RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – July 16, 2010

mer.jpgTODAY: Merkel raises rights issue at meeting with Medvedev; reminders from EU and US on Estemirova killing; Other Russia party faces pressure just days after inception. Clemency for criminals behind scenes of spy swap; Bashkortostan President officially resigns; mass grave dates back to Stalin era; petition against deforestation for highway.  Who accompanied Putin to a fistfight? Officials get tweeting

‘There’s an almost inseparable link between modernizing the economy and making civil society more democratic’: Angela Merkel nudges Medvedev on human rights during her two-day, business-oriented visit to Yekaterinburg.  Medvedev has fought off claims that nothing has been done to bring the killers of Natalia Estemirova to justice, stating that her killer has been identified.  Estemirova’s fellow rights workers maintain that there are holes in the current story, which pins the blame on Akhazur Bashayev who was, rather conveniently, killed during a counterterrorism raid last fall.  A US State Department spokesman has pledged that the activist will be remembered, whilst highlighting the fact that justice has not been served, Ria-Novosti reports.  EU High Representative Catherine Ashton has also urged Russia ‘to work towards putting an end to the climate of impunity and fear in the North Caucasus’.  Is Medvedev feeling the pressure?  Find out here which question prompted an ‘uncharacteristically brash’ response from the President.  The newly formed Other Russia party is apparently already receiving unfavorable attention from the authorities in the cities of Khabarovsk and Ryazan, with delegates facing detention and investigation.  RFE/RL reports on the success of the play ‘One Hour and 18 Minutes’, based on the prison diary of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Julia Ioffe brings to light the pardoning of petty criminals which took place in the shadows of the spy swap in the Washington Post ‘Congress should stop ‘playing chicken’ and do the right thing: recognize reality and graduate Russia from this throwback to the Cold War’: David Harris makes a strong case for the abandonment of the Jackson-Vanik amendment in the IHT.  David Ignatius ponders how the US and Russia should use theirfledgling partnership’.  Could Anna Chapman be heading for the Duma? 

Having secured a $24,500-a-month pension, Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov has tendered his resignation.  Medvedev has named Rustem Khamitov as new acting president.  3.5 tons of bones discovered on the outskirts of Vladivostok belong to hundreds of victims of Stalinist purges, experts have announced.  Michael Gerson in the Washington Post is appalled by the use of a Stalin bust at the National D-Day Memorial in Viriginia.

 20,000 activists have petitioned the president to stop the razing of the Khimki forest to make way for the Moscow-St. Petersburg highway.  More than 25 high-ranking officials have signed up to Twitter since the President began micro-blogging.  Putin retains his hard-man image in celebrity company.  Melting asphalt, unhappy zoo animals, fans at a premium:  the Moscow Times has the full report on the heatwave scorching the capital.  

PHOTO: Medvedev giving Merkel a tour of downtown Yekaterinburg on Thursday, July 15, 2010. (Vladimir Rodionov / RIA-Novosti / AP)