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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – July 20, 2010

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TODAY: City Hall’s education department could face fraud charges; Foreign Ministry defends Fedotov appointment; Medvedev on state media; Yabloko opposes Romanov memorials, Other Russia proposes new capital; heat wave causing power shortages; anger over detainment of Russian pilot in Liberia. 
The Interior Ministry is opening a criminal case for City Hall’s education department to investigate ‘dubious activities‘ and suspected fraud, with some analysts wondering whether a Kremlin desire to remove Mayor Yury Luzhkov is at play.  A Reuters analysis hinges Russian modernization on education reform, with sources suggesting that economic over-dependence on oil and gas requires ‘even less education than a coal and steel-based economy, let alone the post-industrial economy‘.  The Foreign Ministry is defending the appointment of Yury Fedotov as head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, after 23 NGOs reportedly spoke against the nomination, citing Russia’s treatment of drug-related cases of HIV.  Alexei Pankin considers the implications of Dmitry Medvedev’s comment last week that ‘it does not make sense to set the goal of moving away from government media because both [private and government-controlled media] exist everywhere in the world.‘  High temperatures (currently at 37 Celsius / 98.6 Fahrenheit and climbing), and the subsequent use of air conditioners and fans, are putting a strain on Moscow’s electricity infrastructure, possibly the cause of a two-hour power outage at Sheremetyevo Airport last week.  The New York Times provides some heatwave case studies.

Opposition party Yabloko is protesting a memorial to Grigory Romanov, a Soviet official who, they say, was responsible for the exile of important cultural figures.  The Other Russia, meanwhile, is considering building a new Russian capital in South Siberia.  Russia has complained that the conditions in which one of its pilots was kept in Liberia on suspicion of drug smuggling ‘were unacceptable and ran against all ethical rules and notions‘.  Fyodor Lukyanov gives us his views on a top ten of the past year’s events and their influence over current Russian foreign policy, including the Kyrgyzstan coup and the Katyn memorials.  
RFE/RL asks, has the Kremlin finally had enough of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka?  The Independent weighs in on the debate about the new bill that would allow the authorities to issue warnings to those suspected of plotting crimes. 
Pianist Mikhail Pletnev has returned to Russia briefly between Thailand trial dates, insisting that he is innocent of the rape charges against him.  If donkeys could fly… 
PHOTO: Vladimir Putin visits the Energia Rocket and Space Corporation facilities outside Moscow. (AFP)