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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Oct 27, 2010

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TODAY: Transparency International says Russian corruption worse than last year; Gorbachev speaks against government; Sobyanin appoints new team; Russia to return to Afghanistan?  Census results show disparities; Putin on Solzhenitsyn; rights advocates to monitor this weekend’s Strategy 31 protest; hungry bears.
Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index lists Russia as 154th out of 178 countries, making it the worst of the G20 nations and ‘the most corrupt major economy‘; its rating is lower this year than it was in 2009 (click for full results).  Yelena Panfilova called Russian corruption ‘a situation of national shame.  How can a country claiming to be a world leader be in such a position?‘  The report draws attention to one of the biggest problems facing economic development in the country, says the Washington Post.  ‘Some people like to put all the blame on me for destroying the Soviet Union, but that is not true.‘ Mikhail Gorbachev has spoken to the BBC about Boris Yeltsin and Afghanistan, and criticizes the current Russian leadership and the problems faced by democracy in Russia, putting particular emphasis on the lack of democratic elections for regional governors.  Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin’s newly appointed government kept many of Yury Luzkhov’s previous officials, although analysts anticipate that they will all be gradually replaced.  The Moscow Times has details of the new appointments and individual roles.

Russia comes in from the cold, again‘: just what has the country done to deserve its current warm reception in Europe?, wonders Simon Tisdall.  Next month’s NATO summit could see the Russian military moving back into Afghanistan, says the Guardian, although officials insist that this is out of the question: ‘Russians may get involved in training helicopter pilots if they provide some helicopters, but not in Afghanistan itself.‘  There is some discrepancy between VTsIOM poll results and the official line on residents’ willingness to participate in the census in St Petersburg and Moscow, amid ‘numerous [reported] incidents of manipulated data‘.  Yulia Latynina slams the government for lack of accountability over this summer’s wildfires.  Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says that Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s ‘The Gulag Archipelago‘, required reading for Russian high school students, is essential to help them gain ‘a full understanding of our country‘.  
Five activists have been arrested for protesting the construction of a Moscow hotel.  Could 10,000 people take part in an ultranationalist Slavic Union march, sanctioned by Moscow authorities for November 4th?  Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Presidential Human Rights Council, says that Strategy 31 protesters should  be allowed to gather, and intends to monitor this month’s gathering.  The Council Of Europe Human Rights Commissioner will also be watching the gathering, which he called ‘a test for the effectiveness in practice of the right to peaceful assembly‘.  The group says it has, for the most part, accepted the government’s conditions for the march, which included limiting the number of protesters allowed.  Rights group Memorial is appealing for help for Dagestani journalist Zarema Gasanova, who has received death threats after hosting a television show about police torture. 
Alexey Kovalev remembers Moscow in the 1990s: ‘a pretty grim time.‘  Hungry bears in Vezhnya Tchova are seeking sustenance in graveyards these days, says The Guardian
PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev drives a Kamaz truck that will be used by Russia team in rally Paris-Dakar, in Naberezhnye Chelny some 687 miles southeast of Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Vladimir Rodionov, Presidential Press Service, Pool)