Russia’s Megafon in talks to start bank
“The motives (for the suggestion) are understandable: switch on your brain when you’re getting married, otherwise there’s going to be material penalties,” the prime minister said. Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president between 2008 and 2012, was commenting on a proposal submitted by senators that would increase the state fees for divorce to almost 30,000 rubles (700 euros, $940), a huge rise from the current charge of 400 rubles (nine euros, $12.50). Costly divorce cases are relatively rare in Russia, which has one of the world’s most lenient divorce procedures, with couples able to annul their marriages out of court in a single procedure at a wedding office. In cases where the divorce is contested, relatively little justification is required. Karina Krasnova, a lawyer from the company Russian Divorce, told AFP: “In Russia the situation is very favourable for divorce. It’s much cheaper because you can do it independently, because you’d don’t need lawyers.” Some, including Medvedev, have suggested that this easy-going regime, a legacy of the Soviet Union, promotes a cavalier attitude towards matrimony, leading to high rates of divorce. According to a global UN survey, Russia has the 15th highest female divorce rate and the 28th highest for men. The Soviet Union was one of the first countries in the world to allow “no-fault” divorce requiring no justification for splitting, as the Communist state sought to destroy what it considered the bourgeois construct of the family. In the 1930s, 40% of Soviet marriages ended in divorce. Stalin later reversed this policy, but divorce remained relatively straightforward. The discussion on reducing family break-ups coincides with a campaign by the Russian government to encourage more conservative family values in keeping with those traditionally promoted by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Russian mobile operators, trying to boost profits in a maturing market, have been searching for avenues to earn more from their subscriber base. Megafon would be following Russia’s top mobile phone operator MTS, which this year bought a stake in a bank from its parent company Sistema. “We are discussing – we don’t have a decision – creating a Megafon bank,” CEO Ivan Tavrin told the Reuters Russia Investment Summit. “We are very (focused) on value-added services. There are many (new) things we can do inside our industry.” Tavrin said Megafon would prefer to buy a small bank rather than acquire a banking license, which would likely take more time, and said the firm was already talking to some small lenders. He said he would consider buying a bank which does not have large operations or a branch network. He is planning to discuss the strategy with Megafon’s board later this year. “The quality of credit (of our customers) and services we would give is an absolute priority for us,” Tavrin said. “We would not look to get the lion’s share of the (consumer credit) market. For us, the quality will be much more important than the quantity.” MTS, the first Russian telecoms operator to move into banking, expects financial services to account for up to 5 percent of its total net profit by 2017. MOST IMPORTANT Megafon already has an indirect exposure to financial services through a $1 billion deal last year to buy a 50 percent stake in handset retailer Euroset, which offers online payment services in its stores. However, Megafon could ultimately sell a part of its stake in Euroset, Tavrin said, when asked whether the retailer could at some point go public. There has been speculation in the Russian press that MTS is interested in buying a stake in Euroset, which Megafon owns equally with Russia’s No.3 mobile operator Vimpelcom. MTS said it was not considering such a move.
Brazil didn’t finish in the top four at FIBA Americas Championship and missed out on one of the automatic bids. As host of the 2016 Olympics, Brazil needs the experience if its wants to make a run at a medal on its home court in three years. The exposure is important, too. There is no shortage of options in Europe, from Russia, which entered Eurobasket in turmoil (its coach quit a month before event began) and didn’t have its best players, to Greece to Turkey to Italy. Russia seems the most likely of those countries to pay big dollars for inclusion, and it won silver in London last summer. Oddly, Nigeria, which finished a disappointing seventh at Afrobasket, is interested in playing in the World Cup. However, can it come up with the money, and does FIBA want a team which finished so low in Africa, playing in the World Cup? Nigeria played in the 2012 London Olympics and finished 10th with just one victory. Either way, the USA, which won the 2010 world championship and gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, will enter as the favorite. The USA will learn its opponents for group play at the World Cup draw Feb. 8 in Barcelona. USA Basketball, which held a mini-camp in Las Vegas in July, will look more like the 2010 world championship team than the 2012 Olympic team with Kevin Durant and Kevin Love promising to play if healthy and Stephen Curry and Derrick Rose locks to make the team if they want to play. Both have expressed interest, and all four played in Turkey in 2010.
Hunger striking Russia’s punk band member moved to solitary cell
Kremlin critics say her sentencing along with other band members is part of a crackdown on dissent since Putin returned to the presidency for a third term in May 2012. The head of a public supervising committee in the remote region where she is confined, Gennady Morozov, denied the transfer was punishment. He described her cell as a “safe place” where she would be shielded from threats from fellow inmates. He said Tolokonnikova’s allegations that she had received death threats from a senior prison official and of deplorable conditions at Corrective Colony No. 14 in the Mordovia region, southeast of Moscow, would be investigated. She could face discipline for slander, if they were found to be false, he added. A spokeswoman for the Federal Prison Service said the member of the feminist punk rock group is now living a spacious single cell with a bed, a refrigerator, toilet and personal belongings. In a letter circulated by her husband, Tolokonnikova said inmates were forced to work up to 17 hours a day sewing police uniforms and were allowed no more than four hours sleep a night. She said camp officials used senior inmates to enforce order, describing a system of collective punishment and production quotas reminiscent of Soviet-era Gulag labor camps. When Tolokonnikova appealed for investigation of the conditions, she said a senior prison official told her: “You’ll surely never feel bad again because it’s never bad in the other world.” ‘VERY HARSH’ A former lawyer for jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s now defunct Yukos firm, who served time in the same Mordovia prison colony, told the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Tuesday that most of what Tolokonnikova had alleged was true. Svetlana Bakhmina, who received early parole in 2009 from a six and half year sentence, said she expected that collective punishment would be meted out on the inmates in response to Tolokonnikova’s letter.