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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 2, 2011

TODAY: Putin awards opposition journalist in surprise move; praises leadership of Roosevelt and Kohl; cyberspace conference reveals Russia’s determination to impose government web controls.  Serbia will not expel Russian ambassador; Kyrgyzstan’s president elect says US air base must close; Foreign Ministry criticizes US on UNESCO, missile defense; Viktor Bout trial draws to a conclusion; Chapman accused of being a cheat.

In an apparent attempt to allay Western concerns about the state of media freedom in Russia, Prime Minister Putin has announced state awards to opposition journalists, among them Mikhail Beketov, who was severely beaten following a confrontation with the Khimki city administration about the construction of the controversial Moscow-St Petersburg highway.  The decision comes two weeks after a U.S. State Department official traveled to Khimki to speak with local activists and pledged to ‘redouble‘ U.S. pressure on the Kremlin with regards to human rights.  Doubtless tired of unflattering Brezhnev comparisons, the Prime Minister has used an interview to invoke the legacies of long-running leaders such as Franklin D Roosevelt and Charles De Gaulle as his models of strong inspirational leadership.  According to the Moscow Times, the Investigative Committee has completed its investigation into two prison medics who were charged in the death of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.  At the London Conference on Cyberspace Britain and the US have taken issue with Russia and China’s appeals for stricter governmental control of the Internet, which Russian Communications Minister Igor Shchyogolev maintains ‘does not automatically restrict freedom of information or self expression on the internet’.

Serbia’s President Boris Tadic has criticized the Russian ambassador for addressing an opposition nationalist gathering, but indicated that Alexander Konuzin will not be expelled.  In a sign that Kyrgyzstan’s new president-elect may prove a strong ally to Russia, he has announced that the U.S. air base in the country needs to close by 2014.  The Kremlin has reportedly expressed its regret that Washington has decided to withdraw funding for UNESCO after the UN body granted full membership to Palestine.  The Foreign Ministry also reiterated a warning that it will have to take ‘retaliatory measures’ if the United States and NATO continue to ignore its concerns about missile defense in Europe.  As the Viktor Bout trial wraps up, this article suggests that the fate of the Merchant of Death will doubtless place a strain on the US-Russia reset.

Former spy and Kremlin pin-up girl Anna Chapman has been accused of plagiarism by a number of prominent bloggers.

PHOTO: Mikhail Beketov, above, a reporter who suffered severe brain damage in an unsolved attack, in 2010. (James Hill/New York Times)