RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – July 13, 2010

front.jpgTODAY: Russia ends ‘Forbidden Art’ trial with conviction and fine for curators; Voina protest at trial with insect infestation; challenge for extreme orthodox T-shirts; Russia failing Council of Europe on corruption; Nemtsov loses Luzhkov case. Further analysis of motives in speedy spy swap; a triumph for bilateral relations or a cover up? 12th spy suspect held in US; alleged Black Widow terrorist cell broken up

Yury Samodurov, former curator of the Sakharov Museum, and Andrei Yerofeyev, former head of the contemporary art department at the Tretyakov Gallery, have been convicted of inciting religious hatred for their 2007Forbidden Art’ exhibition and fined $6500 and $4900 respectively.  Mr. Samodurov has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.  ‘Perhaps the Church (and the state) has realised that the fallout from jailing Mr Samodurov and Mr Yerofeev would be more damaging than the exhibition itself.  But the verdict brings a sense of relief, rather than satisfaction‘, argues the Economist.   ‘Notably, of the 134 witnesses for the prosecution, only three had actually visited the exhibit’, says the Other Russia of the curators’ virulently orthodox opponents. The guilty verdict has been reviled by artists, historians and supporters of freedom of expression says the TelegraphReuters has Human Rights Watch’s reaction: ‘The case against Samodurov and Erofeev highlights once again how precarious freedom of expression is in Russia’.  At the trial radical art group Voina released thousands of cockroaches in protest against the proceedings; two members of the collective were detained.  Meanwhile Moscow prosecutors have asked a court to ban the black T-shirts beloved of orthodox nationalists, and sported at the art trial, which read ‘Orthodox Christianity or Death!’

The Moscow Times reports on the pardoning of Dmitry Malin, jailed on conviction of oil theft, who was granted clemency with 20 other inmates the same day as the spy swap prisoners were freed.  Vladimir Ryzhkov sees no incentive for politicians to liberalize a corrupt economy from which they prosper, in a report back from the sixth annual ‘Khodorkovsky Reading’.  The Prosecutor General’s Office has reported that Russia has met less than 50% of the Council of Europe’s recommendations on fighting corruption: for details of which, see the Moscow Times.  A Duma parliamentary aide has been caught red-handed taking a bribe worth $70,000, ITAR-TASS reports.  Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov has lost his case against Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and must retract two lines from a pamphlet criticizing him.

A ‘stress test’ for bilateral relations that the two countries successfully passed, is one high-ranking Russian official’s take on the spy scandal.  Susan Antilla from Bloomberg has a set of sardonic tips for future spies. Following his deportation to England, alleged spy Igor Sutyagin may return to Russia, Bloomberg suggests: the scientist will apparently receive a British visa tomorrow.  The Kremlin eagerness to resolve the spy scandal begs the question: what is the Kremlin trying to hide? suggests Brian Whitmore.   They may have been deported,  but the illegals aren’t about to go away, says Walter Pincus in the Washington Post.  It would seem so: US authorities are reportedly now holding a 12th person linked to the spy ring.

Apparently farewell letters were discovered among the belongings of six women and two men who have been arrested for allegedly belonging to a terrorist cell in Dagestan.  Paul Goble considers why some analysts see Siberia within Russia as a microcosm for Russia in the world.  Russia’s state authority for project examination and approval has given the thumbs up to the Gazprom tower.

PHOTO: Police detaining Voina member Pyotr Verzilov for releasing cockroaches at an art trial Monday, July 12, 2010. Separately, prosecutors want a ban on a “Orthodox Christianity or Death!” T-shirt. It is worn by the man holding a cross, left.  (Denis Sinyakov / Reuters)