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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Oct 25, 2010

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TODAY: Protesters gather to call for Putin’s ousting; Duma alters protest law; Moscow revokes permission for Strategy 31; gay rights activist sues human rights activist; Moldova conflict and soft power; Rasmussen still hopeful on NATO-Russia relations; UN report indicates progress on poverty; Baikonur anniversary; the decline of Samara.
Protesters gathered in Moscow’s Pushkin Square on Saturday for a sanctioned rally demanding the ousting of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: ‘Demands for Putin’s resignation have been voiced at rallies before, but this time it was the main slogan,‘ commented Lev Pomonarev.  The Moscow Times counts ‘up to 2,000‘ people on the back of photographs of the rally (the police estimated 300), most other major news sources count 500.  The march comes just as the Duma moved to change the law on protests, which would prohibit anyone undergoing proceedings for disorderly behavior from organizing rallies; Pomonarev says it will have little effect.  Moscow’s original decision to allow 200 Strategy 31 protesters to gather at the end of this month has been revoked, on grounds that requests for more people to be allowed to join were ‘provocation‘.  Gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev is reportedly suing veteran human rights champion Lyudmila Alexeyeva for defamation: ‘Who is this Alexeyev to be suing me?‘  Wikileaks says it has ‘material on Russia, but not as much as we would like‘.

RFE/RL reports on the possibilities available to President Dmitry Medvedev in his bid to end the conflict in Moldova which centers around a split over Russian influence, and a separate piece looks at the meaning of Russia and the EU’s ‘soft power‘ in such areas.  Anders Fogh Rasmussen writes in today’s Moscow Times in praise of a ‘new beginning‘ for NATO’s relations with Russia and expressing hope for more cooperation in peacekeeping operations.  Russia’s warmth towards the West is based on its ‘fear of China‘, says this piece by Richard Lourie.  The text is not yet available online, but an initial presentation suggests that the two key issues discussed in the UN’s 2010 National Human Development Report for Russia are increased life expectancy and considerable progess‘ in poverty reduction.
Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Baikonur space catastrophe: ‘the most horrific (tragedy) in the history of space exploration‘.  Liberal Democrat Deputy Ashot Yegiazaryan has had his immunity lifted by the State Duma in order that a $65 million fraud case against him can proceed.  The Guardian reports on the decline of Samara, vulnerable due to neglect of its wooden architecture (click for images).  
Officials in Syktyvkar are offering tips for locals on how to handle encounters with bears. ‘Speak to the bear in a firm voice.‘ 
PHOTO: Opposition activists from left-wing and liberal groups hold flags and a poster depicting the road sign with a portrait of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow , Russia, Saturday, Oct. 23. 2010. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)