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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast, Sept 4, 2009

namaste090409.jpg[Our apologies on the late posting of this news blast, our contributing editor is on a well deserved vacation. 🙂 – James]

TODAY:  Lots of tennis stories, more of the run around on the Politkovskaya case, journalists gone wild, fights over the Gazprom tower, Medvedev receives Indian president, Chavez in Syria en route to Moscow, and the remaining bruises from Poland.

After several days of confusion over what really happened to the journalist Mikhail Voitenko, who did some of first investigative reporting to suggest the case of the hijacked ship “The Arctic Sea,” was really a cover-up for a weapons deal, the consensus in the press appears to be that he indeed did flee to Turkey seeking aslyum and safety from threats.  According to the Financial Times, who spoke with the journalist, “The Sovfracht maritime bulletin that Mr Voitenko edited on Thursday posted a note on its website denying that Mr Voitenko had been forced to flee. The note said that he was merely away on a business trip in Istanbul and asked journalists to stop bothering him. Mr Voitenko, however, said the site was being regularly hacked into.” 

The re-trial of Anna Politkovskaya’s suspected killers was called off by the Supreme Court yesterday, who ordered that the investigation be merged of the minor accomplices with the mastermind and triggerman (no additional investigating would be carried out on the current three suspects).  This decision is being passed down by the same judges who overturned an acquittal of the suspects and ordered the retrial last June.  Politkovskaya’s family had never agreed with the state’s case against these individuals, so a new investigation is what they have been seeking.  Lawyer Karinna Moskalenko told the New York Times:  “We are satisfied, but hesitantly satisfied. (…) This gives akind of new opportunity, but as to whether the prosecutor general’soffice will use this chance to answer the main questions of the case,this is still an open question.

Lots of frequent flier miles for world leaders this week.  Indian President Pratibha Patil met with Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on Thursday, who lauded the strategic partnership between India and Russia.  Today Patil headed out to meet with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, to discuss trade and energy, as the business volume has dramatically risen in recent years to some $7 billion.  En route to Moscow, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was in Syria today, where he slammed Israel, and remarked that he “feels Syrian,” and that “I feel that Damascus is my home and al-Sweida is my house.

In St. Petersburg yesterday a town hall-style meeting quickly spun out of control as preservations clashed with government over the construction of the Gazprom Tower, a planned 400-meter tall skyscraper which will radically transform the UNESCO-protected skyline of the historic city.  According to the St. Petersburg Times, “Photographs and videos taken during the hearing showed one opponent ofthe tower being choked, another lying on the floor with his sweater andshirt askew, apparently having been thrown to the ground, and a thirdbeing beaten by plain-clothes men. (…) Opponents of the tower say that at least two thirds of the room wasfilled with people brought in by the organizers. After the hearing,several members of the Yabloko Democratic Party saw what they thoughtwas a man distributing payment to the tower’s supporters around theKarelia Hotel.

Following Putin’s visit to Gdansk earlier this week, the bickering between Russia and Poland over WWII hasn’t slowed down at all.