RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 20, 2011

belarus.jpgTODAY: Medvedev’s star wanes after press conference; Nashi victim of hacker Charlie Sheen prank; rare military whistleblower speaks out; gay rights rally deemed disturbing to children.  Shoot out in South Ossetia;  Israeli espionage; Sakharov remembered
Since Medvedev said so little at his press conference, what was the point of the exercise?‘  The Economist has some suggestions.  ‘It was impossible to pinpoint the exact moment of the transformation, but by the time Russian President Dmitri Medvedev left the podium after his first big press conference on Wednesday, he had morphed into a lame duck’, says Simon Shuster in Time magazine.  The BBC has parallel profiles of Medvedev and Putin.  Since his dismissal, former Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov has promoted his party as the sole opposition force in the country.  ‘One doesn’t even need to bribe a Russian court in order to win. Political connections will go further than money’, says the Guardian’s Natalia Antonova on the Artemy Troitsky ‘poodle’ debacle.  Embarrassment for Kremlin youth group Nashi after hackers posted false information suggesting that hell-raising actor Charlie Sheen would be a guest at a Kremlin-sponsored summer camp to promote a healthy lifestyle.  A veteran of the Chechen war, ex-Major Igor Matveyev, has told reporters that officers were fed dog food to save money at an Interior Ministry troops base in Vladivostok.

Despite calls from Amnesty International to permit the gay rights rally in Moscow, City Hall has reinforced its banning of the event with claims that the sight of ralliers ‘may impact psychological health and inflict moral damage on children and teenagers who were to become unwilling witnesses’.  In the meantime the city has approved a rally that will call for prison sentences for gays.

In the first incident of its kind since March 2009, Georgia claims that Russian forces based in South Ossetia shot and wounded two Georgian civilians, one 17 years old, on the border of the separatist region yesterday.  Austria is the latest country to agree to relax its visa policy with Russia.  More details emerging on the Israeli espionage case: the accused was apparently suspected of obtaining Russian military secrets in order to help Israeli companies win lucrative defense contracts.

Dissident scientist Andrei Sakharov,  who would have turned ninety on Saturday, is remembered by right groups, even if he is forgotten by the authorities.

PHOTO: Vladimir Putin and Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev taking a break at a CIS summit in Minsk on Thursday, May 19, 2011.  (Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters)