RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 20, 2011

ALeqM5hMb5AaMbWBpj-AuTgRoJbihy88Uw.jpegTODAY: Dissident Yelena Bonner has died; Navalny stars at Seliger alternative; Russia maintains homophobic stance; journalist censored after political comments.   Following assertive St Petersburg speech, Medvedev says will not run against Putin.  Russia criticizes Libya mission; Medvedev backs Obama for next year’s election.  Soccer star tazered by cops

Yelena Bonner, the Russian rights activist and widow of the Nobel peace prize winner Andrei Sakharov, has died of heart failure at the age of 88.  The news has been met with international condolencesRFE/RL looks back at the life of a fearless activist.  Meanwhile the New York Times has a piece on how a group of Russian college students have begun a campaign to raise awareness of the work of her late husband Andrei Sakharov, a figurehead for democrats and dissidents.  Shaun Walker from the Independent reports on the opposition’s alternative to the Kremlin-sponsored Seliger summer camp, held in the soon-to-be-razed Khimki forest and attended by the likes of Alexei Navalny.  The virtue of the alternative is that it is made ‘by citizens for citizens’, says one camp organizer.  The U.N’s most senior human rights body has made a declaration that there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation, a vote approved by the majority of Western countries, but opposed by Russia.   One man who is no stranger to discrimination in its most virulent brand is Russia’s leading gay rights campaigner Nikolai Alekseyev, who is interviewed here.  The journalist who famously compared St. Petersburg’s governor to Adolf Hitler has been edited out of a family show he co-hosted on Rossia One television.

Following a St Petersburg address which some say displayed evidence of a rift in the tandem,  President Medvedev has downplayed concerns of divisions with his predecessor.  In a video interview with the Financial Times, the President reportedly said that he would like a second term, butwould not stand against Vladimir Putin.  At any rate, ‘Medvedev hints he is very upset about something, but nothing ever comes of it’, says an analyst quoted in this article.  Eager election watchers may have a while yet before any concrete news emerges – a Presidential adviser has said that the announcement of who will run will come in the fall

In international news, President Medvedev has criticized the coalition’s mission in Libya and  affirmed Russia’s opposition to a United Nations resolution condemning Syria’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.  Tunisian leaders apparently believe that the President’s mediation efforts in Libya make him a worthy Nobel Peace Prize candidate.  Medvedev would apparently like to see Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama win a second term in next year’s U.S. presidential elections.

Complaints of overzealous policing normally emerge from the ranks of opposition activists: this weekend it was the turn of a star footballer to cry foul.

PHOTO: Political big beasts: Anti-Kremlin activists are at a summer camp in the Khimki forest, outside Moscow (AFP/Natalia Kolesnikova)