RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 17, 2010


TODAY: Pavlovsk Twitter campaign leads Medvedev to call for inquiry; Kaliningrad governor to be ousted; regular protest site to be shut down for construction; fires give way to gales as thousands lose power; power vertical starts with Kursk? Shavenkova to be jailed in 2024; Romanian spy? Transdnestr. 
Following a Twitter campaign, President Dmitry Medvedev has called for an inquiry (confirmed on his own Twitter account) into the status of the Pavlovsk seed bank – the world’s oldest, currently due to be destroyed to make way for private housing.  Georgy Boos, the unpopular governor of Kaliningrad, has been ousted from the Kremlin’s new list of gubernatorial nominees.  One Duma deputy praised his dismissal as ‘democratic […] because it was a response to opposition demands to replace the unpopular governor‘.  The Kaliningrad opposition says it will nonetheless go ahead with its planned Saturday protest.  Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square, favored by the Strategy 31 opposition group as a protest site, will be closed for one month for construction, which ‘appears to offer the authorities a month-long solution to their problem of dealing with the opposition’s regular attempts to stage rallies on the square on the 31st day of every month,‘ although Eduard Limonov says it will not deter the protesters. The FT’s Neil Buckley writes on Russia’s recent ‘“sensational” shift in foreign policy‘.

Russia’s wildfires could be replaced with ‘hurricane-like gales‘, fueling the climate change debate, as reports suggest that the weekend’s storms left almost 100,000 people without electricity.  Ecologists are examining the effects of the heatwave on fish and animals, particularly in the Volga region where lake levels are declining.  ‘The events of this summer show how vulnerable our societies are to weather-related extremes.‘  Alexei Pankin says he admired Vladimir Putin’s response to the Kursk submarine tragedy in 2000, but that his response to the wildfires shows he has ‘lost touch‘.  This Moscow Times piece draws direct parallels between Kursk and the ‘power vertical‘, including the subsequent measures taken on the appointment of governors and the control of independent television. 
Anna Shavenkova, the daughter of a high-ranking Irkutsk official and United Russia consultant who killed one woman and paralyzed another in a car accident (sparking an outrage after it was caught on video earlier this year) will serve three years in jail – but not until 2024.  A Romanian diplomat has been caught ‘red-handedengaging in espionage, according to the FSB.  Here’s a short history of, and optimistic outlook for, Moscow’s relationship with Transdnestr.  Thanks to the expiration of START, ‘for the first time in 15 years, US officials have lost their ability to inspect Russian long-range nuclear bases‘. 
PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, center, flanked by Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, right, and Moscow region Governor Boris Gromov, walks as he listens about the flooding of peat bogs in the Moscow region of Kolomna, 116 km (miles) southeast of Moscow, Monday, Aug. 16, 2010. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Drushinin, Pool)