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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Oct 18, 2010

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TODAY: Medvedev nominates Sergei Sobyanin as Moscow Mayor; floods in Krasnodar kill 13; Russia to meet with France and Germany on EU foreign policy; human rights court rules in favour of Russian HIV prisoner; Magnitsky supporters could be charged; Moscow’s role in Kyrgyz elections; Putin and wife make a show of togetherness; Khimki battle; video blogging on foreign policy could backfire.
After some initial confusion and an initial denial that President Dmitry Medvedev had nominated Sergei Sobyanin, it is being widely reported that Sobyanin, ‘a top manager of the United Russia party’, has indeed been appointed as Moscow’s new mayor, despite rumors of his ‘reluctance‘.  As yet, no date has been set for a vote (‘which is widely expected to be little more than a rubber-stamping‘).  ‘The selection of Mr. Sobyanin points to how Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Putin are installing dependable allies in major political posts in advance of parliamentary and presidential elections over the next 18 months.‘  The Moscow Times looks at bloggers’ ‘emotional‘ responses to the news.  It is thought that, under the new Mayor, the Kremlin will change its tune regarding Strategy 31 protesters applying to hold regular gatherings in Triumfalnaya Square. ‘We are absolutely calm as regards such events […] For a democratic state this is an absolutely normal thing.‘  Floods in Krasnodar over the weekend killed 13 people, and a further 12 are missing as the region’s governor promised speedy compensation.  Russia would like to be able to take ‘joint decisions‘ with the EU on foreign policy, an issue being discussed today at a summit with France and Germany.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that a Russian prisoner was denied proper medical care after he was given aspirin for his HIV, and placed in solitary confinement in an unheated cell in winter time for complaining.  Supporters of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison, could face charges after police opened a defamation investigation relating to what Artyom Kuznetsov calls a ‘smear campaign‘ against him.  The Telegraph reports on Russia’s ‘obvious‘ influence on the results of Kyrgyzstan’s elections: ‘The leaders of the four parties that received the most votes last Sunday – Ata-Zhurt, Ar-Namys, Respublika, and the Social Democrats – all flew to Moscow last week.‘ 
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila made a joint public appearance over the weekend to promote the currently ongoing Russian census and to combat ‘speculation that they had secretly divorced‘.  This Washington Post report on the battle to save Khimki Forest remembers Mikhail Beketov and Stanislav Markelov as two of the campaign’s early victims. 
Sending powerful video-blog messages to neighboring states and their leaders has become a drill for Medvedev,‘ but it could backfire, suggests this piece.  The Guardian has a troubling review of a troubling book: Drawings from the Gulag, by Danzig Baldaev. 
PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila talk to a census-taker as they participate in a nationwide population count at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow October 16, 2010. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin/Pool