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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 30, 2009

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TODAY: Moscow-St Petersburg train crash kills 26, scores injured; investigators confirm bomb was cause; eyes turn to Chechnya.  Putin evades questions concerning Magnitsky death; RFE/RL takes a look at Russia’s endemic corruption.  Medvedev proffers new security pact proposal to European counterparts; Russia contemplates Mistral warship; state of Russian roads a burden on the coffers; bloggers unite.

Investigators say that a train crash that occurred in northwest Russia late on Friday night, killing at least 26 people, was caused by ‘an explosive device equivalent to 7 kg of TNT’, in what reporters are describing as the worst terrorist attack outside the Caucasus in five years.   A second bomb apparently detonated when officials were at the crash site, but no one was injured.  Aboard the packed, luxury train, seemingly popular with business people and tourists, were two senior officials, both of whom were killed.  According to the Guardian, investigators are focusing on a ‘Chechen link’, in the form of Pavel Kosolapov, whom prosecutors accused of a similar attack in August 2007, on the same train line.  A description of a suspect seen near the scene has reportedly been released.  Survivors have told Ria-Novosti that a lack of first aid kits on board made tending to the injured almost impossible.


Putin has sidestepped a question about the death, in prison, of Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky at a French press conference, claiming that whilst human rights issues are important, prime ministers ‘are forced to address specific issues that have to do with industry and the economy’.  The company’s head, William Browder, has asserted that the investigation into the lawyer’s death must be carried out independently.  A Financial Times editorial seconds Browder’s concerns about the Russian justice system.  ‘Corruption has always been all-pervasive. It’s an integral part of our state’.  Just one quote from RFE/RL’s three-parter on corruption; from law enforcement to the upper echelons of the political elite‘Despite the economic crisis, officials say the average bribe has tripled in size since last year’. 

Russia’s ‘post cold-war’ draft treaty on European security has been sent out to European leaders; the proposal allows signatory states to offer military assistance to one other.  France is considering selling a Mistral class warship to Russia, despite EU concerns about fostering Russian aggression.  ‘The values gap is not an insurmountable obstacle on the way to geostrategic rapprochement’ between Russia, Europe and Asia argues an article in Ria-Novosti.

Another incidence of violence among the controversy-laden police.  Road traffic accidents cost Russia $34 billion per year, say new statistics from the World Bank.  Safety in numbers: Russian bloggers are to create their own trade union, which will help to keep track of lawsuits and defend freedom of speech.

PHOTO: Police standing guard Saturday near part of the Nevsky Express luxury train, outside the Tver region village of Uglovka. It was also bombed in 2007.  (Denis Sinyakov / Reuters)