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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 19, 2010

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TODAY: Russia to query Bulgaria on missile plans; UN report on Moscow’s secret prisons; Medvedev responds to public reaction over corrupt police; Stalin billboards divide the Duma; too late for green Sochi; gnome poster removed ahead of presidential visit; Yabloko to merge with People’s Democratic Union?
Russia plans to make an official query to Bulgaria regarding the ‘goals and essences‘ of its plans to deploy US air defense missiles on its territory.  A new report on secret detention centers in Moscow, compiled by the UN Human Rights Council is ‘confrontational‘ and shouldn’t be published as an official document, says Russia.  Prosecutors have opened four criminal cases over the demolition of homes in Rechnik, insisting that the court order permitting the original demolitions was issued in violation of the law.  On top of immediate cuts to the police force, Dmitry Medvedev has responded to the ‘strong public reaction‘ about the state of the police force by ordering the number of personnel at the Interior Ministry’s head office to be halved – effectively calling for 10,000 jobs to be cut.  Medvedev said that the 15,000 cases of police corruption logged last year were just the tip of the iceberg.

Billboards of Stalin due to be put up in central Moscow to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of WW2 were apparently requested by ‘numerous veterans organizations‘, and will be placed at ‘traditional meeting places of veterans‘ accordingly.  Duma speakers are divided over how to portray Stalin’s ‘questionable role‘.  The western press has picked up on the news.  The translator of anti-Stalinist author Andrei Platonov sings the writer’s praises.  Officials in Omsk removed a theater poster reading, ‘We Await You, Merry Gnome‘, ahead of President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit last week.  ‘It was unclear exactly why the poster might have been removed, though […] officials may have been afraid of offending Medvedev, whose height has been estimated in the media at 162 centimeters.‘  The WWF says that, no matter what measures are taken now, Sochi’s Olympic games ‘will not be green‘.
Masha Lipman looks at the scale and implication of recent anti-government protests in Kaliningrad and Samara.  Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has announced that his opposition party, the People’s Democratic Union, will enter into a coalition with the liberal Yabloko party, although Yabloko’s leader insists that no agreements have been made as yet.  Georgia’s president is criticizing French plans to sell warships to Russia as ‘unusual‘ and ‘risky‘.
The New York Times on Russia’s ‘collective panic‘ over its lack of Olympic medals thus far.  
PHOTO: Stalin’s cap, seen at the Russian State Archive. City Hall is planning to post signs explaining his role in World War II. (Igor Tabakov / MT)