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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 8, 2010

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TODAY: Medvedev abolishes science and education agencies; holiday protests; Major Alexei Dymovsky released from custody; Russians favour United Russia; FSS confirms death of North Caucasus militant; Yanukovych promises to improve relations with Russia. Football fans’ hunger strike; cyber crime. 
President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree abolishing the federal agencies for science and education, passing their functions on to the Ministry of Education and Science, a move criticized on grounds that ‘the agencies received real money while the ministries were involved only in law-making activities‘.  This holiday weekend for Russia saw a 150-1,000-strong (depending on which source you believe) Moscow rally calling for police reform, in which hand-signed copies of the Russian constitution were handed out to police officers; there was also a ‘flash‘ 30-strong anti-abortion protest in Vladivostok.  Yevgeny Ikhlov, an expert at the For Human Rights pressure group, claims there was ‘a secret agreement, sealed during Vladimir Putin’s 2000-2008 presidency, that allowed the police and the FSB security service to do as they please in return for their unswerving loyalty to the regime.‘  Russia’s YouTube police protester, Major Alexei Dymovsky, has been released from custody after his arrest (on charges of fraud and abuse of office) was replaced with a written pledge not to leave town.  A new survey suggests that most Russians would vote for United Russia in the next election, with no hint of a successor party in sight.

Russia confirmed that Federal Security Service forces had killed militant leader Aleksandr Tikhomirov, also known as Said Buryatsky, who is believed to have trained suicide bombers in the North Caucasus and been behind last November’s St Petersburg train bombing.  Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych made his first visit to Russia last week, promising a U-turn on his predecessor’s policies, and the improvement of relations between the two countries.  According to The Guardian, Vladimir Putin regards Yanukovych ‘as a provincial thug and serial loser‘.  In line with the WTO’s conditions, Ukraine could join the Unified Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.  Make no mistake, says Georgia’s UK Ambassador: the Kremlin ‘calls the shots‘ in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Fans went on a five-day hunger strike in response to the news that Norilsk Nickel have stopped funding Russia’s Premier League side FC Moscow.  ‘Russian cybercrime syndicates, better known as partnerka, lead commercial espionage in Europe,‘ says The Times.  The New York Times writes that the ‘Holy Russia‘ exhibition currently on at The Louvre provides insights into ‘the deeper motivations of Russian diplomacy‘.
PHOTO: Miss Russia 2009 Sofia Rudyeva crowns her successor Irina Antonenko,18, during the “Miss Russia” beauty contest in Luxury Village, in Barvikha outside Moscow March 6, 2010. Antonenko will represent Russia at the “Miss World” contest this year. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov