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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 3, 2011

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TODAY: Sobyanin head of United Russia’s Moscow branch; Putin wins defamation lawsuit; Left Front protesters arrested; Japan will not investigate Russian flag claims; UK Prime Minister expresses concern over Magnitsky case; Orlov to stand trial today in Kadyrov case; Serdyukov’s four years.
Mayor Sergei Sobyanin is the new leader of United Russia’s Moscow branch, having been put forward for the role by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. ‘This means that Moscow’s United Russia will finally be brought under control.‘  The party has apparently accused the Communist Party of trying to stage an attack on its campaigners with air guns and pepper spray; claims which the party dismissed as ‘provocation‘.  A defamation lawsuit brought against Vladimir Putin by three opposition leaders has, predictably, been won by the Prime Minister.  Nonetheless, ‘[t]he notion that Putin is a leader who instills fear and discipline among bureaucrats and citizens is a myth,‘ says Yulia Latynina.  Police have arrested four Left Front demonstrators protesting in Moscow against new laws that will prevent police from voicing their opinions in the media.  Japan is not going to investigate the desecration of the Russian flag by Kuril Islands protesters, on grounds that the extremists desecrated ‘not the Russian flag, but “a self-made object” resembling a flag‘.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has apparently raised with Sergei Lavrov the death of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer for Hermitage Capital who died in prison.  Cameron told Hermitage founder Bill Browder that he was ‘deeply concerned‘ about the case’s ‘implications for the rule of law and respect for human rights in Russia‘.  Lavrov, separately, expressed hopes for improved relations with Britain through the cooperation of their intelligence services.  Russia is mulling the cancellation of entry visas for EU foreigners, but ‘still, there’re many countries for which a visa regime should remain valid. Meaning countries where the situation may change just all of a sudden – like in Egypt today.‘ 
The battle between Memorial head Oleg Orlov and Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov continues this week at their trial, opened by the latter to defend himself against Orlov, who wants to see Kadyrov held accountable for instability in the region.  Orlov could face three years in prison if he is found guilty, and will take the stand for the first time today. 
This article reviews Anatoly Serdyukov’s four years as Defense Minister, commenting that his military reforms ‘essentially continue the political and economic reforms of the 1990s while responding to the current leadership’s call for modernization.‘  The Defense Ministry has acquired a deployable field camp from Germany’s Kärcher Futuretech, the same used by US soldiers in Iraq. 
PHOTO: Russia’s First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva takes part in the celebrations for Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week, at Kolomenskoye culture preserve in Moscow February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin