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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 12, 2010

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TODAY: Moscow air improves but fires still rage; blogger suggests Putin be fined for flying without license; China pledges support; what happened to the Aerial Forest Protection Center? Over 90% of prisoners have health problems; Magnitsky police to be investigated; Clinton urges START ratification.
Clearer skies in Moscow have prompted the city’s embassies to resume full operations, says the EU’s Russia delegation, but it is thought that peat bog fires will continue to burn and emit greenhouse gases until the winter.  The Moscow Times reports on one blogger’s response to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s well-documented piloting of a firefighting aircraft in a bid to boost public support earlier this week: ‘he should be fined for operating a plane without a license‘.  China has pledged $1 million in cash and just under $3 million in relief supplies to help Russia fight the wildfires.  On the current reduced status of the Aerial Forest Protection Center, 9,000-strong at its Soviet inception, but whose staff over the years has been cut down gradually (‘reformed‘) over the years to just 1,800.  ‘Whatever you might think of the terror, food shortages and economic stagnation under Soviet leaders […], at least factory directors were expected to be on the job when something went wrong,‘ says the Moscow Times.  And this from The Guardian: ‘By controlling the mass media – television first and foremost – the leaders in [authoritarian regimes] lack the ability to envisage and calculate possible risks.‘  Satellite images are registering fewer hotspots today, by RIA Novosti’s calculation.

The Prosecutor General’s Office says that over 90% of Russia’s prisoners have health problems and ‘serious diseases‘, and blames a lack of prison healthcare financing.  The Interior Ministry will investigate the two police officers linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky over allegations of impunity‘ and corruption, although says that their YouTube infamy is irrelevant to the probe.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging the Senate not to let ‘election year politics‘ prevent the ratification of a new START treaty with Russia, saying that it will ‘advance our national security and provide stability and predictability‘, and underscored the ‘critical point‘ that a new treaty would allow on-site inspections to resume.  Conversely, Congress is likely to pass a deal allowing US companies to export nuclear technology to Russia.
Are the 2014 Sochi Olympics really going to cost Russia over $30 billion?  That’s about ten times the spend attributed to Canada’s Vancouver Olympics, says Sky.  Ah, so many different possibilities where swindling is concerned. 
PHOTO: Volunteers ride on a trailer as they prepare for extinguishing a fire at a forest near the village of Tokhushevo. (AFP)