Protests, Whistleblowers, Political Parties and Blasphemy Laws

June 12, 2013
Photos of Imprisoned Protestors/ RIA Novosti, Ilya Pitalev

Here’s a list of some of today’s top news stories:

-Moscow saw a large opposition rally in support of the arrested protestors who are set to go on trial from last year’s “Bolotnaya” protests. Estimates of the crowd’s size vary depending on sources, ranging from 6,000 to 30,000. The protest also saw the attendance of several of the most high profile opposition figures. Including Dmitry Gudkov, Vladimir Ryzhkov, Dmitry Bykov, and Alexei Navalny. RIA Novosti has reported: “Participants of the March Against Executioners retraced the route to the downtown Bolotnaya Square, where 650 people were detained at after a similar rally on May 6, 2012 ended in violence.”

-The Kremlin has announced that it would be willing to consider granting NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum should he request it, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. It seems that the Kremlin does believe in protecting political dissidents and whistleblowers, as long as you aren’t dissenting against the Kremlin or Putin. Reuters reports: “Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stopped short of saying Moscow would accept Edward Snowden, but pro-Kremlin lawmakers spoke out in favor of the idea, tapping into a lingering Cold War rivalry with the United States and a vein of anti-American sentiment Putin has often encouraged.”

-The All-Russia Popular Front (ONF) has officially declared itself a political movement and elected Vladimir Putin as its head. This move seeks to distance Putin from United Russia, now widely-known as the “Party of Crooks and Thieves,” and reestablish his connection with the wider populace. RFE/RL reports: “The ONF was established to broaden the ruling party’s electoral base with labor unions, nongovernmental organizations, business associations, and youth groups during Putin’s 2012 presidential election campaign.”

-The recently passed bill criminalizing offending religious believers’ feelings is set to come into effect in July. Evidently, seems that protecting certain segments of the populace’s rights to religion trump others rights to free speech and protest. The Moscow Times reports: “Publicly expressing clear disrespect to believers, including actions undertaken at places of worship, will be punishable by up to three years in prison, fines of up to 500,000 rubles, and compulsory correctional labor.”

-And while it seems the authorities will do whatever is necessary to protect religious believers’ feelings, the same cannot be said in respect to gay rights. In fact, it is now illegal to “…attract the attention of children towards gay topics…”This leads one to wonder if the government will formulate a list of forbidden “gay topics,” or if the nebulously defined law will be interpreted arbitrarily. The Moscow Times reports: “The legislation will ban the distribution of any information that could attract the attention of children toward gay topics, while an amendment introducing a system of fines for offenders has already been approved.”