack on] the freedom of speech on the internet.”

Mr Vdovin said that to close a website, the government would simply have to say that its content was “harmful to children”.

“But there are lots of harmful websites out there already, for example, fascist sites – and they could have easily been closed down by now – but no, [the government] doesn’t care, there are no attempts to do so,” he added.

A risk for websites?

Besides NGOs and human rights campaigners, websites including the Russian search engine giant Yandex, social media portal Mail.ru and the Russian-language version of Wikipedia have all protested against the law.

Screengrab of Russian Wikipedia pageThe Russian version of Wikipedia went dark for a day in protest at the law in July

The latter, for instance, took its content offline for a day ahead of the vote in July, claiming the law “could lead to the creation of extra-judicial censorship of the entire internet in Russia, including banning access to Wikipedia in the Russian language”.

Yandex temporarily crossed out the word “everything” in its “everything will be found” logo.

“The way the new law will work depends on the enforcement practice,” said a spokesman.

“Yandex, along with other key Russian market players, is ready to discuss with lawmakers the way it is going to work.”

In July, the Russian social networking site Vkontakte posted messages on users’ homepages warning that the law posed a risk to its future.

However, the country’s telecom minister Nikolai Nikiforov, suggested that such concerns were overblown when he spoke at the NeForum blogging conference this week.

“Internet has always been a free territory,” he said, according to a reportby Russian news agency Tass.

“The government is not aimed at enforcing censorship there. LiveJournal, YouTube and Facebook showcase socially responsible companies.

“That means that they will be blocked only if they refuse to follow Russian laws, which is unlikely, in my opinion.

 

 

Pussy Riot verdict: live report


Pussy Riot Superheroes Freeze Flashmob

Pussy Riot Superheroes Freeze Flashmob (Photo credit: Eyes on Rights)

By Judith Evans (AFP) – 4 hours ago

1424 GMT: Human rights organisation Amnesty International, which has taken up Pussy Riot’s cause, tweets: “2 years prison for a 30 second protest song. Insanity.

“Bitter blow to freedom of expression in Russia.”

It earlier tweeted: “PussyRiot isn’t the only travesty of justice in Russia today, Moscow also banned (Gay) Pride for 100 years.”

1422 GMT: Reports are coming through that Russia’s top court has meanwhile upheld a ban on gay pride marches in Moscow for the next 100 years.

1421 GMT: “There is nothing more absurd than this trial and this sentence,” says opposition journalist and activist Olga Romanova.

1420 GMT: The two-year sentence is to include the five months that the three women have already served, the judge says.

1419 GMT: “It is simply idiocy,” says Russian writer Boris Akunin of the verdict, speaking to the Dozhd television channel from close to the court.

1415 GMT: The live broadcast of the final hearing in Pussy Riot’s trial was cut off just after the three women’s two-year jail sentence was pronounced.

About 400 Pussy Riot supporters are gathered outisde the court, chanting “Shame!” and calling the convinction “fascist”.

1400 GMT: The three young women committed a “serious crime” and “should be punished”, says judge Marina Syrova, sentencing them to two years’ jail at a corrective labour facility for “hooliganism” and “incitement to religious hatred”.

In the courtroom, the verdict was greeted by cries of “Shame!” and “Injustice!”

1357 GMT: The sentence is not quite as severe as requested by the prosecution, which had sought for the three women to be jailed for three years.

But of course it will not be welcome news to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, respectively 22 and 24 and both mothers of young children, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, who looked wan as they stood inside a glass cage to hear the outcome of their trial.

1356 GMT: MOSCOW COURT SENTENCES PUSSY RIOT BAND MEMBERS TO TWO YEARS IN PRISON

1342 GMT: It’s now been over two hours that the judge has been making her statement.

Lawyers in the court are looking at each other quizzically, shrugging and leaning against the walls.

The three members of Pussy Riot had been smiling and laughing earlier but seem to be struggling to appear upbeat now.

Even the judge seems out of breath and keeps sighing as she delivers the judgement, our Moscow bureau reports.

1333 GMT: Garry Kasparov‘s arrest is now confirmed — AFP has a picture of him being hustled into a police van.

1313 GMT: A poll published on the front page of the Vedomosti business daily today shows President Vladimir Putin‘s approval rating slipping to a post-election low of 48 percent — a notable slide from the 60 percent he enjoyed around his May inauguration.

1303 GMT: Forging ahead with her statement, the judge Marina Syrova quotes Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” — sung in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour — as evidence of their guilt.

“The patriarch, he believes in Putin, but he’d better believe in God,” she quotes.

The three accused women seem energised by this and start singing in their glass cage.

1256 GMT: “I knew it would be a guilty verdict. In Russia, if the accused are put in prison before trial, it means a guaranteed verdict of guilty,” human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseeva tells Dozhd television.

She laments that Russian authorities and leaders of the Orthodox church did not think about the “consequences of the verdict for their reputation”.

1250 GMT: “We condemn them. We must have no illusions. But no one is afraid,” tweets one of Pussy Riot’s lawyers, Mark Feiguine, from the courtroom as the judge’s statement continues.

1240 GMT: Protests in support of Pussy Riot are taking place close to Russian embassies in London, Paris, Berlin and Brussels.

Many of the demonstrators have opted for bright balaclavas but at least one, in Berlin, has a particularly lifelike Vladimir Putin mask.

They’re backed by rights organisations including Amnesty International, which has urged supporters to email Russia’s prosecutor general over the case, and freedom of expression group Article 19.

1235 GMT: After more than half an hour of detailed descriptions of the “hateful” and “indecent” acts committed in their February protest performance, the three women look tired and are starting to yawn.

They have complained before of being deprived of food and sleep in detention.

1230 GMT: There is something of a battle of slogans going on among the crowds of protesters outside the court, say AFP’s reporters.

The band’s supporters are yelling “Freedom for Pussy Riot” while the rival group of religious, anti-Pussy Riot protesters scream “Christ is risen”. They seem to be trying to outdo each other for sheer volume.

1221 GMT: The courtroom is absolutely packed with journalists and about another 50 are in the corridors and on the stairs.

An audio transmission of the hearing is now being played throughout the building — including the dining room and toilet — in a move that Russian news agencies say is “unprecedented”.

1215 GMT: The three stare at the ceiling, looking bored, while the judge speaks of a security guard at the cathedral who says he is no longer able to work there because it is “too hard for him” after having been “deeply insulted” by the Pussy Riot performance.

The judge is running through an account of what happened on February 21.

1210 GMT: The judge is summarising the different arguments made in the trial — it sounds as though she could be a while…

1200 GMT: The three accused have “expressed clearly and explicitly their hatred of Christianity,” says the judge.

Meanwhile, a police bus is driving off outside, full of protesters shouting: “Putin will die in prison.”

1155 GMT: Here are the words in which the judge found the three women guilty:

“Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed hooliganism — in other words, a grave violation of public order,” she said.

“The court finds them guilty. The court reached this decision based on testimony of the defendants themselves and other evidence.”

They displayed a “clear disrespect toward society”, she said.

1149 GMT: The judge is expected to sentence the three Pussy Riot members — two of whom have small children — later today. The prosecution is seeking three years of corrective labour.

1145 GMT: The crowd outside has swelled to about 400 Pussy Riot supporters, with police trying to divide demonstrators into two groups.

1143 GMT: About 20 people have been arrested outside the court since the start of the judgement, according to AFP reporters at the scene.

They include former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, now an opposition political figure, reports the Interfax news agency.

1141 GMT: The three accused, who were already smiling, start to laugh as they listen to the judge’s statement.

1135 GMT: Pussy Riot “carefully planned” their February 21 action, the judge adds.

1130 GMT: The trio “expressed no repentance” and “offended the feelings of believers”, says the judge.

1125 GMT: Judge Marina Syrova reads out the judgement, stating that Pussy Riot “committed a serious breach of public order, motivated by religious hatred” and engaged in ” provocative and insulting acts in a religious building”.

The three defendants listen, smiling inside their glass cage.

1123 GMT: All three have been found guilty of hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred.

1118 GMT: PUSSY RIOT BAND MEMBERS GUILTY OF HOOLIGANISM: MOSCOW COURT

1115 GMT: The judge has started delivering the judgement, according to our reporter.

1114 GMT: From the courthouse, our reporters say the judge is late in starting the session while a growing number of Pussy Riot supporters are gathering outside.

About 100 people are now chanting “Freedom for Pussy Riot” outside the court.

1112 GMT: In Ukraine, a topless activist from feminist group Femen used a chainsaw to cut down an Orthodox cross in Kiev’s central square this morning in support of Pussy Riot.

1059 GMT: More on those balaclava-clad statues: the coloured headgear has been spotted on the monument to 18th-century scientist and writer Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov, a few hundred metres from the Kremlin.

A statue of 19th-century poet and dramatist Alexander Pushkin on the Stary Arbat pedestrian street in central Moscow was also wearing a balaclava earlier this morning.

According to Russian news agencies, some passers-by felt this was a desecration of the memory of these great Russians — but others just responded with a smile.

1055 GMT: A reminder of the act which sparked all this: the three put on balaclavas and performed a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral in February, imploring the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out”.

Worshippers present in the cathedral have spoken of their shock at the unexpected performance.

The context: mass protests against the government following legislative elections in 2011 and ahead of Putin’s return to the presidency, following a stint as prime minister, in March.

The Orthodox church made plain its support for Putin but his opponents accused his party of electoral fraud and repression.

1050 GMT: There has been a shift in public opinion in the singers’ favour, according to a poll conducted by the respected private Levada Centre.

The public initially backed a full seven-year sentence applicable to the crime but have since moved towards thinking the state’s treatment of the trio has been too harsh.

In July, 33 percent of respondents said a seven-year jail term was “adequate” — down from 47 percent in April — with many others thinking a shorter sentence was called for.

But only 5 percent believed in July that Pussy Riot should not be punished at all.

1044 GMT: The three accused have made it clear they won’t be asking President Vladimir Putin for a pardon.

“Let him ask you and me for forgiveness instead,” Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta in an interview published to coincide with the verdict.

1038 GMT: Not everyone supports Pussy Riot, however — their opponents have also turned out for the verdict.

A group of Orthodox believers are singing a religious song outside the court, and one of them says: “I want Pussy Riot and all who support them to burn in the fire.”

Members of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) are here to express their solidarity with the church and denounce Pussy Riot.

“Lower your hands before the Russian Orthodox Church,” reads a placard held by one of them.

1034 GMT: Leftist politician Sergei Udaltsov, a key opposition figure who came to show support for Pussy Riot, and two demonstrators — one hooded, the other holding a placard calling for the women’s release — have been arrested near the court.

A group of about ten young women is meanwhile demonstrating outside, with “We are all Pussy Riot — August 17” on the T-shirt of one supporter.

1033 GMT: Dozens of police have been deployed around the court building and metal barricades placed on both sides of the street, preventing any large-scale gathering, says our reporter at the scene.

1030 GMT: The prominent Putin critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny has arrived outside the courthouse, causing a stir among the crowds waiting outside.

1026 GMT: International support for the three Pussy Riot members has been building this week, with rallies from Sydney to New York joining Madonna and Paul McCartney in calling for their release.

More protests are due today, while journalists in Moscow have spotted downtown statues wearing brightly coloured balaclavas, a Pussy Riot trademark.

WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT on the verdict in the trial of three members of Pussy Riot — the Russian protest band whose ridicule of President Vladimir Putin through a “punk prayer” in a church could be punished by three years in a labour camp.

The bandmates, two of them mothers and none older than 30, have been held in pre-trial detention for five months.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich are charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after their performance sparked fury from both Putin supporters and the Russian Orthodox church.

The trio have already asked the faithful to forgive them for causing insult but vigorously defended their view that Russia has made little progress in the 12 years of Putin’s domination from the worst of its totalitarian days.

Judge Marina Syrova is due to begin reading her verdict in the Moscow court at 1100 GMT, under tight security, before taking what could be hours to read through case material ahead of sentencing.

In Defense of Pussy Riot and the Russian Punk Movement


 

AUGUST 09, 2012

Taking Heroic Stands Against Bigotry, Censorship and the Abuse of Power

by CHRIS RANDOLPH

Yesterday CounterPunch printed an ignorant defense of the pending imprisonment of Russian female punk band Pussy Riot by economic columnist Mike Whitney.  I choose the word “ignorant” carefully; Whitney seems genuinely uninformed about the decades-old Russian punk movement and the Russian social conditions they navigate.

Once upon the time the Left was in favor of free speech, feminism, and confrontational protest, and simultaneously suspicious of authoritarian predatory privatizers, misogynist clerics and prudish censors.  From the many articles and comments like Whitney’s in the (putatively) left of center blogosphere, we learn that the American Left is now quite alright with misogynist religion, censorship, rigged trials and the like just as long as the oppressing government is a foreign policy foil of the United States.  This turns so-called progressives into just another group of intellectually dishonest bigots.

The first logically erroneous and morally indefensible position of the Pussy Riot-bashers is the notion that because Vladimir Putin sometimes has decent (and self-interested) foreign policy positions, it should not nor could not be possible to criticize him for any other reason.  Potable water is a resource of which our planet has shortages; wrongness unfortunately is in abundant renewable supply.  It’s entirely possible to be critical of American foreign policy and Russian internal repression at the same time, and none of the champions of the Pussy Riot prosecution have even attempted to explain their impossible and ridiculous implication that the two are mutually exclusive.  It becomes intellectually dishonest on the part of Whitney and others not even to attempt to make any such case.

Putin and the very rich thugs who run Russia – the new 1% of that country – came to power in the climate of privatization pushed by American economic hatchet men such as the vile Larry Summers.  They have been stripping Russia of natural resources through former state-held utilities and other newly private companies and the economic growth this has spurred has been very poorly distributed, by design ending up in the pockets of well-connected oligarchs.  In the first ten years of an independent Russia, a small number of people became rich while the average life expectancy for a male dropped a shocking three years.  This led to the new sardonic Russian aphorism that “Everything they told us about communism was a lie and everything they told us about capitalism was true.”

Just a few months ago Putin backed a harsh austerity regime titled Strategy 2020 for Russia’s poor, indistinguishable in its detail from the sort being imposed in Greece, Spain or here in the United States.  Putin is raising the male retirement pension age by five years for men and eight for women, which, given Russian life expectancy, will effectively rob many poor Russians of any retirement at all.  Putin is also shifting the burden of funding pension funds, which had been 100% the employer’s responsibility, to workers themselves, now planning to get workers to fund up to 15% of those funds from their already meager salaries.

Strategy 2020 also calls for renegotiating the salaries of public workers downward, and for cutting social spending across the board.  While the Pussy Riot critics in the US like to paint Putin as the second coming of Fidel Castro, he is in fact more accurately compared to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Against this backdrop of unfettered crony capitalism, the Russian state has maintained a repressive attitude toward the right to speak and protest, most viciously launching repeated brutal police attacks upon gays and lesbians attempting to hold peaceful marches for basic civil rights.  These marches too have also upset the patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church, a hypocritical church – if this is not a redundant phrase – which has managed to make peace with any human rights-denying power structure in the country for several decades somehow without noting any evident sin.

It was my understanding that the Left was fine with upsetting vicious old men who lie about a special relationship with God in order to oppress women.  Pussy Riot detractors have a responsibility to tell us how and why this has changed.  I don’t believe they will because I don’t believe they can.

The less said about the alleged popularity of Putin the better.  In 1984 Ronald Reagan scored a crushing victory over Walter Mondale among that portion of the population who bothered voting.  I have no recollection of the American Left at that time declaring that criticism of Reagan, his policies, or the religious charlatans who supported his administration therefore became inappropriate or somehow invalid.  We have regressed several decades, if not centuries, if it becomes necessary for anyone to defend the act of criticizing a politician who wins an electoral victory.

The United States badly needs an angry group of young women charging the altar at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and denouncing the many crimes of Barack Obama.  Shame on us as a society for not yet producing the same.

Whitney and others commit lazy, craven and inaccurate libel against Pussy Riot and their millions of supporters within Russia with the claim that they are “useful idiots.”  These critics place themselves in general agreement not only with elders of the church but with Russia’s neo-Nazi skinhead movement, both of whom have denounced Pussy Riot for being misbehaved little girls.

Punk has been a major influence in Russian (and Soviet) counterculture since the early 1980s.  It is not as if these ladies have taken up something new nor something that’s just landed in Moscow last week, courtesy of American intelligence.  This isn’t NSC or CIA money; these people are real artists steeped in Russian counterculture and they want better lives for themselves and their fellow citizens.  The band members have been pulling stunts like this since their teens, their most infamous previous stunts include filming themselves kissing subway police and a media-invitation public orgy.

It would be refreshing if for once Americans, even and especially ones labelled progressives, could imagine that non-Americans have some agency in their own lives and societies.  It would be refreshing if not every action of foreign residents were assumed to be for the benefit of Americans.

I became aware of Russian punk in the late 1980s through issue #59 of the essential American hardcore punk zine MaximumRocknRoll, which focused upon the brave bands of the former Soviet Union, people who faced prison time and police beatings for their songs and haircuts.  By that time the controversial Yegor Letov and his band Grazhdanskaya Oborona (Civil Defense) were major figures and influences in underground arts and politics in Russia, and had been for several years.  I still have a cassette the band sent me me for the princely sum of US$3 when writing to their listed address.

Whitney and others would do well to use the internet to delve into the 30 year indigenous history of Russian punk, not only Grazhdanskaya Oborona but classic bands such as Va-Bank and Naive, the latter having met by chance in the same Soviet tank corps.  Through old guard communism, perestroika and now the oligarchy, Russian bands have taken heroic stands against bigotry, censorship, and abuse of power.  The bravery and intelligence of these groups can not be overstated; Pussy Riot is their rightful heir.

There is one vital question the American cavalier Pussy Riot critic needs to answer.  If they are “useful idiots,” what variety of idiot are you?

Chris Randolph lives in Philly and can be reached through his blog.

 

Pussy Riot trial: Defendants claim ‘torture,’ accuse judge of bias #FOE


Pussy Riot’s lawyers accuse the trial‘s judge of “torturing” the three defendants, who they say have barely had any sleep or food since Monday. As the trial resumes, prosecution witnesses claim severe moral wounds and reluctance to forgive the girls.

The hot July day in a Moscow court started with a short but desperate fight among journalists as the proceedings over the three members of punk band Pussy Riot were relocated to a much smaller room than the one used Monday. Only ten places in the room were left for reporters; the most persistent ones continued their reports via Twitter, since pictures and videography were banned.

The session kicked off with the defense almost immediately attempting to file a motion to change the judge. The court shrugged the request off, as it had “ruled on a similar motion on Monday evening.” Still, three hours later, the defense succeeded.

The core reason behind the motion, Pussy Riot’s lawyers said, was that their clients were being subjected to “torture” because of the way the court proceedings were organized.

The lawyers maintained that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich went to bed late after the previous day’s trial ended at ten in the evening, and were woken up early and hadn’t been fed since. Correspondents tweeting from the courtroom said that by the end of the day, the girls were literally falling asleep in their tiny bullet proof booth.

In response, the defendants were accused of purposely drawing out the trial.

The defendants only prolonged the investigation, claiming that they were held in custody for too long and contesting the terms of their arrest,” said prosecutor Larisa Pavlova, adding that the defense’s appeal was nothing but “playing to the gallery.

The motion failed with the judge, who added that there would be breaks for lunch and the opportunity to have a nap during the trial.

Apologies not accepted

Many in the courtroom rustled through their Bibles, and Tuesday generally went under the refrain “Do you accept our apology?

Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich are accused of “hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred and hostility” for performing a mock prayer “Virgin Mary, banish Putin” in Moscow’s main cathedral in February.

On Monday, the three girls said in a statement that they did not mean to insult any religious feelings and that their motives were purely political. They expressed regret for their “ethical mistake” and said they were sorry for taking their action to the cathedral.

But as the court listened to the nine “victims” – people aggrieved by Pussy Riot’s performance – it appeared none of them really believed the apology was sincere.

Thus, Tatyana Anosova, who collects donations and gives out candles in the cathedral, said: “They did not merely insult me, they spat into my face, spat into the face of my God.

One of them was bowing with her back turned onto the altar – she was showing her bottom to the altar, and it is God who’s there! My soul was torn to pieces.”

The defense posed provocative questions, pressing onto witnesses that forgiveness is a Christian value, and trying to figure out what exactly would constitute a sincere apology. This was transformed into a fierce battle, with the judge occasionally banning questions before they were even fully uttered.

To make a credible apology, the witnesses nevertheless said, “you should not smile,” “you should not deliver it through a statement,” “you should get baptized.” One of them even advised the girls to go to the convent, take vows and beat themselves with shatters.

Many of the witnesses told the court that Pussy Riot’s “diabolic dances in a sacred place” had affected them so much they had to skip work. Still, none of them wanted financial compensation, leaving the punishment “to the court and God.

If the court supports the prosecutors’ charges, Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich will face up to seven years in prison, according to Russia’s Criminal Code.

Claims of forged evidence

The session wrapped up with an unexpected dispute over whether prosecutors had made mistakes with the evidence. One of the books used in the case proved to be 100 pages longer than it was expected to be.

Moreover, the prosecution witnesses’ evidence was suspected of being copy-and-pasted from one and the same document. The defense pointed to paragraphs copied word for word – with the same spelling mistakes.

But the judge said the books often get recompiled and, as for the evidence, if the witnesses do not mind this, then this is not a case for an appeal. Witnesses did not mind.

Still the defense is going to lodge a complaint.

The trial will resume on Wednesday, with interviews of the witnesses for the defense, who include the father of Ekaterina Samutsevich.

Stephen Fry joins Pussy Riot’s supporters

Meanwhile, outside the courtroom Pussy Riot’s supporters brandished balloons with “Free Pussy Riot” emblazoned on them. However, during the course of the day their protests lost momentum and they resorted to lying on the grass waiting for the session to finish.

From the international perspective, British actor and comedian Stephen Fry has appealed to his Twitter followers, calling them to “do everything they could to help Pussy Riot.”

Fry’s message comes on top of similar calls from musicians like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sting urging for the release of the punk rockers.

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