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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 13, 2008

130308.jpgTODAY: No to brass Putin. Russia responds to attack on its human rights in kind. NATO criticizes Russian rhetoric. Students and professors fight to save St. Petersburg’s European University. Russia to crack down on internet freedom. Russia has lashed back at the US State Department’s “latest opus” – its condemnation of Russian human rights – saying that it reflects the “double standards of a country that uses the issue as a foreign policy tool while failing to examine its own actions.” NATO has criticized Russia’s rhetoric, particularly in relation to US plans to build a missile shield in Europe. “We have seen too much rhetoric at too high a level. We would like to see it dialled down,” said a spokesman. US President Bush is sending two top foreign policy officials, including Condoleezza Rice, to Moscow next week for talks on difficult security issues. The revolt unleashed by the closure of St. Petersburg’s European University “may have exceeded authorities’ worst expectations,” with students and professors launching a large-scale campaign to save the university, incorporating Internet forums, blogs, and videos. A Russian blogger is facing up to two years in prison for an “incendiary” blog post about police officers, and the State Duma is preparing to crack down on internet freedom, with one new bill proposing tighter state control over Russian online news sites, and another restricting foreign ownership of Internet service providers. You may recall Dmitry Medvedev’s assurance last month that “media freedoms are guaranteed by the internet”.  

A proposal for a brass Vladimir Putin, wearing a cloak and clutching a scroll, has been rejected by the Moscow City Duma monuments commission, saying that the proposal was written by “a somewhat unwell person”.Lawmakers both in Russia and Europe are preparing to raise barriers for foreign investors, with the State Duma considering a bill that would require investors in a number of strategic sectors to seek official permission. Will this raise transparency, or deaden it?PHOTO: A protester wears a card with a picture of a cartoon bear, widely known among Internet-savvy young Russians as a symbol of newly elected president Dmitry Medvedev, during an opposition rally in central Moscow March 3, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (RUSSIA)