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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 11, 2012

TODAY: Udalstov detained; opposition activities in Astrakhan continue; US slams Magnitsky verdict;will Putin’s last speech as PM will offer clues as to makeup of next cabinet? ROC attacks political correctness; Clinton takes Russia to task on Syria inaction; smoker to pay millions for forest fire damages; Aeroflot tests passengers’ nerves.

Police have detained opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov as he and scores of protestors attempted to rally outside the State Duma before the arrival of Prime Minister Putin to deliver a speech on the Cabinet’s performance.  The Moscow Times reports on how protest activities in Astrakhan continue to grab headlines.  Police have clashed with opposition activists in the southern city who gathered in support of hunger striker and Just Russia leader Oleg Shein.  RFE/RL considers the relationship between discontent in Astrakhan and other regional centers.  Astrakhan’s regional governor, Alexander Zhilikin, has vowed that the disputed election results, which prompted Shein’s hunger strike, will stand.  Moscow’s Tverskoi district court of justice has fined Ecodefense movement leader Yevgenia Chirikova 500 roubles for putting up a tent in Red Square during Sunday’s ‘White Square’ action.  The US state department has branded Russia’s investigation into the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky ‘inadequate’.  In the Moscow Times, Yulia Latynina draws a comparison between Chicago mobsters Murder Inc and the men who conducted the tax fraud at the heart of the Hermitage Capital case, ‘Serial Tax Refund Inc’.  Brian Whitmore meanwhile poses a comparison between Vladimir Putin’s rule and that of South Korea’s Park Chung Hee and Indonesia’s SuhartoToday observers are poised to see whether Putin will indicate the key players in his new administration in his last annual address to parliament as Prime Minister.   Reports have circulated that Elvira Nabiullina, Russia’s economic development minister, may be made deputy prime minister in the new government.  The fate of Perm Governor Oleg Chirkunov remains uncertain.

One of the Russian Orthodox Church’s leading hierarchs has launched a searing attack on political correctness.  The head of State Duma CIS Affairs Committee has denied reports that a council to prevent color revolutions is in the pipeline.  Despite the disinterest of sponsors, pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi will proceed with its $17 million annual summer camp at Seliger.  Vladimir Putin’s attempts to follow up his unforgettable rendition of ‘Blueberry Hill’ are scuppered.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told the US Naval Academy that Russia’s ‘refusal to join us in some kind of constructive action is keeping Assad in power, well-armed, able to ignore the demands of his own people, the region and the world’.  Sergei Lavrov has told reporters that Russia has urged Syria to be ‘more decisive’ in the fulfillment of the ceasefire plan.  He also exhorted UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan to maximize efforts to ensure Syrian opposition groups adhere to its terms.

In an unprecedented move, a man who unintentionally ignited a Siberian forest fire with a cigarette butt has been ordered to pay $19.6 million in damages.  Aeroflot fails to reassure its passengers of flight safety standards.

PHOTO: Vladimir Putin tinkles the ivories on a visit to the Russian Enterprise Theater, April 10, 2012.  (Government.ru)