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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 21, 2011

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TODAY: Putin delivers annual report; official dampens hopes of visa-free travel with U.S.; migration official sacked; journalist arrested for extortion; music critic fined, faces jail; police investigate illegal felling of Moscow birch trees; warm relations with Japan; A Just Russia official dies after being refused medical treatment; Politkovskaya review; Radio 4 series on Russia.
Vladimir Putin delivered his annual report to the State Duma yesterday, spurring many to speculate that his generous promises on the next decade of spending in defense, agriculture and infrastructure indicate that he intends to stay in power.  Comments made by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia suggest that visa-free travel is a long way off.  Following an interview with the BBC in which he said that uncontrolled migration threatened ‘the survival of the white race‘, Federal Migration Service spokesman Konstantin Poltoranin has been fired.  Margarita Yefremova, the Deputy Chief Editor of Rostov-na-Donu newspaper Yuzhny Federalny, has been arrested for allegedly attempting to bribe government officials into paying her not to publish articles on their activities.  Music critic Artemy Troitsky will be fined $4,600 and could be jailed for two years after publicly criticizing police officer Nikolai Khovansky for his response to a February car accident involving a LUKoil executive.  Moscow police are investigating the illegal felling of birch trees near the planned route of the Moscow-St. Petersburg highway, highlighting Khimki activist Yevgenia Chirikova’s assertion that the highway plan is causing ‘uncontrolled deforestation in the region‘.

Maxim Goloviznin, who led the A Just Russia party’s Sverdlovsk region branch, died of heart failure outside a hospital in Moscow after doctors and security guards refused to admit him.  After Goloviznin had been pronounced dead, a doctor emerged – apparently after being handcuffed to a traffic warden who ordered him to help.  Russian and Japanese officials have exchanged warm words about their relationship following Russia’s support in the wake of Japan’s tsunami and nuclear crisis.  Masahara Kono, the Japanese Ambassador, said, ‘Russia and Japan will  be together for ever.‘  Together with China, Russia has blocked a U.N. resolution on violence against protesters in Yemen. 
Here’s a review of the translated works of Anna Politkovskaya, ‘Is Journalism Worth Dying For?‘, which compiles, among other writings, evidence and testimony on state-ordered torture and killings in Chechnya.  A new series on Russia called ‘The Wild East‘ commenced this week on BBC Radio 4, looking at various aspects of the country’s history.  Follow it here
PHOTO: Dry grass, bushes and trees burn on the bank of the Yenisei River in Taiga district, near Russia’s Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, April 21, 2011. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin