Russia Fines Facebook, Twitter Over Banned Content

 

Russia fined Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday for not deleting banned content, adding to a slew of penalties the government has already imposed on foreign tech giants.

Russia has been tightening controls over US-based tech companies and last week accused them of interfering in parliamentary polls due later this month.

A court in Moscow slapped Facebook with five fines on Tuesday totalling 21 million rubles ($288,000), according to an official Telegram channel.

The same court fined Twitter five million rubles.

Facebook has so far been fined 90 million rubles in Russia and Twitter 45 million, the state-run TASS news agency reported.

Russia often takes legal action against internet platforms for not deleting content it labels illegal, such as pornographic material or posts condoning drugs and suicide.

The judicial authorities have also fined Google citing the same offences and for failing to store the data of Russian users on domestic services.

Nearly all Kremlin critics — including allies of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny — have been barred from running in parliamentary elections on 17-19 September.

Russia’s foreign ministry said last week it had summoned the US ambassador in Moscow over US tech giants’ “interference” in the polls.

Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor has blocked dozens of websites linked to Navalny, including a site that instructs Russians how to vote out politicians of the ruling United Russia party.

The media regulator has also urged Google and Apple to remove an app dedicated to Navalny’s “Smart Voting” campaign from their stores.

The “Smart Voting” tactic led the increasingly unpopular United Russia party to lose a number of seats in local elections in 2019.

Putin Hopes Afghanistan’s Taliban Will Be ‘Civilised’

An image grab taken from Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television on August 16, 2021, shows Members of Taliban taking control of the presidential palace in Kabul after Afghanistan’s president flew out of the country.  AL JAZEERA / AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he hopes the Taliban will behave in a “civilised” manner in Afghanistan so the global community can maintain diplomatic ties with Kabul. 

“Russia is not interested in the disintegration of Afghanistan. If this happens, then there will be no one to talk to,” Putin said.

He was speaking at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok.

“The sooner the Taliban will enter the family of civilised people, so to speak, the easier it will be to contact, communicate, and somehow influence and ask questions,” he added.

The longtime Russian leader said the withdrawal of US-led forces from Afghanistan completed last month had ended in “catastrophe”.

“They spent $1.5 trillion on this whole campaign and what is the result? There isn’t any,” Putin said.

READ ALSO: Taliban Close To Forming Government As Women Protest

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the International Military-Technical Forum “Army-2021” held in the Patriot Park, in Kubinka outside Moscow on August 23, 2021. (Photo by Ramil SITDIKOV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

Russia has treaded carefully in its dealings with the militant group that swept to power in Afghanistan this summer.

Russia’s ambassador in Kabul met with representatives of the Taliban several days after the takeover and said Moscow will maintain its embassy in the country.

Last week, Russia started evacuating its citizens and those of several ex-Soviet states as the security situation in the country worsened.

Russia has warned about extremist groups using the political turmoil to enter neighbouring countries as refugees.

Afghanistan shares a border with three ex-Soviet states in Central Asia where Russia holds military bases.

AFP

Man In Russia Walks One Week To Confess To Triple Homicide

(ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES ONLY) A woman with a dog rides a metro in Moscow on August 31, 2021. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)

 

 

A man walked one week to a village to confess to a triple murder during a drunken dispute on a reindeer farm in a forest of Russia’s Far East, investigators said Tuesday.

The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes in Russia, said the man and an acquaintance had started arguing while drinking on the farm in the Khabarovsk region, near the border with China.

The man then shot dead his acquaintance as well as two women, the committee statement said without giving many details.

“Due to the farm’s remote location and the lack of transport options, the man walked for a week to the village of Okhotsk, where he turned himself in to the police and reported that he had committed the crimes,” the statement said.

It added that the man it did not identify has been detained and that investigators have left for the farm that it said was deep in the woods.

Alcoholism has for years been on the wane in Russia thanks in part to anti-drink campaigns and aggressive moves by authorities to control sales.

But deadly incidents during drinking bouts remain common despite the progress.

In 2017, a man killed nine people during a drunken dispute in a village northwest of Moscow.

Putin Gives Cash To Police, Soldiers Ahead Of Polls

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the International Military-Technical Forum “Army-2021” held in the Patriot Park, in Kubinka outside Moscow on August 23, 2021. (Photo by Ramil SITDIKOV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered law enforcement officers and army staff receive $200, as he seeks support for his unpopular United Russia party ahead of parliamentary elections next month.

The cash handouts follow earlier one-time payments for pensioners of $135 ahead of lower house State Duma polls in September, with United Russia’s ratings hit by rising prices coupled with falling wages.

Russia’s legal information portal showed Putin had signed decrees ordering one-time cash payments of 15,000 rubles ($200) for members of the military and law enforcement bodies to be handed out in September for their “social protection”.

The payments come as Russian authorities have struggled to curb soaring inflation, with Putin ordering his government several times since late 2020 to take measures to bring prices under control.

Annual inflation has reached 6.5 percent, according to the central bank, which in June hiked its key interest rate to the same figure — its biggest increase since a currency crisis in 2014.

 

A Russian soldier holds a flag at the International Military-Technical Forum “Army-2021” held in the Patriot Park, Kubinka, near Moscow, on August 23, 2021. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

 

United Russia has seen its ratings fall in recent years after the government passed a controversial pension plan in 2018 and as the country’s economy has stagnated.

The ruling party is polling around 30 percent, according to state-run pollster VTsIOM — a 10-point drop from the last lower house elections in 2016.

It currently controls 75 percent of seats in the State Duma, with the rest held by parties widely seen as doing the Kremlin’s bidding.

 

Russian honour guards look on after the opening ceremony of the International Military-Technical Forum “Army-2021” held in the Patriot Park, Kubinka, near Moscow, on August 23, 2021. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

 

Ahead of the September vote, Russian authorities have pursued a crackdown on the opposition and independent media.

Jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny has seen his organisations declared “extremist” and banned in the country, while all of his top allies have fled.

Meanwhile, leading independent media outlets including the Meduza news website and the Dozhd TV channel have been designated “foreign agents”, while investigative outlet Proekt was declared an “undesirable organisation”.

Nigeria, Russia Sign Military Pact

Defence Minister, Major General Bashir Magashi (Rtd) and Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugaev, during the signing of a military pact in Russia on August 25, 2021.

 

Nigeria and Russia have signed a new military-technical cooperation agreement, a statement by the Nigerian Embassy in Russia said.

The agreement which provides a legal framework for the supply and servicing of military equipment, training of personnel as well as technology transfer, was signed in Russia on Monday.

While the Defence Minister, Major-General Bashir Magashi (rtd.), who led top military officials to Russia, signed on behalf of Nigeria, Dmitry Shugaev, Director of Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation signed on behalf of Russia.

In attendance at the signing were the Nigerian Ambassador, Professor Abdullahi Shehu, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Auwal Gambo, and representatives from the Army and Air Force.

The signing marks the termination of the 20-year similar agreement entered on March 6, 2001.

Shehu explained that the partnership was purely for complementary and mutual benefits.

Nigeria and Russia had both signed military cooperation, trade agreements in 2017 and 2019,

The 2017 deal allows Nigerian servicemen to be trained in Russia’s military educational establishments as both countries agreed to exchange peacekeeping experience on piracy and terrorism.

In the 2019 accord, the cooperation extended from military collaboration to oil, gas, trade, rail development, among others.

The pact was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit. Nigeria is also seeking the advancement of nuclear power.

Putin Says Russia Will Not ‘Meddle’ In Afghanistan

Russia's President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a United Russia ruling party's congress in Moscow on August 24, 2021. Grigory SYSOYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a United Russia ruling party’s congress in Moscow on August 24, 2021. Grigory SYSOYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP

 

President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday  Russia would not interfere in Afghanistan and that Moscow had learned from the Soviet occupation of the country, a week after the Taliban swept back into power.

“We’re not going to meddle in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs or involve our military in a conflict where everyone is against each other,” Putin said at a gathering of officials from the ruling United Russia party.

“The Soviet Union had its own experience in this country. We have learned the lessons we needed,” he said.

READ ALSO: Stop Evacuating Afghan Experts, Taliban Tell US

Moscow invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to support an Afghan communist government in conflict with Muslim guerrilla fighters.

The decade-long war there left up to two million Afghans dead, forced seven million more from their homes and led to the deaths of more than 14,000 Soviet troops.

Putin’s comments came after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said US forces were “pawning off” Afghans fleeing the Taliban to neighbouring Moscow-allied Central Asia.

On a visit to Hungary, Lavrov said the United States was trying to convince “several Central Asian countries” to take in Afghans who previously worked with US forces in the now Taliban-controlled country.

He alleged that Washington tells the countries the Afghans will only be there temporarily.

“They say it’s for a few months because they need time to make them visas,” Lavrov said at a press conference with his Hungarian counterpart in Budapest.

“Afghans who worked with US forces were probably security checked inside out. Why do you need two more months to give these people a visa?” he asked, accusing the United States of a lack of respect for Central Asian nations.

Around 1,500 Afghans have crossed into neighbouring Uzbekistan after the Taliban takeover and are living in tents near the border, according to the Afghan embassy in Tashkent.

Putin complained last week about Western countries trying to place Afghan refugees in Central Asian countries “before obtaining visas to the United States or other countries.”

Putin has warned against an influx of refugees from Afghanistan, saying militants could enter Russia under the guise of seeking asylum.

Several former Soviet republics in Central Asia share a border both with Afghanistan and Russia, he told officials on Sunday.

Moscow has been cautiously optimistic about the new leadership in Kabul.

The Kremlin said Tuesday it was “attentively watching” the “disagreements” on whether to extend an August 31 deadline for the complete withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

 

AFP

Eight Feared Dead As Russia Tourist Helicopter Crashes

This handout photograph taken and released by the Kamchatka regional government, on August 12, 2021, shows Emergency Situations Ministry workers taking part in the rescue operation at the spot where a Mi-8 helicopter crash-landed into Kuril Lake in the Kronotsky nature reserve on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia outside Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Handout / Russian Kamchatka Regional Government / AFP

 

A helicopter carrying 16 tourists and crew on a sightseeing trip in Russia’s far east crashed into a lake on Thursday, leaving eight people including a child feared dead and two others in serious condition.

The Mi-8 helicopter crash-landed into the icy waters of Kuril Lake in the mountainous Kamchatka peninsula in poor visibility and sank, local authorities said.

Staff of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve dispatched boats to the crash site and saved eight people, two of whom are now in intensive care with various injuries. Survivors praised wildlife inspectors for coming to their rescue in a matter of minutes.

“This situation is close to a miracle,” said governor Vladimir Solodov.

The other eight — including the only child on board and the crew commander — were missing and feared dead.

“We don’t have any information about the rest,” the governor’s spokeswoman, Alla Golovan, told AFP.

The wreckage of the helicopter was now lying at a depth of more than 130 metres (420 feet) some 700 metres from the shore, the emergencies ministry said.

Rescuers and divers were dispatched to the scene but they did not have the necessary equipment to begin work at that depth.

Solodov said the authorities turned to the defence ministry, which sent the necessary underwater equipment.

“Robots will be studying the bottom of Kuril Lake at the site of the crash,” the governor said.

READ ALSO: Russian Bus Explosion Kills One, Injures 17

Rescued from icy water 

Recounting the crash and subsequent rescue operation, wildlife inspectors said that the visibility at the lake was no greater than 100 metres, adding that they heard the helicopter but could not see it.

When staff of the reserve heard a loud “boom”, they said they dispatched two motorboats with four inspectors, who reached the scene in about three to four minutes.

“Eight people were on the surface, who we immediately lifted onboard,” inspector Yevgeny Denges said in a statement. The inspectors looked for other survivors but could not find anyone, Denges added.

Citing the survivors, the nature reserve said that the chopper began to sink nose first and the passengers managed to swim up to the surface from a depth of eight to nine metres.

“The water temperature in the lake is no more than 5-6 degrees (Celsius, 41-43 degrees Fahrenheit), it is impossible to remain in it for a long time,” the reserve said.

The tourists were from Russia’s second city Saint Petersburg.

One of the survivors, Viktor Strelkin, said that at the time of the accident he was sleeping and woke up when a stream of water hit him in the face.

“My friend’s son was sitting next to me. He was fastened with a security belt and I did not have time to yank him out because I woke up too late,” Strelkin said in remarks released by authorities.

READ ALSO: Two Teenagers Shot Dead In US Cinema

 ‘Horrible weather conditions’ 

Strelkin, who practices free-diving, managed to unfasten himself, breathe in some air before the cabin filled with water, get out of the aircraft and swim up to the surface.

Another survivor, state TV presenter Nikolai Korzhenevsky, appeared to blame the crew for the accident.

“For some reason we flew there even though we knew about the horrible weather conditions there,” he said.

Kamchatka is a vast peninsula popular with adventure tourists for its abundant wildlife, live volcanoes and black sand beaches.

The aircraft belongs to a firm called Vityaz-Aero, co-owned by local lawmaker Igor Redkin.

Earlier this week, Redkin made headlines in Russia when he admitted to killing a man he mistook for a bear.

Officials said the helicopter had been in operation since 1984 but was in good condition.

The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said it was looking into a potential violation of air safety rules.

The regional prosecutor’s office launched a probe to study “the implementation of the legislation on the provision of tourist services”.

In July, a small plane crashed on the peninsula, killing 19 people when it flew into a cliff.

Airplane crashes are fairly common in Russia due to poor maintenance and lax compliance with safety rules.

AFP

Russian Bus Explosion Kills One, Injures 17


This handout picture taken and released on August 13, 2021 by the Investigative Committee of Russia shows investigators as they work at a site of a bus explosion in the town of Voronezh. Handout / RUSSIAN INVESTIGATIVE COMMITTEE / AFP

 

Two women have died following an explosion on a bus in western Russia that also left 17 people injured, local authorities said on Friday.

The explosion went off overnight Thursday when the bus carrying 35 passengers was at a stop near a shopping centre.

“The number of injured has risen to 19,” the governor of Voronezh region Alexander Gusev said Friday on his Telegram channel.

One woman died shortly after the explosion and another passed away in hospital on Friday morning, according to Gusev.

Several of the wounded remain in serious condition, the governor said.

Video taken by passersby and posted on social media showed that the blast tore the roof off the vehicle and blew out its windows.

READ ALSO: Two Teenagers Shot Dead In US Cinema

The Voronezh branch of the Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said Friday that it had opened a negligence case over the upkeep of the bus.

It added that experts from Moscow have been sent to Voronezh to help establish the circumstances of the explosion.

Voronezh deputy governor Sergei Sokolov had earlier told the Interfax news agency that there was “nothing to indicate that this was a terrorist attack”.

Road accidents are frequent in Russia due to the poor state of road infrastructure and a relaxed attitude towards rules of the road, particularly driving under the influence.

AFP

Thousands March In Support Of Ukraine’s Russia-Backed Church

Orthodox nuns salute priests during the service and religious procession celebrating the 1033rd anniversary of the Christianisation of Kievan Rus in Kiev on July 27, 2021.

 

Ukraine’s Russia-backed Orthodox Church gathered thousands of its followers on Tuesday in a show of force ahead of a historic visit by its rival and leader of the Orthodox world, Patriarch Bartholomew I.

More than 20,000 believers marched through Kiev despite coronavirus restrictions to mark the 1033 anniversary of the Christianisation of Rus, a term referring to eastern Slavic lands in the Middle Ages.

Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I recognised an independent Ukrainian Orthodox church in 2019 after Kiev sought to break religious ties with Russia following a conflict in the country’s east. The move was condemned by Moscow.

The leading authority in Orthodox Christianity is due in Ukraine next month to mark the country’s 30th anniversary of independence.

Analysts said the mass gathering in the Ukrainian capital was meant to be a demonstration of force by the Moscow-loyal branch of the church, which was severely weakened by the creation of the new church.

Kiev-based analyst Volodymyr Fesenko told AFP that the Moscow-backed church wanted to show “that they are the most powerful church in Ukraine”.

He said the church is “struggling for survival” and wanted to send “a signal to Moscow: don’t forget us.”

Moscow controlled part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for more than 300 years, but Bartholomew I’s decision created an independent unified Ukrainian church.

Ukraine’s Russia-aligned church — which still has a large number of parishes in the country — severed its ties with Constantinople, saying it would not take part in establishing a new church.

This move marked a new episode in the political, cultural and social divorce between Kiev and Moscow since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Russia Test Fires Zircon Hypersonic Cruise Missile

Russian map.

 

Russia said Monday it had carried out another successful test of its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile, a new addition to an arsenal of weapons called “invincible” by President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow has in recent years touted the development of futuristic weapons that it hopes will give it the edge in any arms race with the United States at a time of growing tensions with the West.

Footage distributed by the defence ministry showed the Admiral Gorshkov warship launching the cruise missile at a target on the Barents Sea coast in northern Russia.

“The Zircon missile successfully hit a target directly at a range of over 350 kilometres (217 miles). The flight speed reached nearly Mach 7,” the ministry said in a statement.

Putin revealed the development of the new weapon in a state of the nation address in February 2019, saying it could hit targets at sea and on land with a range of 1,000 kilometres and a speed of Mach 9.

The defence ministry has said it plans to equip both warships and submarines with the Zircon.

The missile has undergone several recent tests and in October last year Putin described one of the test firings as a “great event not just in the life of our armed forces but for all of Russia”.

The Pentagon declined to comment on the test itself, but spokesman John Kirby said that “Russia’s new hypersonic missiles are potentially destabilizing and pose significant risks because they are nuclear-capable systems.”

“By contrast, (the) United States is developing solely non-nuclear hypersonic strike capabilities,” he said. “So alongside our NATO allies, we remain committed to deter this while promoting greater stability in the region.”

Russia has boasted of developing several weapons that circumvent existing defence systems, including the Sarmat intercontinental missiles and Burevestnik cruise missiles.

Western experts have linked a deadly blast at a test site in northern Russia in 2019 — which caused a sharp spike in local radiation levels — to the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, revealed by Putin in 2018.

AFP

Russia Jails Jehovah’s Witness Member For Record 8 Years

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

A Russian court Wednesday sentenced two members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to seven and eight years in prison, the US-based religious movement said, accusing Moscow of setting a “new record for cruelty.”

Moscow outlawed the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017, labelling it an extremist organisation, and nearly 60 people are currently either serving prison terms or in detention.

A court in the Far Eastern city of Blagoveshchensk on Wednesday sentenced Dmitry Golik and Alexei Berchuk to seven and eight years in a penal colony respectively for organising the work of an extremist community, the movement said.

“The judge Tatyana Studilko set a new record for cruelty,” it said in a statement.

Berchuk’s sentence was the longest handed down to a Jehovah’s Witness in Russia so far, the group added.

READ ALSOIndia Approves Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine For Emergency Use

RUSSIA-VIRUS-HEALTH
File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation via teleconference at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on May 11, 2020. (Photo by Alexey NIKOLSKY / SPUTNIK / AFP) 

 

In February, a court in the southern Krasnodar region sentenced a 63-year-old member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Alexander Ivshin, to seven and a half years in prison.

The same month a 69-year-old female member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith, Valentina Baranovskaya, was sentenced to two years in prison — a first in the country’s crackdown on the faith.

The religious movement said Russian law enforcement officials had wiretapped Golik’s apartment in 2018.

Although President Vladimir Putin said in 2018 that Jehovah’s Witnesses should not be considered terrorists, Moscow has continued bringing legal action against members.

The Russian Orthodox Church has spoken out against the movement, with one official describing it as a “destructive sect”.

Founded in the United States in the late 19th century, the religious movement has been repeatedly accused of refusing to respect state symbols such as flags.

AFP

Putin Accuses Western Social Media Of Ignoring Russian Law

In this file photo taken on January 31, 2018 Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during a meeting with Russian athletes and team members, who will take part in the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow. Photo by GRIGORY DUKOR / POOL / AFP.

 

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday accused Western social media platforms of ignoring Russian authorities’ requests to delete illegal content, but stressed the country had no plans to block their work.

The Russian government has in recent months been clamping down on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for hosting content supporting jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

“No, we are not planning to block anybody. We are planning to work with them,” Putin said during his annual televised phone-in.

“But there is a problem that they send us packing when they do not follow our requests and our laws,” Putin added.

“If they work in our country, earn good money, they need to obey our laws.”

Kremlin critics accuse the Russian government of using the pretext of protecting minors and fighting extremism to tighten control over the Russian segment of the web and develop a so-called “sovereign internet”.

During protests in support of Navalny in January, authorities accused platforms including YouTube and Twitter of interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs by not deleting posts calling for minors to join the rallies.

File photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the members of the Security Council via teleconference call, in Moscow, Russia on November 6, 2020. Alexey NIKOLSKY / Sputnik / AFP

 

Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor in March said it was slowing down Twitter’s services over its non-compliance with requests to remove content related to child pornography, drug use and calls for minors to commit suicide.

The media regulator also threatened to ban Twitter completely if the prohibited content was not removed.

The watchdog has repeatedly fined Google for failing to remove content and last year fined Twitter and Facebook for refusing to store the personal data of Russian citizens on local servers.

On Wednesday, Roskomnadzor said in a statement that it was drawing up an administrative protocol against Google for failing to provide proof that the data of Russian users has been moved to Russian servers.

The maximum penalty is a fine of six million rubles ($82,000).

Russia has blocked a number of websites that have refused to cooperate with the authorities, such as the Dailymotion video platform and professional social network LinkedIn.

AFP