Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday vowed to strengthen the nation’s economy and military might, and rejected what he described as foreign lecturing about democracy and aatempts at foreign interference in its internal affairs.
Putin’s speech was his first state-of-the nation address since winning a third term in March’s election despite a wave of massive protests in Moscow. Putin has taken a tough course on dissent since his inauguration with arrests and searches of opposition activists and introduction of laws that impose heavy fines on protesters and rigid rules on civil society groups.
In a speech that focused heavily on social issues, Putin promised to encourage families to have more children, create 25 million new jobs and develop new incentives for teachers, doctors, engineers and others.
He also pledged to support “institutions that represent traditional spiritual values,” a hint at even more state support for the Russian Orthodox Church.
In August, three members of the punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for performing a protest song in Moscow’s main cathedral against the church’s backing for Putin. One of them was released on appeal, but two others are serving their sentences despite an international outrage over what was widely seen as the intolerance to dissent in Russia.
Putin said Russia would follow its own view on democracy and shrug off any “standards enforced on us from outside.”
“Direct or indirect foreign interference in our political processes is inadmissible,” he said. “Those who receive money from abroad for their political activities and serve alien interests shouldn’t engage in politics in Russia.”
One of the laws passed by the Kremlin-controlled parliament requires non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in vaguely defined political activities to register as “foreign agents,” a move the groups said was aimed to intimidate them and destroy their credibility before the Russians where the term “agent” is synonymous to spy.
Putin said that on the global stage, Russia’s task will be to preserve its “national and spiritual identity,” adding that the strengthening of the nation’s military might should “guarantee its independence and security.”
He said Russia would continue to push for “coordinated collective efforts” in dealing with global issues.
The Kremlin has said that its continuous refusal to support international sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is rooted in international law that bars interference in a sovereign country’s affairs.
Putin also made new promises to boost the fight against corruption.
“Corruption is destroying the resources of a national development,” he said.
Russia is considered to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. A group that tracks global perception of the problem ranks Russia 143rd out of 183 countries.
Putin called for sanctioning officials who own foreign stocks or banks accounts abroad, and said they will have to explain the source of financing for big purchases including real estate abroad.
The statements would play well with the domestic audience, which has relished in the recent ouster of Anatoly Serdyukov as defense minister over a military corruption scandal and investigations against other officials suspected of graft.
Putin repeated pledges to reduce the nation’s reliance on exports of oil and other mineral resources and encourage the development of high-tech industries.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
The dramatic quietening of towns and cities during lockdown in Britain has changed the way the Earth moves beneath our feet, scientists said. Seismologists at the British Geological Survey (BGS) have found that their sensors are twitching less now that human activity has been curtailed, leading to a drop in the anthropogenic din that vibrates through the planet. The fall in the human hum that rings around the world means that, in theory at least, the scientists should be able to detect smaller earthquakes in the UK, and more distant tremors in Europe and in countries further afield than their equipment usually