Russian President Vladimir Putin wants marriage to be defined as the union of a man and woman in a revised constitution, ruling out gay marriage.
It is among several constitutional amendments proposed by Mr Putin, which are set to be put to a public vote.
Critics see the proposals as a move by Mr Putin to keep a hold on power after his presidential term ends in 2024.
The package includes a proclamation of Russians’ faith in God and a ban on giving away any Russian territory.
The territorial amendment would strengthen Russia’s hold on Crimea – a Ukrainian region it annexed in 2014 – and the Kuril Islands, disputed with Japan since World War Two, according to Vladimir Mashkov, a renowned actor-director involved in drafting the new constitution.
Mr Putin also proposed an amendment on “historical truth”, to protect “the great achievement of the people in their defence of the Fatherland”.
He has railed against what he sees as foreign attempts to diminish the enormous sacrifice made by the USSR in World War Two. The defeat of Nazi Germany cost an estimated 27 million Soviet lives.
Mr Putin is in his fourth presidential term; he has been the dominant figure in Russian politics for 20 years. His presidency has been marked by a revival of Soviet-era symbols, conservative values and the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.
He surprised the nation in January with plans for constitutional changes that include transferring some powers from the presidency to parliament.
While most Russians identify as Orthodox Christians, the state is officially secular. The current constitution dates from 1993, when then President Boris Yeltsin was embracing Western democracy and capitalism.
Mr Putin’s drive against Western liberalism has included a controversial ban on disseminating “gay propaganda” among young Russians. The ban – condemned by many liberals and the European Court of Human Rights – has been used to harass gay rights activists.
The constitutional reform bill was approved by the Russian parliament’s lower house – the State Duma – in January, and Mr Putin’s amendments were introduced in time for a second reading next week. The Russian legislature is dominated by Putin supporters.
A public vote on the constitutional revision is scheduled for 22 April, but before then it has to get final approval from parliament and the Constitutional Court.
A Russian political analyst, Konstantin Kalachev, told BBC Russian that the proposals were “a mixed bag”. “It turns out that our forefathers gave us faith in God and the ideas of communism,” he commented, but added: “Putin is a mirror for the majority of Russians”.
Many of the amendments were submitted to Mr Putin by prominent social and cultural figures appointed to a constitutional working group.
Political scientist Grigory Golosov criticised the changes as “political”. “The constitution we have indicates that the state should be free of ideology. So I think these changes are inappropriate.”
Existential dread washed over the face of the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, as he sat next to the American president during their joint press conference on the sidelines of the UN. Donald Trump, as the face of Ukraines most powerful ally in its struggle against Russian aggression, was telling him: I really hope you and President Putin get together and can solve your problem.
Having lost more than 13,000 people in an ongoing conflict with its belligerent neighbor, Ukraine was now being told to make a deal with the aggressor, becauseaccording to President TrumpPresident Putin would like to do something.
During the same conference, Zelensky pleaded with Trump for help with returning the territories occupied and annexed by Russia, and, egged on by Trumpand contrary to the factscomplained that Europe wasnt doing as much as the United States to help Ukraine. In reality, European institutions spent nearly double the amount supplied by the United States: $425.2 million in 2016-2017, as compared to $204.4 million spent by the U.S.
While that disclosure infuriated Ukraines European allies, Trump in the now infamous July 25 phone call with Zelensky blamed Ukraines troubles on the Obama administration, dismissively concluding its just one of those things and directing Zelensky to ask for more help from Europe. Since the calls release, Ukrainians have nicknamed their president Monica Zelensky, as a jab referring to his part in the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Backed into the corner and seeming to stand alone there, Zelensky made a step toward a deal with Putin by officially signing up Ukraine to the Steinmeier Formula. The agreement provides the pathway to a summit that would bring Zelensky face-to-face with Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Russia demanded written codification of the Steinmeier Formula by Ukraine as a key precondition to the next Normandy summit. It interprets the clauses of the Minsk accords (agreements between the Ukrainian authorities and Russia-backed separatists) in line with Russias preferences andtherefore enjoys the Kremlins seal of approval.
We know what happened in the United States. You have nowhere left to go.
Russian TV Host Olga Skabeeva addressing Ukraine
The formula further calls for elections to be conducted under the supervision of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the territories held by Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. It was signed on Oct. 1 by representatives of Ukraine, Russia, the separatist pseudo-republics of Luhansk and Donetsk (LPR and DPR), and the OSCE in Minsk.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the signing of the Steinmeier Formula agreement as a positive development. Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Federation Councils foreign affairs committee, who is under U.S. sanctions for worldwide malign activity, said the signing represents without a doubt, a victory for common sense and an overall success. In stark contrast to Russias jubilation, hundreds of Ukrainians in Kyiv have protested, demanding no capitulation to the Kremlin and its proxies.
The most controversial aspect of the Steinmeier Formula is that it provides for local elections to take place in the occupied parts of Ukraine before Kyiv has control of the border and prior to the withdrawal of the Russian-backed forces.
This condition doesnt seem to match up with Zelenskys understanding of the agreement. After signing on to the Steinmeier Formula, the Ukrainian president declared during a news conference that the elections would not be held under the barrel of a gun and would take place only when no troops remain in the separatist-held areas.
What Ukraine was so afraid of has happened Zelensky doesnt understand what he signed, concluded Vladimir Soloviev, the host of the nightly The Evening With Vladimir Soloviev on Russian state television.
The heads of Russia-backed separatist pseudo-republics in eastern Ukraine openly proclaimed in a public statement that the Kyiv authorities wont get any control over the border and vowed that LPR and DPR will make decisions about integration with Russia of their own accord. Forget about controlling the border, once and for all, exclaimed political scientist Sergey Kurginyan, appearing on The Evening.
During a panel discussion at the Russian Energy Week forum, Putin said that Zelensky will have to decide how the relations between Ukraine and Donbas will develop, pointedly referring to Ukraines own region as a separate geopolitical entity. Putin opined that Ukraine did much better when it was a part of the Soviet Union, along with Russia.
Appearing on Russias state television program 60 Minutes, Oleg Nilov, member of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, asserted that Ukraine was forced to sign the Steinmeier Formulaand proceeded to threaten the country with the Israeli formula of taking all the land Russia wants, if Kyiv reneges on the deal.
Come back to the Soviet Union, urged Karen Shakhnazarov, CEO of Mosfilm Studio, appearing on The Evening. The talk-show host Soloviev concurred and reminded the guests that the USSR was originally formed by a treaty that united the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Transcaucasian republics.
Trump let Zelensky down. Three times he told him: Go meet with Putin, said Olga Skabeeva, the host of 60 Minutes. During the same program, Nikolai Platoshkin, head of the International Relations Department at Moscow University for the Humanities, predicted that once all the formulas have been exhausted, LPR and DPR will ultimately become a part of the Russian Federation. Skabeeva concurred: The sooner the better.
She surmised: After his triumphant meeting with the American president, Zelensky had no choice but to lie back and enjoy it We know what happened in the United States. You have nowhere left to go.
MOSCOWYulia Galyaminas unraveling life illustrates all too well the risks of opposition politics in Russia, even on a local level.
Police broke her teeth and jaw and gave her a serious concussion in 2017 when she was caught in a violent street protest. She has suffered from pain in her jaw ever since.
Undaunted, Galyamina struggled this summer to take part in a Moscow City Council election scheduled for September. On Tuesday she called The Daily Beast on the phone from a police van driving her away from the Russian capital to jail in the provincial town of Mozhaisk.
Galyamina is a 46-year-old linguistics professor at a prestigious university here and on the phone she sounded almost as if she were lecturing students about the dying Ketsky language. But clearly she had a message she wanted to get out.
I have a few minutes left before they take my phone away and cut me off from all communication with my supporters, she said.
Earlier in the day, a court arrested her and eight other key opposition leaders for calling on protesters to stage a rally in downtown Moscow without government authorization. To support the verdict, the judge read aloud a dozen or so of Galyaminas Facebook posts about opposition demands to allow independent candidates, including herself, to run in September.
Now from the van she told The Daily Beast, Putin and [Moscow Mayor Sergey] Sobyanin must be afraid of responsible citizens and I am not surprised to get arrestedI always knew that criminal prosecution would be the price for my opposition activity.
You are working for a fascist power, for those who rule for money, not for your sake.
Yulia Galyamina berating police last Saturday.
Putins Russia has seen many courageous women fighting against injustice. But instead of embracing their constructive criticism, the Kremlin chose to silence them with police clubs and prison bars. There have also been several brilliant women, including journalist Anna Politkovskaya and activist Natalia Estemirova, who fell victim to assassins. But more women join the demonstrations.
Last weekend, for instance, a 17-year-old protester named Olga Misik sat cross-legged in the street and read articles from the Russian Constitution to riot cops arrayed around her about the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, hold rallies, meetings, demonstrations and marches. The image already is an icon of protest.
Two years ago I visited Galyamina at the Botkin Hospital in Moscow, where she was recovering from a concussion. She had severe headaches after a Moscow OMON (Special Police) cop smashed her face. Then, too, it was striking to see pale Galyamina on the phone from her hospital bed, calling for her supporters to come out to the next rally.
At the time, crowds of demonstrators had turned out in the center of Moscows to fight against the city halls renovation plan for the displacement of residents from hundreds of apartment blocks slated for demolition. People did not want to move from the central districts to the outskirts of the capital.
Factories closed, leaving millions without jobsbut at least people had their apartments, their property, Galyamina told me at the hospital in 2017. The new law allows the state to deprive thousands of Moscow families of their beloved apartments and move them to wherever officials want.
Last year Galyamina won a seat in the Moscow municipal elections. Residents of Temiryazevsky region, where she sat on the district council, know their candidate well. She led her electorate in battles about fundamental causes in local politics like saving Dubki Park from development and demanding garbage recycling. She was building her political platform on that public support to run for the Moscow City Duma, a regional parliament, in September this year.
The men in power grow fat, while you work for kopecks [pennies]. You beat women, you beat sick people. Do you realize what you are doing?
Yulia Galyamina berating cops last weekend, before her arrest.
We spent last month collecting almost 4,000 signatures from Yulias supporters but authorities rejected hundreds of real voters to ban her from running for the election, Nikolay Kosyan, one of Galyaminas supporters, said. Kosyan was angry, as are many young activists protesting in the streets in support of the arrested leaders. When the mayoral office realized that we had actually collected real signatures and not fake ones, they still decided to shut her up in fear of her powerful spirit.
On Saturday Galyamina became a hero for thousands of protesters. Facing rows of National Guard riot police, she said: You are working for a fascist power, for those who rule for money, not for your sake, she told men covered in body armor. The men in power grow fat, while you work for kopecks [pennies]. You beat women, you beat sick people. Do you realize what you are doing? Galyamina continued in a lecturing tone while the police looked like mischievous, slightly terrified students. (Video here in Russian.)
Galyamina was wearing her usual red dress and a white jacket and was holding a little Russian flag in her hands. I am a woman, I feel ashamed of you, strong men, who beat ordinary peoplethese people came out to the streets, because they strive to have independent institutes of power, which would not rob people like you, the deputy continued. Ten minutes later two policemen grabbed her, twisted her arms behind her back, and dragged her away from the rally.
Back in 2013, the Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny won 27 percent in a mayoral election in Moscow, even without access to state television channels, coming in second after the incumbent from the ruling United Russia party, Sergei Sobyanin. This time, apparently, Sobyanin wants to avoid the mistake of allowing a strong opposition showing. Nine key candidates for September election are currently behind bars. So is Navalny.
Galyamina had been playing by the rules. She collected the necessary number of signatures in her support but authorities turned her candidacy down, claiming signatures were falsified. Police detained up to 1,400 protesters on Saturday, Russian courts opened 200 legal cases against the opposition.
She is stubborn and she is good at creating responsible communities in Moscow, her friend Denis Bilunov, a political scientist, told The Daily Beast. The Kremlin is scared of Galyamina.