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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 22, 2010

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TODAY: Protests over the weekend disappoint opposition despite large numbers; Kaliningrad sees 5,000-strong crowd brandish tangerines; United Russia to grant amnesty to 300,000, Gryzlov foresees tandem rule; new opposition to Sochi as workers’ arrears start to be paid.  China, Guatemala.
A reported 20,000 protesters across the country denounced government policies and called for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to resign at various rallies over the weekend, dubbed the ‘Day of Wrath‘ by opposition movements. Kaliningrad’s 5,000 protesters waved tangerines instead of posters in a bid to avoid arrest, says the Moscow Times, although the fruit was also said to reference the ‘heavily tanned, small and rotund local governor Georgy Boos‘.  Boos, in turn, took a swipe at the protesters for being uncultured.  ‘The leadership is scared,‘ said one independent Duma deputy.  The protests were apparently a ‘disappointment for the opposition‘, who were expecting Kaliningrad-sized opposition groups all over the country, although Vladivostok drew at least 1,500.  The Other Russia and RFE/RL report that numbers were down due to the preventative efforts of regional government authorities.

United Russia may grant amnesty to over 300,000 convicts to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the end of WW2 – but those convicted of economic crimes will not be included.  Russia’s current rapprochement with France is due to ‘two powers that are both conscious of their relative decline in the world‘, says the Moscow Times.  Boris Gryzlov forecasts a tandem rule for Medvedev and Putin after the expiration of Medvedev’s first presidential term in 2012.  Time for a Russian Tea Party Movement?  
Russia’s Muslim indigenous Circassian diaspora is the latest group to oppose the 2014 Sochi Olympics, calling for the games to be canceled or moved to a different site if Russia does not apologize for the deaths of 300,000 of their ancestors in a 19th century tsarist military campaign.  Meanwhile, builders at the Sochi site are finally being paid their salary arrears – but not in full.  
Russia is strengthening ties with China and Guatemala this week.  
PHOTO: Opposition supporters rally in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok March 20, 2010. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev