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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Jan 21, 2010

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TODAY: Human Rights Watch annual report findings; Medvedev to meet with Council of Europe commissioner; helicopter poacher sworn in for second term; contradictory reports over whether Russia to boost its Baltic Fleet in response to US deployment of missiles in Poland; ambassador denies broken Afghan transit deal; cathedral in Nice goes to Russian state; time to bury Lenin?  Fired for being Buddhist.
Human Rights Watch has released its annual report, noting a new trend of human rights abusers turning on activists and defenders of human rights and ‘attacking the very foundations of the movement‘.  The Russian chapter of the report (read it here) highlights last year’s ‘brazen murders‘, including the cases of Natalia Estemirova and Stanislav Markelov.  President Dmitry Medvedev meets today with the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner who has demanded a thorough investigation of Estemirova’s murder.  The young officer charged with the murder of journalist Konstantin Popov in a holding cell has ‘blamed a difficult home life‘ for his actions.  Why has Alexander Berdnikov, governor of the Altai republic, been sworn into office for a second term, rather than investigated over his role in last year’s helicopter poaching accident, wonders ex Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov.  Moscow’s police chief highlighted a rise in crime last year by ‘migrants‘.

The Washington Times wonders whether news that the US is planning to deploy missiles at a Polish military base, near the Russian border, could have a negative effect on attempts to replace the START treaty.  According to a Russian navy official quoted in RIA Novosti, Russia would respond to the move by strengtheningthe surface, underwater and aviation elements of the Baltic Fleet‘, but a senior Defense Ministry official denies that this is the case. Contradicting reports earlier this week that just one US military flight has made it through Russian airspace en route to Afghanistan thus far, the US ambassador to Russia insists that the transit deal has not broken down.  ‘In fact there were five [flights], and 11 more planned,‘ and lower-than-expected figures are being blamed on ‘logistical’ issues.  The New York Times looks at Kazakhstan’s role in the OSCE. 
French parishioners in Nice have lost their Russian Orthodox cathedral of St Nicholas to the Russian state, after a court ruled that Russian nobles were the legitimate heirs.  86 years on, isn’t it time to bury Lenin?  A prison guard in Nizhny Novgorod says he was fired for being Buddhist.  Russian, British and US soldiers to march together in May to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany?  
PHOTO: President Dmitry Medvedev visits Bekaert Lipetsk plant, a resident company at Lipetsk Special Economic Zone, in the city of Lipetsk January 20, 2010. REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev