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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan. 28, 2008

280108.jpgTODAY: Kasyanov barred from presidential election leaving just four candidates. Violence for governors and journalists. Russia to ban Indian plant imports? The Kremlin has barred Mikhail Kasyanov, its “last liberal opposition candidate”, from the upcoming presidential election. One newspaper says Vladimir Putin “took his revenge on a former ally who had turned into a fierce critic,” and Kasyanov himself agrees that “undoubtedly the decision not to register my candidacy … was made personally by Vladimir Putin.” One journalist says that the barring clears a path for “the Kremlin’s favorite candidate [Dmitry Medvedev] to run all but unchallenged.” Kasyanov commented: “The country has stepped onto the slippery slope towards thievish totalitarianism. Violence and dictatorship are the main ideas of this regime.” Profiles four the four remaining candidates can be found here. Russia’s Election Commission has begun sending out invitations to international observers for the election, although those who recall the various international fiascos caused by the last set of observer invitations will have their suspicions…

An unidentified assailant shot and wounded the deputy governor of Russia’s easternmost Maritime region who is in charge of a lucrative fishing industry. Russian police have detained and beaten up two journalists who were covering a protest in the southern region of Ingushetia against alleged vote-rigging. Semyon Mogilevich, a suspected organized-crime boss who is wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for alleged fraud and racketeering, has been arrested “by accident”, along with Arbat Prestige owner Vladimir Nekrasov. One paper is running a special story on Alexander Litvinenko.The Philippines and Russia have signed a partnership agreement covering energy, mining, tourism, and workforce. The Russian authorities are reported to be considering a ban on imports of plant products from India. Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s new ambassador to NATO, says protecting the country’s borders is his top priority. One Russian paper says that US presidential candidates are “sidelining” Russia.New research reveals that smoking rates have more than doubled in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.PHOTO: With a logo of his party, People’s Democratic Union, in the background, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov looks on while speaking to the media in Moscow, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)