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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 21, 2011

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TODAY: 44 killed in Karelia plane crash; Khodorkovsky’s whereabouts revealed; Justice Minister calls for eased registration rules; Russia opposes U.N.’s Syria resolutions; Medvedev says election fuss won’t hurt the economy; Vanuatu withdraws support for Abkhazia; forest fires, krokodil.
At least 44 people have died after a Russian-made Tu-134 jet crashed into the runway in Petrozavodsk, in the Karelia province last night.  The eight remaining passengers are in critical condition, including a 10-year-old boy.  The BBCITN and Associated Press have video footage of the wreckage.  The vague whereabouts of Mikhail Khodorkovsky have finally been revealed – he has been moved to a prison colony in northwest Russia, where it is thought he will stay until his scheduled released in 2016.  It has not been confirmed which prison he has been assigned to, however.  The Justice Minister is calling for a relaxation of registration rules for political parties and nonprofit organizations, saying that simple notification of their existence would be a simpler process.

Russia is opposing the latest U.N. resolution regarding Syria, but will not use its veto.  RIA Novosti reports on the deal under which Russia finally bought two French mistral helicopter carriers – for whatever difference it will actually make to the navy.  The Financial Times has published a transcript of its extensive weekend interview with President Dmitry Medvedev, in which he suggests that the identity of the person elected in the next presidential elections ‘does not have a very significant impact on the investment climate‘, and congratulates himself on the 4.5% growth rate.  The FT has responded enthusiastically: ‘For the first time in some years, Russia has a president who is at least saying the right things.‘ 
The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has withdrawn its previous recognition of the independence of Abkhazia.  Visa-free travel between Russia and Peru is now in effect.  Forest fires continue to rage in the Far East, with eight extinguished yesterday, and ten still blazing.  Time Magazine reports on the designer drug krokodil, which is overtaking traditional opiates among regional drug-users, and the government’s relaxed approach to supporting rehabilitation. 
PHOTO: Flames rise from the wreckage of a Tu-134 plane which crashed on a highway in Petrozavodsk, northwestern Russia, early Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/AMVID via APTN)