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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Oct 28, 2010

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TODAY: 35,000 cases of corruption uncovered this year; Russia demands that NATO limit troops in new member states; Sobyanin begins dismissing officials; Sochi activist badly beaten; environmental protests on the horizon; Kasparov on the opposition coalition; film director’s manifesto. Deal for Azerbaijan and Armenia, police reforms, Khodorkovsky closing speech.
According to the Interior Ministry, bribe-taking has increased, and police have uncovered 35,000 cases of corruption thus far this year, some of which involve governors and other regional ministers.  The new Organization of Public Control says it will create a system of public control, relying on the help of ordinary citizens, to counter the corruption problem.  The draft agreement that Russia has passed to NATO demands that the alliance put limitations on the number of troops posted in certain new member states, including Poland and the Czech Republic; but the alliance doesn’t seem keen to grant them.  Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has given no reason for the firing of Viktor Damurchiyev, as journalists place bets on whose head will be the next to roll.  Two separate articles in The Guardian today applaud Mikhail Gorbachev; one for focusing so publicly on Russia’s lack of political competition, the other for his position on Afghanistan.

A human rights activist focused on corruption in Sochi’s village of Lazarevskoe has been beaten ‘nearly to death‘ by attackers.  A group of Irkutsk’s environmentalists are planning to hold a demonstration next month to draw attention to the battles to save the Khimki and Utrish Forests, and Lake Baikal.  The Kremlin ‘probably sees authorising what are frankly pretty tame and small-scale demonstrations as a safety valve that allows Russian society to let off steam,‘ says the Telegraph.  The Other Russia is running a Garry Kasparov article from earlier this month on why Solidarity is not likely to join Russia’s newest opposition coalition: ‘It was already clear in 2007 that official participation in political life in Russia was only possible with the Kremlin’s consent.‘  Russia’s Oscar-winning film director, Nikita Mikhalkov, has released a political manifesto that many view as an attack on President Dmitry Medvedev. 
President Dmitry Medvedev has successfully brokered a deal between Azerbaijan and Armenia involving a prisoner swap, anticipating that the discussion could help pave the way for peace in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh.  Medvedev has submitted his draft law on police reforms to the State Duma, following a series of amendments based on public discussion, and it is thought that it will come into force in March 2011.  Maxim Glikin looks at the ambiguities of the charges against Mikhail Khodorkovsky (the defendant’s three-hour closing speech called the charges ‘utter rubbish‘).
The Telegraph paints a romantic picture of the completed restoration of the HMS Belfast: ‘a poignant moment of fellowship on the waters of the Thames‘. 
PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (C) meets Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliev (L) and Armenian President Serge Sarkisian (R) in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan. (AFP/POOL/Vladimir Rodionov)