RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec 16th, 2008

161208.jpgTODAY: Duma to extend definition of treason; grassroots protests succeed on car duty; analyst predicts 2009 will see Putin return to the Kremlin; ultra-nationalists, military reforms, Iran.

The State Duma is in the process of widening the definition of treason to include damage to the constitutional order and state integrity, with human rights activists protesting that the changes could impede the work of NGOs in the country.  The changes have reportedly been designed to intimidate opposition to the Kremlin, and were announced just as Andrei Lugovoi said that anyone causing damage to the Russian state ‘should be exterminated‘.  The raising of import duties on foreign cars is to be postponed following protests by drivers in Russia’s Primorye region in a ‘rare example of grassroots political power‘.

Lilia Shevtsova, a Russian political scientist and Kremlin critic, has told a German newspaper that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin could return to the Kremlin by the summer.  Read a special report on Russian censorship of crisis coverage.  Concerns about renewing a military doctrine for Russia’s army could indefinitely postpone any real reform, says this columnist.  A gang of ‘ultra-nationalist‘ teenagers has been given jail sentences for carrying out a series of racially-motivated killings.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, together with Germany, will hold a meeting with Arab diplomats to discuss Iran’s nuclear program.  Yesterday’s quartet on Israel and Palestine did not produce a peace agreement, but members say the process to find a solution is ‘irreversible‘.

PHOTO: A woman looks at magazines at a newspaper stall in Moscow, November 26, 2008. (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)