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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 20, 2009

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TODAY: Praise for moratorium on death penalty overshadowed by Magnitsky’s death – authorities blocking autopsy?; Medvedev dismissed Kremlin aide for abuse of office; NATO concerns about war games dismissed by Rogozin; Orthodox priest murdered, road safety.
The Constitutional Court’s decision to extend its moratorium on the death penalty (reportedly opposed by the Communist Party) has been welcomed by human rights activists, but one said that the decision was overshadowed by ‘unbearable‘ prison conditions, such as those faced by Sergei Magnitsky before his death.  One of Magnitsky’s Firestone Duncan colleagues writes what he calls a suicidal‘ article in today’s Moscow Times about the ‘oxymoron‘ of Russian law.  This report says that authorities are refusing to release Magnitsky’s body for autopsy.  United Russia is holding its 11th convention in St Petersburg this weekend, charged with the task of ‘bringing ideological coherence‘ to the party.  
In theory, Russian diplomats accredited to NATO are welcome friends: the reality is murkier,‘ says The Economist.  NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin has dismissed the organization’s concerns about extensive recent war games between Russia and Belarus close to the Polish border.  NATO’s concerns related to the scale of the exercises, the lack of observers, and the ‘political message‘.  Russia’s military doctrine apparently allows it to make a ‘preventative [nuclear] strike‘.

President Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed Mikhail Lesin, a Kremlin aide appointed by Vladimir Putin in 2004, for abuse of officein resolving matters not connected with his official duties‘.  ‘The key difference between Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev is that they work with different audiences.’  Victor Erofeyev, a writer denounced by Moscow State University, writes on the ‘unprecedented dimensions […] of nationalism‘ in Russia.  
On Russia’s hazardous roads.  Medvedev is currently campaigning for global road safety, putting it on a par with economic stability and food supply. A Russian Orthodox priest has been shot dead by a masked gunman in a crime thought to be driven by ‘religious motives‘.  
PHOTO: Constitutional Court chief Valery Zorkin, back center, chairs a meeting of the court on the death penalty in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2009. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)