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Budapest: President Vladimir Putin has sparked outrage not only from dissidents but from ordinary Russians and usually loyal supporters with an order that smuggled Western food should be “incinerated on the spot”.

Kremlin adviser Yevgeny Bobrov​ described the order as “high-handed” and analysts said it could go down badly in a country where a third of the population still lived in poverty.

Illegally imported food is destroyed in the Belgorod region, Russia image www.crimefiles.net
Illegally imported food is destroyed in the Belgorod region, Russia, on Thursday.Russians have been used for a year to seeing “cheese-like substance” rather than real cheddar on the supermarket shelves since President Putin declared an embargo on EU imports in retaliation for Western sanctions over Ukraine. But the order to actually destroy food came as a shock to many.
AdvertisementRussians were signing an online petition calling for the food to be given to the needy. “Why should we destroy food that could feed veterans, pensioners, the disabled, those with large families or those who have suffered from natural disasters?” said the appeal to the government.

President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, already embroiled in a scandal about the expensive watch he wore at his recent wedding, struck a note of “let them eat cake” indifference when he questioned whether the signatures on the petition had been verified.
President Vladimir Putin's order to destroy illegally imported food was implemented in the Belgorod region image www.crimefiles.net

President Vladimir Putin’s order to destroy illegally imported food was implemented in the Belgorod region on Thursday.

But there was no doubt about the identity of Vladimir Solovyov, a usually pro-Kremlin television host, who tweeted: “I don’t understand how a country that lived through the horrible hunger of the war and terrible years after the Revolution can destroy food.”

Solovyov hit the mark with this comment, for food occupies an almost sacred place in Russian culture.

Those who survived the wartime Siege of Leningrad (today’s St Petersburg), when the starving licked glue from the back of wallpaper for the protein, taught their children and grandchildren that it was a sin to throw away even a crust of stale bread. The message was reinforced by the Orthodox Church.

Members of Eat the Russian food movement check food at a Moscow food store image www.crimefiles.net

Members of “Eat the Russian food” movement check food at a Moscow food store this week. Photo: AP

One Russian wrote on Facebook: “My mother used to smack me if I wasted a piece of bread. She would cut out the bit where I’d left my teeth marks and save the rest of the slice for the next meal.”

For many, the President’s draconian measure will be all the harder to comprehend given than Mr Putin himself came from a poor family in St Petersburg. He claims now to be a devout Orthodox Christian and has repeatedly sought to bolster his power by evoking the wartime spirit.

Moral issues aside, the order to destroy food raised a host of economic questions.

When the embargo against imports was first introduced, the authorities portrayed it as a chance for Russia to develop its domestic agriculture and industry. Instead, a black market sprang up, as evidenced by spray-painted signs on the asphalt in Moscow, with the word “parmesan” and a mobile telephone number for anyone who was interested.

The new government order is for food to be destroyed “by any means that do not harm the environment”, almost an open invitation for the corrupt to fake food bonfires and divert goodies onto the black market.

As a compromise, some experts suggested reprocessing the high-quality, even gourmet food, into animal feed, which only brought more howls of protest from people who live on a basic diet of bread, boiled sausage and macaroni.

Undeterred, one high-ranking government official, Dmitry Chugunov, approved the idea of stiff jail sentences for food smugglers, saying: “If we don’t kick this food addiction, we will never learn to build worthy cheese factories for ourselves.”

President Putin has enjoyed sky-high ratings for years, in large part because of his ability to speak to the common man. But with his persecution of food, it seems he may have lost touch with the public.

“It’s started. In Samara [a city on the Volga River], they are burning pork. If you ask me, they [the powers that be] will break themselves over this one, the public execution of food,” wrote Olga Bakushinskaya, an opposition journalist who recently left Russia for Israel.

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Packs of sliced beef ham and cheese are placed on the ground image www.crimefiles.net

Packs of sliced beef ham and cheese are placed on the ground as part of a display of illegally imported food falling under restrictions in St. Petersburg, earlier this month. Photo: REUTERS/Peter Kovalev

Moscow: Russian police said on Tuesday it had busted an international contraband cheese operation responsible for bringing 2 billion roubles ($40 million) of the embargoed product onto the domestic market.

Police seized 470 tons of the products, as well as label makers and “documents proving illegal activity,” during more than a dozen raids on warehouses, offices and residences apparently used by the group, according to a statement posted on the Interior Ministry’s website.

It said the Moscow-based ring illegally imported rennet products that it would falsely label as prestigious brand cheeses and sell to supermarkets and distribution centres in Moscow and St Petersburg.

bulldozer destroys illegally imported cheese in Belgorod region, Russia image www.crimefiles.net
A bulldozer destroys illegally imported cheese in Belgorod region, Russia, on August 6.
Two of the ring’s organisers and four other participants, aged 29 to 58, have been detained and face up to 10 years in prison for “especially large-scale fraud by an organised group,” police said.
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Russia has banned imports of dairy products, as well as raw meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, from the European Union, the United States and several other Western countries that have imposed sanctions against Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

When the embargo against imports was first introduced a year ago, the authorities portrayed it as a chance for Russia to develop its domestic agriculture and industry. Instead, a black market sprang up, as evidenced by spray-painted signs on the asphalt in Moscow, with the word “parmesan” and a mobile phone number for anyone who was interested.

specialist controls the process of cheese making at John Kopiski's farm in Krutovo village, east of Moscow image www.crimefiles.net

A specialist controls the process of cheese making at John Kopiski’s farm in Krutovo village, east of Moscow. Russia has marked the one-year anniversary of its ban on Western agricultural products with an order to destroy contraband food. Photo: AP

Earlier this month, Russia destroyed tonnes of imported cheese and other foods.

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Moscow: Two men have appeared in court in Moscow charged with the murder of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, after another suspect blew himself up with a grenade as police surrounded him in Chechnya.

Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev, both from Russia’s troubled North Caucasus region, appeared at the Russian capital’s Basmanny Court, where the judge said Mr Dadayev had confessed to the crime under questioning

Zaur Dadayev, charged with the murder of Boris Nemtsov, inside a defendants' cage in Moscow.

Zaur Dadayev, charged with the murder of Boris Nemtsov, inside a defendants’ cage in Moscow. Photo: Reuters

Three other men, Shagid Gubashev, Tamerlan Eskerkhanov and Khamzat Bakhayev, were formally arrested as suspected accomplices. All five were remanded in custody.

The five men were frogmarched into Moscow’s Basmanny court on Sunday, forced by masked security officers gripping their bound arms to walk doubled over, a Reuters reporter at the court said. They stood in metal cages in the courtroom as television crews were ushered in to film them.

During the hearing, the latter three men tried to hide their faces with their jackets, while Mr Dadayev looked defiantly at the cameras. No motive for the killing was suggested.

Tamerlan Eskerkhanov was arrested as a suspected accomplice in the killing.

Tamerlan Eskerkhanov was arrested as a suspected accomplice in the killing. Photo: Reuters

A judge ruled that all five should be held in custody and said that one of them, Mr Dadayev, had admitted his involvement in the killing when questioned by investigators.

“Dadayev’s involvement in committing this crime is confirmed by, apart from his own confession, the totality of evidence gathered as part of this criminal case,” Judge Natalia Mushnikova told the court.

In Chechnya, a sixth suspect, Bislan Shavanov, blew himself up with a grenade as police tried to detain him, Russian media reported. Officers were said to have surrounded him at an apartment in Grozny on Saturday evening, when he was killed by a hand grenade that exploded as he tossed it towards them.

Shagid Gubashev and Ramzan Bakhayev hide their faces at court on Sunday.

Shagid Gubashev and Ramzan Bakhayev hide their faces at court on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

Mr Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shot dead as he walked on a bridge near the Kremlin with his girlfriend on February 27.

The two accused men were reportedly detained in the republic of Ingushetia, which borders Chechnya. Officials suggested that they were suspected hit men and that the masterminds behind the murder were still at large.

The main question many Russians want answered is who ordered the brazen assassination of Mr Nemtsov, the first killing of a such an important political figure in many years. Given the fact that the shooting took place within sight of the Kremlin, among the most heavily guarded sites in Moscow, opposition figures have accused the government of complicity in the crime, which it has denied.

Mourners lay flowers and candles at the spot where Boris Nemtsov was gunned down.

Mourners lay flowers and candles at the spot where Boris Nemtsov was gunned down. Photo: AP

Mr Nemtsov was one of the government’s most persistent critics and was due to publish a report that he said would reveal the involvement of the Russian military in the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin has called Russians fighting in Ukraine “volunteers”.

The court hearings were given extensive coverage on state-controlled media, and presented as proof the authorities are conducting a thorough investigation. But associates of Mr Nemtsov say they will not be satisfied unless prosecutors track down whoever orchestrated the killing, rather than just the people who pulled the trigger.

There was no word from investigators on who the suspects were alleged to have been working for. The judge presiding over the hearings said investigators were still looking for others they believe were involved in the killing.

In the North Caucasus, the acting head of the Security Council in Ingushetia, Albert Barakhoev, said Mr Dadayev had worked as a law enforcement officer, serving as deputy commander of a battalion of Interior Ministry troops assigned to fight Islamist insurgents. It was unclear whether he was still with the unit.

The other main suspect, Mr Kubashev, had worked for a private security company in Moscow as a guard in a hypermarket, according to Mr Barakhoev. Both are between 30 and 35 years old, he said.

Ajmani Dadayev, the mother of Mr Dadayev, told state television that the Kubashev brothers were her nephews. The suspects had worked in Moscow for years without any problems, she said.

Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region, has seen violent separatist insurgencies over the past two decades. It is now firmly under the control of its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, a former rebel who changed sides and pledges loyalty to Putin.

Telegraph, London, New York Times, Reuters

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IT IS NOW SAID THAT ANYONE AT ALL IS BETTER IN CHARGE OF RUSSIA THAN PUTIN

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov speaks during an opposition protest in central Moscow in December 2011.

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov speaks during an opposition protest in central Moscow in December 2011. Photo: Reuters

Nemtsov’s close associate and opposition leader Ilya Yashin called the deadly attack on his friend “a political murder.”

“Boris was the most outspoken critic of Putin and the most charismatic leader of the opposition and his dead body found 100 yards from the Kremlin is a clear message to all the opposition activists and all people who do not support the Kremlin,” Yashin said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “This act of political terror is clearly aimed to stun and horrify the opposition to the Putin regime on the eve of the march we will now hold as a mourning march as originally planned on Sunday.”

Nemtsov ran afoul of Putin’s Kremlin administration years ago and had been active with the opposition coalition PARNAS.

Russia Today television, a pro-Kremlin mouthpiece, said on Twitter that the slaying “could be a provocation,” suggesting that the opposition was responsible for the killing to tarnish the Putin administration.

United States President Barack Obama condemned the “brutal murder” and called for a full investigation into the killing.

Mr Obama said he admired Nemtsov’s “courageous dedication to the struggle against corruption in Russia.”

Other pro-democracy allies and world leaders who knew the gregarious and energetic politician expressed horror over the killing that many were inclined to see as an assassination.

“Shock. Boris has been killed. It’s impossible to believe,” Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said via Twitter. “I’m certain the killers will be punished. Sooner or later.”

Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion and another outspoken opponent of Mr Putin, linked Nemtsov’s killing with other violence attributed to the Kremlin and its enforcers.

“(Journalist Anna) Politkovskaya was gunned down. MH17 was shot out of the sky. Now Boris is dead. As always, Kremlin will blame opposition, or CIA, whatever,” Mr Kasparov said via Twitter.

In an interview last year, Nemtsov laid out a bleak forecast of Russia’s political future under Mr Putin, who engineered constitutional changes before his 2012 reelection that should allow him to remain at the Kremlin’s helm until 2024.

Putin’s primary goal as Russian leader, Nemtsov argued, is not to build a modern, European state and vibrant middle class but “to keep power and money by all means,” through oppression when necessary or by highlighting invented threats to Russia from abroad.

“He has $500 billion in Central Bank reserves, 100 percent control of television and authoritarian laws that allow the administration to strike anyone from the list of candidates,” Nemtsov said of the prospects of Putin being voted out of office in the next election, in 2018.

TNS, Reuters

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Henry Sapiecha

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mh17 cabin section found image www.crimefiles.net

MH17 fuselage section discovered by OSCE-led an Australian and Malaysian team at the crash site.

Clearly frustrated by the slow rate at which foreign experts are visiting the site, Bukiurkiw said: “We’re recording a lot of random fuselage and personal belongings. It is striking, even for hardened professionals, to encounter a section of the aircraft that you don’t recognise and then there is a passenger’s seat and a child’s game.”

After the team had spent about five hours in three different sections of the sprawling crash scene that foreign experts were visiting for the first time, the OSCE official pointed to a large clump of trees, saying: “Some of the finds over there are extraordinary… and the Malaysians who were with us observed that the heat was so intense that the aluminium wing sections of this 17-year-old aircraft actually melted.”

Seeming to imply that others were not doing their job, Mr Bukiurkiw said of his small, operational ground force: “We continue to do our job; we record what we find and we report it to the appropriate individuals.”

MH17 investigation continues in Ukraine

Seventy-four more coffins are transported to the Netherlands, as the investigation into the Malaysia Airlines crash continues.

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Hrabove, Ukraine: The first Australian investigators to visit the MH17 crash site near here were in a small investigative party that discovered new sections of the crashed Malaysian Airways aircraft and human remains that had been overlooked in earlier, much-criticised sweeps of the area.

The three Australians – two diplomats and a forensic expert – refused to talk to reporters. But an official of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Michael Bukiurkiw, said after guiding them through the crash site: “We found human remains yesterday and more again today.”

Thursday’s finds – including a substantial section of the fuselage with windows and seats intact – were made as huge combine harvesters worked their way through crops in the fields up and down the crash site. The harvesting continues apace, despite renewed concern that as many as 100 of the 298 passengers and crew from Flight MH17 remain unaccounted for.

mh17 split open cabin section found image www.crimefiles.net

Inside the section of fuselage, peeled open in a dense thicket of trees.

Asked why newly discovered human remains were being flagged, but not collected, he said: “We’re covering a lot of ground with a small group of people.”

He said that access to the rebel-controlled site was getting better day by day and while diplomatically side-stepping questions as to why he and his colleagues could be on the ground while governments around the world worried about the safety of their crash investigative teams, he said pointedly: “The Malaysians told us they feel safe…and there are people better placed than us to do this work.

“I don’t know why the investigators are not here – you’ll have to ask them.”

He described security in the crash zone as ‘very fluid’ – “but we are doing frequent analysis, based on input from very good people.”

The Australians had advised him that they were in the area just for a day to make an assessment.

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