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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 19, 2009

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TODAY: EU-Russia summit ‘one of the best we’ve had’; WTO bid to happen as soon as possible; Prosecutor General investigating lawyer Magnitsky’s death; Solidarity says it has evidence against officers; Putin raises eyebrows as sudden new head of Geographical Society; Yanukovich and Moscow; moratorium on capital punishment extended.
Discussions have taken place at the EU-Russia summit on Russia’s WTO bid, although Medvedev’s insistence that it should join as quickly as possible was confused somewhat by Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko’s suggestion that it make its application in a customs union with Belarus or Kazakhstan. ‘Whatever way is faster, we will take it,‘ Medvedev said.  European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called the 24th EU-Russia summit ‘one of the best meetings we have had‘.  The Prosecutor General’s Office has begun investigating the Matrosskaya Tishina detention center over the death of Sergei Magnitsky.  RFE/RL have published excerpts from a letter that Magnitsky wrote from prison, documenting unhygienic prison conditions and repeatedly-denied access to medical treatment.  Vedomosti called his death ‘medieval‘.  Members of the Solidarity opposition movement have released a photograph of what they say is a high-level police memo ordering officers to disrupt a series of lawful protests.  Who are the ‘hooded men‘ upping legal one-man opposition protests to an unacceptable gathering of three? 

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is the new head of the Russian Geographical Society’s board of trustees, and his appointment coincides with newly curbed rights for its regional branches.  Existing members are ‘ruffled – does this sudden interest relate to the Society’s ‘extensive property holdings’, or is it just a bid for more credibility?  Quoted from a New York Times piece on the upcoming Ukrainian elections: ‘[…] however disappointed western Ukrainians are in the Orange leadership, they will be roused by the desire to vote against Mr. Yanukovich, if only because Moscow backs him.‘ ‘Modern Russia […] has not made any attempt to come to terms with Holodomor, as with many other aspects of Stalin’s legacy,‘ writes James Marson.  
Capital punishment remains present in Russia’s Constitutional Code, but its court ruled to extend the moratorium on the death penalty which has been in place since 1996.  
PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev watches Russia play against Slovenia in their World Cup qualifying playoff second leg soccer match in Maribor, Slovenia, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Vladimir Rodionov, Presidential Press Service)