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

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TODAY: New UNICEF report on HIV and Russian children; militants attack hydropower plant in North Caucasus; boost for Strategy 31; FSB says employee salaries are state secrets; drought and heatwave continue; arms exports to reach a post-Soviet record this year; Anna Chapman.
A new UNICEF report on the ‘underground HIV epidemic affecting children in Eastern Europe and Central Asia‘ documents the role of drug use in HIV contraction, the abandonment of children born to HIV-positive mothers, and Russia’s work against the discrimination of children with the virus.  The Moscow Times suggests that the report’s focus implies that these regions ‘are the only places in the world where the HIV epidemic is growing‘.  A North Caucasus hydropower plant has been the victim of a suspected terrorist attack, with two security guards killed in an explosion.  Prime Minister Vladimir Putin promptly demanded that the plant be repaired as soon as possible, and for emergency measures to ensure that supplies were not disrupted.  The BBC has details of the attack.  The Strategy 31 campaign, which files routine applications for opposition protest rallies with the Moscow mayor’s office, is celebrating a court decision that ‘effectively admitted that the Moscow authorities’ refusal to sanction Strategy 31 rallies is politically motivated‘, says Other Russia party member Aleksandr Averin.  Is the party’s exposure this week in the ‘official government mouthpiece‘ newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta a cause for celebration or a ‘technical formality‘?

The Federal Security Service says that information about the salaries of its employees is a state secret, defying President Dmitry Medvedev’s anti-corruption initiative.  Yulia Latynina offers a series of case studies documenting violence, drunkenness, and ‘blatant lawlessness‘ of FSB officials.  The heatwave continues, with 71 drowning-related deaths reported as people rush to the coast to cool off.  Reuters has a factbox on the drought and its effects on crops and prices.  
As Russian arms exports hit a post-Soviet record of $9 billion this year (says Reuters), the First Deputy Director of the Federal Military-Technical Cooperation Service says that Russia has the right to supply military equipment to any country, provided they are not under UN sanctions.  Estonia is worried about the deployment of Russian missiles near its border, says RFE/RL.  It seems unlikely that US federal agencies would purchase Russian pornography for government use, but just in case, the US Labor Department has included Russian pornography in a blacklist of products that, it warns, are at risk of having been produced with the aid of child labor.  Anna Chapman, the Russian woman deported from the US over spy allegations, has denied that she will sell her story for $250,000. 
PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, left, and his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen drink rhubarb juice during a welcome ceremony at the presidential summer residence Kultaranta manor in Naantali, Finland Tuesday July 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Lehtikuva, Martti Kainulainen)