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Newspaper Raided, Patriarch Analyzed, Protestors Banned

Valery Smetanin, far left, the editor-in-chief of "Ivanovo-Press," with Mikhail Sokolov and Vitaly Shapran
Valery Smetanin, far left, the editor-in-chief of "Ivanovo-Press," with Mikhail Sokolov and Vitaly Shapran

Riot Police Raid Regional Newspaper

On January 27, riot police raided the offices of regional newspaper the “Ivanovo-Press." Several of the publication's employees, including its founder and editor-in-chief Valery Smetanin, were subsequently arrested and taken to Moscow for questioning.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the detainees are suspected of preparing to publish forbidden materials for financial gain. But the paper has regularly criticized the actions of the Ivanovo regional administration.

Natalia Mozilova, a journalist with the Ivanovo regional TV channel “Bars,” tells RFE/RL about her arrival at the “Ivanovo-Press” offices during the raid. "The men in masks didn’t let us film anything," she says. "They said that they had taken away the founder and chief editor for questioning. I then realized that these law enforcement officials weren’t from the Ivanovo Region.”

[read in Russian]

Patriarch's Political Ties Questioned

A year has passed since the election of Patriarch Kirill as leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. In this report, Aleksei Markin, deputy director of the Center of Political Technologies, tells RFE/RL that whereas previous patriarch Aleksii II was extremely cautious about ties with the state, Kirill is politically minded and has achieved concrete goals quickly thanks to his relationship with the political leadership. “He behaves like a very experienced political figure, capable of successfully achieving his aims pretty quickly,” Markin says.

As examples Markin cites planned legislation for beginning the restitution of Church property, introducing classes on Russian Orthodoxy into school curriculum and allowing priests into the military.

Boris Filakov, a professor of religious history at the State University of Humanities, says that while Patriarch Kirill is a successful diplomat for the Church, his close ties with political leadership pose serious problems for the Church’s relationship with society. “Kirill is attempting to increase the influence of the Church within society, but he is doing this… by negotiating directly with the leadership of the state,” he says.

[read in Russian]

Protestors Again Barred From Triumphal Square

For the seventh time the government of Moscow has refused to grant rights defense groups permission to stage a rally in defense of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which is the article that guarantees the freedom of citizens to hold peaceful public gatherings.

All attempts by rights groups to gather on Triumphal Square in Moscow have been stopped by police, and many activists have been arrested. Despite the ban, on January 31 rights groups will again attempt to gather on the square and are prepared to take their case -- which has become known as Campaign 31 -- to the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group Liudmila Alekseyeva explains why the Campaign 31 organizers are insistent on holding a demonstration at Triumphal Square. “We want to hold meetings in the same place so that people would be used to it and would know the time and place without having to check for announcements," she says. "This is the only way we can gather more supporters. And this is exactly why the authorities are blocking it.”

[read in Russian]