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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 9, 2010

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TODAY: NATO optimistic on Russia’s warships; clergy department to oversee prisons; Putin accuses officials of misspending Olympic funds; Kovalyov interview; Zhukovsky protest; regional elections; Litvinenko’s father alleges persecution in Italy.  Eurovision.
NATO Secretary-General and ‘optimist‘ Anders Fogh Rasmussen ‘take[s] it for granted that Russia will not use or misuse‘ its French Mistral warships against neighboring countries.  Patriarch Kirill has created a special clergy department to oversee and ensure the implementation of parishes in each prison.  According to Vladimir Putin, the government spent about 3.5 billion rubles ($117 million) in three years to prepare for the Vancouver Games, and accused officials of misspending the funds. ‘I have got an impression that the more money we spend, the more modest the results are,‘ he said.  Watch a video interview with rights activist Sergei Kovalyov, who says that Russia’s constitution ‘is virtually the same today as it was under Stalin‘.

The town of Zhukovsky reportedly saw a 700-strong anti-corruption protest over the weekend.  ‘The authorities are using exactly the same tactics in [the upcoming regional] elections as they employed last fall. And despite Medvedev’s assurances to the contrary, widespread use of administrative resources continues, and opposition candidates are denied participation in elections.  But society has changed […] the general mood for protest is stronger now than before.‘  Another nightclub fire.  ‘The line at the central migration office in Moscow is nearly out the door,‘ according to this article on the obstacles facing foreign workers.   
Walter Litvinenko, the father of murdered spy Alexander, blames his persecution in Italy on Silvio Berlusconi’s unwillingness to upset the Kremlin or his friend, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.  Historian and journalist Sergo Mikoyan has died in Moscow, aged 80.  Russia has selected Pyotr Nalich, former architect and YouTube phenomenon, as its 2010 Eurovision Song Contest entry.  
PHOTO: People ice-fishing on the Ob River near the major Russia’s Siberian city of Novosibirsk about 2800 kilometers (1,750 miles) east of Moscow, Sunday, March 7, 2010. Novosibirsk temperatures on Sunday dropped to about -11 C (10 F). (AP photo/Ilnar Salakhiev)