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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 29, 2011

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TODAY: Moskovskiye Novosti relaunches; CEC head re-elected; United Russia loses in Berdsk, but not in Tambov; Strategy 31 protests to end; opposition report on corruption; third presidential candidate? Khodorkovsky judge aide resigns; Lavrov ups Libya rhetoric; Putin’s snow leopard ‘harmed’, census, rebels killed.
The relaunched newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti will be less vociferously critical than its previous incarnation, but intends to focus on ‘civil society trends‘ and ‘will try to stand against disgusting things‘.  Central Elections Commission head Vladimir Churov, decorated in the past by Vladimir Putin, has been re-elected for a five-year term (although no other candidates were running).  United Russia lost a weekend election in Berdsk to Communist candidate Ilya Potapov.  In contrast, election results in the Tambov region, in which United Russia apparently took 65% of the vote, are being disputed amid widespread allegations of election fraud.  This week’s Strategy 31 protest will be the last of its kind, says Lev Ponomarev, partly due to the movement’s split with Eduard Limonov and partly because ‘I think it’s silly to call for free assembly at a rally that has been authorized.‘  The latest opposition report from Boris Nemtsov, among others, claims that corruption worsened under the rule of Vladimir Putin between 2001-5, and is now ‘killing the country’s economy‘; the report also focuses on the fortune of Gennady Timchenko, and alleges that many of Putin’s friends and relatives have amassed fortunes with the aid of state companies.

As RFE/RL wonders what happened to the race against corruption, President Dmitry Medvedev’s latest measure to back tougher checks on the income declarations of government officials and make more information public ‘promises to bear fruit‘, says the Moscow Times.  Pro-government think-tank the Center for Strategic Research suggested that next year’s presidential polls would benefit from a candidate other than Putin or Medvedev, calling the latter ‘unelectable‘ and saying that the former is gaining ‘anti-electorate‘.
Natalya Vasilyeva, who acted as an aide to the judge who sentenced Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has resigned her post in the wake of her ‘sensational‘ interview with Novaya Gazeta last month, in which she implied that the verdict was decided by higher powers.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is keeping up the rhetoric against U.N. action in Libya, saying that the latest attacks amount to intervention in civil war and, as such, are not backed by the U.N. resolution, as Tatneft estimates its financial loss in the country currently to be $100 million worth of capital expenditures, not including ‘other write-offs‘. 
Critical reports of Vladimir Putin’s encounter with Mongol, the snow leopard, are making the rounds, as it is widely believed that the animal was harmed. ‘He was ill,‘ says a Putin spokesperson.  The prosecutor-investigator ‘turf war‘ continues.  Census results suggest that the population has dropped by 2.2 million since 2002, a 1.6% loss.  Russian forces announced that they have killed 17 rebels in the North Caucasus in an operation that apparently yielded the arrests of two suspects from the Domodedovo airport bombing case. 
Aleksandr Lashmankin, the Russian journalist held in Belarus for ‘hooliganism’, has had his accreditation card annulled.  ‘For Russia, Lukashenka has become a problem rather than an ally.
PHOTO: Anglers fish at Elmen lake outside the Russian town of Veliky Novgorod, May 2008. A wave of protests attended by thousands of amateur fishermen demonstrating against a new law regulating fishing swept Russia’s large cities at the weekend, a report said Monday. (AFP/File/Mikhail Mordasov)