RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 15, 2011

Russian-human-rights-acti-007.jpgTODAY: Orlov acquitted in rare boon for NGO workers; Khodorkovsky whistleblower’s claims countered by authorities; Mironov enters lower house.  Medvedev fires two top police officials as reform of law enforcement ramps up; St Petersburg neo-Nazis sentenced; chess master says Gaddafi open to peace talks; does Russia wants Karimov out?  Gullit leaves Terek Grozny in a hail of criticism; smuggling.

A Moscow court has unexpectedly acquitted the head of the Memorial human rights group, Oleg Orlov, of charges that he slandered Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.  The activist had been taken to court by Kadyrov over comments relating to the murder of rights worker Natalya Estemirova in 2009.  He says: ‘It’s a joyous occasion. I took this case as being politically right from the start […] I always said that in the eyes of the law we were right’.  Investigators have rebuffed claims from Judge Viktor Danilkin’s former assistant Natalya Vasilyeva that the Khodorkovsky judge was pressured into handing down a harsher sentence to the Yukos founder, citing insufficient evidence.  Lawyers of the incarcerated tycoon and his business partner Platon Lebedev have filed a supervisory appeal against a court decision to close an outdated case on the theft of shares from the Eastern Oil Company.  A Just Russia party leader Sergei Mironov, who was ousted from his post as speaker of the upper house of parliament last month, has been elected leader of the party faction in the lower house, and has vowed to continue perplexing United Russia with difficult questions.

President Dmitry Medvedev has accelerated his police reform drive by replacing the high-profile chiefs of the traffic police and the head of the Russian branch of Interpol.  In a Reuters report on police brutality in Russia, human rights activists argue that tours of duty to Chechnya and the North Caucasus have worsened brutality on the part of law enforcement.  Meanwhile a former policeman in the far eastern Primorye region has been sentenced to life in prison for seven murders.  In St Petersburg, two leaders of a neo-Nazi gang have been sentenced to life in jail for a spate of hate killings against ethnic minorities. 

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has followed up his chess meeting with Moammar Gadhafi by saying that the Libyan leader expressed a willingness to open to talks with NATO and the country’s rebels.  Reports have circulated that on the eve of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana, President Medvedev told a gloomy-looking Uzbek President Islam Karimov that he should consider stepping down.  Tough times ahead for Belarussian President Alexander Lukaschenko, says the Moscow Times.

Dutch football legend Ruud Gullit realizes why managing the football club of a former warlord can be a hazardous business.  Elk lips and bear paws – the latest goodies to illegally cross the Russia-China border as smuggling booms.

PHOTO: Russian human rights activist Oleg Orlov speaks to journalists after a Moscow found him not guilty of slandering the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)