RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 16th, 2009

160309.jpgTODAY: Chávez says no military base; Dovgy trial begins today; Medvedev focuses on corruption, calls for government criticism; 1,000-strong protests in Vladivostock.

President Dmitry Medvedev counted 40,000 criminal cases ‘brought against those who violate state rules while in public service or local government’ for 2008, and said the number is even higher than that of 2007.  12,000 of those, he said, were of bribery.  He intends to publicly disclose his income, in accordance with new laws, under which ‘many [government officials] are believed to declare figures that hide their true income from graft’.  Medvedev also called for an open discussion of the Kremlin’s anti-crisis measures, saying that he would welcome criticism, and said that Russia’s lack of ‘political tension’ was a good sign.  The weekend’s anti-government protests included a reported 1,000-strong march in Vladivostock (where the car tariff protests initially gathered ground).  More than 40 pro-Kremlin youth activists were detained in Moscow ‘for violations of protest rally regulations’.

Contrary to many reports, President Hugo Chávez says Russian bombers would be welcome in Venezuela, but denies that his country has offered Moscow its territory for a military base.  According to this hearsay, US Vice President Joe Biden apparently considers Russia’s exclusion from the WTO ‘outdated’‘Officially, Russia doesn’t have a propaganda ministry. Nonetheless, we are still seeing a Soviet-like government propaganda machine that manipulates people’s consciousness and public opinion.’  The trial of Dmitry Dovgy, the former senior Investigative Committee official accused of bribery, begins today – analysts say this demonstrates that ‘the battle for influence between competing groups close to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is ongoing.’

A St. Petersburg court has ruled that activist Vadim Charushev must remain in a mental health facility, despite protests from those who say his confinement is punishment for his political activities.  A new Russian art medium: corpse oil sculptures.

PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during an interview with the First television channel in the Moscow Kremlin, Friday, March 13, 2009. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service)