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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 15, 2011

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TODAY: United Russia victory ‘unconvincing’; Medvedev bans Gaddafi from Russia; rescuers arrive in Sendai; Georgia says Russian WTO accession would be illegal without its consent; St Petersburg professor could be jailed over National Bolshevik links; Voina won’t give up; Mount Putin.
United Russia’s weekend election victory, in which it won the support of less than half the population, was ‘unconvincing‘, says the Moscow Times.  Golos, the watchdog association monitoring the elections, recorded a total 720 violations this year, a ‘sharp rise‘ which, according to the organization’s head, indicates that United Russia is losing its touch: ‘Despite generally very difficult circumstances and very harsh pressure, real protest is growing and the people are ready to vote for a semblance of an alternative, even when there isn’t one.‘  This columnist agrees, suggesting that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ‘active role‘ in the elections is demonstrative of the fact that ‘society’s attitude toward the authorities and the party has worsened‘.  Putin says the results, which saw a win for his United Russia party, were ‘more than satisfying‘.  As Libyan unrest halts ‘billions of dollars in Russian arms, energy and railway deals‘, President Dmitry Medvedev has banned Muammar Gaddafi from entering Russia, having already prohibited him from conduction financial operations in the country, and analysts are speculating about whether or not this heralds a shift in Russia’s no-fly zone policy.

Russian rescuers have arrived in Japan’s port city of Sendai to search for people trapped in rubble.  Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister is not happy about recent noises suggesting that Russia could be admitted to the WTO without her country’s consent, and insisted that Georgia’s position was ‘purely technical and legal‘.  Another Georgian official says it would be ‘against international law‘ to go ahead without Georgian permission.  Turkey says it will drop the final obstacles to visa-free travel for its Russian visitors as of May. 
A professor in St Petersburg could be jailed for up to two years for his links with the National Bolshevik Party.  Activist art collective Voina says that jail time for two of its members won’t discourage it from making political art.  Kyrgyzstan is now home to a 4.446-meter-high Mount Putin.
PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the innovative technology industry during his visit to Tomsk, March 14, 2011. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Alexey Druzhinin