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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 24, 2010

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TODAY: Kasparov on Russia’s lack of free speech; survey reveals that an increasing fear of hazing is putting Russians off the military; police reforms; Russia and US to speak on START treaty; Moscow falling out with Kyrgyz government over loans; Firestone interview with the Moscow Times.
Garry Kasparov has an article in The Guardian, warning Europe to be wary of Russia’s ‘ruthless suppression‘ of democratic dissent and ‘harassment‘ of journalists, and touching on the issue of Paris-based satellite provider Eutelstat.  A survey released to coincide with yesterday’s Defender of the Fatherland Day reveals that 75% of Russians are against serving in the military because of hazing – a 30% increase on a similar survey from 2000.  Massive layoffs, like the one outlined by Dmitry Medvedev last week for the police force, are neither reformative nor unusual, says the Moscow Times.  The shoe is on the other foot in this story, with the Internal Ministry accusing the Russian media of campaigning to discredit the security forces and failing to publish accurate information.

Moscow has been struggling with record snowfall since the weekend.  Russia and the US are planning to speak about their differences over the START treaty: ‘The Russian side is a bit more pessimistic and they believe the disagreement is quite serious […]‘  Moscow has apparently ‘frozen its financial pledges‘ to the Kyrgyz government after it was alleged that low-interest development loans granted to help the latter fix its budget problems were used in commercial bank investments for higher returns.  Ukrainian President-elect Viktor Yanukovych’s first foreign visit in his new role will be to Brussels, not Moscow
As reported here last week, Jamison Firestone, the head of the law firm that employed Sergei Magnitsky, has fled Russia due to, he says, the criminal scheme against him. ‘It is extremely negative when the government cannot guarantee the safety of businesses. But it is also a fact that those who come here [as investors] are not normal ones but willing to gamble.‘  
PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin listens to Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin on board a helicopter as they head to view restorations at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power plant, near southern Siberia, Russia on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Pool)