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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 7, 2011

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TODAY: St Patrick’s Day parade canceled; Russian plane crashes, killing 6; police jailed; rights advocates mourn Kozhevnikova’s death; public figures undermine Khodorkovsky campaign; Strategy 31 split; alcohol consumption, heroin use and money laundering; beauty, flirtation, Patriarch Kirill repents.
Moscow’s St Patrick’s Day parade has been canceled this year, ostensibly to avoid traffic congestion, with speculation that the cancellation relates to security concerns in light of recent bombings.  A Russian-built passenger plane has crashed during a training flight over Belgorod, killing all six people on board.  Seven prison staff in St Petersburg have been jailed for torturing prisoners.  Activists and rights defenders are mourning the death of antiracism campaigner Galina Kozhevnikova.  A member of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s defense team says that an open letter signed by fifty-five Russian public figures complaining that Khodorkovsky supporters are dragging Russian society ‘into a campaign to discredit the judicial system‘ was ‘commissioned by the authorities‘.  Eduard Limonov is not optimistic about any future reconciliation between the two factions of the Strategy 31 campaign.

This article responds to WHO statistics claiming that Russia is no longer the top per capita alcohol consumer, and warns against complacency: ‘national statistics belie a world of complexity in terms of who is drinking, what they are drinking, how much, how frequently, and what impact these patterns have on public health‘.  The US State Department’s 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report identifies money laundering as ‘prevalent‘ in Russia and notes that the country is ‘a major destination country for heroin from Afghanistan‘.  Estonia’s elections are favoring its ruling party, with the opposition leader apparently not helped by rumors that he solicited funds from former KGB officer and president of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin.  
The Miss Russia beauty pageant has finished just in time to make way for for International Women’s Day.  Moscow is doing exceptionally well in the online flirting stakes.  Patriarch Kirill is sorry if he has offended you.
PHOTO: People dressed in national Russian costumes sing during celebrations of Maslenitsa, or Pancake Week on Red Square in Moscow, Russia, Sunday, March 6, 2011, with the Kremlin and St. Basil Cathedral in the background. Maslenitsa is traditional Russian holiday marking the end of winter that dates back to the pagan times. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)