RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 18, 2010

front.jpgTODAY: Clinton in Moscow to push START onwards; complicated Middle East talks loom in background; EU urges Georgia to cease stirring up tensions with Russia; Ukraine to attempt EU-Russia balancing act.  ‘Putin Must Go’ takes to the street; Gryzlov dodges interview; fingerprint database proposal.  Ex-Chechen President to take temporary charge of prisons; campaign to brighten tarnished image of police; 1 in 4 believe no cure for Russia’s drink problem.  Fishing.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Moscow today to help push the long-negotiated arms control deal towards completion, amid reports of very good progress’.  The Washington Post looks over the recent hurdles in the ‘fragile’ reset process.  Clinton will also tackle the Middle East with the Moscow-hosted quartet of Middle East peace mediators.  The Moscow Times suggests that the question of Israeli settlements, complicating the peace process, may undermine Russia’s attempts to gain standing as an important player in the region’s geopolitics.  The EU has called on Georgia to refrain from stoking regional tensions following the panic-inducing hoax invasion report.  Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych will apparently persevere in integrating Ukraine into the European Union all the while maintaining ‘pragmatic relations’ with Russia.  President Medvedev will visit Kiev on May 17-18.

Were the losses experienced by United Russia at the weekend’s elections exactly what the party wanted?  Supporters of the anti-Putin petition (which bears 12,000 signatures) are planning an unsanctioned demonstration.  State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov has sidestepped an online interview with Gazeta.ru, apparently dodging potentially awkward questions about United Russia and his business activities.  According to the Moscow Times, Investigative Committee chief Alexander Bastryki has called for the fingerprinting and DNA sampling of residents of an entire region, raising outcry among human rights activists.

Former Chechen President Alu Alkhanov has reportedly been temporarily given the role of overseeing Russia’s troubled prison system.  Can a PR campaign save the reputation of the police?  25% of Russians apparently believe there is no incentive that would encourage people to drink less.  A controversial anti-smoking poster has raised the ire of Moscow residents and the city’s advertising watchdog.  916 World War Two artillery shells have been unearthed by maintenance workers in west Moscow.  Fishing mania is defying sub-zero temperatures.

PHOTO:  Maria Iovleva, 20, seen training in her native Komi republic, won a silver in sitting biathlon during the ongoing Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver.  (For MT)