Just “for practice,” the Russian media, backed by Russian-language social media, has been lying for years about how Russian children and parents are treated by child welfare services in Finland. In most of these instances, their sole witness has been Finnish “human rights activist” Johan Bäckman, who has fed the baseless horror stories to the Russian media, many of them “reputable” outlets (e.g., Echo of Moscow).
The Russian media has published and broadcast them as was with absolutely no corroboration and without making any attempt to double-check Bäckman’s “facts.”
From time to time, to make it seem as if there really were something going on in nefarious Finland, the absurd Russian federal children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov (who played the judge on the first Russian court show) has fulminated against the Finnish authorities or made some demands or gone on a “fact-finding mission” there.
A few years ago, when Bäckman pushed too many people’s buttons at the same time, there was a brief period when a couple of Russian media outlets (including, unbelievably, Izvestia) ran pieces exposing Bäckman as a dangerous fraud. Then “polite people” brought Crimea back into the fold, and all was forgotten and forgiven when it came to Bäckman.
We now see that this was all a dry run for the full-scale Russian media attack now being waged on Germany in the name of Islamophobia and racism.
What puzzles me is why both the generals and the foot soldiers think there is not going to be any blowback from their hateful little escapade. Do they really think everyone but them is such a gullible pushover? ||| TRR, February 2, 2016
Alexander Ovechkin’s Movement Could Be Part of Putin’s Election Campaign
Svetlana Bocharova Vedomosti
November 9, 2017
Putin Team, a movement launched last week by Washington Capitals hockey star Alexander Ovechkin, is meant to unite celebrities and could be part of the campaign of Vladimir Putin, who is expected to announce he will run for re-election in 2018. Vedomosti was given this information by a source close to the Kremlin, and it was corroborated by another source. The idea for the movement was not generated by the Kremlin, but nor did Ovechkin come up with the idea himself, our two sources claimed. According to them, the idea was conceived by IMA Consulting (a subsidiary of IMA Group). The Kremlin signed off on the idea after it was launched, one of our sources added.
Ovechkin announced he was establishing Putin Team on November 2.
“I am sure there are many of us who support Vladimir Putin. So let’s unite and show everyone a strong and united Russia!” Ovechkin wrote on Instagram, adding he had never hidden his attitude to the president and had always openly supported him.
Ovechkin’s appeal was supported by NHL Hall of Fame inductee Pavel Bure, Ilya Kovalchuk, a player with the Petersburg side SKA, and the governors of Tula and Moscow regions, Alexei Dyumin (Putin’s ex-aide and a Night Hockey League player) and Andrei Vorobyov. Ovechkin’s announcement has not been followed by any formal actions or explanations. Ovechkin’s agent Gleb Chistyakov told Vedomosti he had nothing to say about the movement for the time being, and he also refused to comment on who had come up with the idea.
When asked by Vedomosti whether it was IMA who had come up with the idea for Putin Team, Vartan Sarkisov, general director of IMA Consulting, said, “It’s not true.”
In August, IMA Consulting won a tender from the Central Election Commission to develop the concept for a campaign raising awareness of the presidential election. IMA will be one of the key players in everything the Kremlin has planned for the election, we were told by our source close to the presidential administration, and Ovechkin’s movement could become part of Putin’s campaign. The idea behind the undertaking is that “celebrities support Putin,” our other source close to the Kremlin told us.
Russian has been no stranger to such organizations. Thus, in December 2007, as Putin’s second term as president came to a close, the Movement for Putin emerged, advocating Putin retain power as the “national leader.” In 2009, a co-leader of For Putin, Pavel Astakhov, was named the national children’s rights ombudsman.
Ovechkin’s movement would mainly be useful to Kremlin as a means of shaking the western stereotype that Russia’s finest people [sic] do not support Putin, but back the opposition, political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko said. According to Minchenko, the emergence in Putin’s camp of a figure popular in the west, such as Ovechkin [sic], would increase the president’s legitimacy in the eyes of the west [sic]. Minchenko has seen with his own eyes how Ovechkin is regarded in Washington, DC, where he has a “quite large fan club.” In Russia, however, the movement will be considerably less effective and will not significantly increase the number of votes Putin wins in the election, argues Minchenko.
Such movements are always needed on the international stage, and not just in the run-up to elections, argues pro-Kremlin political scientist Andrei Kolyadin.
“A person who has found the courage to speak up for a national leader whom some American politicians regard as an incarnation of pure evil, and defend the interests of a country not liked in the US, can cause a wave of similar actions by people forced to hide their respect for Russia.”
The movement is also capable of producing extra votes for Putin in Russia, argues Kolyadin. Very many people regard Ovechkin as an opinion leader [sic], and finding opinion leaders who sincerely support you requires great talent on the part of spin doctors running any politician’s election campaign.
1. Everyone shall have the right to a home. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of his or her home.
2. The bodies of state authority and local self-government shall encourage housing construction and create conditions for exercising the right to a home.
3. Low-income people and other persons mentioned in law and in need of a home shall receive it gratis or for reasonable payment from the state, municipal and other housing stocks according to the norms fixed by law.
Head of Federal Bailiffs Service Assesses Legality of Justice Ministry Proposal to Confiscate Debtors’ Dwellings
Vladislav Gordeyev RBC
January 10, 2017
A draft bill, proposed by the Justice Ministry, that would in some cases permit the confiscation of a debtor’s only dwelling, does not violate Russians’ constitutional right to housing, said Arthur Parfenchikov, director of the Federal Bailiffs Service (FSSP).
“The proposed legislation stipulates guaranteed housing during forfeitures, but within the established norms,” he wrote on his Twitter page.
He tweeted in response to remarks made by ex-children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, who had written, “The Russian Constitution guarantees everyone’s right to housing. There is nothing in it about the obligation to pay debts, only taxes.”
In addition, Astakov called the draft bill “quite controversial,” since it could “make people homeless who don’t have any means as it is.”
Parfenchikov also noted the law was being adopted “in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” and “the Justice Ministry [was] implementing the mandate of the Constitutional Court, which ordered [it] to establish this procedure several years ago.”
As published on the Federal Portal for Draft Regulatory Acts, the draft bill stipulates a debtor’s only dwelling can be sold if two conditions are met. First, if its floor area is twice the size of the legally approved norm for the debtor and his family. Second, if its value is twice the value of the dwelling due to him by law.
Moreover, the debtor must have no money and other property that could be sold to repay his debts.
According to the Housing Code, the legal norm for the provision of living space is set individually by the regions. In Moscow, for example, the current norm is 18 square meters per person.
“At the present time, the rights of creditors (claimants) are violated, since there is a ban on the forfeiture of residences (or their parts) if they are the only suitable dwellings available to debtors and members of their family living with them in the residences owned by them. In addition, a difficult situation has arisen around debts for child support payments, and the rights of minors to living quarters are also violated when their parents divorce,” it says in the one of the documents accompanying the draft bill, as posted on the Federal Portal for Regulatory Draft Acts.
Translated by the Russian Reader
Since the otherwise odious Pavel Astakhovhas suddenly reverted to his previous incarnation as a social liberal and passionate defender of human rights, I would like to dedicate this song to him. TRR
Every day more than 200 new cases of HIV are registered in Russia, and by the end of 2015 the number of HIV-positive Russians will exceed 1 million, according to news reports released on Monday, World AIDS Day.
Russia’s health and safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor told Interfax that “860,000 HIV-positive people are currently registered in Russia, and every year this figure increases by 10 percent.”
In a speech to the State Duma on Monday, Anna Popova, head of Russia’s health and consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, said that 75 percent of males who became infected with the virus this year had become HIV-positive by taking drugs. This leads to severe damage to the country’s economy, as these men are usually in their most productive years, she said.
Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal AIDS Center, said that contrary to popular belief in Russia, only 1.1 percent of cases are registered among gay men. The rest are “heterosexuals who lead normal sex lives,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Many regions do not have enough money to provide sufficient medication for HIV-positive people, Pokrovsky said.
“The number of HIV-positive people is growing very quickly. In three years it has increased by 200,000, while the amount of money allocated from the budget to deal with the problem has not changed,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Russia has come under international criticism for its policy on HIV, such as prohibiting opiate-replacement therapy using drugs such as methadone. The practice has been shown to reduce needle sharing among drug addicts, thus reducing the HIV infection rate. The government has also been reluctant to embrace needle-exchange programs, another weapon proven to be effective in combatting the disease.
Critics also argue that more preventative measures need to be taken, starting with increased sex education in schools.
“I am often asked: When will you have sex education? I say: Never,” Astakhov snapped at a meeting with Russian parents, Interfax news agency reported.
Astakhov’s statement followed his complaint about an upcoming meeting with his European counterparts in Brussels next week.
The ombudsman said his European colleagues have branded him an “ideological opponent and enemy” because of his uncompromising drive to prevent children from learning about sex.
But he would still cooperate with fellow ombudsmen, said Astakhov, a former celebrity lawyer known for advocating a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
Astakhov gave his own recipe for teaching teenagers about sex last year, when he said Russian literature offered a goldmine of information on the subject.
“Children need to read more, it has everything on love and relationship of the sexes,” Astakhov told Rossia-24 television.
The staples of the literary curriculum in Russian schools, such as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, are notably short on advice on contraception or how to deal with budding homosexuality or other non-heterosexual orientations.
A good thing, according to Astakhov, who said “school should raise children to be chaste and understand family values.”
While Russia may be more notorious for its homegrown cheap sex labor, these days inbound sexual traffic in fact far exceeds the exports, thanks to Russia’s previously stable economy, which ensures a steady demand for prostitutes, experts said.
The country is now at once a destination, origin and transit country for sex slaves — part of a 1-million-strong slave force that exists in Russia, according to a recent report released ahead of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on Dec. 2.
But the government and the legislature both ignore the problem for fear that it would damage Russia’s reputation, even though sex trafficking exists everywhere, said activist Boris Panteleyev.
“Admitting the existence of slavery, in the eyes of officials, would harm our prestige,” said Panteleyev, head of the Man & Law NGO and a former prosecutor who has been combatting human trafficking since the 1990s.
As a result, sex slaves in Russia struggle even if freed, and have to rely on NGOs, clerics or police generosity in the absence of state rehab and protection programs.
“Russian criminal legislation is insufficient, and existing laws say nothing about help for victims,” said Yelena Timofeyeva of the SafeHouse charity.
Russia ranked as the country with the sixth-biggest slave population in the world — 1 million people — in a fresh annual report by the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation released last week.
The report put the total number of slaves among 167 countries of the world at 35 million. India was the runaway leader with 14 million slaves, while Mauritania had the highest percentage of slave population (4 percent).
Forget condoms, contraceptive pills and chlamydia, and turn instead to Chekhov, Tolstoy and Gogol. That is the message from Russia’s children’s ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, who has opposed the introduction of sex education to schools and says young Russians can learn everything they need to know about love and sex from Russian literature.
“I am against any kind of sex education among children,” said Astakhov in a television interview. “It is unacceptable to allow things that could corrupt children.”
Despite having one of the world’s fastest-growing HIV epidemics, Russia has no sex education in schools, owing to the influence of the Russian Orthodox church and conservative social forces.
Astakhov, a powerful official who reports directly to the president, Vladimir Putin, now wants legislation to ensure sex education does not sneak on to the curriculum. Instead, he suggests reading the classics.
“The best sex education that exists is Russian literature,” said Astakhov. “In fact, literature in general. Everything is there, about love and about relationships between sexes. Schools should raise children chastely and with an understanding of family values.”
Journalists, commentators and sociologists inclined to label the deliberate silliness described above as a “moral panic,” proof of a newly emergent dominance of “conservative values” or a “turn to conservatism” in Russian society should ponder the dizzying, contradictory career of the fellow doing the heavy lifting in this case, children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov. Here are some highlights (all of them drawn and lightly adapted from the Wikipedia biography):
He graduated from the law faculty of the Dzerzhinsky KGB School in Moscow in 1991.
In 2002 he received a Master of Laws from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
Astakhov surprised the court hearing the case [of alleged US spy Edmond Pope] by delivering his closing arguments in verse. He read out a 12-page lyric he had composed in iambic pentameters, urging the court to acquit Pope. The court was not impressed by Astakhov’s poetry skills and Pope received a 20-year jail sentence; he was later pardoned by Vladimir Putin and was flown back to US.
In December 2003, Astakhov sent a letter to the US Embassy in Moscow, advising President George W. Bush and Ambassador Alexander Vershbow that he would like to represent Saddam Hussein.
In 2003 Astakhov became the host of Chas Suda (Hour of Judgment) which aired on the REN TV channel. It was the first Russian judge show. Unlike Judge Judy in the USA, both parties in these trials are played by actors, with Astakhov acting as judge. The show became enormously popular and Astakhov set up a production company, Pravo TV, to make other programs with a legal theme.
In the early days of Vladimir Putin, Astakhov was a trenchant critic of the Russian authorities, accusing them of political persecution of his clients, Vladimir Gusinsky and Edmond Pope. He spoke of a “total disregard for human rights” and claimed that the prosecutors “blindly execute the wishes of the authorities”. Later Astakhov made a 180-degree turn in his political affiliation and became one of the most prominent supporters of the top leadership of Russia. In November 2007 he founded and headed the national movement Za Putina (For Putin). At the founding conference, Astakhov described the aim of the new movement as follows: “Don’t we choose a master in the house? Well, here we are proposing to find a master for the country.”
You can imagine that if the wind suddenly turns in another direction, we’ll quickly see yet another manifestation of the malleable Mister Astakhov. And he won’t be and hasn’t been alone, within the Russian political, financial and cultural elites, in displaying this capacity for tacking with the wind, wherever it blows.
The other aspect of this elite shapeshifting worth noting is that it almost always involves what surely must be deliberate parody or mockery of real conservatism (or populism, or democratic liberalism, or whatever). Here, the underlying message is that only a fool would cling stubbornly to a particular set of values, to definite principles.
What does all this have to do with conservatism? Calling it that dignifies the highway robbery perpetuated against an entire country over the past twenty-two years by the ombudsman and his kind.