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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – July 19, 2010

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TODAY: Opposition criticizes new bill on grounds that it would revive Soviet-era intimidation, Sochi residents stage environmental protest, Khimki forest activists threatened; broody Russians; Bashkortostan gets new leader; Moscow Grand Prix? Poet gives his house to the state, Vekselberg sues Christie’s over a ‘forgery’.
A loosely-worded bill against those who ‘create the conditions for a crime‘ has been approved by the Duma, prompting strong criticism from various rights groups including Memorial.  Opponents say that the proposed measures would give the authorities ‘another tool for intimidation‘ of protesters, and the New York Times notes that the bill, if signed into law, would ‘reviv[e] a Soviet-era KGB practice that was often used against dissidents‘.  Sochi was the site of a reportedly 2,000-strong rally against environmental pollution yesterday evening despite various opposition attempts to prevent it from happening.  North of Moscow, the Khimki forest, which is scheduled to be logged by highway developers, is also a site of protest: Yevgenia Chirikova claims she was attacked and threatened by an assailant attempting to deter her from an anti-logging campaign in which she and several other activists are camping out in the forest.

A new study on negative emotions compares Russian and US trends, concluding that Russians are more likely to ‘brood than to become depressed.  The Moscow Times says he was ‘appointed‘ by Dmitry Medvedev; RIA Novosti says he was unanimously‘ elected by the regional parliament – either way, the new leader of the Bashkortostan region is RusHydro deputy CEO Rustem Khamitov.  The Belarussian and Georgian presidents, Alexander Lukashenko and Mikhail Saakashvili, are apparently using each others’ antagonisms towards Russia in an attempt to win PR points against the Kremlin.  
Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko has given his house and extensive art collection to the state as a museum.  Magnate Viktor Vekselberg is suing Christie’s auction house for selling him a painting that he claims is a forgery.  Is a 2012 Moscow Grand Prix on the cards?  Read an interview with rock star Yuri Shevchuk on his anti-Kremlin views.  Conductor and pianist Mikhail Pletnev is on trial in Thailand to face child sex charges. 
PHOTO: Tuapse residents gathering on the main square despite a rainstorm to protest poor environmental conditions in the town (Environmental Watch on North Caucasus)