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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 28, 2009

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TODAY: Prison and police reform are on the cards, but critics wait for real results; Medvedev into alternative American bands; time to ban drinking and driving; touring Kiev, resetting with the US, memorial demolition and anti-Georgian sentiment.
The Justice Minister suggested that Sergei Magnitsky’s death could speed up reform in the ‘long-neglected‘ prison system, in which 386 people have died this year.  Colonel Dmitry Maximov, a senior Interior Ministry official, has been charged with aiding and abetting the killers of Moscow lawyer Sergei Biryukov in 2008.  President Dmitry Medvedev’s orders that Russia’s police force be slashed, with funds redistributed to increase remaining officers’ wages, has met with criticism on the grounds that deadlines for reform are too far away, and specifics about Interior Ministry overhauls are vague.  Medvedev’s television interview yesterday covered opposition parties and family life, including the affiliation for American alternative music that he shares with his son. The president will ban drinking and driving – a practice that caused almost half of Russia’s 33,000 driving-related deaths in 2007.

For the US, ‘resetting relations with Moscow must include the Kremlin returning to the principles of the Charter of Paris,‘ according a former Clinton aide, writing in the Washington Post.  ‘Kiev is an old city, one of the cradles of Russian culture.‘  
Quite simply, Russia is moving away from democracy.‘  The Moscow Times is running a couple of anti-Georgia columns, one about the demolished war memorial and Georgia’s embarrassment at Mikhail Saakashvili’s rule, and the other about a recent opposition attempt to oust the Georgian president.  
PHOTO: Russia’s Premier Vladimir Putin smiles in the far eastern port of Kozmino, on Monday, Dec.28, 2009. (AP Photo/ RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky)