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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 23, 2009

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TODAY: Supreme Court annuls Lebedev arrest; Butyrka prisoner talks about his experiences; business as usual in Moscow despite harsh weather; mono-city of Revda to be closed down; START treaty speculation; Stalin, Gaidar.
The presidium of Russia’s Supreme Court, in line with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, annuled the 2003 arrest of Platon Lebedev as part of a case against former Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  Roman Popkov, who led the Moscow branch of the banned National Bolshevik party, talks about the time he spent in pretrial detention in Butyrka – where Sergei Magnitsky was also imprisoned.  ‘[T]his cell block, in fact, is a torture cell block […] They throw people there with a single aim — to break them, to sap their health.‘  A second priest has been murdered in the Moscow region this month.  As England’s transport network collapses under snowfall, a spokesman at Domodedovo airport in Moscow ‘explained sardonically: “Winters tend to happen every year so we can usually predict when they start and therefore prepare ourselves.”‘  Bloomberg reports that Russia is going to close down the mono-city of Revda and relocate its 9,500 residents.  

The US says that it will be unable to clinch a deal with Russia this year on the expired START treaty, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says that the new deal will see ‘unprecedented cuts‘ to nuclear weapons stockpiles.  The US is ‘not particularly concerned‘ that the talks are taking longer than expected, and RFE/RL wonders whether there will be a new treaty at all.  Russia says it wants to be more involved in efforts to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict.  
It’s hard to imagine any of Russia’s current leaders getting a birthday party like the one thrown Monday at Moscow’s Ismailovsky Hotel for the former despot, Josef Stalin,‘ says Time Magazine.  The New York Times looks at divided Russian reactions to the death of Yegor Gaidar.  
PHOTO: A priest and a man light candles near the Doctor Voino-Yasenecky Saint Luka train, which serves as a free consultative and diagnostic medical centre, at a railway station near the village of Zertsaly, about 195 km west of the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, December 22, 2009. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin