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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 18, 2010

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TODAY: Several thousand Muscovites died in heatwave, doctor estimates; Putin’s World Cup bid includes visa waiver; government sued over Kremlin property rights; blasts in North Caucasus; Baikal, Sayano-Shushenskaya, privatization; Romania’s tit-for-tat.
Moscow’s smog problem continues, despite the rain, as doctors expect more cases of diabetes and suicide, and a scientist estimates that several thousand Muscovites died last month due to the heatwave – sparking the ‘bewilderment‘ of the Health Minister.  Yulia Latynina uses the case of the Shatursky district and its swift response to peat bog fires to illustrate that ‘in the modern world, there are no natural disasters — only social ones.‘  Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s 2018 World Cup bid includes a guarantee of visa-free entry for all footballers and fans.  It is thought that, if successful, the bid could cost billions of dollars in construction requirements, but nonetheless, ‘Russia’s blend of political will, financial muscle and informal influence has its competitors worried‘.  Descendants of Russia’s founding dynasty are suing the government for the right to use the Kremlin, causing a Moscow court to give the government one month to prove ownership. ‘This is a question of historical justice‘, said the head of the Varangian prince Rurik’s foundation. ‘I want the address registered in my passport to say, ‘Kremlin, Moscow.’

Two separate explosions in the North Caucasus in a car and a café have killed an unknown number of people and injured at least 30.  One year on from the Sayano-Shushenskaya dam disaster, no one has been charged over the incident.  An investigation has been launched into the death of two workers at the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill yesterday.  Anders Aslund compares Russia’s privatization and the negative effect of state companies on economic efficiency with the policies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. 
Igor Sutyagin has been a regular feature of the British press this week, as Romania orders the tit-for-tat expulsion of a Russian diplomat in retaliation for ‘serious violation‘ of protocol when Russia expelled a Romanian diplomat earlier this week.  Does the mysterious Amber Room still exist?  On Dmitry Medvedev’s bid to modernize Russia’s space programs.
PHOTO: In this photo made with a mobile phone, a man runs shortly after an explosion outside a cafe in downtown Pyatigorsk, a city in Russia’s North Caucasus, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Marina Pchelintseva)