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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 9, 2011

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TODAY: US VP in Russia for reset talks; any no-fly zone plans for Libya must be UN-led, says Clinton, as Russia sends humanitarian aid; United Russia call for tougher anti-extremism laws; Medvedev bans minimal prison sentences for some crimes; Russian protest takes the form of emigration; Blueberry Hill fund debate continues; decoding Medvedev; Chapman blog.
US Vice President Joe Biden begins talks with Russian business, political, and opposition leaders in Moscow today, providing ‘an opportunity to take stock of the reset‘.  Reuters has a factbox of key issues between the two, including arms and security in light of Iranian nuclear developments.  RFE/RL says that World Trade Organization accession is the big issue.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, says that the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya would have to be a UN-led decision, meaning that Russia’s veto would make such a move unlikely. The country is currently delivering humanitarian aid to refugees in Tunisia.  United Russia would like to see tighter anti-extremism laws, although rights activists argue that the existing laws are stringent enough, and often used to restrict freedom of expression, rather than to fight racism or nationalism.  New legislation signed by President Dmitry Medvedev to ban minimal prison sentences for certain crimes could reduce the Russian prison population by a third, but could also see minor criminals ‘legally avoid[ing] jail‘, and leaves maximum sentences intact.

The Washington Post suggests that the most significant form of Russian protest is emigration: ‘Russians blame their malaise on an authoritarian system in which political limits have settled over society as a whole, dead-ending career opportunities.‘  As various sources continue to wrangle over the whereabouts of funds from Putin’s Blueberry Hill charity event supposedly held in aid of children with cancer, the foundation that organized the event says that the concert was not supposed to be a fundraiser in the first place.  Russia and Norway are on the brink of signing a cooperative treaty on energy and transport. 
The Moscow Times attempts to ‘decode‘ Medvedev’s speech from last week, in which he aligned himself with Tsar Alexander II’s liberation of the serfs, proposing that it contained a veiled anti-Putin agenda. Japan has a new Foreign Minister – Takeaki Matsumoto – to steer it through current troubled relations with Russia.  Rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina wants the EU to revise its ‘unforgiving bureaucratic environment‘ faced by Chechen refugees. This report focuses on kidnapping and torture in the region. 
The Huffington Post reviews Anna Chapman’s blog and her current role as ‘poster girl for patriotism‘. 
PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev take in the scenery during their visit to the resort of Krasnaya Polyana in Sochi March 5, 2011. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti/Kremlin