RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 24, 2008

240308.jpgTODAY: Head of British Council criticizes “political chess”; electoral monitoring discussions continue; Zubkov calls for US to ease pressure on Belarus. The Party of Blondes. Sochi to displace 4,000 residents. One US journalist writes that two crucial agreements — the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) – should be a major focus for improving US-Russia relations. Russia says it backs the efforts of the Finnish presidency to continue discussions in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on electoral monitoring. Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has called on the United States to ease its pressure on Belarus, which it still refers to as “the last dictatorship in Europe”, and vowed support for its president, Alexander Lukashenko. The head of the British Council, Lord Kinnock, has criticized Russia for playing “political chess” with the organisation by harassing its staff and closing two of its offices. Russian-born British media magnate Leonid Rozhetskin, who disappeared over a week ago, could have “faked his own death”.

According to campaigners, more than 4,000 people are facing eviction to make room for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.The Party of Blondes, A new political party hoping to challenge Dmitry Medvedev for the presidency of Russia at the next election in 2012 is “for blondes, those who love blondes, and those who are blonde inside”. The most expensive musical instrument in the world, a $3.9 million violin, was played in public for the first time for more than 70 years to 160 guests in Moscow on Saturday, in what one British newspaper sees as “a demonstration of Russia’s growing economic and cultural status.”PHOTO: People attend a demonstration in support of Maxim Reznik, head of the Yabloko opposition party in St Petersburg, March 23, 2008. Reznik still faces trial on charges of assaulting a policeman but the court reversed a previous decision to jail him for two months pending trial. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk (RUSSIA)