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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 4, 2010

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TODAY: Over 600 wildfires have now spread across Russia, Putin attempts to stem criticism with video link; MC Noize sent to jail; bloggers seek violent policemen from Strategy 31 rally as US expresses concerns; Chichvarkin’s mother’s death may not be probed; START delayed again; Putin to rule until age 72? Russia and Belarus; flying donkey to be pampered.
Wildfires across Russia are ‘out of control‘, with an estimated 3,000 homes now lost and another 47,000 hectares burning (making a total area of 172,000 hectares on fire), and reports are emerging that 13 hangars full of aircraft and equipment were destroyed by fires spreading to a naval base last week.  Satellite images from NASA have identified over 600 individual fires (photos here).  Yulia Latynina blames the excessive damages on the fact that many Russian villages do not have fire stations, looks at the culpability of the 2007 Forest Code (as many other critics are also doing this week), and compares US and Russian statistics.  Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, in a bid to ‘limit criticism of the response‘, including charges that firefighters came too late and that preventative measures did not work, is setting up a live online video feed to allow Russian citizens to monitor the reconstruction of homes destroyed in the fire, says The Guardian.  Air quality in Moscow has hit an eight-year low.

Bloggers are trying to identify the policeman who behaved violently towards Strategy 31 protesters last weekend in St Petersburg, allegedly striking one man with a baton and pulling the hair of a female protester.  The police say that no formal complaints have yet been filed.  The US’ National Security Council commented on the rally, expressing concerns about the detentions’ implication for ‘freedoms of expression and assembly enshrined in the Russian Constitution.‘  Russian authorities say they will not conduct a probe into the death of Yevgeny Chichvarkin’s mother, despite evidence that ‘her body was bruised all over as if she were severely beaten‘; a ruling on Lyudmila Chichvarkina’s death could be crucial in any request for the Yevroset founder’s extradition from the UK.  The rapper Noize MC, handed a ten-day jail sentence for the live performance of an anti-police song following an altercation with security officers at a concert, became well-known in Russia after drawing attention to the Anatoly Barkov car crash with this video.
The Moscow Times picked up on President Dmitry Medvedev’s comments about the 2012 presidential elections, in particular this line: ‘I do not know what will happen in 2012, I don’t know who will run.  It may be Medvedev, it may be Putin, it may be somebody else,‘ and wonders whether his comments signal that an outsider could be brought in.  The Telegraph considers the possibility of Putin being Russia’s president until the age of 72.  A vote on the START treaty will now be delayed until the middle of next month at least, thanks to a decision by the Senate chairman.  The main cause of poor relations between Russia and Belarus is ‘Minsk’s failure to join on Russia’s terms the Russia-Belarus Union‘ which has ‘agonized the Kremlin‘, says Vladimir Ryzhkov
The ‘flying donkey‘ is to receive an elite quarantine that will include ‘massage and sunbathing‘ at the Kremlin’s stables before being sent to a British sanctuary. 
PHOTO: Police officers guarding burned-out houses from looters Tuesday in the village of Kadanok, 150 kilometers southeast of Moscow, August 2010. (Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP)