In a sign of new limits on Facebook's ability to serve as a platform for political opposition movements, Russian users appear to have been blocked from accessing a page calling for a protest in support of a prominent dissident. Russian Internet regulators said Saturday that they had sent Facebook a "demand" that it block access to a page calling for a demonstration in support of Alexei Navalny, the most prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The page was set up on Friday after prosecutors recommended that Navalny be sent to prison for 10 years in a criminal case that critics have said is purely politically motivated. Within hours, the page drew thousands of people who said they were planning to attend, and as of Saturday evening, the number stood at more than 12,300. But it was no longer visible to users inside Russia. "This content is currently unavailable," the Web site told users who tried to access it from inside the country. A Facebook spokeswoman said the company was investigating the matter.
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Russian citizen Akhlas Akhlaq has been executed in Pakistan together with three other men, all convicted of attempting to assassinate former President Musharraf, Pakistan's Interior Ministry confirmed to the Russian Embassy. Akhlas Akhlaq is one of five men sentenced to death in Pakistan for a failed plot to assassinate Musharraf. Akhlaq, born in the city of Volgograd to a Russian mother and a Pakistani father, was one of the men arrested following a suicide attack on Gen. Musharraf's convoy on 25 December, 2003. In the assassination attempt, two suicide bombers tried to ram explosives-laden vehicles into the president's limousine. Seventeen people died. Akhlaq denied all charges brought against him.
President Barack Obama said on Thursday he had signed into law a new Russian sanctions bill passed by Congress but did not intend to impose further sanctions against Moscow for now. "My administration will continue to work closely with allies and partners in Europe and internationally to respond to developments in Ukraine and will continue to review and calibrate our sanctions to respond to Russia's actions," Obama said in a statement. "We remain prepared to roll back sanctions should Russia take the necessary steps."
Residents of Russia's Chechnya region say the authorities are carrying out Kremlin-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov's orders to destroy the homes of relatives of alleged militants held responsible for attacks. Residents of the village of Yandi said that masked men arrived in more than a dozen vehicles late on December 8 and set several homes on fire. On December 6, after 14 policemen were killed in some of the deadliest fighting in the Chechen capital in years, Kadyrov announced that relatives of militants involved in killings would be evicted from Chechnya and their homes "razed down to the basement." Residents said not all the homes torched in Yandi belonged to families of militants believed to have been involved in the Grozny attack. Amnesty International said that punishing suspects' relatives is a "flagrant violation of international law" and that Russia must hold an impartial investigation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused what he called "enemies of yesterday" of trying to bring a new Iron Curtain down around Russia. As it moves into recession, he blames the West. On the other hand, he gave himself high marks for annexing Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and said his country would rise to any challenge. He delivered his annual state-of-the-nation speech in St. George Hall in the Kremlin. Putin said: "The historical reunification of Crimea and Sebastopol with Russia finally happened. This has a special importance for our people, our country, because our people live in Crimea, and the territory is strategically important. It is a sacred source of our multi-faced but unified Russian nation." He insisted that Crimea is as important to Russians as Temple Mount in Jerusalem is to Islam and Judaism.
Russia has fallen nine places for the past year to 136th out of 175 countries in Transparency International's 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), a ranking of public sector corruption, made available on Wednesday. The CPI, released annually, scores and ranks the world's countries and territories according to the perceived corruptness of their public sectors. The CPI is a composite index based on a "combination of surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions," according to an information sheet provided by Transparency International. Each country in the index is assigned both a score and a ranking. The score falls on a scale ranging from zero to 100 - zero being the worst in terms of the perception of corruption, and 100 being the best. Russia has maintained the score of 27 which it shares with with Nigeria, Lebanon, Kyrgyzstan, Iran and Cameroon.
The EU will introduce sanctions against 13 individuals and 5 legal entities representing self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics /DPR, LPR/, TASS reports citing a diplomatic source in Europe. A formal decision on expanding the black list will be made by the EU Council this Friday. "Names will be announced in the official gazette this Saturday November 29. The sanctions will be enforced the same day," the source added. On November 17, foreign ministers of the EU countries instructed the European Commission and the EU foreign policy service to develop proposals by the end of the month on including leaders of the self-proclaimed republics in the black list.
The Dzerzhinsky District Court of Kharkov held the first hearing of a criminal case to try Kachanovskaya Prison personnel. Kachanovskaya is where former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, served her term between 2011 and 2014, Ukrinform reports Friday. The agency reports that former chief of Kachanosvkaya Prison, Ihor Kolpashchikov, and two staff members were charged with abuse of power and fraud. Investigators allege that they drafted reports on Tymoshenko's supposed refusal to attend a court hearing - specifically, a hearing of witnesses in the 1996 murder of businessman and member of Verkhovna Rada, Evhen Shcherban. The current indictment states that the reports were fabricated. On October 11, 2011, the Pechyorsky District Court sentenced Tymoshenko to seven years for abuse of authority in signing gas contract between Naftogaz of Ukraine and Gazprom in 2009. On December 8, 2011, the Shevchenkovsky District Court of Kiev issued an arrest warrant for Tymoshenko in relation to her activity as a chief of United Energy Systems of Ukraine. On February 22, 2014, the Ukrainian Parliament decriminalized the articles of the criminal code under which Tymoshenko was convicted and the ex-prime minister was released the same day.
On Friday, Russia's High Qualification Board of Judges was again unable to hear a request from Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin to initiate legal proceedings against Moscow Commercial Court Judge Irina Baranova, RAPSI reports from the courtroom. The qualification board postponed the hearing explaining that it needs to question Baranova first. Baranova, who is suspected of assisting corporate raiders, did not attend the board meeting. Bastrykin filed a request to prosecute Baranova in January 2014. In January, the Federal Security Service reported that Baranova left Russia on December 21, 2013, allegedly for a vacation in Miami, Florida. Investigators have no information on whether she has returned to Russia.
The Oktyabrsky District Court of Ufa ruled on Friday that the translations of lyrics by Cannibal Corpse, a US metal band, be banned from distribution in Russia due to violent content, RIA Novosti reports citing Senior Aide to Prosecutor of Bashkortostan, Guzel Masagutova. The Prosecutor's Office of Bashkortostan filed a suit with the court following complaints from Ufa residents. A suit was filed to ban the translation of the lyrics and illustrations on the band's albums from distribution in Russia. The claimant complained that lyrics by the band Cannibal Corpse could damage the mental health of children because they contain descriptions of violence, the physical and mental abuse of people and animals, murder and suicide - all accompanied by illustrations. The Ufa court agreed with that the Prosecutor's Office's claim that the Cannibal Corpse lyrics available in the public domain could cause damage to minors and upheld the claim.