TODAY: Vladimir Putin interviewed by French newspaper; Kasparov criticizes western media; smuggling case lawyer attacked; gay rights activists detained; Russia sends more “personnel” into Abkhazia. Vladimir Putin’s weekend interview with French newspaper Le Monde produced some interesting soundbites. The prime minister promised to raise wages, pensions and social benefits to compensate for rising prices and minimize the effects of Russia’s anti-inflation policy, and compared the US to a “frightening monster”. He also said he has “never heard of” Bill Browder, the hedge-fund founder barred from Russia since November 2005, and that he opposes clemency for Mikhail Khodorkovky because he “broke the law”. Russia Today has published a full transcript of the interview, and a video is also available. The Moscow Times has published an interview with the mother of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Garry Kasparov accused the western media of being “more worried about corruption in the Eurovision song contest than in the Russian elections” and said Vladimir Putin, recently appointed prime minister after eight years as president, wanted to “rule like Stalin and live like Roman Abramovich“. Two men attacked and robbed lawyer Viktor Parshutkin a few days after he successfully defended media activist Manana Aslamazyan against currency-smuggling charges. “I link this attack directly to my professional activity in the case of Manana Aslamazyan,” he said. The Constitutional Court ruled that the smuggling law under which Aslamazyan was charged violated citizens’ constitutional rights by failing to define what constituted a “large sum” of money.A small but unauthorized gay parade in the center of Moscow over the weekend saw 13 people detained, after city authorities refused to grant permission for the protest. Police reportedly said those detained would be given “lectures on morality and behaviour.”Russia has finished a “regular rotation” of its peacekeepers in the conflict zone of Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it sent 300 unarmed personnel into Abkhazia “to restore the railroad”. Georgia called it an “aggressive step”, and the United States has again expressed dismay over the deployment of additional Russian troops to the region.Moscow has opened its World Fine Art Fair, with Russian contemporary art attracting the most attention. “Russia’s industrial oligarchs are the new force in the multibillion-pound global art market.”PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gestures as he speaks during an interview with the French daily Le Monde in Paris, France, Friday, May 30, 2008. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Sergei Subbotin, Pool)