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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Oct 21, 2010

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TODAY: Krasnodar floods affect 6,000; Strategy 31 protests receive sanction for a 200-strong march; Russia gets low press freedom rating; Sobyanin to be voted in today, Luzhkov begins university lecturing; negative similarities with Ukraine, Chechen attacks, Smolensk report.
Last weekend’s floods in Krasnodar injured, displaced, or damaged the homes of over 6,000 people, says the region’s governor.  Lyudmila Alexeyeva cautiously welcomed an ‘ambiguous victory‘ for the Strategy 31 protesters after permission was granted for (just 200 of them) to march on Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square at the end of this month.  According to Vladislav Surkov, the Kremlin is ‘completely unconcerned with such events‘.  Russia is climbing Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedom rating, but still ranks 140th out of 178.  A request by Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin to investigate the income declaration of United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov has been passed ‘inexplicably‘ by the government to the Health and Social Development Ministry, sparking complaints and sarcasm from opposition voices about the seriousness of the government’s anti-corruption drive.

Konstantin Sonin writes on the problems facing new Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin in light of his being appointed (today’s vote is expected to see over 90% support for Sobyanin), rather than elected, including the lack of a ‘feedback mechanism to indicate public opinion on topical matters: ‘Sobyanin has no choice but to try to build his own system for obtaining feedback, even though Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has done everything in his power over the last 10 years to dismantle the mechanism that existed.‘  RFE/RL suggests that Sobyanin’s rule could welcome in tighter controls, referencing President Dmitry Medvedev’s comment that ‘the Moscow authorities should be fully integrated with the federal authorities‘.  Former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, meanwhile, is already lecturing university students as part of his new job at the International University.
The Washington Post says a ‘shadowy warlord‘ is behind this week’s attacks on the Chechen parliament.  The FT compares the political systems of Russia and Ukraine in light of the restricted freedoms accompanying the rule of Viktor Yanukovich.  Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is playing down recent disagreements with Russia. ‘All this will pass.‘ 
The Nobel Prize winning physicists from Russia say that their homeland has ‘high levels of bureaucracy, corruption and idiocracy‘ and ‘neither the facilities nor the conditions‘ to tempt them back.  Russia has completed and submitted to Polish investigators its technical report on the Smolensk plane crash, but results will not be released until comments have been made. 
PHOTO: President Dmitry Medvedev at the Kaluga region’s Optina Pustyn monastery on Wednesday, October 20, 2010. (Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA-Novosti / AP)