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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 1, 2010

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TODAY: Thousands of protesters rally in Kaliningrad; activists arrested in Moscow; Yukos case in the press; Russia has the immigration service to thank for its demographic increase; opposition newspaper beset by cyberattacks; turbulent times in Dagestan; Duma hires folk singer.
Reports count attendance at a Kaliningrad rally this weekend at around 10,000-12,000, as protesters gathered to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin over living costs and unemployment.  Solidarity leader Boris Nemtsov said he saw the protest as ‘a precursor to events likely to roll out over Russia‘.  A rally in central Moscow on Saturday, organized to protest a perceived Kremlin campaign to dismantle the constitutional right to peaceful protest, saw up to 100 (The Other Russia says 160) anti-Kremlin protesters detained, including Nemtsov. 82-year-old Soviet-era activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva reportedly had a police escort for the protest to prevent her from being arrested.  The BBC has some video footage.  The Moscow Times is careful to insist that ‘Putin’s popularity remains high.

Michael Bohm writes on the Yukos case in the Moscow Times today, calling it ‘“legal nihilism” par excellence‘.  The Independent, writing on the ongoing case, calls the Yukos courtroom ‘an exercise in the absurd that could come straight from the pages of Gogol or Kafka‘.  The Federal Migration Service suggests that it deserves some of the credit for the recent announcement of Russia’s first demographic increase in years, for granting Russian citizenship to about 400,000 people last year.  
Opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta’s website has been the victim of an almost week-long hacker attack, speculated to have been sparked by an article by Yulia Latynina on Russian corruption.  The news comes as a survey of computer executives in fourteen countries highlights the growing threat of cyberattacks.  The New York Times writes on growing tensions in the republic of Dagestan.  ‘People have no hope in law enforcement or in other protection or in justice anymore.‘  
The Duma’s newest addition is Putin’s ‘favorite folk rock singer‘, who has no previous experience in politics.  A prototype of Sukhoi’s new stealth fighter has completed its maiden flight, pleasing government officials.  Russia is committed to doubling the current number of wild tigers by 2022.  
PHOTO: Police detain a protester during a rally in central Moscow January 31, 2010. At least 100 people gathered in protest against what they say is a long-running Kremlin campaign to dismantle the constitutional right to peaceful protest, one of the few avenues open to Russia’s weak and fragmented opposition. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)