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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 21, 2010

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TODAY: Poorly Putin makes annual address to State Duma, New Times documents Putin’s Gazprom cronies; flights from Moscow resume; Medvedev orders military to protect Russians in Kyrgyzstan, Georgia charges Russian tanker, volatile states call the shots?  Duma to take measures against car sirens for state officials; military police system still on the cards; neo-Nazis attack bubble-blowing flashmob.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, struggling with a cold, pledged economic reforms in his annual address to the State Duma yesterday, warning Russia on the urgent need to cut its budget deficit lest it be forced ‘to go with our hands outstretched to somebody, losing our economic and then our political sovereignty‘.  The New Times has published a two-page spread detailing the members of Vladimir Putin’s family‘ of cronies – most of them Gazprom execs.  Many flights from Moscow to Europe resumed yesterday, as many Russian tourists remained stranded in the Czech Republic, France and England.  President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered the Russian military to protect ethnic Russians in Kyrgyzstan, after looters attacked Russian villagers on the outskirts of Bishkek.  Russia will forge ‘fully-fledged cooperation‘ with Kyrgyz authorities after the elections.  It’s the volatile small states in the former Soviet regions that are calling the shots, not Russia, says The Guardian.  Georgian naval vessels have apparently intercepted a Russian tanker, charged it with polluting the Black Sea, arrested the crew and issued a $37,000 fine.  New relations for Russia and Poland?  ‘Perhaps so, but as the Polish essayist Stanislaw Jerzy Lec said: “You can close your eyes to reality, but not to memories.”

RFE/RL’s power vertical‘ blog reports that Vladimir Putin is ‘seriously considering using United Russia as his main vehicle to continue ruling the country‘.  The Duma is considering creating a new law to combat state officials and businessmen using migalki – the car sirens that have infuriated regular commuters and sparked waves of protest. 
Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov says that Russia has not abandoned plans to create a military police system, and is seeking out foreign experience in the field.  New measures to boost the safety of the armed forces will include a five-day schedule, with weekends off.  A group of neo-Nazis attacked a bubble-blowing, nonpolitical flash mob of 500 youths, mistaking their ‘spring celebration‘ gathering for a gay pride event and firing rubber bullets at them.  Police then apparently detained some of the youths for ‘walking on the grass‘.
PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, makes his annual address to the State Duma, the Russian parliament’s lower house, in Moscow, Tuesday, April 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Alexei Druzhinin, Pool)