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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Oct 22, 2010

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TODAY: Sobyanin formally appointed, replaced by ‘margarine oligarch’; Strategy 31 protesters urge Moscow to allow more to gather; European Court of Human Rights rules on gay protests; Luzhkov turns on United Russia; Beketov misses trial; opposition protest the census; INSOR head advises Putin not to stand for President.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s banning of gay parades in Moscow violated rights of assembly, and fined it for discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation, ordering it to pay the legal fees of Nikolai Alexeyev, the activist who brought the case to court.  Alexeyev hailed the ruling as ‘a crippling blow to Russian homophobia on all accounts‘.  The Strategy 31 protesters are challenging Moscow’s 200-person limit on their protest in Triumfalnaya Square later this month.  Protesters in Kirov, Yekaterinburg, Moscow, and members of the Other Russia, are urging Russians to boycott the currently ongoing (voluntary) census on grounds that it allows the government to gather information about potential dissenters.  Journalist Mikhail Beketov, whose current condition after being beaten in 2008 means that ‘he must travel to court by ambulance, accompanied by doctors‘, failed to show up at trial for a libel case against him.

Sergei Sobyanin has been formally appointed Moscow Mayor.  ‘In Tyumen he was called a robot,‘ commented one Duma deputy.  The Guardian also focuses on Sobyanin’s ‘faceless bureaucrat‘ side.  The Moscow Times reports on his positive image among previous colleagues, and the rumor that he ‘is said to never have favored media freedoms‘.  The new Mayor promised to shift the city’s budget focus away from private investments.  Sobyanin has been replaced by Vyacheslav Volodin, ‘the margarine oligarch‘.  Former Mayor Yury Luzhkov has turned on United Russia in a speech branding the party a Kremlin ‘servant‘, in which he vowed that he would not run for any political posts next year.
The head of President Dmitry Medvedev’s INSOR think tank has urged Vladimir Putin to make a ‘sacrifice‘ and not stand in the 2012 presidential elections, playing up Medvedev’s image as a modernizing force: ‘Putin is more popular among conservative voters who like stability, discipline, order. Medvedev is popular among liberal voters who like change, progress, movement forward.‘  Is Medvedev turning down an invitation to next year’s Munich Security Conference because he wants to avoid coming face-to-face with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili? 
PHOTO: New Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin delivers a speech during an inauguration ceremony in Moscow. A close aide of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin hand-picked by the Kremlin was sworn in as mayor of Moscow on Thursday after the dramatic firing of flamboyant city strongman Yuri Luzhkov. (AFP/Pool/Grigory Dukor)