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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 17, 2009

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TODAY: EU ceremony awards Memorial with human rights prize; Medvedev granted right to send troops abroad; less siloviki in the Kremlin post-Putin; NATO visit yields a cool response from Medvedev on Afghanistan; START treaty won’t be signed this year; bill could keep criminals out of nightclubs, but also out of jail; Yegor Gaidar.
The European Parliament awarded its prestigious Sakharov Prize to the Russian human rights group Memorial in October, and the ceremony was held in Strasbourg yesterday.  Founder Sergei Kovalyov dedicated the prize to those who have died as a result of their struggles to expose malpractice: Memorial researcher Natalya Estemirova, lawyer Stanislav Markelov, journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Anastasia Baburova, ethnologist Nikolai Girenko, Farida Babayeva, ‘and many more‘.  Kovalyov urged the EU to continue pressuring Moscow to respect human rights.  The Federation Council has approved President Dmitry Medvedev’s request to be granted the right to send troops abroad without senators’ consent.  The FT notes a perceived drop in the number of siloviki in the presidential administration since Medvedev came to power. ‘[Putin’s] choice of Mr Medvedev as successor indicates that he himself may have seen the siloviki as usurping too much power and wanted to trim their influence.‘  

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that, despite attempts to improve relations with Russia, his organization will not budge over Georgia.  Rasmussen failed to get an immediate pledge of assistance from the Kremlin on Afghanistan, despite efforts to underscoreshare[d] security interests‘ – Dmitry Medvedev is ‘considering‘ a request for helicopter aid.  RFE/RL have compiled a summary of Russia’s various 2009 rankings in global development surveys including indices of corruption and press freedom. Never mind this week, the US says that a new START treaty won’t be signed this year.  
A new Duma bill designed to lower incarceration rates allow (currently at 629 out of every 100,000 citizens) people convinced of minor offenses to avoid prison by complying with behavioral restrictions on ‘moving apartments, attending horseraces, or visiting nightclubs‘.  A deputy chairman of the Federation Council wants to ban swearing: good luck.  A ‘stinging complaint‘ from Russia to Indian authorities highlights Goa’s gaining notoriety as ‘the rape capital of India‘.  
Lyudmila Telen has compiled a series of excerpts from her interviews, over the years, with Yegor Gaidar.  
Good news? Not all Russia’s nationalists are fascists, according to a poll by the Levada Center.  
PHOTO: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen attends a news conference in Moscow December 17, 2009. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor