RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 17, 2011

turkey.jpgTODAY: Khimki forest champion’s offices raided; opposition divided on March 31 rallies; Pearl Ensign trial delayed (again); Putin puts business before rights in Minsk.  Medvedev cautions against military intervention in Libya; Latvia’s Waffen SS tributes irk Moscow; Baturina loses lawsuit; Bolshoi ballet head forced to step down amid photo scandal

RFE/RL reports that the offices of the engineering firm owned by indefatigable Khimki activist Yevgeniya Chirikova and her husband have been subject to a police raid, a move which the campaigner views to be the result of their authority-displeasing ‘civil activities’.  According to the Moscow Times, the opposition has filed two requests for separate rallies on March 31, marking the ongoing divisions between leaders Lyudmila Alexeyeva (whose request is for Pushkin Square) and Eduard Limonov (Triumfalnaya Square) over the practice of rallying for freedom of assembly.  The trial of the police officer known as Pearl Ensign, who faces charges of abusing protesters, has been delayed for the second time.  The second podcast produced by RFE/RL’s Power Vertical offers an analysis of the troubling results of the recent United Russia dominated elections.  A Russian activist heading up a rights-monitoring mission has been detained in Belarus and will be deported, a colleague has informed Ria-Novosti.  The news outlet notes that Vladimir Putin was conspicuously taciturn on post-election human rights abuses in Belarus when he met with President Alexander Lukashenko, in a visit that privileged cementing business ties.

As the situation in Libya degenerates, President Medvedev has warned that any military intervention in the North African state could trigger a war, ‘not a civil war, but a war with the international troops’.  Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, has expressed disappointment that Russia’s proposal of cease-fire resolution did not gain sufficient UN support.  ‘Libya offers the Kremlin the chance to act as a balancing force between the West and the Arab-Muslim world’: decisive action by Medvedev could prove a boon for the President, argues a Moscow Times op-ed.   A ceremony in Riga paying tribute to Latvians who fought on the side of Nazi Germany in Waffen SS detachments during World War II has apparently angered the Kremlin.

Following claims of abuse of office, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has fired the head of the Moscow advertisingcommittee, Vladimir Makarov, though City Hall apparently denies that the sacking is related to any case against him.  Yelena Baturina’s real estate developer Inteko has lost its defamation lawsuit against NTV over a documentary that preempted the ousting of her husband, former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, with a series of corruption accusations.  A new bill easing registration rules for foreigners has been approved by the Federation Council.  The head of the Bolshoi Ballet, Gennady Yanin, has resigned amid a pornography scandal, which is allegedly part of a dirty tricks campaign to force him out of one of Russia’s most prestigious cultural institutions.

PHOTO: President Medvedev greeting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, in the Kremlin on Wednesday, March 16, 2011.  (Dmitry Astakhov / RIA-Novosti / AP)