RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 31, 2010


TODAY: Strategy 31 goes global; Khimki activists call for independent assessment; Medvedev monitoring governors; protesters defend Volkonsky house; police crime; Putin denies running Russia; festival attack organized by restaurant-owner? Siberian tigers to get protection zone.
The Strategy 31 protests for the right to peaceful assembly are going global today, reports The Guardian, with rallies scheduled to be held in London, New York, Helsinki, Berlin, and Tel Aviv.  Environmentalists have appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev to arrange an independent assessment of the highway planned to run through the Khimki forest.  Medvedev says that his administration is keeping track of governor approval ratings ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections, and may remove unpopular leaders.  Medvedev says that regions should decide on the titles for their own leaders, although he approves of the idea to abolish regional presidential titles.  In another clash highlighting the discrepancy between ‘enormous‘ property values and poorly-kept historic buildings, says the Moscow Times, activists gathered yesterday to defend what they are calling the ‘illegal‘ demolition of the 19th century Volkonsky house.  A Barnaul police investigator has been sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to resell confiscated goods.  AFP profiles Russia’s police crimes, providing numerous recent case studies including kidnappings and attacks.

The press is awash today with commentary about Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s plans to run in the 2012 presidential elections, inspired by his comments yesterday about his keen interest in the matter, which Reuters interpreted as meaning that ‘he had already decided‘ the election result.  But in the meantime, he doesn’t want anyone to think that he is still in charge, calling reports that he still runs Russia ‘complete nonsense‘ and saying that he is ‘fed up with foreign policy‘.  All the same, he seems to have the authority to be considering ‘changing the government‘ ahead of the elections. 
The bizarre story of an assault on a festival crowd by a group of ‘bare-chested thugs‘ was apparently not related to a skinhead gang, but a disgruntled restaurant owner who felt that his patrons weren’t being respectful and may have hired the thugs to attack them.  Russia and China will set up a cross-border protection zone for Siberian tigers, of which only 500 are thought to remain.  ‘[T]he CSTO is not so much a multilateral agreement between states as it is a forced bundling of bilateral treaties signed between each state and Russia.‘ 
PHOTO: President Dmitry Medvedev poses for photographers with Russian participants of the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games after their meeting at his residence Gorki outside Moscow, August 30, 2010. REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Pool/Vladimir Rodionov