RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 12th, 2009

120309.jpgTODAY: Kazakh President calls for new Eurasian currency; Russia moves to destroy chemical weapons; Council of Europe will not sanction Russia over human rights issues; opposition slogans under investigation; alcohol, poet charged with inciting hatred, Eurovision.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has proposed the creation of a new, cashless currency – the yevraz – for the Eurasian Economic Community, perceived by some as ‘a slap in the face’ for Russia which had proposed the ruble (which analysts say could slide as much as 20% against its target basket this year).  The director-general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons praises Russia’s move to destroy its chemical weapons at Shchuchye in the Kurgan region, in addition to three other destruction facilities that are currently operating.  Could wrangling over missile defense in Eastern Europe be prevented with more precise technology?  Why has the Kremlin backed draft legislation to create sanctioned civilian militias? 

Russia shouldn’t complain – the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the case of judge Olga Kudeshkina ‘were a significant contribution to a debate the importance of which was recognised by Dmitri Medvedev in a speech last July’ on strengthening the independence of judges, notes The Times.  Despite Moscow’s continued refusal to ratify two key human rights protocol in the European Convention, the Council of Europe says that sanctions would be ‘groundless’.  Vladivostok prosecutors have opened an investigation into an opposition banner used at recent rallies to establish whether or not the slogan ‘Putler Kaput!’ is a call for violence against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  Russia has called for Yevgeny Chichvarkin, the co-founder of Russian mobile phone retailer Yevroset, to be put on Interpol’s international wanted list.

A lack of advertising demand is causing the Moscow metro’s media handler to fill empty billboards with social messages promoting family values.  Illegal vodka accounts for half of all sales, and United Russia wants a crackdown on underage drinking.  A 21-year-old poet has been sentenced to 160 hours of community service for publicly inciting ethnic, national and religious hatred after posting ‘Islamic’ poems on her blog.  ‘Freedom of speech in our country is under rather strict control,’ she noted.  Georgia’s Eurovision entry has been pulled due to its lyrical pot-shot at Vladimir Putin.  But, notes the Guardian, ‘last year the Russian entry won the title, in large part due to the support of eastern European voters. […] should Eurovision lyrics be a politics-free zone?’

PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill attend a joint session of the State Council and the Presidential Council on Cooperation with Religious Associations in Tula March 11, 2009. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool (RUSSIA POLITICS RELIGION)