RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – July 5, 2010

olympics-3-storypic1.jpgTODAY: Clinton decries state of human rights in Russia amongst other nations; family of murdered Forbes Russia editor to sue?; mayor imprisoned after taking on FSB; Olympic medals cost fortune. Clinton signs Russia-irking missile defence deal in Poland; Caucasus worries all round; attempts to undermine US-Russia reset pointless says Medvedev, as spy scandal continues to make headlines.  President concerned about demographic decline in Far East; no drink driving; vodka to stay cheap

‘We must be wary of the steel vice in which governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit,’ Hillary Clinton has told a meeting of the Community of Democracies in Poland, putting Russia on the list of countries which she says undermine right groups.  The family of murdered American journalist Paul Klebnikov has announced it may sue Russia in Europe’s human rights court for failing to locate and prosecute his killers.  The New York Times has a disturbing in-depth report on Tatyana Kazakova, the mayor of a village in Siberia, who was imprisoned after suing an FSB-owned resort for endangering the town’s water supplies.  Opposition activists continue to protest outside the state Duma against the new bill to increase the powers of the FSB, says RFE/RL.  The judge who ordered the arrest of Vera Trifonova, the businesswoman who died in pretrial detention in April, has been officially listed as fired, meaning that she will lose her judge’s pension.  Richard Lourie looks at Elie Wiesel’s recent backing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  Sports, Tourism and Youth Politics Minister Vitaly Mutko has come under heavy fire for his hotel bill from the Vancouver Olympics, which concluded that he spent $4,500 on 97 breakfasts in his 20-day stay.

Hillary Clinton oversaw the signing of a military base deal on her trip to Poland, the BBC reports.  The US Secretary of State apparently hopes Russia will end its opposition to the controversial defense scheme.  First results suggests that Bronislaw Komorowski, the candidate of Poland’s ruling party, is on his way to winning the presdential election.  Roza Otunbayeva has been sworn in as Kyrgyzstan’s interim president.  A draft of a Kremlin policy plan for the North Caucasus suggests that terrorism will continue to flourish in the area without proper financial investment, the Moscow Tomes reports.  The South Caucasus is equally a source of worry, argues Ronald D.Asmus in the Washington Post.  Some say Moscow has an incentive ‘keep the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict smoldering’: Thomas de Waal, in an op-ed in the Moscow Times, disagrees.   Hillary Clinton has apparently told Ukraine that the idea of having to choose between Russia and the West is a ‘false choice’.

A U.S. judge has ordered three of the spy ring suspects to be held pending trial.   ‘Any attempts to degrade what we have achieved, to intervene in our partnership are futile and untenable’, President Medvedev has said in a U.S. Independence Day greeting to President Barack Obama.  Hillary Clinton voices a similar sentiment hereThis article sees the links Anna Chapman shared with venture capitalists and start up companies as evidence of a new trend in intelligence.  The Power Vertical considers how assets gained though corruption are often channeled into banks run by the children of the elite. 

Moscow City Hall has agreed to re-open two lanes on the highway to Sheremetyevo Airport, which caused traffic chaos last week.  President Medvedev is apparently concerned about the dwindling population in the Siberia and the Far East; a population vacuum which he fears could be filled by immigrant workers. A new piece of legislation initiated by Medvedev, putting a complete ban on any drinking before driving, has been passed by the Duma.  The government has however jettisoned the idea of increasing taxes on vodka, apparently due to the possibility of increased counterfeiting of the ever-quaffable spirit. 

PHOTO: Vitaly Mutko, the sports, tourism and youth policy minister. The Audit Chamber said he spent about $4,500 on breakfasts and $32,400 on hotel expenses at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Large portions of those bills are unaccounted for.  (S. Porter/Vedomosti)