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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 30, 2010

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TODAY: Pomonaryov imprisonment draws attention; Putin on unsanctioned protests, backs Khimki preservation; Emergency Situations Ministry applauds itself for handling fires; religious icon to provide ‘moral support’; skinhead attack at rock festival; militant battle in Kadyrov’s home village kills 19; Bout, Pavlovsk, Thatcher.
Today’s Washington Post editorial draws attention to the three-day jail sentence handed to Lev Ponomaryov for ‘peacefully carrying his nation’s flag‘, and examines the wider implications about oppression in Russia as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expresses his views on opposition protests, saying that he ‘doesn’t understand‘ why protesters go ahead without being granted permission to demonstrate.  ‘If you went out without a right to [demonstrate] – you get hit on the head. That’s it!‘  Putin also added his voice to widespread opposition of the plan to construct a highway through the Khimki forest, as contractor Teplotekhnik announced that it had already cleared almost half of the area originally set out for destruction.

This report plays down worries about the potential long-term health issues that may arise from wildfire smog pollution, although it acknowledges that many doctors remain skeptical.  The Federal Forestry Agency is to come under direct government control, a step ‘long called for‘ by the World Wildlife Foundation, as Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov admits that fire safety and forest protection had previously been ‘in different agencies‘.  Satellites suggest that wildfires are still burning in some regions.  The Emergency Situations Ministry nonetheless (and despite the wider public view that the disaster was appallingly managed) is congratulating itself for ‘manag[ing] to cope with the forest fires‘.  The Ministry’s Sergei Shoigu also suggested that Russia needs a million ‘well-equipped‘ volunteer firefighters.  Not counting this year’s wildfires, ‘Russia records nearly 18,000 fire deaths a year‘.
President Dmitry Medvedev says that the restoration of a religious icon hidden for 70 years by workers who ‘feared that it would be destroyed by the Bolsheviks’ will provide moral support to Russia‘.  Police in Chelyabinsk Oblast are denying reports that a teenage girl was killed in an apparent ‘neo-Nazi skinhead‘ attack on hundreds of people a rock music festival. ‘Many visitors were left bloodied and dazed after being hit with iron clubs and sticks, television and news agencies reported.‘  A group of rallyists drew attention last week to Moscow’s lack of wheelchair accessibility to its metros, libraries, and museums.  Reports count 19 dead following a militant gun battle in the home village of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov in what The Guardian calls a ‘symbolic blow‘.  Kadyrov is apparently denying that any civilians died in the attack. 
Will Viktor Bout, who still insists that he has ‘never traded in weapons‘, trade in Russian secrets instead?  NPR profiles the ongoing fight to save the historic Pavlovsk seed bank from property developers.  One from the archive – Margaret Thatcher helped to block Soviet aid for miners striking in 1984-5.  An investigation into the murder of Tsar Nicholas II has been reopened.  
PHOTO: Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill blesses an ancient Orthodox icon which is being restored to its pre-revolutionary position on the Kremlin’s Spassky Gate in Moscow, August 28, 2010. (REUTERS)