RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 2, 2010

eu-1-storypic1.jpgTODAY: Opposition attack police rally response, journalist’s arm broken after beating; International Children’s Day St Petersburg protests; United Russia’s drive to protect young minds; Orthodox Church calls for strict abortion control. EU-Russia summit positive on modernization; Medvedev still pushing for visa freedom. Spies relaxing; Ukraine looking eastward or westward? Gerashchenko says Khodorkovsky charges unfounded; Beslan memorial; lauded poet Andrei Voznesensky dies
More details have emerged on the breaking up of Monday’s freedom to assemble rally: according to RFE/RL the arm of a reporter was broken in three places, and the Moscow Times notes that a World War Two veteran was manhandled.  Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, one of the founders of the opposition Yabloko Party, has described the authorities’ reaction in Moscow as savage and inappropriate’ and has urged that an investigation begin.  If you wish to see the heated exchange between Vladimir Putin and Yuri Shevchuk (in Russian) look here.  International’s Children’s Day yesterday saw dozens of activists in St Petersburg from the Civil Committee for Human Rights hold a rally to defend children’s, and in particular orphan’s, rights.  Also in St Petersburg, supporters of Eduard Limonov held a rally to protest against educational fees, something they believe to be a possibility after the duma accepted a law which would allow schools to ‘engage in commercial activity’.  United Russia are allegedly using the protection of children as a way to censor media material and TV output.  The Russian Orthodox church has urged that tougher rules on abortion be put into place, which will help counterbalance Russia’s demographic deficit.

The EU President Herman Van Rompuy has advocated not so much a reset as a fast-forward’ in terms of the bloc’s relations with Russia.  Rompuy and President Medvedev have signed a joint declaration on Russian modernization,which the EU President apparently wholeheartedly backs.  RFE/RLreports that despite a lack on concrete breakthrough, the ambiance atthe summit was one of contented rapprochement.  Medvedev apparently remains keen on the idea of visa relaxation.  The EU President did not shy away from one of the main international concerns about Russia saying, ‘the situation for human rights defenders and journalists in Russia is of grave concern to the European public at large’.  Russia’s spies have, according to the Moscow Times, scaled down their activities since Barack Obama abandoned plans formissile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has reportedly drawn up a foreign policy plan which abandons the country’s bid to join NATO, though EU membership remains on the agenda.  Factbox on political issues in Ukraine.   ‘The reforms appear fewer, less essential and slower in their coming than anticipated’: the future may be uncertain for Ukraine, argues a Moscow Times op-ed.  Russia’s overtures may look like ‘like a wholesale economic take-over of Ukraine’, but is Yanukovych fully won over?  From Russia Now on the Kaliningrad issue: ‘lonely Kaliningrad could become the model for constructive dissent’.

Former Central Bank chief Viktor Gerashchenko has testified at the Khodorkovsky trial where he has stated that the charges held against the Yukos founder are ungrouded.  A new monument to the victims of the Beslan siege has been unveiled on Moscow’s Ulitsa Solyanka.  Tributes have flooded in for the audacious poet Andrei Voznesensky, who has died at the age of 77.

PHOTO: EU President Herman Van Rompuy, left, walking together with PresidentDmitry Medvedev and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso,right, after the EU-Russia summit in Rostov-on-Don, on June 1, 2010.  (Mikhail Klimentyev / Reuters / RIA-Novosti)