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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 18, 2010

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TODAY: Russia and Abkhazia to build military base, build economic ties; activist’s children taken away; Stalin information booths to be set up in Moscow; modernization to turn to the church?  Russian wins Olympic gold, thanks priest; Ukraine elections results suspended; new charges against Viktor Bout; drunk policeman.
Russia and Abkhazia have signed an agreement to establish a Russian military base for at least 3,000 land troops in the latter’s territory.  Dmitry Medvedev hailed the event as a ‘milestone‘, and said he hoped that it would herald the strengthening of economic relations, although insisted that Abkhazia would have ‘economic independence‘.  Following news earlier this week that authorities had confiscated the children of a poor family, RIA Novosti is reporting that the family of a political activist has also been targeted, ‘after the father, Sergei Pchelintsyev, railed against unemployment, poverty, pension reform and the “illegal dismissal” of GAZ automobile factory workers during a protest rally in Nizhny Novgorod‘.  Moscow is planning to set up street-based ‘information stands telling of Stalin’s role‘, says this report, whilst The Other Russia says that plans to display posters in the city ‘glorifying Stalin’s role in winning World War II‘ are receiving complaints from human rights activists.

RFE/RL looks at Russia’s potential for turning the modernization debate into a question of Christian Orthodox values.  Russia’s first Olympic gold winner said he had been certain of his success because he had received a blessing from a priest the previous day.  Boris Kagarlitsky suggests that budget cuts in medicine and education are part of a plan to stupefy the masses.  Alexei Kudrin reports that Russia increased the amount of aid it gave to poor countries last year. 
Ukraine’s election results have been suspended until February 25, pending an investigation into Yulia Tymoshenko’s claims of fraud.  The US has filed new charges against Viktor Bout, the Russian businessmen accused of arms dealing ‘whose case has become a diplomatic tug of war between the U.S. and Russia since his arrest in Bangkok in 2008‘.   
A drunk driving policeman hits a pedestrian.  
PHOTO: President Dmitry Medvedev sitting next to a BelAZ truck driver during his visit to the Kedrovsky open pit coal mine near Kemerovo on Friday, Feb. 12. (Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA-Novosti / Reuters)