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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Sept 10, 2010

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TODAY: Vladikavkaz death toll reaches 17, three suspects arrested; wildfires continue to spread in Altai and Novosibirsk, latter region gets new leader; alternative Khimki route ‘too expensive’; smoking and AIDS; modernization is about preserving the current system, commentators say. 
The death toll of yesterday’s Vladikavkaz suicide bombing has reached 17.  Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that the attackers were people ‘without a soul, without a heart‘, as President Dmitry Medvedev vowed to ‘catch the monsters, the scum‘ (three suspects have already been detained, reports say).  The BBC and RFE/RL have video footage of the blast.  The latter quotes Putin as saying ‘I know what Muslims think of these extremists. We feel their support, especially in the North Caucasus region, and we see it‘, and is also running a report on ‘insurgency websites‘ that suggest ‘local civilian support‘ for terrorist activities.  US President Obama was quick to condemn the blast.  Firefighters are still battling blazes in Altai and Novosibirsk as strong winds help the fires to spread.  Officials and construction companies affiliated with the Khimki forest highway say that the alternative routes proposed are too expensive.

Reassurance should not be a factor in NATO-Russia relations.‘  The ‘corruption-tainted‘ leader of Novosibirsk has been replaced by Viktor Tolokonsky, a recent United Russia recruit, ‘whose popularity [the party] is banking on to attract votes in October elections‘.  The tackling of AIDS should be a higher priority for Russia, says NPR, due to the links with falling population figures and the illegal drug market in Afghanistan.  On Russia’s upward smoking trend.  
Analysis from The Economist on the Valdai discussion club and, in particular, Vladimir Putin’s dismissal of concerns about the lack of economic diversification and innovation: ‘The overriding purpose of modernisation is not to change the political set-up or overhaul state institutions, but to refine and preserve the system and justify the central role of the state.‘ The sentiment is echoed by today’s Guardian editorial. ‘What interest would they have in changing a system on which they thrive? The modernisation of which they speak is about means, not ends.‘ 
PHOTO: A man sits amid the ruins of his burnt house after the spread of a forest fire from Kazakhstan, at the village of Nikolayevka in Russia’s Altai region September 9, 2010. REUTERS/Andrei Kasprishin