RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 22, 2010

BIZ_NEW1.jpgTODAY: START moving forward; Anna Chapman for UR youth role; Britain and Russia in spy expulsions; Putin holds meeting with football fans, indicates possible strengthening of immigration rules; Magnitsky-inspired ruling approved; Belarus crackdown continues; Stalin’s birthday; resurgence of Islam; divorce.

START has won a decisive vote in the Senate, of 67 to 28, to end debate on the treaty, which ‘now heads to a seemingly certain final vote of approval on Wednesday’.   President Medvedev has voiced support for New Delhi’s bid to secure a permanent seat on an expanded U.N. Security Council as Russia attempts to maintain a special relationship with India.  Glamorous ex-spy Anna Chapman is to become a leader in the youth wing of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, according to reports this week in Moscow.  In the first tit-for-tat expulsions since 2007, Britain has expelled a diplomat from Russia’s embassy in London for espionage and reported that Russia had responded in kind.  See here for a Reuters factbox on bones of contention between the two countries.

Vladimir Putin has visited the graveof the Spartak fan whose murder precipitated last weekend’s wave ofethnic violence.  The Prime Minister held a formal meeting withrepresentatives of soccer fan clubs in an attempt to defuse thetensions, and has suggested that registration rules for migrants may have to be improved in major conurbations if race-related problems are to be quelled.  There are currently 3-3.5 million illegal migrants in Russia, according to the first deputy head of the Federal Migration Service.  ‘Nodoubt many in Russia would also like to know if Putin, who lent hisname to the present-day political system in the country, feels that he has had any part in fuelling anti-Caucasian and anti-Muslim sentiment in Russia’, says RFE/RL’s North Caucasus director.  A presidential bill allowing the release of severely ill suspects from custody has been approved by the Duma.  How the authorities have, unusually, come to the aid of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, in the Moscow Times.  Dozens of supporters of Mikhail Khodorkovsky reportedly held a public protest in Saratov, organised by Yabloko party, against the Yukos founder’s incarceration.
In Belarus around 600 opposition activists have been jailed subsequent to Sunday’s protests against election fraud.  The New York Times reports on the fate of media outlet Charter 97, which has been quashed in the wake of the elections.  Five of nine Belarussian opposition presidential candidates remain in prison.  Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez congratulated Alexander Lukashenko’s victory, calling it, ‘an extraordinary day for democracy’.  Around 500 citizens took to Moscow’s Red Square to commemorate Stalin’s birthday yesterday.  The European commission has rejected calls from six eastern Europeancountries to introduce a ‘double genocide law’ that would outlaw denying crimes committed by the communist regimes, inthe same way many EU countries forbid the denial of the Holocaust.

The Washington Post has a lengthy report on the Islamic revival in Russia, a land, recent converts apparently feel, of ‘spiritual poverty […] where every institution, from schools to hospitals to the police, is riddled with cynicism and corruption’.  According to new statistics, Russia apparently has the highest divorce rate in the world.

PHOTO: Medvedev being welcomed to an official dinner in New Delhi on Tuesday, December 21, 2010. (Dmitry Astakhov / RIA-Novosti / AP)