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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 30, 2011

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TODAY: Putin supporter given United Russia seat; Strategy 31 to set new target; EU-Russia Civil Society Forum inaugurated; Medvedev warns terrorists, Umarov not killed in strike; Russia not invited to Libya meeting; radioactive iodine found in Russia’s Far East; U.S.-Russia visa relaxation still possible; 2010 heatwave death toll.
Boris Gryzlov says it is important that ‘people with different backgrounds‘ can win seats in the United Russia party; Yelena Lapshina, a weaver from the Ivanovo region, was apparently awarded a seat after demanding that the constitution be amended to allow Vladimir Putin to serve a third term.  Lyudmila Alexeyeva says that the end of the Strategy 31 rallies represents a victory for the constitutional right to free assembly, now that the new Moscow Mayor’s administration has started granting permits for the group to gather, and that the group intends to launch a new campaign for ‘honest elections‘.  Eduard Limonov insists that he will not join the group, saying that ‘we have not obtained freedom of assembly, it is obvious.‘  Fair elections would certainly strengthen Russia’s business reputation, says a U.S. analyst.  RFE/RL reports on the new EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, set up to regulate dialogue between the two sides on human rights issues.

On the anniversary of the metro bombings that killed 40 people last year, President Dmitry Medvedev warned that militant fighters would ‘be destroyed‘ if they did not surrender.  The air force killed an estimated 13 militants in an air attack earlier this week, ‘a huge operation by Russian standards‘.  Contrary to earlier reports that he had been killed (he has apparently been reported as having been killed over eight times), sources in Ingushetia say that Doku Umarov, who has been charged with masterminding the Domodedovo airport bombing, say that he is not among those killed.  Why don’t airport bosses take the blame for such attacks, asks Yulia Latynina.  Yesterday’s meeting of U.N., Arab League and African Union representatives, which convened to discuss a common approach to Libya, excluded Russia.  That’s good, says a Russian analyst, as ‘we are not interested in this neocolonialism in the Libya case.
Traces of radioactive iodine from the Fukushima nuclear plant, ‘more than 100 times lower than the acceptable level‘, have been detected in the air over Russia’s Far East.  A Duma minister says that Russia is still trying to persuade the U.S. to cancel their bilateral visa regime for short visits.  In an article counting the cost of last year’s various global disasters, AP counts the Russian summer heatwave death toll at 56,000.  
The American Ballet Theatre is in Moscow for the first time in 50 years. 
PHOTO: A mourner laying roses Tuesday at the Lubyanka metro station, the site of one of two suicide bombings that killed 40 people on March 29, 2010. (Vladimir Filonov / Moscow Times)