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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 20, 2011

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TODAY: Khimki Forest activists arrested; Moscow wages draw migrants; BBC unveils poor treatment of asylum seekers; negative reports emerging from military volunteers, ‘hazing’ driven by racism; corruption bill passes second reading; Putin to deliver economic report today; A Just Russia loses ‘Go Russia!’ registration race; foreign-funded Soviet weapons program now ‘outdated’; neo-Nazis, wildfires.
26 Khimki Forest activists, including campaign head Yengenia Chirikova, have been arrested at a rally in the nearby town.  Wages in Moscow are considerably higher than elsewhere in the country, drawing an inflow of around 1 million migrants in the last eight years.  A BBC report on the treatment of asylum seekers reveals some unpleasant case studies and accusations of official racism.  The WSJ interviews Sergei Fetisov, a volunteer soldier who left the Russian Army amid ‘poor morale‘ and ‘menial, humiliating‘ work, and reports on an overall drop in the numbers of young men volunteering.  ‘Ethnic tensions‘ in the military are often behind the abuse of conscripts (known as ‘hazing‘), says this report.  The Moscow Times says that the Pulitzer Prize win for two Moscow correspondents who wrote a series of articles about corruption indicates ‘that the influence of foreign media is growing in Russia‘.  The second reading of a bill that would fine officials up to 100 times the size of a bribe has survived in the State Duma, but will need a final reading in order to be signed into law.

Vladimir Putin will deliver his annual economic report to the State Duma today, his last before the presidential elections.  Nikolai Levichev, acting head of the opposition party A Just Russia, anticipates that Putin’s speech will involve ‘a lot of figures, well-matching, they will show that everything’s all right.‘  NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin is playing down rumors that he will become the new head of the party in the wake of Sergei Mironov’s departure.  Despite being the first party to announce plans to register a ‘Go Russia!‘ group, A Just Russia has lost out on the registration of the movement’s name to United Russia.  Russia is pulling out of the foreign donor-funded International Science and Technology program that helped it build weapons in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, saying that the project is now ‘outdated‘. 
Youth activists are patrolling the streets of Moscow today in order to prevent neo-Nazi attacks commemorating the anniversary of Hitler’s birth.  600 hectares worth of wildfires have been extinguished in the Far East.  Anatoly Bershtein has a fanciful take on the presidential elections, linking popular preference to the history of Tsars: ‘Putin – a self-promoter from God – looks like a more natural ruler than Medvedev‘. 
PHOTO: Activists from Greenpeace dressed as windmills participate in a demonstration outside the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy in Moscow April 19, 2011. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin