RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 1, 2010

BVancouver_Olympics_5613625.jpgTODAY: Protest rally against illegal police activities thwarted by police; major anti-government protest planned in Kaliningrad; CPJ calls for clarification of Estemirova murder investigation; Smolensk mayor faces extortion charges.  Viktor Yanukovich heads West; France defends sale of Mistral as Medvedev lands in Paris; Sochi beckons amid Olympic gloom; concerns for freedom of reporting about the games.  Could Rechnik be saved?  Russian tanks.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Russia to unveil the details of its inquiry into the death of rights activist Natalia Estemirova, the Washington Post reports.  Opposition activists are reportedly planning a 15,000 person rally in Kaliningrad to protest against the power vertical ‘dictatorship’ and gloomy economic climes on March 20.  Meanwhile opposition activists were allegedly prevented from holding a demonstration about how to resist illegal police conduct, by law enforcement officers themselves.  The mayor of Smolensk Eduard Kachanovsky has been arrested on charges of extortion, giving weight to calls that direct mayoral elections should be abolished.

Apparently no document will be signed on the Mistral ship sale during Medvedev’s visit to Paris which commences today, during which the President is expected to raise the specter of his long-harbored security treaty idea.  France’s defense of the NATO-aggravating move is analyzed in the Times.  A mountain pass between Georgia and Russia, closed since 2006, looks set to re-open next week.  Will the Kremlin get what it wants from Ukraine’s new President, who is visiting Brussels before he descends upon Moscow?  Foreign Ministry spokesmen Andrei Nesterenko has voiced Russian irritation with the fact that US plans to deploy missile interceptors in Romania were made known to the Kremlin through media reports rather than official channels.  The US has apparently cautioned Russia against asserting its presence in the Baltic zone.  A hiatus in START negotiations.

As Vancouver ends, all eyes turn to Sochi.  According to the MoscowTimes, Reporters Without Borders has voiced concerns that the media will struggle to be allowed to present objective views about thegames.  Meanwhile ecologists are concerned about the event’s impact on the fate of theMzymta River‘The current state of Russian sports causes bitterness and offense among all Russian citizens’: tales of Russian Olympic woe abound.  Some, however, had not expected greatness.

Reprieve for Rechnik?  The Washington Post reports on the nascent popularity of Russian language classes in US schools.  And finally, has anyonelost a tank?

PHOTO:  Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the organizing committee for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, attending the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.  (Tom Curley / AP)