RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 2nd, 2009

020309.jpgTODAY: Regional elections held over the weekend – low turnouts and accusations of cheating; Justice Minister slams European Court of Human Rights; Italy gives Russia a church; US and Russia to begin official talks at the end of the week; businessman files suit against Putin?

Russia held its regional elections on Sunday, with provisional results indicating that United Russia will collect the majority of votes, although turnout was markedly lower than usual, and the opposition Communist and nationalist parties have complained of cheating and ‘large-scale falsifications’.  United Russia called the accusations ‘political opportunism’.  Potential voters in one Urals town said it ‘doesn’t matter’ who won the elections, because ‘Medvedev came after Putin, and nothing has actually changed.  A poll by the Levada Center suggests that, since the election of President Dmitry Medvedev [one year ago today], the number of Russians who believe Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the most influential man in the country has almost doubled.  Russia’s Justice Minister doubts ‘the impartiality and full objectivity’ of the European Court of Human Rights, due to the sheer volume of rulings it has made against Russia.

‘Putin’s Potemkin village is about to fall apart at the seams, but this is nothing to rejoice over. The only pluralism we will see as the result of this collapse will be “armed pluralism” — that is, widespread protests and violence on the streets.’  Italy handed Russia the keys to an Orthodox church and pilgrim hostel in Italy in an attempt to ease a 1,000-year schism between the countries’ churches.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet for the first time today at a Gaza recovery conference in Egypt, but an official exchange will take place at the end of the week.  The US has not yet decided the fate of the proposed missile defense system in Poland, but Poland’s foreign minister says he received assurances from the Obama administration that it will follow through on plans to place a Patriot missile battery there.  Medvedev says he is expecting specific proposals on missile defense from the US. ‘Tymoshenko is not pro-west, nor pro-Russia; she is pro-Tymoshenko.’  Ukraine is ‘a linchpin for stability in Europe,’ says this article, so what will happen to EU-Russia relations if it collapses?

A Russian businessman has reportedly filed a lawsuit with the Moscow Arbitration Court accusing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of failing to act properly – not as a premier, but as an individual.  Baffling logic?: from The Moscow Times: ‘Russia’s UN ambassador accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Friday of not doing enough to prevent last year’s war in Georgia, when Russia invaded the country.’

PHOTO: A man looks through ballot papers at a booth at an election station in Russia’s city of Vladimir 180 km east of Moscow March 1, 2009. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin