RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 11, 2011

front.jpgTODAY: Anti-corruption activist faces investigation; six police officials sacked; President blames cabinet for under-performing of Russia’s defense industry. The motivation behind Putin’s people’s front; Medvedev considers chemical castration to decrease sex crimes against children; Evgeny Lebedev on freedom of speech

According to the Moscow Times, the Investigative Committee has reopened a fraud case against whistle blowing blogger Alexei Navalny, for causing material damage to the interests of a timber company during his tenure as adviser to the governor of Kiron where the company is based.  The decision to re-open the investigation into Navalny’s activities, will, says this article, raise new fears about state-sponsored suppression of the Internet ahead of State Duma elections in December and the presidential vote next March.  Navalny has dismissed the criminal probe as ‘falsified’ and ‘fabricated’.  Six senior regional police officers have been fired in the latest round of Kremlin-ordered sackings at the Interior Ministry, prompting some observers to suggest that police reform is becoming a reality.  Following Monday’s Victory Day parade, the annual tribute to Russian military might, President Dmitry Medvedev has chastised the Cabinet, in remarks broadcast on public television, for failing to acquire arms for the military.  The President has urged the government to devise ways of increasing the influx of investment into the defense industry of the world’s second-largest arms exporter.  The Kremlin has said it hopes Kiev will punish members of a Ukrainian nationalist movement who disrupted Victory Day celebrations in Lvov, attacking Russian diplomats and allegedly trampling on a wreath dedicated to fallen Soviet soldiers.

Today Vladimir Putin will meet with ‘people’s front’ activists to discuss involvement in his newly launched All-Russia People’s Front, which is designed to extend the electoral base of United Russia.  ‘Putin is trying to breathe new life into his political career by corralling huge numbers of people into his camp who are as yet untainted by any association with the unpopular party of corrupt bureaucracy’Christian Science Monitor quotes one analyst who suggests a ‘Czarist psychology’ is behind the People’s Front idea: ‘the Czar must be the leader of all, not just the representative of one political party or tendency’.  Young Guard, the youth wing of the United Russia, is doing its bit to attract grass roots support by suggesting young people use text messages to support candidates to run in the upcoming State Duma elections.

President Medvedev has reportedly said that Russia should consider introducing chemical castration as a punishment for paedophiles.  The circulation of a video clip of a 13-year old boy being sexually assaulted by news sites has provoked the wrath of St. Petersburg’s ombudswoman for children’s rights.  Evgeny Lebedev, son of Independent and Evening Standard publisher Alexander Lebedev, comments on the state of press freedom in Russia and Britain.

According to Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, law-enforcement bodies in the North Caucasus have destroyed 146 militants since the beginning of this year. 

PHOTO: Alexei Navalny, seen in his Moscow office last year, says VTB, Transneft and United Russia are behind the case.  (Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP)