Belgorod: Six dead in western Russia shooting By BBC News 22 April 2013
A gunman has killed six people - including a 14-year-old girl - in the western Russian city of Belgorod, local officials say. The man shot dead three people inside a hunting shop and two passers-by. Another woman later died in hospital. The attacker - said to be an ex-convict - then fled in a car, and the abandoned vehicle, a BMW, was found later. (read more)
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of the new cabinet team in Moscow’s Kremlin May 21, 2012. President Putin unveiled a government dominated by loyalists on Monday, tightening his grip on the economy and limiting Prime Minister Medvedev’s ability to pursue his reform agenda. REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool
Who Really Runs Russia? How the country's informal power networks undermine formal institutions. Interview with Alena Ledeneva; by Robert Coalson for The Atlantic 02 April 2013
In her 2006 book "How Russia Really Works" and its sequel "Can Russia Modernize?" political scientist Alena Ledeneva of University College London looks at the informal governing system that characterizes Vladimir Putin's Russia. Robert Coalson spoke with Ledeneva about how this method of governance works and what it means for Russia's development. In your books you describe Russia as governed by informal rules you call "sistema." What does this term mean? Alena Ledeneva: I picked on the term "sistema" (meaning "system" in Russian) because it was the third most-used word in Russia when they did a content analysis of elite interviews. It turned out sistema is a very commonly used word. (read more)
Russia searches hundreds of rights groups, NGOs By Max Seddon, AP 21 March 2013
MOSCOW — Russian prosecutors on Thursday searched the offices of Memorial, one of the country's oldest and most respected human rights groups, as part of a new, wide-ranging campaign targeting hundreds of nongovernmental organizations.
Up to 2,000 organizations have already been searched, Pavel Chikov, a member of the presidential human rights council, told The Associated Press, saying the scale of the government campaign was unprecedented.
"It goes full circle across the whole spectrum," Chikov said. "They're trying to find as many violations as possible." (read more)
Local Russian Hijab Ban Puts Muslims in a Squeeze By Ellen Barry, The New York Times 18 March 2013
LEVOPADINSKY, Russia — The girls of the Salikhov family live in frontier country. Their road is dirt, punctuated by puddles and sheep, and their house does not have plumbing or running water. They had been hoping this would be the year the local authorities got around to hooking up natural gas.
Instead, they found themselves at the center of an emerging debate over religion in Russia.
When local school officials in the sparsely populated far east of the Stavropol region announced that girls in hijabs, the Islamic head covering, would no longer be allowed in government schools, the Salikhovs had to make changes. (read more)
A Muslim in his village in the Stavropol region, which banned hijabs in schools. Photo by: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times
Cossack cadets practiced using whips in Stavropol, Russia. Photo by Sergey Ponomarev
The Cossacks Are Back. May the Hills Tremble. By Ellen Barry, New York Times Published: March 16, 2013
STAVROPOL, Russia — Outside this city’s police headquarters on a recent night, a priest in a purple velvet hat and gold stole moved from one man to the next, offering a cross to be kissed and drenching their faces with holy water from a long brush.
And so began another night of law enforcement as Cossacks, the fierce horsemen who once secured the frontier for the Russian empire, marched out to join the police patrolling the city.
In his third term, President Vladimir V. Putin has offered one clear new direction for the country: the development of a conservative, nationalist ideology. Cossacks have emerged as a kind of mascot, with growing financial and political support. (Read More)
How Stalin Created Some of the Post-Soviet World's Worst Ethnic Conflicts By Robert Coalson in The Atlantic 1st March 2013
Eighty-one-year-old Nikolai Khasig was born in Sukhumi in 1932. It was just one year after Soviet dictator Josef Stalin stripped Abkhazia of its short-lived status as a full-fledged republic of the USSR and made it a region of Soviet Georgia.
At the end of 1936, Lavrenty Beria -- at that time the head of the Transcaucasia region and later the sadistic head of Stalin's secret police -- invited the popular Abkhaz leader Nestor Lakoba to dinner at his house in Tbilisi. Lakoba died suddenly -- officially, of a heart attack, but it was widely believed that the former revolutionary comrade of Stalin's had been poisoned.(Read More)
Investigators and securities at a scene of suicide blast in the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt 2010. By Reuters
Russia expands treason law, critics fear crackdown The Associated Press By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV 14 November 2012
MOSCOW —Adding to fears that the Kremlin aims to stifle dissent, Russians now live under a new law expanding the definition of treason so broadly that critics say it could be used to call anyone who bucks the government a traitor.
The law took effect Wednesday, just two days after President Vladimir Putin told his human rights advisory council that he was ready to review it.
His spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies Wednesday that Putin would be willing to review the treason law if its implementation reveals "some problems or aspects restricting rights and freedoms." (read more)
Russian Christians Fear Persecution on Rise as Moscow Church Building Demolished Dave Bohon The New American 12, September 2012
A demolition crew used the cover of night — and police protection — to demolish a Pentecostal church in Moscow September 6, according to a European news source. Vasili Romanyuk, pastor of the Holy Trinity Pentecostal Church in eastern Moscow, told the Oslo-based Forum 18 News Service that an unidentified crew, backed by local police, arrived at the church around midnight, and by morning had disassembled most of the three-story structure. The congregation had apparently been attempting to work with government authorities to secure the legal authority to keep its building at the location, but had been beaten by a court order.
“In human terms, this is barbarism,” Mikhail Odintsov, a Russian human rights spokesman, said. “This is the Soviet approach, to come in the middle of the night with mechanical diggers. This is unacceptable.”
The evangelical congregation was established in 1979 by Serafim Marin, a pastor who had spent nearly 20 years in Soviet labor camps for his Christian faith. The church “gained registration with the Soviet authorities as an autonomous Pentecostal community in the late 1970s,” reported Forum 18. “However, the city authorities forced it out of its first building in 1995. The replacement 'temporary' church — bulldozed [September 6] — was built on the current site in 1995-6.”
A spokesman for the Moscow city government defended the demolition, insisting that “everything was done at the decision of the court.” (read more)
Country at Risk: The Russian Federation
The breakup of the USSR in 1991 left the Russian Federation with ethnic conflicts in many of its Oblasts (provinces.) Many provinces in the North Caucasus area were historically autonomous republics that are now provinces in a federation in which they are ethnic minorities, with governors nominated by Moscow.
Peoples of the Caucasus region face xenophobia within the Russian Federation. The Russian government has acknowledged a growing number of Neo-Nazi youth gangs that violently target dark skinned citizens and religious minorities, mainly Muslims, such as Chechens, Ingush, Bashkirs, and Turkic peoples. A growing “Russia for Russians” nationalist movement is challenging Prime Minister Putin’s United Russia party, driven by forces that would exclude non-Christian, non-Russian peoples.
Prime Minister Putin recently attributed growing ethnic polarization in Russia to the historical development of the Russian Empire. Putin argues that the “ethnicity problem” is a result of imperial Russia being neither a “mono-ethnic state nor a U.S style melting-pot where almost everyone was at one point an immigrant.” (Putin)
People from the North Caucasus and ethnic Africans face serious danger in the larger cities of Russia. 38 Africans were murdered and 377 brutally injured by gangs in 2010. Along with growing racism in the country, the Russian Federation also has had increasing religious intolerance against Muslims and gender discrimination in Muslim provinces. This problem was most violently expressed during the independence wars in Chechnya.
Under the Leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechen rebel turned Russian loyalist, freedom of religion is virtually impossible. Kadyrov has noted that his “republic would be better off if it were ruled by Sharia law”. Against Russian law, Kadyrov has started campaigns to punish those in Chechnya who do not abide by Sharia law. Kadyrov has also been known to openly endorse honor killings and polygamy. In Chechnya, women have been targeted and attacked for not adhering to Muslim traditional dress. Law enforcement has started shooting women with paintball guns who choose to walk in public without a headscarf or with short sleeves.
While Russia continues to violate the civil rights of its own citizens, Russia continues to fund the military regime in Syria. Syria is Russia’s last stronghold in the Arab world. Their naval base in Tartus is the operating base for Russia’s $1.5 billion arms trade in Syria (Trenin). Russia has vetoed any UN Security Council Resolution to halt the killing in Syria.
One of the most important risk factors for genocide is the presence of an exclusionary ideology. Another is past genocide perpetrated with impunity against the victim groups, by Stalin under the USSR. A third is an authoritarian political system. Although progress has been made toward democracy, Russia is still effectively a one-party, authoritarian police state. The growth of populist movements with exclusionary ideologies against non-Russian, Muslim minorities is a sign of growing Polarization.
13 killed, including Islamist warlord, in clashes in Russia’s volatile Caucasus
By Associated Press,
27 January 2012
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Russian officials say an Islamist warlord, seven militants, four officers and one civilian have been killed in three separate incidents in Russia’s violence-plagued southern Caucasus region.
Russia’s Anti-Terrorist Committee spokesman Nikolai Sintsov said the leader of Islamist separatists in the province of Ingushetia was killed in a shootout Friday in the village of Ekazhevo along with two other militants.
Also Friday, police spokesman Vyasheslav Gasanov said four Russian military officers and five militants were killed in the neighboring province of Dagestan.
In another restive Russian province, Kabardino-Balkariya, three masked militants stormed into a school and stabbed a volleyball player in the gym, police spokesman Andrey Ushakov said.
An Islamic insurgency has spread across Russia’s southern Caucasus region since two separatists wars against Russia were fought in Chechnya beginning in the 1990s. The insurgents now launch regular attacks on authorities who they blame for the abductions, torture and extra-judicial killings across the region.