RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 14, 2010

kaz.jpgTODAY: Russia attempts to sway Strasbourg’s decision on Magnitsky law; Western politicians call for justice for Khodorkovsky; new opposition party founded. Two killed in weekend’s race riots; nationalism problematic issue for authorities; domestic violence rife.  Wikileaks distorted by Russian press?  Armed forces to receive funding boost.  Moscow theater brings heritage to new Mayor’s attention; Voina’s struggles.

The Telegraph reports that Russia has sent a committee to the European Parliament in an attempt to thwart ‘Magnitsky’s Law’, legislation which would prevent around 60 individuals suspected of involvement in the lawyer’s untimely death, from traveling to member states.  A day before the verdict of his second trial is announced, a number of Western political heavyweights have sent an open letter to the Financial Times urging that the persecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky be stopped.  ‘As strong supporters of the drive to modernise Russia we cannot stand idly by when rule of law and human values are being so openly abused and compromised’.  Read the entire text, signed by ex-French and British Foreign Ministers amongst others, here.  Khodorkovsky, meanwhile, has been awarded the Rainer Hildebrandt International Human Rights Award.  Russia’s opposition coalition has formed a new political party, the Party of Popular Freedom, which it hopes will be able to stand in the 2011 parliamentary elections.  The Moscow Times reports on how United Russia plans to woo opposition members.

‘The problem is not in the existence of Nazi groups. The problem is thephrase ‘Russia for Russians,’ which is supported by the generalpublic’: one analyst quoted by the Moscow Times puts the weekend’s shocking race riots, in which two people were killed, into context.  The New York Times says that more than 40 attacks against individuals from ethnic minorities were reported during and subsequent to the riots.  President Medvedev may have voiced his concerns about the riots representing the fragmentation of Russian society, but Will Englund in the Washington Post wonders how authorities will ‘go about cracking down on a movement that up until now has typically been a useful right flank for those in power?’  A new NGO report has found that one woman dies from domestic violence every 63 minutes in Russia, withmore than 650,000 women beaten by their husbands and other family memberseach year.

Mistranslation, misrepresentation: RFE/RL reports on doubts looming over Russky Reporter’s claim to ‘privileged access’ to Wikileaks.  Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has expressed hope that the leaked cable about NATO’s Baltic defense plan will be declared to be false, despite claims from the alliance that it maintains contingency defense plans for every member state as a matter of course.  Vladimir Putin has apparently promised to spend $646 billion between now and 2020 on modernization of the armed forces.  The army reportedly plans to spend $10 billion on digitalising its communications systems by 2012.  President Medvedev has reiterated the priority for defense in a meeting with Alexei Kudrin, saying, ‘we try to build up the relations with NATO, but this does not imply that we should be disarmed’.

Time for Moscow’s new mayor Sergey Sobyanin to take a position on architectural heritage as the capital’s historic Helikon opera theater undergoes a controversial revamp.  This article highlights the risks art collective Voina take in underscoring oppression in Russian society.   For those of you unable to believe that Putin sings, here lies video evidence.

PHOTO: Baikonur service towers lifting up on Monday, December 13, 2010, to the Soyuz that will carry a crew to the international space station.  (Dmitry Lovetsky/AP)