RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 9, 2011

Pg-26-impersonators_613241t.jpgTODAY: EU-Russia summit begins in shadow of E.coli vegetable dispute; Defense Minister talks of arms race with NATO.  Pearl Ensign trial underway; hurdles for summer camp Seliger; anarchists behind bomb attack; Muslim rector slain in Dagestan.  Kremlin announces war on drugs; putting the Vegas in St Petersburg; could culture soothe Russia-UK ties?

Today the Russia-EU summit in Nizhny Novgorod begins with the vegetable scandal’ likely to dominate proceedings, though visa relaxation and gas pipelines are also on the agenda.  Russia will apparently uphold its ban on the import of European Union vegetables as long as the Union fails to pinpoint the source of the E. Coli outbreak which has claimed the lives of 22 people.  Despite the cucumber kerfuffle, ‘This will be a routine summit with no big fights and no major agreements signed. Arguably, the two sides could save a huge amount of time and money by holding a video conference or even just exchanging position papers’, says Fraser Cameron in the Moscow Times.  NATO and Russia may have failed to overcome their differences on the issue of missile defense at a meeting in Brussels, but the head of the Western military alliance is apparently sanguine on the prospect of future cooperation.  Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has meanwhile returned to Cold War rhetoric stating that a failure to agree on BMD will leave Russia no choice but to engage in an arms race.

RFE/RL reports from the trial of former Russian policeman, Vadim Boiko, widely known as Pearl Ensign, who is accused of abusing demonstrators at a St Petersburg rally.  Sponsorship woes and an alternative opposition camp at Khimki are just two of the issues affecting the pro-Kremlin, jingo-fest that is the Seliger summer camp.  A group called Anarchist Guerrilla, known for attacks on construction vehicles working in the Khimki forest, has claimedresponsibility for a bomb near a traffic police post on the Moscow RingRoad.  A leading Muslim theologian and his nephew have been shot to death in Makhachkala in apparent retaliation for his condemnation of fundamentalist Islam in the North Caucasus.  Moscow’s unusual new step in the fight against terror. 

Drug dealers are to be “treated like serial killers”‘: the Guardian reports on how the Kremlin is introducing a zero tolerance policy on Russia’s omnipresent drug trade.  Kostya Lyubimov from the Salvation Centre suggests Russia’s 8 million drug users are already pilloried in society in an op-ed from the same newspaper.  In evidence of the nascent crackdown, the government has apparently banned the charitable organization the Transfiguration of Russia, which is a rehabilitation center for drug addicts, alcoholics and socially disadvantaged citizens.

A Lenin impersonator who has been arrested in Red Square for allegedly insulting churchgoers has received unlikely support from the last Tsar of Russia.  Forget the Hermitage: St Petersburg is now apparently offering quickie marriages as a way of enticing tourists.  Will a strategically-placed statue of Yuri Gagarin help to ease tensions between Russia and the UK?

PHOTO: Doubles of Nicolas II and Lenin in Red Square.  (Getty Images)