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Russia

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Index
  1. Russia Main Page
  2. The Bolshevik Revolution
  3. Emergence of the USSR
  4. The Berlin Blockade and the Cold War
  5. Dissolution of the USSR
  6. Financial Crisis and Political Upheaval
  7. Putin's Rise to Power
  8. Attempts at Chechen Independence Fail
  9. A Shocking Hostage Situation, a Move Towards Climate Change, and Radiation Poison
  10. Crumbling Relations with the United States and Conflict with Georgia
  11. String of Suicide Bombs Sparks Fear of a Crackdown by Putin
  12. Protests and Unrest Surrounds the 2012 Presidential Election
  13. Russia Blocks U.N. Action in Syria
  14. New Laws Passed against Political Activists, Pussy Riot Arrested
  15. Russia enters the World Trade Organization, Won't Renew Weapons Pact with United States
  16. American Fugitive Seeks Asylum in Russia
  17. Russia Assists with Chemical Weapons Investigation in Syria
  18. International Protests and Multiple Bombings Threaten 2014 Olympics
  19. Russia Annexes Crimea, Experiences Economic Fallout Due to Sanctions
  20. Putin Signs Gas Accord with China, Begins Eurasian Union as Ukraine Fallout Continues
New Laws Passed against Political Activists, Pussy Riot Arrested

During the summer of 2012, the government began cracking down against political activists in new ways. Two new laws were signed by Putin. One law gave the government the power to shut down websites that have content which could be harmful to children. The other law increased penalties for libel. In July 2012, the Investigative Committee began criminal cases against Aleksei Navalny, an anticorruption blogger, and Gennady Gudkov, a lawmaker. Navalny, a leader of the anti-Putin protest movement which began in Dec. 2011, was found guilty of embezzlement and faced five to 10 years in prison.

Also in July 2012, three members of a Russian punk band called Pussy Riot were arrested and put on trial for hooliganism after they performed an anti-Putin song on the altar of Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral. During one of the most high-profile trials that Russia's had in years, the band members said their demonstration was political, not an attack on Orthodox Christians. The three female band members could face seven years in prison if convicted. In early Aug. 2012, during a sold-out concert in Moscow, Madonna voiced her support for the three women. "I know there are many sides to every story, and I mean no disrespect to the church or the government. But I think that these three girls — Masha, Katya, Nadya — I think they have done something courageous. I think they have paid the price for this act. And I pray for their freedom."

Masha, Katya, and Nadya, the three members of Pussy Riot, were convicted of hooliganism on Aug. 17, 2012, and sentenced to two years in a penal colony. At the sentencing, activists outside of the courthouse began to protest, chanting "Free Pussy Riot!" Police arrested dozens of protestors. Rallies supporting the three women were held in cities around the world, including London, New York and Paris. Immediately following the verdict, the United States, other governments, and human rights groups criticized the decision, calling the sentence severe. The women's lawyers said they would appeal the decision.

On Oct. 10, 2012, a court in Moscow freed one of the three members of Pussy Riot, the punk band convicted of hooliganism for protesting in a cathedral last February. Yekaterina Samutsevich was released after judges accepted her new lawyer's argument that she played less of a role in the cathedral protest performance that landed her in jail with her band mates. The latest ruling maintained the guilty verdict against all three women on charges of hooliganism, but the judges ordered Samutsevich's release on the grounds that she had less of a role in the incident. The case continued to draw international attention and condemnation of Russia for suppression of political speech and beliefs.

President Vladimir Putin announced that the two members of Pussy Riot who were still in jail would be released under an amnesty in Dec. 2013. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, age 24, and Maria Alyokhina, age 25, have been serving a two-year jail sentence and would be released, in part, because they are both mothers to young children. After announcing their release, Putin added, "I was not sorry that they ended up behind bars. I was sorry that they were engaged in such disgraceful behavior, which in my view was degrading to the dignity of women."

On Oct. 19, 2012, Leonid Razvozzhayev, a Russian opposition leader, disappeared from Kiev, Ukraine. According to an interview with The New Times magazine, published on October 24, he was held for three days by men threatening to kill his children if he did not sign a confession. Razvozzhayev was in Kiev seeking advice on political asylum from the United Nations office there. He was held in a house and not allowed to eat or drink for three days. Once he signed the confession, his kidnappers turned him over to authorities in Moscow.

Russian authorities have charged Razvozzhayev and other opposition figures with plotting riots and seeking aid from Georgia in order to overthrow Putin's government. Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for Russian federal investigators, said that Razvozzhayev turned himself in to the authorities in Moscow and, at the time, he did not speak of any "torture, abduction or any other unlawful actions." Markin said investigators would look into the claim of a forced signed confession.

Next: Russia enters the World Trade Organization, Won't Renew Weapons Pact with United States
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