RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec 15th, 2008

151208.jpgTODAY: Weekend protests see activists detained; Solidarity given ominous gift; activist heckles Medvedev; Lavrov attending Mideast Quartet, US and Russia to discuss arms trade; hate crimes, killer blogs, Russophobia.

The opening day of the founding congress of Solidarity, Russia’s new democratic movement, was reportedly marked by a delivery of ‘dead and wounded sheep‘ clad in Solidarity baseball caps.  Sunday’s unsanctioned anti-Kremlin protest by the Other Russia opposition group saw 150 people detained in St Petersburg and Moscow, depending on which numbers you believe.  Protesters were marching against the Kremlin’s extension of the presidential term from four years to six, a move that President Dmitry Medvedev was defending during a Constitution Day speech when he was heckled.  The heckler was swiftly dealt with in the Moscow Times by Vladimir Frolov, a former Duma deputy and government PR, who wrote that the protest ‘had more to do with promoting himself than anything else‘.  A smaller protest at the Greek embassy also saw activists detained. 

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is attending a Mideast Quartet meeting including the US, EU and UN, to discuss the peace process for Israel and Palestine.  US and Russian officials are holding a separate meeting today to discuss a new pact for nuclear arms control.  Whether the two sides will be able to come to any agreements is another matter.  ‘The gap between Western and Russian values and our readings of recent history is greater today than at any time since communism’s collapse.

Hate crimes are increasingly common in Russia, but analysts are especially concerned by a recent racially motivated killing that was accompanied by a political demand for nationalist policies.

Read about the role played by Russia’s ‘killer blogs‘ in political opposition.  One Guardian columnist writes on the ‘Russophobia virus‘, whilst another speculates on ‘authoritarian rule‘ in Georgia.  US officials are concerned over allegations that a South Ossetian activist investigating US support for Georgia during the war has ties to the KGB.  Last week’s removal of troops from Perevi, near the border of South Ossetia, was short-lived.

PHOTO: Miss Russia Kseniya Sukhinova waves after winning the Miss World contest in Johannesburg, South Africa, Saturday, Dec. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)