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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 3, 2008

030308.jpgTODAY: “Boring” and “stage-managed” elections see landslide for Medvedev. Other Russia to protest today. Russia and China re-evaluating arms trade, UK Prime Minister to offer Russia a “fresh start”. Barroso fears economic Cold War. The elections were “boring” and “carefully stage-managed by the Kremlin”, with polling stations hosting various spectacles to draw voters – in one, “six young women clad in small white bikinis danced and cavorted for an audience of all ages in front of a Russian flag made out of red, white and blue balloons.” One district in the North Caucasus is reporting 100% voter turnout. The Election Commission measures overall voter turnout at 69.65%. With 99.45% of the votes counted, Dmitry Medvedev had 70.23% of the vote, and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov had 17.76%. Western election monitors are expected to give the elections a “harsh poll verdict.” The White House has avoided commenting on the result thus far. United Russia won landslide victories in elections for legislative assemblies in 11 regions over the weekend.

Opposition party Other Russia has organized two protests today, one in Moscow and one in St Petersburg, in response to the weekend’s election. Garry Kasparov carried a shopping bag through Red Square on Sunday that read: “I am not participating in this farce.”Russia and China are reevaluating their arms trade.British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is “poised to draw a line under the long diplomatic row between London and Moscow by telephoning Russia’s president-elect, Dmitry Medvedev, today and offering a fresh start.” Three British MPs from separate parties, meanwhile, have written a group letter to a UK newspaper, urging the EU to be tough with Russia over World Trade membership. New data from the World Health Organization has revealed that Britons are heavier drinkers than Russians. The Okhta Centre, a skyscraper commissioned to be built by British firm RMJM in St Petersburg, is “probably the most controversial construction project on the planet”.President of the EU, José Manuel Barroso, is worried that Russia – which set up an official sovereign wealth fund last month – “is planning to relaunch the cold war, only this time with oil and gas receipts rather than with the Red Army.”“Two three-letter words sum up Russia’s economic good fortune under Vladimir Putin: oil and gas.” “Russia is emerging as a global economic giant”.Russia’s NTV television station was taken over by Gazprom in 2001, and it is expected that REN-TV, its other popular network, will soon also become “controlled and managed”.Profile of Svetlana Medvedeva, Russia’s new First Lady. The election in pictures.PHOTO: A combination picture shows Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and presidential candidate Dmitry Medvedev and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin casting their ballots at Moscow’s polling stations March 2, 2008. REUTERS/Staff (RUSSIA)