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THE MOSCOW TIMES
The Moscow Times is an English-language weekly newspaper published in Moscow. It was founded in 1992 and currently has a circulation of 35,000 copies.
A man with a rainbow flag on his cheek at the Bangkok Pride Parade in Thailand
LGBTQ Plus

LGBTQ+ International: Marriage In Thailand, Trans Teacher Suicide In Italy — And Much More

Welcome to our new exclusive weekly round up of LGBTQ+ news from around the world.

This is the first edition of Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on the latest news on everything LGBTQ+ — a topic that you may follow closely at home but can now see from different places and perspectives around the world. Whether it's trans rights, same-sex marriage, gender identity and sexual orientation, find the latest news from all corners of the planet. All in one smooth scroll!

Featuring this week:

  • Thailand taking steps toward legalizing same-sex marriage
  • Joe Biden's move against the discrimination of trans youth
  • Buenos Aires banning the use of inclusive language at schools
  • A forced outing triggering a press reckoning in Australia
  • Homophobic attacks and a float collapsing at a French pride march
  • A first in pro American baseball …

✉️ You can receive our LGBTQ+ International roundup every week directly in your inbox: Subscribe here.

COLOMBIA - Gay Congressman Targeted For Pushing Law Against “Conversion Therapy” 

A gay congressman in Colombia has been cited for an "ethical conflict of interests" while presenting a bill to ban so-called "conversion therapies" for LGBTQ+ people.

Mauricio Toro put forward the law after a Volcánicas media investigation compiled the experiences of 10 LGBTQ+ people who were subjected to these procedures in Colombia. The testimonies show "electrocutions, rapes, mutilations and procedures with acid" with false promises of "reconversion".

Toro told fellow lawmakers: "What greater act of discrimination than not allowing me to debate in Congress for being gay?" He pointed out that it was absurd to say that there was a conflict of interest, when Congress has not challenged a woman, Afro-descendant or farmer for defending their respective communities.

On Thursday, the Ethics Commission unanimously denied the challenge presented against the representative, which will allow him to continue the fight for this bill to be debated before June 20, when his term ends.

ARGENTINA - Buenos Aires Bans Use Of Inclusive Language At Schools

The City of Buenos Aires has prohibited the use of inclusive language in schools, Agencia Presentesreports.

“The ban includes the use in the classroom and material produced for educational purposes.” In Spanish, words like "All" are gendered, so inclusive language allows non-binary people and women to feel better represented. It only takes one man in a group of a hundred women to make a group masculine, and only a few words are not gendered.

For one Spanish sex-ed teacher, this is an intimidating approach: "It puts us in the situation of having to violate the rights of some of our students, colleagues and other members of the community.”

Despite the opposition to the measure, the head of government of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez, said, “from now on, teachers in the city will have to respect the rules of the Spanish language.”

MEXICO - First Non-Binary ID Certificate In Guanajuato

For the first time in Mexico, the civil registry of Guanajuato issued a birth certificate that recognizes the non-binary identity of a Mexican citizen (mexicane). It belongs to Fausto Martínez, an LGBTQ+ activist who began a petition in September after being denied the request to adapt their identity on their voting card to NB (non-binary).

After a few weeks, they received the reply that this would not be possible because in the birth certificate submitted for the procedure, this identity did not appear.

With the help of an NGO, Fausto was able to start asking for a birth certificate that matched their gender identity. The Civil Registry of Guanajuato denied this procedure until a district judge based in León, Guanajuato, ruled in favor of Fausto. “The process was carried out through the courts because we are in Guanajuato and here we have obtained our rights by fighting,” Fausto said in an interview for Altavoz.LGBT.

FRANCE - Bordeaux Pride March Interrupted By Protesters, Marred By Injuries

Homophobic protesters at the Bordeaux Pride Parade

Enfants du Stonewall Facebook page


At the Bordeaux Pride march last Sunday, in southwestern France, a float collapsed on the crowd leaving six people wounded, three of them suffering serious injuries.

This is not the only disturbance that occurred at the Pride parade: LGBTQ+ support organization SOS Homophobie reported that some people held up an anti-LGBTQ+ banner with a discriminating message: “Let’s protect children, stop LGBTQ+ craziness.” Other people got hit by projectiles thrown on the crowd.

The event, which had some 5,000 people, was interrupted by these incidents. Nine people have been placed in custody for damage, violence and being part of a violent group before being freed on Monday.

SAUDI ARABIA - Authorities Seize Rainbow Toys For “Encouraging Homosexuality”

Officials in Saudi Arabia have been removing rainbow-colored items such as toys, children’s clothing, hair clips, pop-its and pencil cases from shops, claiming they encourage homosexuality, the BBC reports. A report by the state-run Al-Ekhbariya news channel said that the rainbow colors send a “poisoned message” to children, writes The Times of Israel.

Homosexual conduct is strictly prohibited in the country, and even consensual same-sex sexual conduct can be punishable by death under the country’s interpretation of Islamic law. According to an official from the commerce ministry, the items being confiscated “contradict the Islamic faith and public morals and promote homosexual colors targeting the younger generation.”

U.S. - Biden Signs Executive Order Against Anti-Trans Laws And Conversion Therapy

U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday targeting conversion therapy and discrimination of transgender youth. The sweeping provisions aim to combat the hurdles LGBTQ+ youth face against an influx of conservative state laws, such as the Florida legislation dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Biden said, “My message to all the young people: Just be you. You are loved. You are heard. You are understood. You do belong. All of us on this stage have your back,” The Hill reports.

U.S. - Seattle Pacific University Graduates Hand President Pride Flags In Protest

KING 5 screenshot


Students at Seattle Pacific University handed their interim president pride flags during a commencement ceremony last Sunday instead of shaking his hand, in an act of protest against the school’s anti-LGBTQ+ hiring policy. The policy prevents the school, which is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church USA, from hiring staff “engaged in same-sex sexual activity and extramarital sex,” according to CNN.

U.S./RUSSIA - Moscow Extends Detention Of WNBA Star Brittney Griner


The pre-trial detention of two-time Olympic gold medalist and seven time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner has once again been extended. She was originally detained on Feb. 17, 2022, after a Russian customs official reported to have found hashish oil in her luggage. She will now be detained until at least July 2. If convicted, Griner could face spending another 10 years in Russian prison.

In May, her wife Cherelle Griner told Good Morning America that Griner would “wholeheartedly love to not go overseas … but she can’t make enough money in the WNBA to sustain her life.” Now, due to the war in Ukraine, Griner’s team has chosen to remain largely silent so as not to politicize her case, though they have been unable to secure her release. Griner’s detention has sparked outrage on social media over the lack of support coming from U.S. officials: “the only reason she’s over there is because the U.S. doesn’t give af about women athletes — let alone Black AND Queer women athletes,” said one user posting under the hashtag #BrittneyGriner.

U.S. - New Suit Filed to Stop Texas Probes Of Families Seeking Transition

Trans activism

Transgender youth and allies rally at the Texas State Capital in Austin, Texas to decry Governer Greg Abbott's policies.

Bob Daemmrich/ZUMA


A new lawsuit filed last week aims to stop investigations in Texas of families supporting its young members from transitioning among genders. The lawsuit is filed by one named family, two pseudonymous families and the LGBTQ+ support and advocacy organization PFLAG.

The suit comes after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order earlier this year to investigate for child abuse parents who provide gender-affirming health care for their non-binary children.

The families and PFLAG wish to prevent probes of their families and others under Abbot’s order. The suit names Abbott, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and its commissioner Jaime Masters as defendants. The Texas Supreme Court had previously held that Abbott did not have the authority to set DFPS policy, but the probes have resumed.

U.S. - Baseball Umpires Wear Pride Hats In First For Pro Sports

Umpires in an MLB baseball game on Saturday between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants wore Pride hats — making it the first time that officials in a U.S. men’s pro sports game included an LGBTQ+ insignia as part of their official uniform. The players on both teams also wore hats with their team logos in rainbow colors.

The game was the Giants’ official Pride day. In attendance was former MLB umpire Dale Scott, who came out in 2014 while still working in baseball. The umpires are said to have worn the hats in a gesture of good will toward the LGBTQ+ community, and in support of Scott. Because umpires are thought to be “arbiters of a fair game,” wearing the Pride hats also symbolized the nonpartisan nature supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

MIDDLE EAST/ASIA - Upcoming Disney Movie Banned In 14 Countries For Same-Sex Kiss

Disney’s new film Lightyear will not be showing in 14 Middle Eastern and Asian countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Lebanon due to its portrayal of a same-sex romantic interest. The United Arab Emirates, which is regarded by many as one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East, is among the countries which will not be allowing the release of the Toy Story spinoff in its theaters. The UAE’s Media Regulatory office did not specify why the film does not meet their standards, but homosexual activity is considered illegal in the UAE.

According to a producer for the film, Chinese officials asked that some scenes be cut from the movie. Disney had reportedly already cut and reinstated a same-sex kiss scene after Pixar staff published an open letter criticizing the company, a production source told Variety. Following the incident with the open letter, Disney is denying China’s request and it appears that the film will not be released there.

"We're not going to cut out anything, especially something as important as the loving and inspirational relationship that shows Buzz what he's missing by the choices that he's making, so that's not getting cut," one of the producers told Reuters.

UK/QATAR - Wales Soccer Team Staff To Boycott 2022 World Cup In Qatar Over Gay Rights


The Welsh national soccer team qualified for their first World Cup finals since 1958, but some of the team’s staff will not travel to Qatar for the tournament due to the country’s stance on gay rights. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and they country's human rights record has come under increasing scrutiny.

Despite this, Qatari officials have claimed the World Cup will be a "tournament for everyone.” As FIFA’s decision to host the tournament in Qatar has come under criticism, the head of Welsh soccer Noel Mooney said the team will use the tournament as a “platform” to discuss the state of Qatar's human rights.

UK/RWANDA - LGBTQ+ Asylum Seeker Fears Being Sent To Rwanda 

The UK's plan to deport illegal refugees to Rwanda to have their claims processed there from mid-June has raised controversy, especially among the LGBTQ+ community. The first deportation flight was canceled on Tuesday after the European Court of Human Rights issued a last-minute ruling, but the refugees still fear for their fate.

French-language media Komitid reports on the case of Hadi (not his real name), an Iraqi asylum seeker set to be deported. Hadi fled Iraq because he was persecuted for being homosexual, crossed Europe to reach the UK, and is now afraid of being sent to Rwanda.

Even if homosexuality is not banned there, Rwanda is a country where LGBTQ+ rights are quite limited.

Hadi recalls the discrimination, homophobia and mistreatment he was victim of in Iraq because of his sexual orientation. He doesn’t want to face such prosecutions in Rwanda, saying “Kill me or sentence me to death instead of sending me there.”

AFGHANISTAN - Taliban Use Monkeypox As A Pretext To Arrest LGBTQ+ Afghans

In Afghanistan, the Taliban have found yet another reason to persecute the LGBTQ+ community with the recent outbreaks of Monkeypox in Europe. Most confirmed cases were reported in queer men, although there is no correlation between sexuality and the disease. Monkeypox is transmitted during close contacts between people and can be caught by anybody.

The Taliban are nonetheless targeting men they suspect not to be “straight” on the grounds that they might carry the disease, even though no cases have been reported in the country. Gay men and trans people are subsequently arrested and beaten. Violent persecutions against the Afghan LGBTQ+ community have been commonplace ever since the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

THAILAND - Thailand Moves To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage


Lawmakers in the southeast Asian country of Thailand have taken the first steps toward legalizing same-sex marriage after approving two bills that would permit civil partnerships and same-sex marriages. A committee will consolidate the bills into two proposals in order to give MPs a choice between approving civil partnerships or same-sex marriage.

Thailand is a Buddhist majority country, but it has a very visible LGBTQ+ community. This month has seen Bangkok’s first Pride parade in 16 years. Although it has yet to pass, the new legislation marks a significant milestone for the LGBTQ+ community in overcoming the many existing barriers of discrimination. People have taken to the streets to celebrate this historic moment: "I am very happy and glad. It is a good sign in Pride month that there are MPs who want equality and vote for the bills," activist Nada Chaiyajit told AFP.

SOUTH AFRICA - South Africa’s Robben Island Holds First Pride

www.flickr.com


On May 25, more than 200 southern African LGBTQ+ activists held the first Pride March ever on Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years along with other anti-Apartheid activists. They were welcomed by former inmates who gave them an emotional tour of the prison, reminding them of the importance of the fight for diversity and inclusivity.

This event was part of the Kopano conference, a platform for LGBTQ+ activists from 13 southern African countries. As a president, Nelson Mandela fought for LGBTQ+ South Africans’ rights by including protections against discrimination due to sexual orientation in the constitution.

ITALY - Shunned Trans Teacher Kills Herself


A transgender former physics teacher killed herself in her camper van near Venice, in northern Italian, during the weekend. Cloe Bianco had announced she was going to commit suicide in a June 10 post of her blog, where she had previously written about how, as a trans woman, she was not allowed a place in society.

Italian daily La Stampa reports that Bianco had been suspended as a teacher in 2015 when she came out to her students and was demoted to a role as a secretary. “Transphobia kills,” commented LGBTQ+ rights account Radio Zek on Twitter.

AUSTRALIA - Rebel Wilson’s Forced Outing Triggers Ethics Reckoning For Australian Press


Australian actress Rebel Wilson revealed her relationship with fashion designer Ramona Agruma, her “Disney Princess,” last Friday with an Instagram post. But it has since been revealed that the move was to preempt an Australian newspaper that had planned to "out" her. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Andrew Hornery accused Wilson of revealing her relationship to “gazump” a story he planned to publish.

Critics have argued that Horney’s approach was an “abuse of power” and a “journalist ego". The situation has triggered a reckoning for the Australian press and opened a discussion on journalism ethics worldwide, with some saying the incident just shows how far Australia has to go in terms of LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Hornery claims he had reached out to Wilson’s representatives with the intention of publishing Wilson and Agruma’s relationship in his column. He gave her two days to respond, which she ignored. Hornery has since published an apology.

POLAND - Majority Of Poles In Favor Of Same-Sex Marriage

According to a new OKO.press poll, a growing majority of citizens in Poland are in favor of legalizing same-sex civil unions or marriage: 64%, up by 6% from 2019 and 10% from 2015.

Despite progress being made, the influx of refugees fleeing war in Ukraine is highlighting persistent divisions when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights in Poland. As Poland accepts millions of displaced Ukrainians with open arms, activists are working hard to make sure that the same warmth and empathy is extended to members of Ukraine’s LGBTQ+ community.

At the moment, LGBTQ+ refugees are facing a lack of support from local governments and face increased prejudice when seeking housing in the traditionally Catholic country that is run by the extremely conservative Law and Justice party.

OTHERWISE:

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine in a Healthy Moscow pavilion
Russia
Meike Eijsberg

Moscow Mayor To Service Sector Workers: Get Vaccine Or Lose Your Job

In an unprecedented push to make vaccines obligatory, Moscow's mayor has told employees in the city that they will lose their jobs if they don't get vaccinated, Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad reports Monday in the latest move to try to curb the COVID-19 crisis spreading in the Russian capital.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin had already ordered employers of service sectors such as transportation, healthcare, education and hospitality to be sure that at least 60% of their workers were vaccinated by next month. But what was at first presented as a suggestion by employers is now to be made a requirement: those who refuse can be put on indefinite suspension with their salary withheld, while employers face a hefty fine.

This vaccination requirement is the latest, and most extreme, in a series of harsh measurements taken by the Mayor. For months, Russian politicians have rejected the idea of compulsory vaccination, with President Vladimir Putin calling it "impractical and impossible," as reported by The Moscow Times.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin — Photo: Sergei Bobylev/TASS/ZUMA Press

But in his statement, Sobyanin said he was left with no other options as Moscow's cases are rapidly increasing. The Russian capital reached a new daily record of 9,120 infections on Saturday, a threefold increase compared to two weeks ago.

Although Russia was among the first countries to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine, the national vaccination rate at 12% is much lower than elsewhere. Sputnik V was registered in August 2020 and approved for distribution in Russia soon after.

Although initially met with criticism at home and abroad, the vaccine has been distributed in 59 countries as of April 2021. But Russians still harbor a great distrust of Sputnik V because the government has reportedly been downgrading the COVID figures, leaving many to believe that the virus is not such a bad thing.

In an attempt to change Muscovites' minds, writing on his Russian-language personal blog, Sobyanin referred to unvaccinated people entering public spaces as "complicit" in keeping the pandemic ongoing.

Biased Big Brother
eyes on the U.S.
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Surveillance Tech Eyes COVID-19 And Black Lives Matter

PARIS — It's been a tumultuous few months for so-called "surveillance tech."

Most recently, following pushback from Black Lives Matter activists, Amazon has suspended police use of its facial recognition software for one year. IBM followed suit, announcing it will stop offering its similar software for "mass surveillance or racial profiling." The moves from the tech giants is a step, small as it may be, in the right direction. Yet this also comes amid calls during the pandemic to turn to such technology to ensure public cooperation to stem the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

Despite the potential medical benefits, the use of geolocation technology to curb the coronavirus has raised concerns over fundamental data protection, especially in countries like China, South Korea and Israel where tracking has been more intrusive: enlisting credit card records for purchase patterns, GPS data for travel patterns, and security-camera footage for verification.

In Russia, the pandemic proved a convenient excuse to test a nascent, China-inspired citizen monitoring system, backed by a Moscow court ruling in early March stating that the city's facial recognition system does not violate the privacy of its citizens. Even places not particularly known for their police state-like tactics are pushing limits: In Paris, cameras were installed at the popular Châtelet metro station to monitor mask use, as it is illegal to take public transportation without a mask.

Photo: Lianhao Qu

Similar (and seemingly well-intentioned) efforts like fast-tracked coronavirus data collection apps have raised suspicions of data protection breaches by both hackers and governments, including in the Netherlands and South Africa. In Germany, a country known for its hard stance on privacy protection, new surveillance tools are being met with a considerable amount of defiance. An article in Die Welt asks: "How can you defend yourself against facial recognition?", questioning not only the reliability of the recognition gear and software, but also its growing availability to private companies.

The increased attention during pandemic times has now multiplied during the social unrest that followed the police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis. If companies and governments rushed to implement face-scanning systems to track the movements of COVID-19 patients, what prevents them from exploiting the same tech to gather data from Black Lives Matter protesters?

Recognition software is significantly more likely to misidentify darker-skinned people than lighter-skinned.

Big Brother, it turns out, has racist tendencies. But in a fight-fire-with-fire sort of way, technology itself may actually help us steer away from the slippery slope of profiling. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Joy Buolamwini, a researcher nicknamed the "poet of code," created the Algorithmic Justice League, aimed at producing more inclusive and ethical technology. Through her research, Buolamwini found that recognition software is significantly more likely to misidentify darker-skinned people than lighter-skinned — conclusions that could drive calls to review the technological bias.

Meanwhile, U.S.-based Data 4 Black Lives, a movement to counter historically racist uses of big data, posits that "Tools like statistical modeling, data visualization, and crowd-sourcing, in the right hands, are powerful instruments for fighting bias, building progressive movements, and promoting civic engagement." Whether it's about the selective collection of data or what happens with the data gathered, surveillance tech companies should know that they're being watched too.

Two young ride a bike wearing protective face masks.
BBC
Michaela Kozminova

Coronavirus: Young People Are Not Immune

Older people are at greater risk but more cases of young, healthy people getting critically ill and even dying are being recorded around the world. Are these cases changing the picture?

PARIS — It started as a mild cough. She had no underlying health issues.

But on March 24, at the age of 16, rather than becoming one of the many coronavirus patients to see their symptoms come and go, Julie became the youngest person in France to die from the disease. Health officials said she contracted a severe form of the virus, which is extremely rare among young people — rare but not impossible.

"People need to stop thinking that the virus only affects the elderly. No one is invincible in the face of this virus," her sister told Le Parisien.

For most, the message had seemed clear: the older you are, the more at risk you are from coronavirus. But even top medical researchers from around the world are still trying to understand the nature of COVID-19, and particularly who is most vulnerable.

In recent days, new data has sparked concern of an increasing number of young people infected around the world, as several deaths of teenagers made headlines in Europe and the U.S.. In their latest media briefing, WHO officials also warned about a surge in cases of young people dying from the virus. "We are seeing more and more younger individuals who are experiencing severe disease," Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said, "Some of those individuals have had underlying conditions, but some have not."

So what do we know about the "age factor" for COVID-19?

*In Moscow, 56% of new coronavirus cases are younger than 40 years old, reported The Moscow Times. According to the city's coronavirus crisis center, 45% of Moscow's patients in serious condition are younger than 60 years old and nearly 40% of patients younger than 40 years old are on respirators.

No one is invincible in the face of this virus.

*In Australia, people in their 20s have more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than any other age group. The highest share, 11,3% of cases are among people aged 25 to 29, followed by those aged 60 to 65 who make up 9,5% of positive cases, reports The Guardian. Australian experts believe the data might be skewed because people in their 20s are more likely to travel or meet returned travelers. Both testing and infection is therefore more concentrated among this group.

*In Chicago, a nine-month-old became the first infant in the U.S. to die of the disease, while a twelve-year-old girl fell victim to coronavirus in Belgium.

Statistically, it is still proven, that those over 60 are still at highest risk of developing a severe case or dying from the disease. But as Anthony Fauci of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told BBC, the virus "isn't a mathematical formula", so there are reasons for people in every age group to be cautious.

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In Mexico City
THE MOSCOW TIMES

Coronavirus — Global Brief: My Apartment Gets Smaller As The Virus Gets Closer

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: LISTENING TO MY APARTMENT WALLS AS CORONAVIRUS GETS CLOSER

Mexican authorities just announced tighter restrictions, including a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. But many here are continuing with business as usual, even as I've been doing all I can do is limit my time outdoors. But that led to an equally frightening prospect: my neighbors. Noise too is contagious, and unlike a virus, it penetrates walls and windows.

Some nights ago my neighbor had a girlfriend over, which later led to music. I was hoping it would mean I'd hear nothing more from that flat but he likes to regale his guests with loud television or soft-rock karaoke from the 1990s. I try to understand my rage toward him: is it his refusal to respect confinement, the very sound of his voice, or Phil Collins? As Jean-Paul Sartre reflects through a character in his play No Exit— on three people stuck together forever in a hotel room: hell is other people.

Noise has always been an issue in apartment blocks in Mexico City. Of course, understanding what noises disturb is not a science. I am indifferent for example to the construction noise that has been going on outside our building for over a year, to neighbors' dogs, or to traffic. I am however intolerant of anything suggesting a celebration inside the building, as I see it as brazen indifference to others. (I do not believe people are blissfully unaware of their neighbors. No noise is innocent). For now, in the battle against the tyranny of modern cheerfulness, I have a pandemic on my side.

Alidad Vassigh


THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Toll: Cases worldwide passes 800,000 mark. Record one-day toll in Spain with 849 deaths, while the US overall death toll rises past 3,000. Italy sees glimmer of hope as number of new infection cases declines, from 1,648 from 3,815 the previous day.

  • Free fall: With two million flights cancelled, the International Air Transport Association estimates the industry will lose $252 billion, an "unprecedented shock".

  • Ugly video: Migrant workers, including women and children, are seen sprayed with disinfectant in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in a new video that sparks nationwide controversy.

  • Amazon workers walk: Strikes in New York to protest the e-commerce giant's handling of COVID-19 safety.

  • Red Bull: Helmut Marko, chief of Red Bull motorsport, wanted the team's drivers to become infected with coronavirus so they could be immune for next season. The idea was dropped.

  • Congo"s ex-president Jacques Joaquim Yhombi-Opango dies at 81 after contracting the virus.
  • Missing Van Gogh: A painting by Vincent Van Gogh was stolen in a museum near Amsterdam that was shuttered because of COVID-19.
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Putin addresses the Duma
NOVAYA GAZETA
Alastair Gill

End Of Perestroika? Russia’s Media Reacts To Putin’s ‘Reset’

MOSCOW — After months of speculation, it appears that Vladimir Putin has finally settled on a strategy that will allow him to retain power beyond 2024. Ever since he announced plans to make a raft of amendments to the country's constitution back in mid-January, discussion had been rife over what exactly the Russian president — barred from running for a third consecutive term — was planning. Was he intending to retire? Was he eyeing a supervisory role in the State Council? Was he plotting a merger with Belarus? In the end, it appears he has opted to start all over again from scratch.

On March 10, during a session of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, cosmonaut-turned-politician Valentina Tereshkova suggested that a new, altered constitution could be the basis for "resetting" the clock on presidential term limits. Putin responded that in principle he agreed, as long as the Constitutional Court gave its approval. Within an hour the amendment had been approved by the Duma. The amendments go to a "public vote" on April 22, the result of which is likely to be a forgone conclusion, as is any ruling by the Constitutional Court. The proposal paves the way for Putin to run again in 2024 if he so chooses, meaning that in theory he could remain president until 2036.

Facing such a momentous political development, how did Russia's state-run and independent media react?

Novaya Gazeta

The Kremlin's special operation on the constitution has entered the home straight. With the help of an amendment suggested by a cosmonaut-lawmaker, all the terms served by the current president will be annulled, so that Putin can remain in power for at least another 16 years. The president, of course, is in complete accord In this situation the country and its people have turned out to be hostages to an adventure organized by people exposed by circumstances to enormous power, but unaware of the adequate responsibility for this power.

New, altered constitution could be the basis for "resetting" the clock on presidential term limits.

These people are guided by fleeting political motives, chief among which is the retention of power and the willful adjustment of the state to their corporate goals and highly dubious ideas about the historical and philosophical essence of Russia, as well as its place and role in the world. These poor excuses for rulers are simply unable to appreciate the nature and scale of the consequences of their actions. With the help of unconstitutional amendments, Putin is attempting to solve his main problem — the transfer of power.

Kommersant

Recall that Vladimir Putin himself — and the representatives of the working group on preparing the constitutional amendments — let us understand on several occasions that constitutional reform did not mean "resetting" the terms of the sitting president, as if he would be running for the first time at the next elections. Putin announced that he had not suggested the amendments in order to extend his powers. Among the recommended amendments is a norm limiting the number of presidential terms to two (without the qualification "consecutive"), and until now the majority of experts were in agreement that this was about imposing restrictions on the future head of state, who was supposed to be elected in 2024.

The Moscow Times (Eng.)

What is happening is unprecedented in Russian history. The head of state is openly announcing that he is prepared to find a way of staying in the presidential post even after the timeframe set by the law has expired — and that he plans to stay for a long time. Moreover, he is doing that just as expectations that he would depart sooner had become quite intense.

Putin evidently made the decision based on various considerations. He is known to think of the presidential job with reverence, as something akin to an unexpected gift from God. After all, he was elevated to the post while still basically an unremarkable bureaucrat, and then made a success of it.

Komsomolskaya Pravda

The mood is almost that of the Crimean euphoria of six years ago. Today we have won a great victory, even if it is an invisible one for a people convinced that this is the way everything should be.

There was already – I'm convinced of this – some kind of court plan to organize some election or other, to persuade Putin to retire to the State Council, to the village council, to wherever, to become the Queen of England, an ayatollah, Pensioner Number One, whoever, as long as things could quickly begin to change. A transition, a transfer – no matter what these never-ending political analysts called it, there was a single idea and a single aim: make peace with the world outside. That is – to surrender.

Nobody is going to offer another world, just as they didn't offer one in 1991, and since then things have gotten worse and far more complicated. And there was already a feeling that a collective Gorbachev was at the door, that just a little more and they'd have us, then we'd be faced with collapse. And then Tereshkova stood up to speak.

Perestroika is cancelled. Life goes on. Thank God.

blog

Khodorkovsky Back In Kremlin Crosshairs

Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a wanted man again, with a warrant issued for his arrest two years after being released from jail. The 52-year-old who'd spent more than 10 years in prison on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement — after what he described as a politically-motivated trial as he fell out with Vladimir Putin — was freed in 2013 after a pardon from the Russian president.

A Russian court on Wednesday issued an international arrest warrant against the former oil tycoon, as Khodorkovsky is now accused of ordering the contract killing of Vladimir Petukhov, the former mayor of the Siberian town of Nefteyugansk, in 1998, Euronews reports. This comes a day after armed police raided the Moscow offices of Khodorkovsky's pro-democracy movement Open Russia.

Khodorkovsky has denied the murder charges and Maria Logan, a spokeswoman quoted by ABC News, said he is currently based in London and is unlikely to turn himself in.