RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 25th, 2009

250209.jpgTODAY: Khodorkovsky moved to Moscow for new trial; Medvedev urges Estonia to prosecute suspected murderers; Kremlin granting passports in neighboring countries; pro-Kremlin youth try to tarnish opposition image.

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been transferred to a Moscow detention center, reportedly in strong spirits ahead of his forthcoming trial for new theft and money-laundering charges announced last week, which his lawyers have called ‘absurd’.  Preliminary hearings in the new trial will begin next Tuesday.  On the mysterious unanimityof the Politkovskaya verdict.  Dmitry Medvedev has urged Estonia to prosecute those suspected of killing an ethnic Russian in a riot two years ago.

The Kremlin says it is granting passports to Russians abroad for humanitarian rather than political reasons, but many are worried that Moscow will use its growing expatriate communities to meddle in the domestic politics of countries near its borders, such as Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Estonia.  ‘The critics of Vladimir Putin have a strange habit of being found shot or stabbed or poisoned,’ writes Johann Hari in The Independent.  A member of the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth group is trying to demonstrate that the political opposition, in general, are characterized by ‘drinking, hooliganism and the seduction of minors’.  Hmmm. 

Vladimir Putin made three visits to state press offices yesterday.  He was given guided tours around the offices of Ria Novosti, Russia Today and the Moscow News.

PHOTO: People looks at Calatchi – festive loafs – displayed for sale at a booth just outside Moscow’s Kremlin, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, during Maslenitsa, Pancake week. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)