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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 18, 2011

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TODAY: Russia abstains from vote as U.N. prepares to move on no-fly zone, Churkin concerned; Russians in the Far East are stockpiling amid Japan fallout fears; Defense Ministry official jailed for corruption; rights advocates create unlawful extradition manual; activist expelled from Belarus; Whitmore on Kudrin; bill to curb online political campaigning? Fight for sobriety; Medvedev’s warm words for Nazarbayev. Booker Prize in trouble.
Russia abstained on the U.N. Security Council’s 10-0 vote on military action in Libya, ‘[b]ut the fact that neither exercised their right to veto the resolution represented a major victory for the U.S. and its allies,‘ says the New York Times.  U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin has expressed concern over large-scale military intervention.  Relations between Russia and Japan are showing signs of rapprochement as earthquake diplomacy takes precedence over the Kuril Islands row. ‘Grievous events sometimes show us what is important and what is not,‘ said one Duma official, pledging to help Japan with gas and electricity supplies as much as possible.  President Dmitry Medvedev called the situation at Fukushima power plant a ‘colossal national disaster‘.  Residents of Russia’s Far East are ignoring the official line that radiation levels are normal, and are beginning to stockpile food and medicine in the event of fallout contamination from Japan’s nuclear plant, with high demand for iodine-rich and anti-radioactive kelp in the region.

A senior official at the Defense Ministry has been jailed for seven and a half years for bribe-taking.  Rights advocates have created a manual to advise lawyers on clients facing unlawful extradition from Russia to address the rising number of such cases, and the Russian legal system’s relatively little experience of handling them.  A Russian activist has been thrown out of Belarus for investigating humans rights there, prompting Russia to demand an explanation. Brian Whitmore writes in RFE/RL today on the rise of Alexei Kudrin in public politics. 
A special bill could be introduced to regulate online campaigning before elections, but critics say such a thing would be impossible to monitor. ‘You can’t force American web sites (Facebook, for example) to live by Russian rules.‘  On a youth-organized campaign for Russian sobriety.  President Dmitry Medvedev had warm wishes (and ostensible support ahead of next month’s Kazakh elections) for Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev – probably at least in part due to this news
Russia’s Booker Prize could be scrapped due to a lack of sponsorship.
PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev talks with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev during their meeting in the presidential residence in Gorki, outside Moscow, March 17, 2011. REUTERS/Vladimir Rodionov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin