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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 5, 2009

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TODAY: Two arrested in relation to the Markelov and  Baburova killings; police looming at yesterday’s Unity Day celebrations; leaders pledged tolerance whilst ultranationalists marched en masse; bloggers to be hushed by Yandex decision?; why Russia fears a census; Georgian Foreign Minister renounces citizenship; Putin lectures filmmakers.

Two people have been arrested in relation to the shooting of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and reporter Anastasia Baburova in January.  Apparently the two suspects are former members of neo-fascist group Russian National Unity – although a lawyer for RNU has denied this claim.  Yesterday’s Unity Day celebrations in Moscow were heavily policed amid fears that fighting could break out between different bands of youths.  In an address, President Medvedev emphasized tolerance and the bringing together of ‘people of different classes, nationalities and faiths’, as did Patriarch Kirill: ‘we, representatives of the religions of Russia, are evidence that neither religious nor ethnic differences can divide our nation’.  Despite its harmony-promoting title, the holiday attracts, according to the Other Russia, large swathes of ultra-nationalists.  Nationalist marchers clashed with anti-fascist protesters in St Petersburg.  Ria-Novosti reports that nearly 30 people were detained in Moscow.   In its annual report, the U.N. Human Rights Committee reportedly heavily criticized Russia’s treatment of gay people, arguing they encounter systematic discrimination from the government.


The Telegraph reports that bloggers are seething at the decision by Yandex (the Russian equivalent of Google) to end ratings systems which could highlight their contributions, apparently suggesting it is a pro-Kremlin muffling of free speech.  RFE/RL has an interesting report on Russia’s attitude towards the census – which, it has been announced, will take place in 2010, despite considerable prevarication – and where Russia’s hesitations stem from.

The Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze has renounced his Russian citizenship and sent his Russian passport to the Duma, which recently had considered a motion to strip him of his citizenship due to his anti-Russian stance.   Russia has repeated its request that the US sign a mutual extradition treaty with it.

Vladimir Putin has promised to offer more state funding to the domestic movie industry – if filmmakers step up to the mark and improve their product.  The painting Krass und Mild (Dramatic and Mild) by abstract master Wassily Kandinsky has exceeded its estimate and sold for $9.4 million at an auction at Sotheby’s in New York.

PHOTO: Extreme nationalists beat the protesters, who tried to confront them at the nationalists rally marking National Unity Day in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009, with the Russian Empire’s black-yellow-white flags in the background. The new holiday, marking the end of the foreign intervention in Russia in 1612, was created in 2005 to replace the traditional Nov. 7 celebration of the 1917 Bolshevik rise to power. But it has been seized upon by extreme nationalists.  (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)