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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 9, 2013

TODAY: Kirill says feminism is dangerous; Femen slams Putin protest response; Duma passes reading of blasphemy bill; Golos latest group to come under ‘foreign agent’ fire; criticism upped over North Korea; Poles protest on anniversary of Kaczynski crash; Nabiullina bank leadership confirmed; Sistema plans India investment.

The head of Russia’s Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, said that feminism is a ‘very dangerous’ phenomenon which ‘proclaim[s] a pseudo-freedom of women’, and that women should focus on their families whilst ‘Man turns his sight outward’.  Femen activist Alexandra Shevchenko, who ran topless at Vladimir Putin in Hanover yesterday, was unimpressed with the President’s response to the protest (he said he had enjoyed its ‘delights), commenting: ‘Putin is a bastard […] his answer was really stupid.’  The Duma has passed the first reading of a ‘contentious’ bill that would significantly toughen penalties for those who commit blasphemy, allowing punishments ranging from $9,600 fines to three years in jail.  Election watchdog Golos is the latest rights group to come under fire, after the Justice Ministry said it had committed an administrative offence by failing to label itself as a ‘foreign agent’, and now faces up to $16,000 in fines, with a possible personal fine of $10,000 for its head.  The case against Golos will be presented in court later today.  The group’s deputy director has rejected the allegations and says it will respond with documents in court showing that it has not received any grantsfrom the moment the law on agents went into effect’.  The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said that such inspections on NGOs in Russia will have a ‘chilling effect’ on their work.

Russia has stepped up its criticism of North Korea in response to ‘Pyongang’s current provocative and bellicose line of conduct’, as analysts consider the possibility of radioactive fallout from a potential attack on South Korea hitting Russian territory.  Around 200 Poles protested in front of the Russian Embassy in Warsaw yesterday, accusing Vladimir Putin of murdering Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a 2010 plane crash.  A United Russia deputy from Leningrad has asked U.S. President Barack Obama to include him on the Magnitsky List, in order to ‘help ‘[the U.S.] bring the situation to the point of absurdity’.  This Bloomberg report alleges that Russian investment banks are squeezing out foreign competition.  Elvira Nabiullina has been confirmed as the new head of the central bank following a Duma vote; Nabiullina pledged to promote economic growth and gradually reduce inflation – ‘a dovish shift […] rather than a radical change’.  Sistema plans to invest $415 million in its Indian telecommunications unit this year; further reports suggest total planned investment of up to $1 billion until 2015.

Top Russian ballerina Natalia Osipova is leaving the Milhailovsky Theatre to take up a position at London’s Royal Ballet.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are confronted by a topless demonstrator during a tour of the Hanover Fair, Hanover Photo: EPA/JOCHEN LUEBKE