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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 24, 2009

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TODAY: Patriarch speaks out in favor of gay rights; Church looking for ways to respond to two priest murders this month; Lebedev ruling meets with pessimism; state services available online; Georgian memorial to be rebuilt in Moscow; Latynina on Gaidar.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has spoken out against the discrimination of homosexuals, although he maintains that the church views homosexuality as a sin, and a personal choice.  The Orthodox Church is calling for the country to rethink its spiritual condition after two priests were murdered this month.  The Supreme Court’s ruling that the arrest of former Yukos partner Platon Lebedev was illegal marks ‘the biggest victory yet‘ for former Yukos owners, but does not mean that Lebedev will be freed or that investigators will revisit his 2005 conviction.  According to one of Lebedev’s lawyers, ‘this is nothing more than a reaction to a European court ruling that Russia couldn’t ignore. It doesn’t change anything,‘ although others note that Russia is not obliged to act on European Court of Justice rulings. 

The Moscow Times writes of high hopes for Dmitry Medvedev’s push to make all state services available online, both for foreigners and Russian citizens – ‘anything to cut down on the amount of physical visiting of state offices has to be a good thing‘.  Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said today that the World War II memorial demolished in Georgia earlier this month will be restored at Moscow’s Victory Park.  Russia and Georgia have agreed to reopen the Kazbegi-Upper Lars border crossing that has been closed since July 2006.  The chief of the EU’s monitoring mission notes that Russia has failed to observe fully the peace deal that ended the Georgian war last year.  
The Huffington Post has picked up on the news from earlier this week that Yabloko has banned its members from participating in other organizations, viewing the move as an official break with Russia’s opposition, pinpointing its particular emphasis on ‘troublemaker‘ parties The Other Russia and Solidarnost.  
Yulia Latynina says Yegor Gaidar was ‘a brilliant economist, but he was a weak politician because he did not crave power‘.   
PHOTO: People walk past a huge Christmas tree in Red Square, with St. Basil Cathedral in the background, in Moscow, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)