RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 21, 2010

snow.jpgTODAY: Lukashenko slams democracy, emphasizes loyalty to Moscow; Latvia and Russia to study historical relations; Tymoshenko charged over funds; Lavrov warns against START amendments. Go Russia at a standstill; Limonov plans to register Other Russia party; December Strategy 31 rally granted permission; investigation into Putin’s hospital visit; ban on towers in historical St Petersburg

Apparently re-elected Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko believes that Sunday’s elections were ‘so open and transparent that people could have confused it for a reality television show’.  Nonetheless he also vowed not to let ‘muddle-headed democracyhold sway in the country.  An observer mission from the Russia-led CIS has pledged that the elections were legitimate.  Anne Applebaum sees the brutal repression of opposition protesters as evidence of Lukaschenko’s decision to return to the Eastern model after a recent year or so of flirting with the EU and West.  ‘In a single stroke, Mr. Lukashenko thus spelled the end of efforts by the European Union and the United States to cultivate him‘: this commentator agrees.  Renewed loyalty to Russia has been confirmed by the President himself, who has stated, ‘I will have patience and bear all ills to ensure that we do not drift away from Russia’.  How does the Kremlin feel about this?  A photographer from a St. Petersburg newspaper has declared a hunger strike after being sentenced to 15-day jail term in Belarus for participating in Sunday’s opposition rally in Minsk.  The Russian embassy has condemned the use of force by Minsk’s Special Police Forces against Russian reporters.  ‘If Europe blew its chance to change the Belarus dynamic, it was partly because it did not try hard enough’. Simon Tisdall in the Guardian argues.

During the first post-Soviet visit of a Latvian leader to Russia, Presidents Valdis Zatlers and Dmitry Medvedev have announced the establishment of a joint commission to study the history of the two countries, which has been a contentious point in bilateral relations.  The pair also signed nine documents of cooperation.  Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been charged with alleged misuse of state funds during her three years as prime minister.  As START seems to gain momentum in the Senate (see the Washington Post for a full report), Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov has warned the US that there is no room for negotiations on the terms of the treaty.

The Moscow Times reports that the Justice Ministry has refused to register the public movement Go Russia, which was created by Deputy Gennady Gudkov in honor of President Dmitry Medvedev’s modernization drive.  Despite acknowledging little hope he will achieve this, Other Russia coalition leader Eduard Limonov has applied to register a political party of the same name.  The Moscow city authorities have granted permission for a group of human rights activists led by Lev Ponomarev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva to hold a rally in Triumfalnaya Square on December 31.  It remains unclear as to whether Limonov has received permission for his separate rally.  A federal commission will investigate the Ivanovo hospital where, according to a doctor, staff faked an impressive display of equipment for Putin during a visit.

Good news for architectural heritage: St. Petersburg City Court has ruled to ban construction of any buildings in the historical center that would be more than 40 meters tall.

PHOTO: Tractors and other equipment on Monday, December 20, 2010, clearing away the 10 centimeters of snow that fell on Moscow overnight.  (Igor Tabakov / MT)