RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 24, 2011

libya.jpgTODAY: Whistleblower Alexei Navalny’s determination revealed in Guardian interview; activists take a stand on torture in prison; Left Front leader released.  Russians evacuated from violence-hit Tripoli; Sergei Lavrov warns against putting pressure on North African states; Defenders of Fatherland Day marked by small nationalist rally; Medvedev flexing his muscles with FSB firing?  Glonass launch delayed; Anna Chapman denounced by Dagestan villagers; Moscow expo brings Russia and US together

Today’s Guardian has an interview with fearless corporate whistleblower, lawyer Alexei Navalny, a ‘one man Wikileaks’ who believes that corruption in Russia will remain endemic ‘until the Vladimir Putin regime falls’.  A group of leading Russian human rights advocates have written a letter, which can be read here, to President Medvedev urging him to put an end to the use of torture in prison.  Opposition activist Sergei Udaltsov has been released from prison after serving his ten-day sentence; the Left Front leader emerged six kilos lighter, after going on hunger strike.  ‘Russia is simply too wealthy for the next attempt at democracy not to be successful’ – as the Middle East quakes with political turmoil, Anders Aslund argues that a strong economic climate is a precondition for a movement towards democracy.  According to Russian officials, all Russian citizens have been airlifted from Tripoli, the violence-ridden Libyan capital, although reports have surfaced of Russian nationals stranded in other parts of the country.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told the head of Arab League that Russia will not back ‘attempts to whip up tensions in the region’, but advocates a peaceful, dialogue-based approach to events.

President Medvedev laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin yesterday as a part of the commemoration of Fatherland Defender Day.  Over 4,000 police officers were deployed in Moscow to ensure law and order for the celebration.  Around 100 young men staged an impromptu nationalist rally in the east of the capital, at which 50 were detained temporarily by riot police.  An op-ed in the Moscow Times argues that the day was overshadowed by a sense that Russia’s military draft system is ‘unfair, inefficient and unpopular’. 

The Telegraph suggests that President Medvedev’s recent firing of FSB deputy director Vyacheslav Ushakov, over allegations of lavish spending, reflects a desire to assert rank ahead of the elections.  Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin arrives in Seoul today to take notes on how to improve traffic conditions in a metropolis.

The launch of the troubled Glonas satellite (designed to rival the US Sat-Nav) has been delayed by 24 hours;three of the satellites have alreadycrashedin trial runs.  As Russia gears up for its 2014 Sochi sporting extravaganza, is apparently considering sending the Olympic flame to theInternational Space Station.  Anna Chapman’s mystery-solving TV reports have won her few admirers in the Dagestan home village of last summer’s ‘miracle baby’, the New York Times reports.  A new exhibition in Moscow which compares Russian and American history has been considered a reflection of positive reset relations.

PHOTO: Russians evacuated from Libya exiting an Emergency Situations Ministry jet Wednesday at Domodedovo Airport.  (Vladimir Smolyakov/Reuters)