RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 21, 2010

front.jpgTODAY: Zhukov promises fresh start for Russian sports; Sochi hunger strike; Paralympian triumph.  Suit against Gryzlov thrown out; gay pride march unsanctioned.  Ukraine-Russia thaw in spotlight; what exactly are Russia’s foreign policy plans?  Eurochem denies toxic spill; Medvedev appears to oppose Gazprom tower; the devil’s music

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, who has been elected the head of the Olympic Committee, apparently plans to make ‘drastic changes’ to the state of sport in Russia.  The avid chess player hopes to make the game an Olympic sport.   Residents from Sochi who claim they have been evicted without proper compensation to make way for Olympic facilties are going on a hunger strike, the Other Russia reports.  The New York Times looks at the achievements of the Russian Paralympic team; no mean feat in a country where disabled people are hardly well-accomodated.  A court has thrown out a defamation lawsuit against State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov over accusations that Moskovsky Komsomolet columnist Alexander Minkin showed solidarity with terrorists after the Moscow metro bombings.  The Solidarity movement has made proposals to the Interior Ministry in an attempt to reform the country’s police force.  Moscow City Hall has banned a gay pride parade for the fifth year in a row.

An op-ed in the New York Times offers four reasons why Ukraine has ‘conceded so much’ to Russia already.  Another comment piece explains why the Russia-Ukraine rapprochement need not worry Europe too much. Russia may be presenting a new ‘smiling face’ to the world, but ‘the Russian shift has occurred without significant change inside the country’, argues the Economist‘Russia appears to be using its newfound friendship with Ukraine to reassert its influence over another former Soviet republic, Moldova’Brian Whitmore wonders how long the honeymoon will last.

A spokesman for fertilizer giant EuroChem, whose alleged toxic leak in the the town of Tuapse sent residents onto the street in protest, has claimed that the incident was a test and ‘there were no breakdowns, no victims, no poisonings, no emergency situations at all.’  Apparently a Medvedev-backed letter has been to the St. Petersburg city government saying it supports efforts by UNESCO to prevent the construction of the Gazprom tower.  As part of a ‘spiritual safety program’, the town of Belgorod has banned heavy metal bands from playing live due to their alleged links with Satanism.

PHOTO: Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov attending a meeting of the Russian Olympic Committee that elected him president Thursday. He promised a new era of sports and said chess should be an Olympic event.   (Igor Tabakov / MT)