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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 2, 2010

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TODAY: Japan row escalates, ambassador recalled; spotlight on WikiLeaks; survey on living conditions; Left Front leader fined; Khodorkovsky and St Petersburg supporters call trial ‘lawless’; North Caucasus churches burned; occult healers; Putin propaganda; Volga River.
The diplomatic row between Russia and Japan over President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to the Kuril Islands took a new turn as the latter recalled its ambassador from Russia ‘to decide what is the most effective course of action‘.  The move is unlikely to interfere with bilateral talks at this month’s Asia-Pacific summit, however.  Russia has called the Japanese response ‘unacceptable‘, and police broke up an unsanctioned rally outside Moscow’s Japanese Embassy thought to be linked to the row. Reuters called Medvedev’s trip ‘a clear signal to Japan: follow China’s example if you want to do business with the Kremlin‘, and says that the current row is the worst with Japan ‘in decades‘.  This BBC report predicts that the row ‘is unlikely to be resolved any time soon‘.  Click here for an outline of the history involved.  RIA Novosti has a report on Sunday’s Strategy 31 rally from one of its attendees.

It is unclear whether or not the fact that only 14% of Russians find their living conditions ‘intolerably bad‘ is a cause for celebration.  Time Magazine is running an article on the likelihood of a Russia-related WikiLeaks exposé: ‘If the FSB says it is capable [of taking out WikiLeaks], I believe them.‘  Reuters is running a factbox on Russia’s political risks, including corruption and budget deficit.  Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov has been fined for organizing an unsanctioned gathering outside Moscow’s Mayoral Office last month.  In an interview with Novaya Gazeta, former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky has warned of a coming crisis: ‘There is a growing contradiction between the decreased potential of the unmodernized economy, the avarice of the bureaucracy and … the expectations of the population.‘  The interview coincides with an open letter to the President by a group of ‘well-known‘ St Petersburg writers, which calls the trial against Khodorkovsky ‘lawless‘, echoing remarks made by Khodorkovsky himself in a court ‘tirade‘ yesterday. 
Orthodox and Baptist churches in the North Caucasus were set on fire yesterday.  Attacks on police officers in the region have tripled in the past two years, says the Interior Minister.  Drivers are criticizing new anti-drink driving measures which came into effect yesterday, saying that they do not account for equipment malfunctions and allow room for abuse.  Does Russia really have ‘more occult healers than doctors‘?
Look out: more beefy Putin propaganda is on its way.  NPR has a special report on the Volga River
PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev takes pictures near Soviet-made Cold War-era defense turrets, during his visit to Kunashiri Island, one of four islands known as the Southern Kuriles in Russia and Northern Territories in Japan, November 1, 2010. REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Kremlin/Mikhail Klimentyev