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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Oct 20, 2010

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TODAY: Medvedev to attend NATO summit, ‘worried’ about missile shield; US says end in sight for WTO membership; Chechnya death toll reaches 6, government promises compensation; Go Russia modernization movement; Army of People’s Will branded extremist; Mikhail Kasyanov, Sergei Sobyanin. 
During talks at Deauville with Germany and Russia, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made optimistic sounds about establishing a potentially visa-free EU-Russia zone before 2025 that would have a ‘common security concept‘.  President Dmitry Medvedev left the meeting with an invitation to join next month’s NATO summit, and said that Moscow was open to joining a US-led antimissile shield, but also that the issue ‘worries us‘, and implied that NATO should consider making compromises in exchange for Russian involvement.  (This Guardian piece suggests that the plans ‘bring longstanding tensions over European security into the open‘.)  The BBC has some analysis of the talks: ‘Russia’s relations with the main European leaders, Mr Sarkozy, Mrs Merkel etc, are developing much better than relations with the EU as a whole.‘  The US government is optimistic that Russia could join the WTO within a year from now: ‘the end is in sight‘.  The death toll in yesterdays’ attack on the Chechen parliament has risen to 6.  The attack is a blow to Vladimir Putin’s attempts to promote Ramzan Kadyrov’s image (Kadyrov is frequently linked to human rights abuses), says Bloomberg.  The government has set the price of compensation for to the families of those killed in the attacks, together with families of victims of the weekend’s flash floods in Krasnodar, at $32,850.

RIA Novosti suggests that difficulties in UK-Russia relations stem from the fact that ‘Britain supports the US presence in Europe‘.  The name of the official Go Russia modernization movement now belongs to United Russia following approval from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, despite the fact that A Just Russia’s rival movement bears the same name.  Moscow’s City Court has banned the Army of People’s Will opposition movement for ‘extremism‘ due to its calls that the constitution be changed to give voters ‘more control over the actions of their politicians‘. 
 
The Washington Post receives a visit from former Prime Minister and coalition hopeful Mikhail Kasyanov, who discusses his hopes to make the 2012 elections less like an ‘imitation‘ of democracy.  Are Kyrgyz politicians seeking protection in Russia? Oleg Mitvol writes a glowing character reference for Sergei Sobyanin in today’s Moscow Times. 
Are Moscow city authorities biased towards the Orthodox Church?  A recent rejection of a series of billboards promoting the freedom of religion suggest so, says The Other Russia.  A group of retired military officers are on a 24-hour hunger strike to draw attention to low military pensions.
PHOTO: A dancer of the Saint-Petersburg State Ice Ballet of Russia waits backstage before a performance of the Swan Lake at a theatre in Hefei, Anhui province October 19, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer