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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 17, 2008

170708.jpgTODAY: Khodorkovsky appeals for early release, challenging Medvedev’s promises of reform; Communist Party not surprised by ruling on election annulment; bill submitted could improve prisoners’ rights; Fedotov says veto is not a contradiction; Italy warms to Russia; Germany to send minister to Abkhazia and Russia. Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, Yury Schmidt, speaking in relation to his client’s decision to request parole, says he has “much hope in the words of Medvedev on the independence of the judiciary.” “The case could be the first test of Dmitry Medvedev’s desire to enforce the rule of law in a country that consistently ranks near the bottom of corruption rankings,” says one report. In an interview with a Russian newspaper, Khodorkovsky’s mother has appealed to Medvedev for her son’s release. Garry Kasparov’s United Civil Front opposition party plans to stage protests this weekend in support of imprisoned party members. The Communist Party is “not surprised” by the Supreme Court’s rejection of its request to have the results of the State Duma elections annulled.

If passed, a bill submitted to the State Duma last month would provide people who are detained with the right to make a phone call – a measure that, it is thought, could reduce police misconduct. One Russian journalist says that the Russian press is seeing a revival of the information wars of the 1990s. “There is in fact no contradiction whatsoever between what was discussed and agreed at the G8, and Russia’s veto decision,” says Russian ambassador to the UK, Yuri Fedotov.Dmitry Medvedev has called for “an all-European summit where we could start working out a legally binding agreement about European security” that would include the United States, and the Italian President made “the warmest response so far from a Western politician to the Kremlin’s overtures”. Vladimir Putin says Russia has watched countries like Italy closely in developing its political system. Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to travel to Georgia, Abkhazia and Russia this week in an attempt to defuse mounting tensions. Is Abkhazia “the Kremlin’s Tibet”? Saudi Arabia “is unlikely to have extracted a promise from Moscow that it will change its policy”. Ukrainian officials say Russia has refused to extradite a key figure in the investigation into the poisoning that disfigured President Viktor Yushchenko.PHOTO: A church-goer holds a portrait of Russian Tsar Nicholas II during a religious procession in the Ukrainian city of Kiev in 2007. Human remains unearthed in Russia have been confirmed as those of two children of the last tsar, as Russians marked the 90th anniversary of the family’s killing. (AFP/File/Sergei Supinsky)