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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 4, 2011

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TODAY: Voina members attacked; Rogozin speaks out against Libya no-fly zone; United Russia unconcerned about unrest; Medvedev casts himself as a liberator; Tula governor to be sacked? Half of Yabloko’s election nominees banned.  Bolshoi Ballet restoration.
Three members of Voina, the opposition art collective, have been attacked and beaten in St Petersburg by unknown assailants apparently claiming to be connected to the criminal investigation department.  Members fear that they could be committed to a psychiatric hospital, a Soviet tactic against dissidents.  Just under half of Yabloko’s election nominees have been banned by local officials, spurring the party’s leader Sergei Mitrokhin to file a complaint with the Kremlin.  Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s NATO ambassador, spoke out against talk of a no-fly zone over Libya: ‘If someone in Washington is seeking a blitzkrieg in Libya, it is a serious mistake because any use of military force outside the Nato responsibility zone will be considered a violation of international law.‘  United Russia seems confident that unrest in the Middle East and North Africa will not spread to Russia, ‘but the mere fact that representatives of the ruling elite are issuing such statements indicates the prevalence of such concerns,‘ says RFE/RL.  President Dmitry Medvedev says that Libya is ‘on the threshold of a civil war‘.

Medvedev has aligned himself (and Vladimir Putin) with Tsar Alexander II, ‘the Liberator‘, who granted freedom to millions of Russian peasants in 1861 as a symbol of reform.  ‘We are continuing the course that was outlined a century and a half ago.‘  He also made some ambiguous remarks about ‘freedom for everyone‘ as the government’s ‘current goal of development‘. 
 
Vyacheslav Dudka, the governor of Tula, could be sacked from the United Russia party over accusations of corruption, although he insists that ‘the accusations are actually a counterattack from local officials whom the governor has targeted in his own anti-corruption campaign.‘  A BBC video report documents the restoration of the Bolshoi Ballet, ‘one of the main symbols of Russia‘. 
Vegetarian Viktor Bout is struggling with his prison diet, according to his wife. 
PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (front) visits the “Optogan Tallinskoye” company, specialized in LED light technologies, with St. Petersburg’s Governor Valentina Matviyenko (2nd R in the background) standing nearby, in St. Petersburg March 3, 2011. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin