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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Oct 21, 2009

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TODAY: Medvedev approves loan for Serbia; Press Freedom Index sees Russia’s standards slump; U.S. says Russia isn’t complying with Georgian cease-fire; Duma walkout deputies ‘might’ be docked for missed sessions; Yukos hearing delayed; gift-giving.
President Dmitry Medvedev marked his Belgrade visit with a gas distribution deal and a €1 billion loan. The Serbian president, Boris Tadic, thanked Medvedev by reinforcing the two countries’ shared views against the secession of Kosovo.  Serbia made the initial loan request in July.  The deputies who walked out of the Duma last week ‘might lose their salaries for each Duma session they skip‘.  Reporters Without Borders have released their Press Freedom Index for 2009, revealing that Russia’s rating is down over thirteen points from last year’s index, ranking it currently as 153rd out of 170 countries – lower than Israel, Afghanistan, and Iraq (but higher than China and Iran).

Amid ‘sporadic reports of shootings and explosions in the border areas‘, U.S. defense officials says Russia is not complying with the cease-fire that ended last year’s war with Georgia.  ‘Although the Russia-Georgia war allowed pent-up tensions to vent, it did not resolve a single problem that had created those tensions in the first place.‘  
The November 19 Yukos hearing will be delayed as a result of a new judge being appointed to represent Russia in the European Court of Human Rights – now the third judge to be appointed for this case.  Will Poland’s acceptance of a U.S. offer to host parts of a new, more mobile, ‘SM3’ missile defense system, create further tensions with Russia?  
Aleksandr Khochinsky talks about the gifts that pass between Russia’s businessmen.  
PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, front, followed by his Serbian counterpart Boris Tadic, lay flowers at the grave of Belgrades liberators from Nazi occupation in World War II, in Belgrade, Serbia, on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)