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

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TODAY: Medevedev calls for modernization, but will political reform accompany it?  Nemtsov distributes anti-Putin publication in streets; revealing Sechin interview; no pride for St Pete; Luzkov cases go to Strasbourg.  Kyrgyzstan situation remains difficult; US and Russia look to referendum for stability; issue of responsibility remains debated; Poland election; skiing in conflict hot spot; tiger disease? 

Russia needs to become a ‘country of dreams’, President Medvedev has told guests at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, and stated that the goals of modernization ‘are realistic and achievable’.  The Washington Post wonders whether the dream will extend to human rights: ‘Mr. Medvedev’s plans don’t appear to include any domestic political liberalization’.  Today a Richard Lourie op-ed in the Moscow Times concurs with this witty rejoinder: ‘Producing a high-tech economy is not enough. Otherwise, the result may be no more than a modernized Russia where you can pay bribes with your cell phone’.  The Other Russia has a video report on Boris Nemtsov’s handing out of copies of ‘Putin. Results. 10 Years’ booklet to passers-by, after 200,000 copies were impounded by authorities.  The Solidarity leader has vowed to distribute them ‘regardless of the difficulties’.   A Reuters interview with Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin has seen the fearsome siloviki clan chief describe a normal citizen as ‘a patriot of his country […] A decent person, professional if you work in the government, and effective. That’s all’.   Sechin rebuffed the idea that he could be a third candidate at the 2012 presidential election, suggesting it belonged to ‘the realms of fairy tales and fantasy’.  A provocative article from RFE/RL sees Mikhail Shevelev accuse Strategy 31 protesters of being incoherent and unrealistic.  St. Petersburg City Hall has banned a gay pride parade.  The European Court of Human Rights has asked to be given information on all defamation lawsuits won by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov (that’s more than 50 in total).


Kryrgyz forces have started removing barricades from the violence-racked city of Osh; but large numbers of ethnic Uzbeks who have gathered on the border with Uzbekistan are refusing to return to their homes.  Allegations that ousted Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev may have instigated the violence should be taken seriously, says US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to Reuters.  An article in the New York Times argues that US-Russia wrangling over the Manas base created, in some ways, the climate for unrest.  Apparently Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton believe that the upcoming referendum on a new constitution in the central Asian nation will be a useful tool in the stabilization of the country. Could the situation diminish China’s presence in the area, leaving the door open for a Russian resurgence? wonders this article.

Poland’s acting head of state, Bronislaw Komorowski, looks like he is on track to win the Polish presidency: the polls reportedly gave him up to 46% of the vote, and rival Jaroslaw Kaczynski 36%.  The White House is attracting negative attention from certain members of congress for purchasing 31 Russian Mi-17 transport helicopters for the Afghan National Army Air Corps. The murder of an 8-year-old adopted Russian boy in the US will ‘add determination’ to attempts to reach a U.S-Russia agreement on the issue.  Sberbank CEO German Gref and Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko have confirmed that they will testify at the trial of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky this week. 

The Guardian looks, with some incredulity, at ski resort plans for Sochi.  The Olympics are receiving a vehicular gift.  The disappearance of the Siberian tiger.

PHOTO: Deputy Prime Minister (and Rosneft head) Igor Sechin speaking during an interview with Reuters during the St. Petersburg International Economic forum in St. Petersburg, June 19.  (Alexander Demianchuk / Reuters)