Putin urges unity after year of protests

Updated 01 January 2013
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Putin urges unity after year of protests

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday used a traditional New Year’s address to call for unity following a year of protests against his return to the Kremlin for a third term.
The country’s “development and fate depend on our enthusiasm and labor, on our unity and responsibility,” the ITAR-TASS news agency quoted Putin as saying in the televised message aired first in Russia’s Far East.
“Only together can we, the people of Russia, advance steadily, cope with any trials, solve the most complicated tasks, build a strong, successful state, a modern, prosperous and free society,” Putin said.
Russia was rocked by its largest post-Soviet protests in response to Putin’s decision to seek the presidency again following a 2000-08 spell in power in which the state cracked down on civil liberties and media rights.
The former KGB spy served as prime minister for four years under his hand-picked presidential successor Dmitry Medvedev before announcing in September 2011 that the two had agreed to a job swap.
Putin then stormed to victory in March elections against a weak field and was sworn in as president in May.
His inauguration was preceded by violent protests outside the Kremlin and was followed by the adoption of laws further restricting Russians’ right to join demonstrations not authorized by the state.
The strength of such rallies has tapered off in recent months as the opposition scrambles for a strategy that could work with 60-year-old Putin firmly cemented in power at least through 2018.
But smaller-scale rallies still periodically continue in Moscow and Saint Petersburg — Russia’s tsarist capital and the home town of both Putin and many of his closest ministers and advisers.
The radical wing of Russia’s opposition movement attempted to hold a traditional New Year’s Eve rally in central Moscow late Monday despite failing to win permission from the city.
Dozens of police cordoned off the area and arrested leftist leader and writer Eduard Limonov moments after his arrival at the rally site.
Limonov’s Other Russia organization said about half of the 20 or so people who attempted to join the banned event were allegedly roughed up before being detained by the police.
The next mass opposition protest, at which organizers expect some 20,000, has been scheduled for January 13 — a rally protesting Putin’s decision Friday to sign a tough new anti-US adoption law.


Indian police face fury over shooting deaths of 10 protesters

Updated 53 min 48 sec ago
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Indian police face fury over shooting deaths of 10 protesters

CHENNAI: Outrage swelled Wednesday over the deaths of 10 protesters at a rally over a copper plant in southern India, after police opened fire on demonstrators in what critics termed “mass murder.”
Violence erupted Tuesday in Tamil Nadu state at a long-running demonstration demanding the closure of the smelting plant owned by British mining giant Vedanta Resources which residents say is causing environmental damage.
The state’s chief minister has ordered a judicial inquiry into the shootings but the move failed to stem rising anger over the clashes, which also left about 80 wounded.
M.K. Stalin, leader of the main Tamil Nadu opposition party the DMK, said police were guilty of “atrocities.”
“Mass Murder of Innocent People,” he tweeted Wednesday. “Who ordered the police firing on protesters? Why were automatic weapons used to disperse the crowd and under what law is this permitted?“
A video of a police officer on top of a bus and pointing an assault rifle at crowds has fueled fresh anger.
Rahul Gandhi, the national leader of the opposition Congress party, has called the deaths “a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism.”
“These citizens were murdered for protesting against injustice,” he said.
Police said Tuesday that 12 people had died but later revised the toll in the port city of Tuticorin.
P. Mahendran, superintendent of Tuticorin district police, said 18 officers were also wounded in the clashes.
“The situation is tense but under control today,” he said. “The post mortem on the bodies is being conducted and they will be handed over to families today.”
The plant, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) south of Tamil Nadu’s state capital Chennai, is currently closed as Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper subsidiary seeks a new license so it can be expanded.
The protesters had set ablaze the local administrator’s office after they were denied permission to hold a rally at the plant.
Police said efforts to disperse the crowd of several thousand with a baton charge and tear gas volleys failed before authorities used live ammunition.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami ordered the judicial inquiry into the shootings but defended the police.
“The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protesters resorted to repeated violence,” he said.
The families of each victim would be offered one million rupees ($14,700) compensation, he added.
The deaths came on the 100th day of demonstrations against the plant, which environmentalists and residents claim is contaminating water sources — a charge the company denies.
The protests intensified after Vedanta, owned by an Indian billionaire but with its head office in London, sought to double the 400,000-ton annual capacity of the plant.
It was shut briefly after an alleged gas leak in March 2013 that left hundreds with breathing difficulties, nausea and throat infections.
The company maintains that it adheres to environmental standards and said it was the victim of “false propaganda” about its operations.
Tamil Nadu is one of India’s most industrialized and prosperous states and similar protests over environmental concerns have turned deadly in the past.
Tuticorin witnessed violent demonstrations in 2012 over a nuclear power plant in neighboring Kudankulam district that left one person dead.