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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 4, 2010

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TODAY: Other Russia members face extremism charges; Russia rejects Japan warning over Kuril trips; Russia sees Republican Party as ‘dark force’, Clinton says START will pass; calls for Khodorkovsky acquittal; UN permits Russia’s Afghan drugs raid; fearsome security services; Lebedev’s newspaper attacked; Putin’s dog is bigger than Bush’s, apparently.
Two members of the Other Russia party have been charged with organizing an unsanctioned rally in connection with Sunday’s Strategy 31 gatherings, and their supporters are now worried that they could face charges of extremism.  Japan’s warning that Russia should ‘act accordingly‘ in line with its position that the Kuril islands are Japanese territory was swiftly rejected by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said that President Dmitry Medvedev ‘does not take advice from anyone when he chooses which Russian region he will visit‘.  The visit was apparently made in response to a protest made by Tokyo back in September, when Medvedev initially announced his intention to visit Kunashiri Island – but mightn’t Russia benefit from Japanese investment if the dispute were resolved?, wonders the Washington Post.  The dispute is threatening to overshadow next weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, says NPR, which is also running a special report on Saratov’s efforts to develop its economy, and the ‘huge gap between Moscow and the rest of the country‘.

Russian officials are concerned about the rise of the ‘dark force‘ of the Republican party in the US and its implications for attempts to reset relations, and may withdraw Russia’s ratification of the new START treaty.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says that the Senate will have enough votes to pass the treaty, but was unclear on when the matter would be brought to vote.  Russia’s NATO meeting did not produce any concrete results, but both sides pledged to work for better ties.  NATO Chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that Russia’s Afghan drugs raid was permitted under a UN mandate, despite complaints from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, although it seems Karzai and Medvedev have now agreed on the ‘further expansion of joint efforts‘ to combat the drugs trade.  A group of Russian intellectuals have added their voices to calls that Mikhail Khodorkovsky be acquitted.  Various public gatherings will be held in Moscow today to mark National Unity Day, a holiday introduced in 2005 to replace the November 7 holiday celebrating the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
The FT reports in depth on ‘the fearsome reach of Russia’s security services‘, with a particular focus on raids: ‘Corrupt police nowadays often work hand in glove with organised crime gangs, targeting vulnerable businessmen with investigations and arrests as a way to shake them down for money or take over their assets.‘  This is more or less the formula proposed by Alexander Lebedev to explain the armed raid on his bank’s headquarters yesterday: he says it was paid for by a rivalin hopes that suddenly our clients would run away‘, rather than being politically motivated.  And in a further blow, a 29-page complaint signed by a group of prominent Russians has been sent to the UK’s Press Complaints Commission about Lebedev’s Independent newspaper, accusing it of ‘pro-Russian propaganda […] against our national interest‘ in relation to an article about St Petersburg governor Valentina Matviyenko. 
Vladimir Putin was apparently proud of the fact that his dog was ‘bigger, stronger, faster‘ than that of then-US President George W. Bush.  Ah, memoirs. 
PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, accompanied by other officials, observes a minute of silence for the late Viktor Chernomyrdin during a meeting on disabled people issues at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, November 3, 2010. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin/Pool