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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 9, 2009

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TODAY: Perm death toll rises, ministers seek to blame officials; Putin on Magnitsky: ‘the lawyer’; Jehovah’s Witnesses halted; pensioners demonstrate over axing of cheap travel; rail bombing unearths broad issues; art and identity, Kosovo.
The President and Prime Minister continue to weigh in over the Perm nightclub fire, whose death count continues to rise (now at 119) amid reports that the club was heavily overcrowded at the time of the fire.  Dmitry Medvedev has ordered Prosecutor General Yury Chaika ‘to find and prosecute officials on all levels of the government for the blaze‘.  But the blame game doesn’t end there: ‘a Perm resident who shares the same first and last names as one of the suspects expressed fear for her life‘.  From Yulia Latynina: ‘Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an Nov. 27 interview in France that he does not know what “the lawyer” (refusing to refer to Magnitsky by name) was imprisoned for.  Putin did add, however, that since Magnitsky had been arrested, there had to have been a good reason for it.‘  

Russia’s Jehovah’s Witnesses are deploring a ruling to halt activities in one of their regional branches.  The November bombing on the 700-km rail link between Moscow and St Petersburg, which killed 26 people, has drawn attention to rail security, and the near-impossibility of patrolling a huge transit route (‘the [bomb] site was located four kilometers away from the nearest patrol‘) thought to be ‘the tool of private interests‘.  Pensioners demonstrated yesterday against a new decision to scrap their cheaper fares.  
A new singing project from Tokyo, in which complaints are sung in a choir, finds that Russians’ complaints were ‘reflective of deep existential trauma‘. Contemporary art is a ‘crucial factor‘ in Russia’s development of its identity, says a Moscow art museum director.   
Russia is wrangling with the US in court over the independence of Kosovo.  
PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lays flowers at the nightclub in Perm in early hours of December 8, 2009. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool/Alexei Druzhinin