RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 29, 2010

159615245.jpgTODAY: Reset mood broken by US arrest of 10 alleged Russian spies; report claims that espionage was long-term and designed to penetrate policy making circles; Lavrov demands clarification; Obama ratings high among Russians.  AntiLuzhkov protesters detained; evidence of corruption in 2014 preparations; Culture minister backs controversial curators; teachers hunger strike continues; extremisms charge for leaflet; suicide among children

In the US, 10 individuals have been arrested on suspicion of being spies employed by Russian intelligence agency SVR; nine of them have been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.  The individuals, apparently known as the ‘illegals’ to the Russian intelligence service, were supposedly part of a ‘long-term, deep-cover’ spy ring whose objective was to infiltrate U.S. policy-making circles.  The Times reports that one of the alleged spies was said to have had conversations with a US official about nuclear ‘”bunker-buster” warheads’.  ‘It’s a return to the old days, but even in the worst years of the cold war, I think there were no more than 10 illegals in the U.S., probably fewer’, says ex-KGB general Oleg D. Kalugin in the New York Times.  The Guardian has details of the spies’ apparent exchanges.  The Telegraph enjoys the Cold War nostalgia and provides a video report.  The Kremlin has studied the US allegations and, according to Reuters, finds the information ‘contradictory’.  Ria-Novosti reports that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wants an explanation from the US over the arrests.  Plus ca change, says the Washington Post:Its main revelation is that Russian intelligence evidently still relies on espionage methods’, and notes that these are ones that ex-KGB stalwart Vladimir Putin has personally polished.  The BBC remarks upon the unfortunate timing of the arrests when Presidents Medvedev and Obama so recently enjoyed a friendly meeting.  Indeed the Moscow Times reports that approval for the Obama regime has climbed significantly; 59% of Russians have a ‘good or very good’ opinion of the President.

Around 30 opposition activists have been detained in Moscow for demanding that Mayor Yury Luzhkov be dismissed at an unsanctioned ‘Day of Wrath’ rally.  The Russian audit chamber has concluded a probe into how the $106.4million budget for Team Russia’s preparations for the SochiGames were used, with the statement that they were ‘inefficient, imperfect and involvedcorruption’.  Culture Minister Alexander Avdeyev has opposed the idea of convicting the curators who organized the ‘Forbidden Art’ exhibition, claiming that the display did not amount to a criminal offense.  Vladimir Ryzhkov has penned an op-ed in the Moscow Times in which he makes clear why opposition parties will have no place in the 2011 elections. 

The teachers’ hunger strike protest against the closure of schools in the Ulyanovsk region is gaining other followers, says RFE/RL.  A man who distributed leaflets advocating the return of Russia’s northern borderlands to Finland could reportedly be prosecuted on extremism charges.  The British government has apparently announced that Russian diplomatsin London owe nearly almost $5 million in unpaid traffic fines.  Nine former Yevroset employees have gone on trial in the kidnapping of an ex-colleague.  The BBC has an in-depth report on the cracks within Russia’s space science projects.

An estimated 2,500 children and teenagers commit suicide every year in Russia, twice the average of developed countries: RFE/RL has a sobering report on the reasons why. 

PHOTO: The U.S. announcement came only a few days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the United States and may cast a shadow on the bilateral relations  (REUTERS/ Mike Sega)