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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 3, 2008

030708.jpgTODAY: Medvedev interviews dominate the press, covering corruption, relations with the US and UK, and the presidential system; think-tank chaired by Medvedev says that anti-corruption plan is “not new politics”; Duma to intervene on children’s “morality”; National Bolsheviks protest at Foreign Ministry. President Dmitry Medvedev met with journalists yesterday, discussing Russia’s strong economic position and saying that Russia has a right to assume a larger role in the world economic system. He also outlined plans to combat corruption, which he acknowledged has become “a way of life”, and discussed his openness to political competition, although he insisted that Russia retain its presidential system, saying that “the creation of a parliamentary democracy in Russia would mean the death of Russia as a country”. It is being reported that, during the meeting, Medvedev “indicated that he would not get involved in the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky”. The Prosecutor General’s Investigative Committee has completed a three-day preliminary investigation of the case against Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.

Russia’s Institute of Contemporary Development, chaired by Medvedev, has published a new report calling for more political “liberalization”. “The risks of destabilization of Russian politics in the case of liberalization and democratization of society are significantly lower than in the case of reinforcing the current system by leaving it in a deep freeze.” Commenting on Medvedev’s anti-corruption plan, a director at the institute said “It won’t trigger a significant correction in the political regime yet.”Russia’s State Duma has introduced a package of bills and amendments aimed at “protecting children’s morality”, which includes 10pm curfews for teenagers and a ban on body-piercing. Russia has warned Lithuania that agreeing to place US missile defense sites within Lithuanian territory could trigger a Russian military buildup in the region. The death, five years ago, of one of Russia’s “most fearless investigative journalists”, Yury Shchekochikhin, has still not been solved, although friends insist he was poisoned because of his work. A human rights watchdog in Chechnya has demanded an investigation into a suspected mass grave. “For the Kremlin it is a matter of life and death that countries that were once part of the Soviet Union but chose a different model of development — Ukraine being the chief example — should never become attractive to ordinary Russians.”In an interview with a UK journalist, Dmitry Medvedev says that Russia has “excellent relations with Britain economically and a huge amount of trade,” signaling his willingness to renew the country’s relationship with the UK. Read more of the interview here.A dozen National Bolshevik activists, reportedly connected to Garry Kasparov’s The Other Russia, briefly occupied a Russian Foreign Ministry office yesterday, protesting the extradition of one of its leaders to Latvia.PHOTO: Supporters of the National Bolshevik Party light flares and shout anti-government slogans inside the foreign ministry offices in central Moscow July 2. (AFP/Natalia Kolesnikova)