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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 20, 2010

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TODAY: United Russia changes tack on election strategy; Medvedev visits Armenia, wants bombers ‘destroyed’; evidence on plane crash passed to Poland; only one wildfire state of emergency remains; City Hall prohibits Khimki concert; VTsIOM on police name change; when funds disappear, space dogs, Bout.
United Russia is to try a new tactic ahead of the local parliament elections in October, ‘sidelining prominent members in favor of lesser-known officials with deep roots in the regions‘ over fears that public dissatisfaction with the government over its handling of the wildfires will cause the party to lose votes.  President Dmitry Medvedev wants this week’s Caucasus bombers ‘destroyed‘.  The Prosecutor General has passed on ‘everything the Polish side is requesting‘ in the way of evidence on the plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski.  Only the Ryazan region remains a state of emergency after Medvedev removed emergency status for the Mordovia, Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod regions as a cold front hit Russia’s west.  64,000 hectares of peat bogs in the Moscow region are to be flooded by the end of the year to prevent the fires from returning as Emergency Ministry estimates on the scale of fire damage hit $394 million.

It seems that RFE/RL was right in predicting that this was too good to be true – City Hall has changed its mind on granting its permission for the rock concert that was due to be held this weekend in Pushkin Square in support of the Khimki forest activists, although there is some confusion over the terminology, with organizers insisting that the ‘concert‘ was really only going to be ‘a rally where musicians could perform‘.  Medvedev has been spending quality time ‘in a jazz café‘ with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was awarded an Armenian state decoration for his work on building friendly relations with the country.  RFE/RL reports on the appointment of former tax official Tatyana Shevtsova to a key post in the Defense Ministry.
A VTsIOM poll says 63% of Russians believe that the police name change proposed by President Medvedev would have no effect on the efficiency of law enforcers.  A businessman who provided $500,000 that was used in a police sting is wondering what happened to his money.  The Prosecutor General is wondering the same thing about funds allocated for the restoration of South Ossetia.  St Petersburg’s first Sharia court, dealing mostly with ‘honor trials‘, has been ordered to close following criticism from Muslim leaders and human rights activists.
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the successful space mission of Belka and Strelka – the Soviet space dogs.  Russia’s alleged weapons dealer, Viktor Bout, will be extradited to the United States. 
PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, second from right, visits a hospital where people injured in a car bomb explosion on Tuesday are being treated, in Pyatigorsk, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)