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December 2010

Yukos case
Prime Minister Putin said (16/12) jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky belonged in jail. President Medvedev told media (24/12) no serving official has a right to express his position on the Yukos case or any other before a court verdict. Judge Danilkin found (27/12) Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev guilty of money laundering and theft of billions of dollars; he imposed (30/12) new 13,5 year sentences on the two men. Western countries expressed deep concern about the rule of law in Russia. The Russian MFA accused (28/12) the West of pressuring its courts over the trial. Earlier in the month the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce fined the Russian government $3.5 million in damages, to be paid to Yukos shareholder RosinvestCo UK Ltd.

Judicial system
Prime Minister Putin called (27/12) for further restrictions on jury trials, saying only federal courts should consider them. President Medvedev signed (28/12) a law separating the Investigative Committee from the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Right of assembly
About 1,000 people took part (31/12) in an officially sanctioned rally in Moscow in defence of Article 31 of the Constitution. Several dozen people were arrested. About 40 people were arrested the same evening in St. Petersburg at a similar rally. Earlier in the month (12/12) hundreds of people took part in an officially sanctioned Moscow rally organized by the political opposition to mark Constitution Day. During the month, Sergei Udaltsov served a 15-day detention on charges of disobeying police orders at a rally.

Racist violence
An unsanctioned rally in Manezh Square (11/12) over the death of Spartak football fan Egor Sviridov and ‘ethnic crime’ ended in violence against non-Slavs. President Medvedev called (13/12) for those responsible to be prosecuted. Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin warned (13/12) further rioting would be dealt with harshly. Thousands of riot police patrolled Moscow on 15/12, detaining at least 800. On 18/12 police arrested more than a thousand people in Moscow for various administration offences. Vladislav Surkov, the president's first deputy chief of staff, said (16/12) the rioting justified the cautious approach to political reform. PM Putin advocated (21/12) new restrictions on movement into big cities. Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev questioned (22/12) whether civil liberties are practical when authorities need to keep law and order and blamed non-Muscovites for up to 70 percent of the city’s crime. Organizers said about 4,000 people attended a Moscow rally, ‘Moscow for All’, on 26/12 in protest against recent racist rioting in the city.

Freedom of expression
A Moscow rally of about 150 people was held on 5/12 calling for the murders and attacks on journalists and media workers to be investigated. Khimki City Court overturned (10/12) a defamation conviction against journalist Mikhail Beketov, brought by the mayor of Khimki. More than 100 people took part (18/12) in a Moscow demonstration in support of members of the Voina performance art group, currently held in pre-trial detention.
Human rights defenders
The Civic Constitutional Forum was held (12/12) in Moscow on Constitution Day. About 700 human rights defenders and civil society activists took part. Memorial Human Rights Centre said (8/12) Bakhrom Khamroyev, one of its activists, was attacked by an unidentified man, possibly a police officer, in south-west Moscow.

Microsoft announced that any of its software installed by non-profits and small independent media in Russia from 7/12/10 until 1/1/12 will a priori be legal.

The Kremlin approved an unpopular plan to build a highway through the Khimki Forest north of Moscow. In August, in an apparent concession to protests, President Medvedev had suspended construction of the road for further discussion.