RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 1, 2011

medved.jpgTODAY: Opposition leaders to appeal over Putin lawsuit; new police law might make shutting down websites simpler; environmental activists detained; jailed Belarusian opposition member’s prison torture claims.  Lavrov meets with Clinton; Russia-Syria arms deal to go ahead; Medvedev picks region chiefs; hex put on A Just Russia deputy; Voina artists released thanks to Banksy; mascot troubles continue

Opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Milov and Vladimir Ryzhkov have appealed against a Moscow court’s rejection of the lawsuit they brought against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  On the subject of said lawsuit, Vladimir Ryzhkov has penned an op-ed in the Moscow Times, highlighting the questionable legal grounds for rejecting their suit.  The new police law which takes effect today will apparently furnish officers with the right to shut down web sites without a court order, though some industry representatives have said that this is already, regrettably, the case.  The Justice Ministry has reportedly pledged to clarify registration rules for nongovernmental organizations to facilitate their activities.  Radio talk show host Dmitry Gubin, who lost his job on state radio after comparing St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko to Adolf Hitler, has stood by his comments, telling the Moscow Times that popular support for him demonstrates that the public has lost patience with the authorities.  Four environmental activists have been sentenced to seven and ten days behind bars after being detained near what they claim to be an illegally built residence for Krasnodar region’s governor.  A Belarusian opposition politician claims to have been tortured whilst being held in a KGB jail in Minsk during the post-election crackdown; see a video of his account here.  At the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has expressed his belief that human rights should not be employed as a tool for political pressure.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have met in Geneva to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including Libya, prospects for cooperation on missile defense, and Russia’ s accession to the World Trade Organization.  Russia has claimed it will follow through its plans to supply Syria with Yakhont supersonic cruise missiles.  Was Georgia involved in the Domodedovo Airport bombing?

President Dmitry Medvedev has named his picks to head four regions, including Chechnya, for which he nominated the incumbent Ramzan Kadyrov; he also proposed Viktor Il-yukhin to head the Kamchatka region, Rashid Temrezov for the Karachayevo-Cherkessia republic and Sergei Morozov for the Ulyanovsk region, says the Moscow Times.  Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov has been cursed by some 50 representatives of indigenous peoples from Russia’s North over his ‘dirty’ electioneering.

A Russian judge has accepted street artist Banksy’s offer to post bail for two members of the Russian art collective Voina.  The Sochi mascots have been introduced to a storm of controversy, with claims by the creator of the teddy bear mascot from the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics that the new polar bear design was stolen from him.  President Medvedev is not sitting on the fence either, apparently voicing claims that he might have preferred a brown bear.   The problem with the Putin-backed leopard mascot winning the competition, the Other Russia argues, is that it shows that Russia ‘is prepared to falsify public opinion on any matter to satisfy the personal ambitions of its leader’.

PHOTO: President Dmitry Medvedev holding up examples of proposed all-purpose identity and payment cards Monday, February 28, 2011.  (Dmitry Kostyukov / AP)