RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 16, 2010

16russia-cnd-articleLarge.jpgTODAY: Opposition parties make a dent in United Russia predominance at elections?; cascade of disapproval from Western envoys falls on Imedi media after TV hoax; Medvedev continues shake-up in Caucasus; Lukoil using the blogosphere to persuade public of innocence of exec in crash?; UN concerned about environmental despoiling in Sochi

The New York Times reports that the opposition made slight advances in the weekend’s elections, with one representative of the Communist party elected mayor, suggesting that Medvedev’s promises of electoral reform have not been as illusory as pre-election reports suggested.  ‘Observers attributed the poor showing to a poor economy as well as a reduction in vote rigging, a sign that long-promised reform by president Dmitry Medvedev may be starting to bear fruit’: Charles Clover in the FT.   RFE/RL looks at why United Russia may have fallen out of favor.  ‘Many analysts, […] interpreted the outcome as “catastrophic” for the ruling party and a sign of a “fundamental” shift in the public mood’: see the Power Vertical for the full report.  Opposition parties are, apparently, ‘satisfied’ with the results, according to Ria-Novosti, with the Liberal Democrats saying, ‘the process of democratization of elections in our country has activated’.  Other reports maintain that the elections were riddled with fraud: Golos electoral watchdog expert Leonid Volkov has called them ‘the filthiest in all of history’. 

‘The situation between the two countries is serious enough without this sort of sensational quasi-news activity’: the US Ambassador to Georgia in unimpressed with the TV hoax.  Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has apparently attenuated his initial defense of the Russia invasion report, calling it harmful to our society’Criticism of the Imedi network is coming from all corners.  Russia’s foreign ministry has accused Tbilisi of ‘political paranoia’.  Imedi has issued a public apology.  President Medvedev has dismissed a deputy justice minister and appointed a new interior minister in Ingushetia as part of his on-going reorganization of law enforcement in the troubled republic.  Over 20 members of the outlawed Muslim Tablighi Jamaat group have been arrested in Chita.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is apparently optimistic about the prospect of a resolution on the replacement START treaty.  The inebriation of the pilot was a contributing factor in the crash of a Boeing 737 in 2008, say investigators.  Apparently the majority of Russian citizens want to see the night time ban on alcohol sales put into place.  As analysis of the black box from the Mercedes involved in the Lukoil executive crash is undertaken, an activist and blogger has suggested that Lukoil may be attempting to sway public opinion through Livejournal posts

‘Gorbachev came across always as just one move behind history’: Mary Dejevsky in the Independent takes a critical look at Gorbachev’s interpretation of the collapse of the USSR.  The UN is the latest organization to criticize the preparations for the Sochi Olympics, citing concerns for local ecology.  The lucky few: Russia’s Olympic victors have received their medals from President Medvedev. 

PHOTO: Supporters of Russia’s dominant United Russia party attended a rally in Moscow on Monday.  (Andrei Smirnov/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)