RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 1, 2009

FRONT-01-Train.jpgTODAY: Browder on Magnitsky; Luzkhov wins his Nemtsov libel suit; blogging fury prompts cancellation of dacha tender; HIV rates on the up; discrimination follows apace.  OSCE to discuss Medvedev security proposals; analysts wonder whether draft pact is more substance or gesture? Russia-US on track to complete new START draft before Dec 5; Nabokov’s last novel; art works seek rich owners

An interview with Hermitage founder Bill Browder in the Telegraph sheds light on some of the disturbing details about the incarceration of recently deceased company lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.  Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has apparently never lost a libel suit in the capital, and the one he launched against opposition politician Boris Nemtsov is no exception; the man who called the mayor a ‘thiefwill have to pay up $17,100.  A tender to service a luxury Valdai Dacha housing a minicasino outside of the government’s designated gambling zones has been canceled after bloggers raised a storm of protest about what they view as a misuse of government funds.  The number of HIV/AIDS patients in Russia has increased at an average rate of about 10% in recent years, according to statistics provided by RFE/RL’s Russian Service.  The Telegraph interviews HIV-positive activist Svetlana Izambayeva, who is being denied guardianship of her orphanage-housed brother because she carries the disease.  ‘I have no doubts that Russia’s law enforcement system is inadequate, but the problems didn’t begin only 18 months ago’: Alexei Pankin looks back at police abuse of power in the Moscow Times.

According to RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s envoy to NATO, has passed onthe draft of the Kremlin’s new trans-Atlantic security treaty.  Foreign ministers from the OSCE willapparently try to formulate a response to the treatyover the next two days.  Whilst some of Medvedev’s suggestions may be uncontroversial, ‘other proposals will be viewed as an attempt to restore Russian dominance over its former Soviet neighbours’ argues Tony Halpin in the Times.  Is the draft proposal little more than a ‘propaganda exercise’ as one analyst would have it?  ‘A new, more united Europe is emerging, and Russia will have to work out new principles for relations with it’.  What changes does the Lisbon Treaty herald for EU-Russia relations? wonders this commentator in the Moscow Times.

300 grams of TNT detonated under a train in Dagestan yesterday; whilst causing no injuries it has been interpreted as a follow-up to Friday’s deadly Nevksy train explosion.  The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights has returned to South Ossetia to try to secure the release of four Georgian teenagers who allegedly illegally crossed the border.  Russia and the United States are likely, according to Ria-Novosti, to succeed in drawing up a new arms reduction treaty before the expiry of the current pact on December 5.  ‘It is not Obama’s deference but his strength that can persuade the Kremlin to cooperate with Washington’ – an op-ed in the Washington Post examines the power play between the two nations.  Russia is reportedly building a number of arms plants in Venezuela.

Vladimir Nabokov’s final, incomplete novel, The Original of Laura, has gone on sale in two versions in Russia.  Major sales of Russian artworks are imminent at Sotheby’s and MacDougall’s, whose salespeople have their fingers crossed that the uber-rich have regained their taste for art.

PHOTO: The police’s computerized sketch of a suspect in Friday’s train bombing.  (Russian Police / AP)