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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 24, 2011

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TODAY: Opposition figures seek party registration; Putin appeals to middle-classes; suspected poachers cleared; Lavrov meets Libyan opposition; Russia slams Georgia for violating right to assembly; Khimki actions; Khodorkovsy appeals; Lenin’s Jewish heritage; rapprochement.
Mikhail Kasyanov, Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Ryzhkov and Vladimir Milov, all former members of the Kremlin, are asking the Justice Ministry to register their Party of People’s Freedom and allow it to run in the December State Duma elections. The group have notified the OSCE of their application in an attempt to garner broad support.  Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin is appealing for middle-class support for his All-Russian People’s Front.  The helicopter that crashed in the Altai region in 2009 was found among dead endangered sheep and hunting equipment, but three of the former officials on board have been cleared of hunting charges.  WWF experts say the ruling ‘could encourage other poachers‘, and Altai-based activists and cultural figures are condemning the decision: ‘If ordinary people were in the defendants’ place, they would have been found guilty.‘  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has been in talks with representatives of the Libyan opposition, and says that talks with all sides of the political debate need to be engaged in order to bring an end to the conflict.  Russia has apparently criticized Georgian authorities for violating citizens’ right to freedom of assembly.  A fifth of all cash for military contracts is stolen?  The Khimki Forest activists are continuing their campaign, with a reported 250-strong gathering on Sunday.

The Guardian says the U.N. should call Russia’s bluff on Syria sanctions, and blames the U.S. for not ‘stand[ing] up to Russia‘.  The Moscow Times discusses the potential fallout from the U.S. Senate bill that would sanction officials implicated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, speculating that such a bill could act as a replacement for the Jackson-Vanik amendment.  Mikhail Khodorkovsky is in court this morning to appeal his sentence, with supporters planning to petition Amnesty International if his attempt fails.  ‘[L]et’s be honest here: It’s not going to take the Moscow City Court very long to conclude that the two men [Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev[ deserve another seven years in prison.‘ 
Vladimir Lenin’s Jewish heritage (which can be a ‘significant taint‘ in a country ‘long plagued by anti-Semitism‘) is being exhibited in Moscow’s State History Museum.  Some thoughts on how to achieve rapprochement between Germany/Poland and Russia. ‘The political power in Russia is not ready for that. […] When you deal with rapprochement and reconciliation, the idea of political power is the power of the strength to admit to atrocities.‘ 
Oscar-winning film director Nikita Mikhalko has stepped down from his political role in the Defense Ministry, ostensibly in a protest over military policies – but it is rumored that the real catalyst for his defection was losing the right to use his flashing blue light.  
PHOTO: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov greets United Nations special envoy to Libya Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, during their meeting in Moscow May 16, 2011. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin