RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 24, 2010

Dmitry-Medvedev-at-Twitte-006.jpgTODAY: Torture in prison system will be ignored by government say human rights activists; Magnitsky supporters turn up heat on Interior Ministry with new tactics; jailed businessman fears Magnitsky’s fate; Caucasus troubles. Medvedev gives talk to Stanford University, suggests political reform to come from within; sees no future in relations with Saakashvili; vague on 2012 election.  Kyrgyzstan referendum approaching; polio; etiquette; skyscraper to be trimmed?

The Other Russia reports that the government is ‘not interested’ in addressing the apparently endemic use of torture within police and penitentiary systems in Russia.  Friends and colleagues of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky have started a website, ‘Russian-untouchables.com’, on which they have information regarding property gained by one of the Interior Ministry officials accused of trying to take down Hermitage Capital.  The Moscow Times reports that businessman Yury Fink, who is currently jailed for fraud and for a Youtube video in which he accused the Interior Ministry of trying to take over his company, says he fears the same fate as the deceased Hermitage Capital lawyer.  The Federal Mass Media Inspection Service is, according to this report, overruling a Supreme Court decision to not punish websites for comments that are placed on their forums.  The New York Times has an op-ed which addresses the gravity of the human rights situation in the North Caucasus, arguing that ‘as long as the Russian state relies on proxies, proconsuls, and force to ensure order’, the situation will remain inflammatory.  The United States has designated Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov, who claimed responsibility for the Moscow metro bombings, as a terrorist.

As Medvedev meets Obama, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin has a special report in the Washington Post on the improvement in the US-Russia relationship, which begs two important questions: ‘why it was improved and, most important, to what end’.  Russia cannot shrug off its Cold War mentality, argues Kim R. Holme in the Washington Times.  At a talk at Stanford University, Medvedev remained open onwhether he would run in the 2012 elections.  He also asserted Russia will improve itspolitical system internally, ‘without rebukes from abroad’.  The Russian President told theaudience that relations with Georgia could improve once GeorgianPresident Mikheil Saakashvili is no longer President. Georgia’s breakawayAbkhazia region has reportedly withdrawn temporarily fromsecurity talks with Tbilisi, saying the negotiations were unfruitful and that Western mediators were prejudiced.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe believes that an international police force may be needed to re-establish peace in Kyrgyzstan.  Apparently ethnic Uzbecks fear that they may not be able to vote in Sunday’s referendum after Kyrgyz policemen allegedly burnt heir identity papers.  Russia’s Navy will reportedly commission 15 new warships and  non-nuclear submarines for its Black Sea Fleet by 2020.

Russia is reporting its first cases of polio in 15 years; believed to have stemmed from an outbreak in Tajikistan.  St Petersburg would apparently like to follow Moscow’s lead and have its own etiquette guide for foreigners.  A skyscraper in Moscow may have to trim some 22 storeys (which have already been built) off the top of it, as City Hall claims the company did not have prior approval.

PHOTO: Dmitry Medvedev ion San Francisco with Twitter co-founders Evan Williams, left, and Biz Stone.  (Jeff Chiu/AP)