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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 29, 2011

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TODAY: Matviyenko accepts Federation Council seat; envoy calls for end to violence in Syria; North Korea abandons Russia talks; government still accuses dissidents of insanity; Interior Ministry wants to pay witnesses; managed pluralism; Georgia seeking dialogue.
St Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko has accepted the speaker’s seat in the Federation Council following three days of ‘waffling‘ and a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev; the news was apparently welcomed by St Petersburg bloggers, who have been rooting for Matviyenko to leave her governor post.  Or, as Yulia Latynina puts it, ‘The voters can’t stand her. Every day she spent as St. Petersburg governor meant hundreds of voters turning their backs on United Russia.‘  The Russian envoy to Africa is calling for an end to violence in Syria, saying that ‘leaders come and go‘ and indicating that Moscow will support ‘the Syrian peopleregardless of who rules them.  North Korea and Russia have abandoned plans to hold talks this week, possibly due to a failure to lessen their differences regarding the agenda.

That Soviet practice of accusing dissidents of mental instability is still used today to dissuade those who create trouble for the government: ‘a check can be ordered during the trial if any party appeals to the court with doubts about the defendant’s sanity‘.  The Interior Ministry wants $10 million reserved for the police force every year so that they can pay people to provide them with information about crimes, supposedly to help witnesses overcome the terrors of testifying. 
Brian Whitmore writes on the next step for Russian politics: managed pluralism.  Georgia has indicated that it is ready to engage in dialogue with Russia. 
PHOTO: Alexei Chernov, center, of Russia stands after playing piano during the third round of XIV International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, June 28, 2011, with a portrait of Pyotr Tchaikovsky in the background. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)