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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 29, 2011

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TODAY: Markelov/Baburova suspects convicted; Kashin defamation case opens; various groups schedule May Day protests; RFE/RL accused of violating election law; Kadyrov says hands clean; Putin’s sports activity; Moscow art students’ work censored; Troitsky interview; Rot Front; figure skating medal.
The ‘ultranationalist‘ couple, Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis, have been convicted of the murders of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Novaya Gazeta freelance reporter Anastasia Baburova.  Both pleaded not guilty and say they are scapegoats. The first verdict was rejected by the judge for being ‘unclear‘, and the second indicated that the pair could have had ‘unidentified accomplices‘.  Court hearings have opened for Vasily Yakemenko’s defamation case against Oleg Kashin, the reporter who accused him of being behind the assault that left him in a coma last November.  A number of May Day protests will be held by various pro and anti-Kremlin groups this Sunday – United Russia’s gathering plans to shout slogans of ‘Medvedev! Putin! Go Russia!‘  Media regulator Roskomnadzor has accused RFE/RL of violating Russian election law for an election-time report in March that cited opinion polls – but the news service says that the polls were from a previous election.

The Kremlin’s handpicked leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has denied in court accusations that he had threatened rights activist Natalya Estemirova and told her that he was up to his elbows in blood. ‘My hands are very clean and white, I had a manicure the day before yesterday.‘  He also said that Estemirova had done nothing ‘holy or useful for the Chechen people,‘ and says she ‘wasn’t defending human rights.‘  Vladimir Putin has taken up skating.  
Work by Moscow art students have apparently been censored for criticizing former Mayor Yury Luzhkov.  A Russian journalist claims that he was spared a beating at a demonstration in Tahrir Square last month once the mob discovered where he was from.  Rock critic turned public activist Artemy Troitsky is interviewed in the Moscow Times.  The Rot Front party wants the Supreme Court to fine the Justice Ministry for stalling on a lawsuit. 
Russia’s Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won silver medals in the world figure skating championships.  A former Miss Russia blames her shoplifting habit on her drug problem. 
PHOTO: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov of Russia react after the pairs free skating competition at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow April 28, 2011. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin