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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 27, 2009

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TODAY: Police force under fire as new story of police violence emerges; government-sponsored TV ‘hampering democracy’, Belykh running Kirov, law permits bullying of NGOs, Samizdat listed as ‘extremist’, blogger sentenced to jail; Georgia, France, US. Space tourism.
A senior Russian lawmaker and member of United Russia called for the abolition of the Interior Ministry, or at least that it be cut in half in to ‘decommission and cleanse‘ an institution that is coming under increasing fire.  Speaking after a second incident of police killing civilians emerged this week, Russia’s interior minister said that the law prohibiting the use of violence against police in self-defense should be scrapped.  ‘If the citizen is not a criminal who is being detained and has not broken any laws…if he is being attacked, self-defense is applicable here.‘  He was also quoted as saying that violent police should be ‘isolated and jailed‘.  Alexander Smirnov, the deputy head of Russia’s prison service, says the death of Sergei Magnitsky ‘has left a serious stain on the entire work of our judicial system‘.  Things like this presumably don’t do much for its reputation, either.

The media freedom representative at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe blames government-influenced television for hampering Russian democracy: ‘we cannot speak about true democracies where most people get most of their information from television that is either quite firmly in governmental hands or, if privatized, then in the hands of cronies or even families of governmental leaders‘.  Russian law ‘still gives authorities carte blanche to limit [social organizations’] activities by claiming that a NGO is “extremist”‘, says a Vedomosti editorial.  The Samizdat online magazine has ended up on the Justice Ministry’s list of extremist publications after a court in Cherepovets took issue with anti-Severstal comments published by Vitaly Dunayev, a former employee of the company.  Irek Murtazin, a Tatar blogger and former press secretary of the Tatarstan’s president has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for writing critically about his former boss.  
Former opposition leader Nikita Belykh, now the governor of Kirov, tells residents that ‘through democratic and liberal values there is a chance to transform their poor and depressed region into an example of recovery (not just economic) for all Russia to emulate.
Georgia is planning to press the issue of security guarantees in France due to fears about the possible sale of French warships to Russia, just in time for Vladimir Putin’s visit to Paris.  The Moscow Times looks at how US-Russia relations are proceeding under the Obama administration, and Rossiyskaya Gazeta says there are grounds for hope on START negotiations.   
Russia’s space station has doubled its number of crew members, leaving no room to spare for millionaire space tourists. 
PHOTO: Medvedev and Putin talking in a restaurant in St. Petersburg after attending the 11th United Russia congress. (Dmitry Astakhov / RIA-Novosti / AP)