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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 11, 2010

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TODAY: Medvedev and Putin approval ratings suffer, public anger reflected in Russian press, US and Sweden issue travel warnings; plaintiff in Barkov lawsuit dies; Khimki protest broken up by police; hijacking exercise with the US completed; architectural decrepitude, blue honeysuckle, neo-Nazis.
Public trust in the dual rule of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has hit ‘record lows‘.  AFP reports on increasing anger in the Russian press at the official response (‘in a tale repeated in interviews across rural Russia, locals said firemen came too late or not at all‘), noting Vedomosti’s particularly scathing response to Putin’s latest PR appearance in a firefighting plane.  This contrasts with a VTsIOM source‘s assertion that the dip in popularity ‘would be a temporary effect based on an emotional reaction to fires‘.  Vedomosti also slammed Moscow’s mayor: ‘Perhaps the calmest of all Moscow officials was Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who spent most of the smog-filled days on vacation in Europe‘, but was not the only critic of Luzhkov’s attendance in Moscow during the wildfires: a Kremlin source reportedly called the mayor’s initial absence ‘unhelpful‘.  Moscow’s air quality improved this morning after last night’s rains, reports suggest, as the US and Sweden both advised their citizens to avoid the affected areas, and alarming reports speculate on the effects of the fire in regions coated with fallout from Chernobyl.  Bloomberg guesses at a 15,000 death toll

Anatoly Barkov, the LUKoil vice president involved in the fatal car crash that killed two women, has thus far escaped police charges; and now the lawsuit brought against him may also collapse, because the plaintiff – ‘a young and healthy person‘ – has died of a brain hemorrhage.  Police forced 30 people to leave a sit-in protest against the destruction of the Khimki forest.  Ariel Cohen in the WSJ: ‘While the Obama administration praises soft power, Russia still speaks the language of arms.‘  The US and Russia have completing an airspace training exercise on cooperation and coordination designed to ‘make it harder for terrorists to do us harm‘.  
The Guardian has a piece lamenting the decline of Moscow’s architectural heritage: ‘The more hallowed the building in the architectural history books, the greater its decrepitude.‘  On blue honeysuckle and the Pavlovsk collection‘s other rare plants, currently under threat from property developers.  A day in the life of a neo-Nazi sympathizer… 
PHOTO: Children enjoy water jets as they play in a fountain to cool off in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010.(AP Photo/Maria Turchenkova)