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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 15, 2009

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TODAY: Medvedev celebrates Sakharov, activists say their work is more dangerous now; European Security Treaty ‘smacks of a trap’; tiny island recognizes breakaway states in exchange for aid; NATO chief in Moscow to rebuild relations; fire safety watchdog shuts down 54 clubs; Putin criticized over decree endangering Soviet-era architecture.
Dmitry Medvedev has celebrated the legacy of the late human rights campaigner, Andrei Sakharov, ‘in sharp contrast to Putin‘, but Russia’s activists say that the president has not addressed specific issues that have been brought to his attention in the past year, including citizens’ rights to protest peacefully.  Meanwhile, at a conference to mark Sakharov’s death, former Soviet dissidents said that their work is more dangerous now than it was in the final decades of communism.  The fine print of Medvedev’s proposed European Security Treaty ‘smacks of a trap‘, and suggests that ‘Moscow would essentially gain veto power over NATO,‘ writes Alexander Golts.  The 8 miles squared island of Nauru says it will recognize Georgia’s breakaway republics, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  The Guardian says that the Kremlin has been ‘frantic to secure international recognition for both regions,‘ and reports that Nauru’s decision comes hand in hand with an agreement under which Russia will provide it with $50 million in humanitarian aid.  The Other Russia puts it more bluntly.  

The new chief of NATO is in Moscow today in an effort to rebuild trust with Moscow, although the main purpose of his visit is to seek support for operations in Afghanistan.  Analysts have ‘cautioned against expectations of substantial short-term progress‘, says Reuters.  
Moscow’s fire safety watchdog has asked a court to shut down 54 nightclubs and cafés over alleged violations, as a café fire in the city kills three people and the Perm nightclub death toll rises to 148.  ‘[W]hat Russia simply doesn’t understand is that you cannot create a world-class image, brand and reputation on bad news. And sadly, Russia has bad news in spades.‘  
A group of Russian schoolchildren has begun a campaign to rescue the image of American youth in Russia.  RFE/RL has a video of some anti-corruption graffiti artists taking action in Moscow.  The city says it could host bobsleigh events for the 2014 Olympics if Sochi fails to build the track on time.  ‘Artists and preservationists are in uproar because Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin has signed a decree that critics say would allow developers to demolish a Soviet-era cultural landmark, the Central House of Artists.‘  
PHOTO: A woman fixing her hair in front of a picture of Vladimir Putin in Tiraspol (Bela Szandelszky / AP).