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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 15, 2011

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TODAY: United Russia wants Putin; 10th anniversary of NTV takeover; polar bear hunting ban snubbed by WWF; Moscow police investigated for contract killing link; Echo Moskvy lawsuit dropped; Ugandan opposition leader cites Russia weapons deal; architectural activists and Voina arrests; disabled athletes forced to resign; military conscripts killed.
United Russia’s ‘party position‘ is that it wants Vladimir Putin back in the Kremlin next year.  Russia has banned the hunting of polar bears this year, waiving the quota granted it by a U.S.-Russian commission, and applauding itself on Putin’s website.  But the World Wildlife Fund is unimpressed, saying that the ban is only continuing because authorities have no way of monitoring how many bears are actually killed.  Today marks the tenth anniversary of Gazprom’s takeover of the NTV television channel, which many see as the starting point for television’s gradually becoming ‘a staple of the regime‘.  RFE/RL reports on NTV and the decline of independent media.  A criminal investigation has been opened into three Moscow policemen over their suspected sale of mobile phone data to contract killers.   In their defense, the policemen say that they had a judge’s permission to access the mobile phone records of Andrei Kozlov, deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, who was murdered in 2006.

A $388,000 libel lawsuit brought against liberal Moscow radio station Echo Moskvy by Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, a descendent of Stalin, has been rejected.  The Kremlin has criticized U.N. peacekeepers operating in the Ivory Coast for ‘tak[ing] sides‘.  Ugandan opposition candidate Kizza Besigye uses his government’s recent purchase of $720 million worth of fighter jets from Russia as fuel for his campaign for price caps on food and fuel prices.  Arkhnadzor’s activists are protesting plans to demolish a Moscow railway depot, saying that, as the building is a historical monument, it cannot legally be demolished without expert approval.  Voina member Oleg Vorotnikov could be facing another arrest
A coach who told a local newspaper that he had to partially finance his disabled athletes with his own money has been pressured‘ into resigning his post.  Four young military conscripts have died at a military exercise in Pskov Oblast. 
PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev delivers a speech at the opening ceremony of the 10th Boao Forum for Asian Annual Conference 2011 in Boao town, China’s Hainan province April 15, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Lee