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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Sept 2, 2010

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TODAY: Moscow Governor corrals pro-Khimki highway residents; activists’ website under attack; lawyer launches campaign for imprisoned mother of four; US comments on Strategy 31 arrests; Medvedev in Azerbajan; Lukashenko blames Moscow for embassy attack; spy arrests, football racism.
Moscow Governor Boris Gromov wants Russian leaders to take into account the letters of 20,000 Khimki residents who say that they support the construction of the highway through the Khimki forest.  The Khimki Forest Defenders’ website has been attacked by hackers, possibly in connection with ‘material about Gromov‘.  Boris Kagarlitsky calls President Dmitry Medvedev’s intervention on the issue ‘the biggest political news of the past five years […] a public slap in the face by the government to its own over-eager employees.‘  A former lawyer on the Yukos case has begun a campaign over the imprisonment of a woman found guilty of embezzlement, due to the fact that she has four young children and so could have had her sentence waived (as it was for United Russia consultant Anna Shavenkova).  The US has commented on the Moscow arrests during Tuesday’s Strategy 31 protests, emphasizing ‘the importance of embracing and protecting universal values, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly enshrined in the Russian Constitution.‘  The global Strategy 31 protests attracted many well-known Russian faces in London (Boris Berezovsky, Yevgeny Chichvarkin, Marina Litvinenko) and New York (Pavel Khodorkovsky).

Georgia says that Foreign Ministry advice to Russian citizens to avoid Georgia, warning them that they could be prosecuted for visiting breakaway states, or merely for being in Georgia at all, is part of an ‘anti-Georgia campaign‘.  Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko blames Moscow’s ‘thugs and scoundrels‘ for the recent attack on the Russian Embassy in Minsk.  The Moscow Times reports on the various and thorny issues facing Medvedev ahead of his visit to Azerbaijan, including Russia’s recent military base deal with Armenia.  ‘Russia is too unpredictable a country for the leaders of other former Soviet republics to be certain that its leadership will not try to use a partnership agreement to apply additional pressure on them.‘ 
More spy stories: on Yuri Ivanov, the spy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach in a ‘swimming accident‘ (this version is being questioned by the Russian media, says the Guardian), and Harald Sodnikar, charged in Austria on suspicion of spying for Russia.  The man in charge of Russia’s 2018 World Cup bid has defended Russia’s ability to deal with racism in football, and denies accusations that a recent, widely publicized banana poster had racist implications. 
PHOTO: People mourn at School No. 1 in Beslan, Russia, during a ceremony marking the anniversary of the 2004 hostage crisis in which Chechen separatists seized about 1,000 people. In the end, 333 died. (Kazbek Basayev Photo / Washington Post)