RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 17, 2011

china-1.jpgTODAY: Putin’s new photographer raises eyebrows; Potemkin lawn; worm salad governor out; Troitsky to escape fine; Sochi mascot scandals continue. Belarus cautioned by the Kremlin on media freedom; Moscow plans anti-xenophobia campaign.  Relaxation of US-Russia visa rules; Margelov gives verdict on Libya; Russia backs Ki-Moon.

The Prime Minister’s press office has been forced to justify the most recent addition to Vladimir Putin’s two-man team of photographers.  Yana Lapikova, a former fashion model and Miss Moscow contestant who bloggers suggest has limited photographic skills is apparently ‘a really good photographer.‘   Observers have been quick to point out that Putin may be looking for some tips on how to pose.  The Telegraph reports on the ‘Potemkin Lawn’ the name which has been given to efforts to beautify the town of Pskov for a visit by Vladimir Putin, including the laying of new lawns, which were removed following the Prime Minster’s visit.  Presidential adviser Igor Yurgens has told the Moscow Times that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is unlikely to challenge President Dmitry Medvedev in next year’s presidential elections.  Tver Governor Dmitry Zelenin, who famously angered the Kremlin for complaining online about finding a worm in his salad at a presidential reception, has been ousted from his post.

The Moscow City Court has upheld a lower court’s decision to convictrock critic Artemy Troitsky of slandering a former policeman, but he mayescape the $4,600 fine.  It has been revealed by the Moscow Times that in the contest to create a new mascot for the Olympics. the organizers of the Sochi Games paid someone to create a bluetoad chewing a ski stick and claimed it was an independent entry.  And potcalling kettle black some might say, as Finance Minister Alexei Kudrinhas apparently warned Belarus that its restrictions on Russian media freedom could cost it financial aid.
The Russian Military Prosecutor’s Office has begun an investigation into the mysterious deaths of three privates in a military unit in the western town of Kinel.  One commentator has said that, ‘soldiers are dying in the Russian army on a regular basis because of the “gradual collapse” of government institutions’.  Analysis of the death and burial of Yuri Budanov continues, with an in-depth report from Bloomberg on how news of the war criminal’s murder was received.  ‘According to some of the more obscure theories being proffered by observers, the shooting was variously the work of Russia’s own shadowy security services, Russian ultra-nationalists or anti-Kremlin elements based abroad’: the BBC considers the motives for Budanov’s murder.  Moscow city government has launched a $4 million anti-xenophobia campaign after the city was racked by nationalist violence late last year.

In a significant relaxation of visa rules, U.S. and Russian citizens will soon be able to secure three-year multiple-entry visas and will not need to secure visa invitations.  Russia’s envoy to Africa, Mikhail Margelov, has visited Tripoli in a last-ditch attempt to mediate a settlement of the conflict.  The BBC has an with interview with Margelov, in which he states that consensus among Libyans is that Gaddafi must go.  Russia has backed Ban Ki-moon’s bid for reelection to the post of UN secretary-general.

PHOTO: Hu laying a wreath Thursday, June 16, 2011 at Moscow’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  (Alexander Natruskin / Reuters)