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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 23, 2009

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TODAY: Medvedev issues ‘dressing down’ for United Russia at annual congress, Putin doesn’t disagree; funeral held for Sergei Magnitsky, second autopsy request denied; Litvinenko anniversary; Russia’s school for tabloid journalists.
United Russia held its annual congress in St. Petersburg on Saturday, where President Dmitry Medvedev issued it with a ‘dressing down‘, warning leaders about ‘backwardness‘, ‘bureaucratic intrigues and games‘, and urged the party to get rid of ‘bad political habits‘ such as restricting the openness of elections. (The Moscow Times notes that Medvedev took a similar tone with the party at last year’s congress.) Prime Minister Vladimir Putin spoke in agreement with Medvedev’s state-of-the-nation address from earlier this month, saying that the crisis ‘has shown how costly it is for a country to reject innovation, have low worker productivity, waste resources and have a slow bureaucracy‘, but also offered United Russia ‘mild praise‘.  Boris Gryzlov, meanwhile, unveiled a new party ideology of ‘Russian conservatism‘.  

A managing partner at a Moscow law firm tries to defend the image of lawyers in Russia, as Sergei Magnitsky, the Hermitage lawyer who died in prison, is buried by his family, amid reports that prosecutors had denied a second autopsy request.  Hermitage head Bill Browder told the BBC that Russia is ‘essentially a criminal state‘ (video). 
Vladimir Putin joked about the price of ties over the weekend when asked about Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s visit to Kiev.  On Aram Gabrelyanov – ‘Russia’s Rupert Murdoch‘ – and his particular brand of tabloid journalism, which he shares with ‘budding muckrakers‘ at his own school.  Today is the third anniversary of Alexander Litvinenko’s death, marked by Marina Litvinenko’s article in the Times.  Konstantin P. Feoktistov, a Soviet civilian astronaut and prominent spacecraft designer, died on Saturday in Moscow, aged 83.  
The leader of Ingushetia yesterday blamed widespread state corruption on the region’s cycle of violence and crime.  
PHOTO: Friends and relatives take part in the funeral ceremony of Sergei Magnitsky at a cemetery in Moscow. (ANDREW OSBORN, Telegraph)