MOSCOW, March 15 (RIA Novosti)
Residents in Novaya Tryokhgorka, a neighborhood in the suburb of Odintsovo, are totally exhausted by their substandard living conditions. They decided to ask Gérard Depardieu for help. They translated their letter into French to make sure it reaches the actor’s attention.
In an old Russian style, they write, “Dear Gérard, we are addressing you as a person with a big heart and as our new fellow citizen, on behalf of thousands of residents in Novaya Tryokhgorka that are buried under their problems.”
Novaya Tryokhgorka is the most underprivileged neighborhood in the region. With 18,000 residents, the town does not have a single kindergarten. Waste water has to be disposed of in the woods or under a basement. The narrow roads barely allow enough space for two cars (causing at least one fire engine to fail to reach a burning house, forcing people to put out the fire themselves).
The people of Novaya Tryokhgorka are very clear about their hardship.
“Incomplete buildings are packed densely together. There is not a single parking lot. We constantly have to deal with disrupted heating and water supplies and frequent sewage leaks. There are no medical facilities and a critical shortage of schools. Transportation is underdeveloped and there is no vehicle access to the neighborhood. There is no public transit. Illegal immigrants and criminals use our neighborhood as a hideout.”
The letter was signed by 30,00 people. MK interviewed one.
“Since everyone else ignores our problems, we are asking Depardieu for help. Many have written him lately and he seems sympathetic.”
What do you think he can do?
“He will tell the officials about us. If only they could finally address these problems before it’s too late. They could build kindergartens after all.”
“The infrastructure in our densely populated neighborhood is really bad, and it’ll get worse: a developer has decided to squeeze four more high-rises in the little remaining space. People are against it but they ignore us. We have appealed to the prosecutor’s office and the local officials. They insist we have nothing to complain about.”
“If built, those four buildings will use up the space for a parking lot which we’ll never have otherwise. It must be stopped before it’s too late. Two more years and we’ll collapse.”
Are you going to send the letter?
“No, it is an open letter. Well, who knows.”
The letter to the newly Russified actor ends with the following, “We beg you to inform President Putin and Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorobyov about our critical situation. They must see with their own eyes what’s happening here. They must talk to people and help us. We are people, not garbage.”
Unfortunately, the community’s appeals to the officials went nowhere, but “the Depardieu plan” turned out to be a sure-fire solution. Soon after the letter was published, community activists were invited to the regional administration offices to discuss their problems.
Duma Deputies Agree to Give up Foreign Stock, Keep Property
State Duma deputies have rejected their own planned ban on state officials owning foreign property, supporting Vladimir Putin’s stand on the issue.
A bill drafted by representatives of all parliamentary parties banning state officials from owning property, bank accounts or other assets abroad, was adopted in its first reading last year. However, in February, the president proposed his own version of the draft law which only bans foreign bank accounts and stocks of foreign issuers, while allowing officials to keep their luxury villas. It was only a few months ago that lawmakers were unanimous on the issue, but they have now decided to bring their bill into compliance with the president’s initiative.
Officially, the lower house will not recall its bill, but will simply merge it with the president's, said Deputy Speaker Sergei Zheleznyak, one of the initiators of the tougher option.
“We will be adopting a whole package of presidential proposals along with the parliament’s initiatives. The Duma-drafted bill will change the current legislation in accordance with the presidential initiative,” Zheleznyak said.
Putin’s proposal sounds more logical and balanced than the initial version, which also extended the ban to officials’ family members, he added.
“We believe that the president’s position is more balanced. There are no problems with closing bank accounts, while property cannot be disposed of quickly. Selling an apartment or a house takes time. Incidentally, property in the CIS countries should have been excluded from the ban,” he said.
This decision means lawmakers will be allowed to keep their foreign property. Several United Russia members earlier cited plans to sell up: Andrei Isayev told Izvestia he had already found a buyer for his land and hotel in Germany, which is owned by his wife. Leonid Simanovsky said he planned to sell his Cyprus bungalow anyway.
The presidential version benefits all Duma members, including the opposition. Dmitry Gudkov, owner of an apartment in Bulgaria, said previously that he would sell it if the law requires it. A Just Russia’s Oksana Dmitriyeva and her husband, Ivan Grachov, who own a house in Greece, have also said they would “act as required by the law.” Now they will not have to make a difficult choice between their mandates and their property.
But Alexei Lysyakov, also from A Just Russia, will have to make the choice: his young daughter has an account in a French bank in her name, which under the new law will have to be closed.
“My daughter’s bank account is meant for her university tuition and she also has an apartment in Paris. I will have to negotiate the issue with my ex-wife. If she does not agree to close the account, I will have to leave the Duma,” he said.
Analysts believe it is only logical to let deputies keep their property.
State officials’ foreign properties are regularly at the center of high-profile scandals, the most recent concerning the Pskov governor's undeclared house in Nice.
Baku Suspects US of Wanting to Stage Revolution
The Baku office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is at the center of a growing scandal caused by press claims that it has been planning a Facebook revolution in Azerbaijan. The local US Embassy and NDI officials at different levels are denying the allegations.
The news about an impending revolution was announced by prominent human rights activist and journalist Eynulla Fatullayev in a sensational article claiming that $2 million had been allocated for a Facebook revolution in his country. Speaking in an interview with the Turan Information Agency, NDI’s regional director for Eurasia Laura Jewett said the NDI was abiding by local laws and denied any involvement in activities other than infrastructure projects and social campaigns.
However, US denials cannot refute certain facts publicized by the local media. For example, periodicals and online resources have published photographs of people who took part in last Sunday’s anti-government protest, some of whom were NDI employees, including one Ruslan Asad, an aide to Alex Grigoriev, head of NDI’s Azerbaijan agency. Local publications report that Mr Asad is behind an anti-government campaign in social networks that has been running for several weeks.
At the same time, the 1news.az website quoted former head of the NDI Baku office Arjen de Wolff as tweeting during Sunday's protest that a coup in Azerbaijan might be a good idea.
There has been no official reaction to the charges against the NDI. Analysts believe that in Azerbaijan the West has been employing the same tactics as in Russia last year, the aim being to replace the current incumbent with a weak president.
According to prominent political scientist and MP Rasim Musabekov, certain circles in the West “could be displeased with what they see as President Ilkham Aliyev’s excessive confidence and independence on various international issues and major energy projects. They’d welcome a weakening of Azerbaijan and may have been taking appropriate steps, including by sponsoring and fomenting the protests. But Azerbaijan is not what it was 20 or even 10 years ago … and can neutralize any outside pressure, remaining in control of the processes.”
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