RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 31, 2010

front.jpgTODAY: Putin confronted about human rights by rock singer activist; migalka protest accelerating; gay pride parade held with no detention due to cat-and-mouse strategy; vigilantes target corrupt policemen; teenagers miss exams due to deputy’s hunting trip.  EU-Russia summit today; heralding new era in relations?  Saakashvili appears on course to win first election since 2008 war; Medvedev urges a wait and see approach with START signing. Architecture; statue news

Vladimir Putin apparently fielded some rather awkward questions relating to human rights and the right to assemble from rock star Yury Shevchuk at a charity event in St Petersburg; to see details check the Moscow Times.  ITAR-TASS reports that Putin expressed support for the right to assemble as long as in a suitable location.  A Solidarity activist will appear in court today to face charges of public hooliganism, after jumping onto the roof of a bureaucrat’s car wearing a blue bucket, as a stunt to alert people to the unfairness of the privilege-flashing migalki.  The Guardian has the video.  Gay rights activists in Moscow have managed to hold the first pride rally not to have been broken up by police by holding brief bursts of protests, then dispersing to re-group in other areas.  Activists were quick to assert that the lack of beatings was not due to a softened attitude by the police (who were omnipresent), but rather to tactical planning of the march.  Vaclev Havel, Desmond Tutu and a handful of leading intellectuals have penned an article urging President Medvedev to break the ‘chain of human tragedy’ that is the state of human rights in Russia.  A series of torchings of police buildings have been attributed to members of a blogging group who are apparently seeking revenge on corrupt policemen.  Seventeen teenagers from two remote villages in the far eastern republic of Sakha failed to make it to their school exams after a helicopter reserved for their use was taken for a hunting trip by Mikhail Everstov, a United Russia  deputy.

The Russia-EU summit to take place today signifies, RFE/RL suggests, a ‘turning point’ for their relations.  Reuters also sees in the summit a distinct thawing of relations.  Russia has the Eurozone crisis to thank for the EU’s conciliatory tone, the FT argues.  ‘For the first time in 20 years, the gravitational pull of the EU isabating’ argues this op-ed, and Medvedev should seize that opportunityto get his neighbors back on side.   Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has tempered his Kremlinfocus with calls for an association agreement with the EU to be spedup. The Moscow Times suggests that it is unlikely that any inroads will bemade on visa relaxation at the EU-Russia summit.  Reuters reports that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s party has, according to exit polls, won 60% of the vote in the country’s first election since the war with Russia.  There has been a considerable increase in the number of people who believe that Medvedev is an independent politician, from 19% in May 2009 to 42% this year, a new poll indicates.

President Obama’s top Russia adviser has suggested that Russian support on Iran an assistance in Afghanistan are the two tangible results of the reset policy.  Jackson Diehl is unimpressed with the US President’s willingness to turn a blind eye to rights abuses in Russia, which will ‘confirm the thinking of Vladimir Putin of Russia […] that strategic partnership with the United States won’t require domestic reforms’.   Video interview with Mikhail Margelov on the BBC discussing Iran and the sale of weapons.  The State Duma will consider Russia’s response to the deployment of the U.S. Patriot battery to Poland during debates on START.  The President has asked the Duma to ratify the START deal, but not before its co-signitories in the US do, to avoid being ‘cheated’.

A Tajiik Communist party chief apparently fears the removal of a Lenin statue from the center of the city of Khujand.  Moscow’s Second Architecture Biennale has focused on rejuvenating existing architecture, rather than construing new buildings: music to the ears of conservationists.  The New York Times has an interesting feature on photo svengali Olga Sviblova.  The same newspaper also looks at how the family of painter Vasily Polenov have managed to keep his estate in their hands thanks to a deal made in 1924.  Woody Allen statue for Kaliningrad?

PHOTO: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meeting with participants and organizers of a charity concert in Mikhailovsky Theater in St. Petersburg on Saturday, May 31, 2010.  (Alexei Druzhinin / AP/RIA-Novosti)