RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 1, 2012

TODAY: Clinton to hold Russia accountable in event of Syrian civil war; many arrests at Strategy 31 rally; Olga Romanova interview; Putin in Belarus; United Russia to create ‘party school’; railway smoking ban, colonel convicted of spying, opposition culture hits the opera.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Russia will be to blame if full-blown civil war breaks out in Syria.  The FT calls Moscow’s support of the Syrian regime ‘reprehensible’.  The United Nations’ U.S. envoy called a recent Russian arms shipment to Syria ‘reprehensible’.  The New York Times reports on the Orthodox Church’s support of Bashar al-Assad’s rule.  Yesterday’s Strategy 31 rally saw dozens (hundreds?) of arrests, including that of Eduard Limonov, as a current State Duma amendment aims to forbid the wearing of masks at rallies and increase fines for protesters.  Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov says opposition activists will refuse to accept City Hall’s stipulation that they change the route of their June 12 march.  The Washington Post interviews protest leader and former business journalist Olga Romanova.  President Vladimir Putin is in Minsk visiting Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, and will meet with Germany’s Angela Merkel and new French President Francois Hollande.  Is this an indication ‘that relations with former Soviet republics and Asia take priority over relations with the West’?  Putin pledged support and new loans for its ex-Soviet ally, attacking human rights-related European Union sanctions against Belarus.

United Russia is to create a ‘party school’ to exert influence on promising young people in the regions; The Other Russia says the plan ‘evokes an image of a state-sponsored brainwashing operation’.  Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin suggested that requirements for mayoral candidates be eased to allow self-declared nominees to run.  Will Mikhail Prokhorov be the next?  Russian Railways is working towards a total smoking ban on its suburban trains.  Billionaire Alisher Usmanov has reportedly bought a new $100 million yacht.  A retired Russian colonel has been convicted of spying for the U.S.

The Guardian reviews a new production of the 19th century opera Boris Gudonov, which has riot police marching onstage in a sign that ‘opposition to Vladimir Putin’s rule has suffused Russian culture’.

PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L, front) congratulates Irina Antonova (R, front), director of the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, on the 100th anniversary of the museum before a ceremony at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Yekaterina Shtukina/RIA Novosti/Pool