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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 3, 2009

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TODAY: Opposition activist torture claims; Miliband leaves with no breakthrough regarding diplomatic concerns; meets with rights activists; Putin and Medvedev popularity waning?; President in need of own power structure to realize reforms; Stalin resurrection an identity issue; Gorbachev on Russophobia; alcohol; jokes; art

The Other Russia reports that Konstantin Makarov, a member of the outlawed National Bolshevik Party, and organizer of an opposition rally planned for the 31st October in Voronezh, was detained and beaten by two policeman, one of whom was S. Yemkov of the notorious Interior Ministry’s Center for Extremism Prevention.  According to Makarov, his torturers told him that he would face similar treatment after each rally held by the National Bolsheviks.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the press after his meeting with the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, that the pair had come to agreement on ‘three joint declarations’ of international concern, but the Kremlin will not change its position on the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, the man accused of orchestrating the murder of Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London, the issue which first caused the diplomatic freeze.  Miliband appears to be stoical:  ‘We don’t paper over our differences. But we don’t allow them to block co-operation where possible’.  The British politician did meet with human right activists, RFE/RL reports, including Memorial Director Oleg Orlov, and ‘expressed his concern over the killings of activists of nongovernmental organizations in Russia’.


According to Reuters, at the end of October, approval ratings for President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin saw their steepest drop since Putin relinquished the Presidential post in May 2008.  If Medvedev wants to modernize Russia, he will have to create his own personal power vertical, an article in RFE/RL suggests.  Masha Lipman in the New York Times argues that the alleged rehabilitation of Stalin is a sign of modern Russia’s inability to define an identity for itself. 

‘In a situation when the United States and Russia are not allies, or even strategic partners, nuclear deterrence has become the unique pillar of Moscow’s strategic independence vis-a-vis Washington’: Dmitry Trenin in the Moscow Times ponders the outstanding bilateral issue of missile defense.  Russia has no plans to abandon its nuclear weapons, says Sergei Lavrov.  ‘The problem is that our anti-Western paranoia is matched by an equally virulent anti-Russian paranoia from the United States and Europe’ says Alexei Pankin on east and west mutual perceptions in the Moscow Times.  ‘Mistrust and outdated stereotypes persist: Russia is suspected of evil intentions and of aggressive, imperial designs’, opines Mikhael Gorbachev in the New York Times.  According to a new poll, 46% of Ukrainians and 45% of Bulgarians view Russian influence as positive, compared with 18% in Poland and 15% in Hungary.

Businessman and former spy Shabtai Kalmanovich has been shot dead in Moscow.  Scenes from a provincial ‘drunk tank’ in the New York Times.  See comments from Russian readers on how to tackle the grave issue of alcoholism here.  Russian artworks at a Sotheby’s sale have garnered $13.8 million, surpassing crisis- oriented estimates.  The Telegraph provides some light relief in the form of communist-era jokes.

PHOTO: Miliband, left, and Lavrov leaving a news conference after meeting Monday.  (Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP)