Epistles, S-300s, Warrants and Gay Rights

May 28, 2013
Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad in Tehran/Source: uk.reuters.com

Here are some of the biggest Russia-focused stories from the past week:

– In the wake of the Ryan Fogle spy debacle, and the endless debate on Syria, Obama and Putin have reverted to the 19th-century method of writing courier-delivered letters to each other instead of picking up a phone to discuss bilateral relations. According to Russia Beyond the Headlines, Russian Security Council Head Nikolai Patrushev brought a letter Thursday to U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon from Putin to Obama, which was a reply from an earlier missive Obama had Donlion pass on to Putin during an earlier trip to Moscow. The Russian embassy in Washington, D.C. issued a statement: “The negotiations with Donilon passed in a businesslike and friendly atmosphere and were aimed at preparing further contacts on the top level.”

– With the first posthumous trial in Russian history underway against the late Sergei Magnitsky, the Kremlin has continued its pursuit of fund manager William Browder. It had sought to use INTERPOL to issue an international arrest warrant for the Hermitage Capital chief who regularly travels throughout Europe to petition for continental counterpart legislation to the U.S. Magnitsky Act. Luckily for Browder, INTERPOL has seen the obvious political agenda behind the warrant and denied Russia’s request. The Moscow Times reported that INTERPOL “concluded that the case was of a predominantly political nature.”

– Despite the call for renewed peace talks on Syria, the continued refusal by Russia to stop its sale of its S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Damascus has dampened an already slender hope that the two-and-half year conflict could be diplomatically resolved. Reuters is reporting today that Russia is continuing with the sale of the sophisticated air defense systems, which are designed to ward off foreign intervention (including Israeli raids on Iranian weapons intended for Lebanese Hezbollah). Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said: “We think this delivery is a stabilizing factor and that such steps in many ways restrain some hotheads … from exploring scenarios in which this conflict could be given an international character with participation of outside forces, to whom this idea is not foreign.”

– In the aftermath of the brutal killing of a 23 year-old gay man in the city of Vologograd, and a recent opinion poll that shows three quarters of the population supports suppressing public displays of homosexuality, gay rights in Russia has again become a hot-button issue. Russian police recently cracked down on a gay pride parade celebrating 20 years since homosexuality was decriminalized. As reported by the Guardian, over 30 people were arrested at the rally on Saturday, “I don’t understand why police are hauling people away,” said Gleb, an activist who was soon detained. “We’re only asking for equal rights, the same as for everyone else.”