RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – September 13, 2010


TODAY: Microsoft allegedly colludes in police raids on human rights groups, says New York Times; pressure mounting on Luzhkov as TV campaign points to corruption and negligence; protesters detained at City Hall demonstration. Medvedev defends Russian ‘democracy’ a la Putin; Mitvol takes on Nashi over brothel accusations; Gorky Park to have Russian makeover

A lengthy feature by Clifford J Levy in the New York Times alleges that software colossus Microsoft is complicit in crackdowns upon dissident groups, which the police purport, with the company’s approval, to be anti-piracy raids.  Lake Baikal ecological group, Baikal Environmental Wave, is the latest organizaton to have its research seized.  Microsoft, the article suggests, has even applied itself for investigations to be held into particular human rights activists on the basis of piracy concerns.  In a separate set of allegations, anti-corruption group Transparency International argues that the company has employed lawyers who have been implicated in unrelated corruption scandals.  For Microsoft’s statement in response to the allegations, see the New York Times.  A bribery investigation led by German and US authorities into a Hewlett Packard government contract in Russia, in which the company’s employees are alleged to have given improper payments to officials to stimulate business growth, is currently expanding, Reuters reports.

President Medvedev has apparently rebuffed Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkhov’s derogatory comments about Russian society being ‘difficult’ at the Yaroslavl forum, as a rift between the President and the capital’s veteran leader widens.  ‘Medvedev will become the nation’s laughingstock if he does not throw Luzhkov out after such impudent behavior’ is Boris Nemtsov’s verdict on the dispute, which has been brewing since disagreements over the Khimki highway.  Luzhkov found himself the subject of a less than flattering state-sponsored documentary, aired on Friday night, entitled ‘The Cap Affair’, a nod at the septegenerian’s sartorial leitmotif, which accused him of embezzling funds and securing lucrative property contracts for his wife, Yelena Baturina.  Why did Moscow choke while the mayor rescued his bees?” was the question posed by Channel One’s evening news yesterday, which also featured searing criticism of the mayor.  Around 30 people were detained by riot police at a swiftly quashed rally against City Hall in Moscow yesterday.

‘I categorically disagree with those who say that Russia isn’t a democracy and that authoritarian tendencies reign […] There’s democracy in Russia, albeit young, immature, incomplete and inexperienced’, Medvedev told attendees of the Yaroslavl forum, in what this article views as a show of solidarity with the Putin regime.  Did Medvedev miss the opportunity to prove ‘he’s still the president’?   Meanwhile the Prime Minister asked Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi if technological advances could see the pair retain their posts as PM until they were 120 years old (a joke, apparently).  According to the Moscow Times, Medvedev cited a lack of ‘prosperity’ as the principle reason for resistance to democratic reforms in times past.  The blogging leader also asserted his fondness for internet-based news sources, which, this article points out, can only be accessed by a quarter of Russia’s population.

A policeman who was filmed using excessive force against a protester during a rally in St Petersburg has been charged.  Nashi-clashing deputy Oleg Mitvol has decided to open a criminal investigation into the youth movement’s spokeswoman, Kristina Potupchik, who accused the deputy of protecting brothels.  For the latest installment in the chess presidency wars, see RFE/RL on the FIDE elections: Kirsan vs Karpov.   Compensation payments have begun trickling in for residents of the fire-ravaged Altai Territory; apparently all the conflagrations in the region have now been extinguished.  Moscow’s aging Gorky Park can look forward to a ‘patriotic’ refurb.  A Russian civic organization is attempting to secure UNESCO World Heritage status, which St Petersburg already enjoys, for Moscow, to prevent urban developments from tarnishing the city’s architectural integrity.  George P. Shultz, Madeleine K. Albright, Gary Hart and Chuck Hagel argue the case for START in the Washington Post.

PHOTO: Police officers detaining protesters in Moscow on Sunday during an unauthorized protest against Mayor Yury Luzhkov, September 12, 2010.  (Ivan Sekretarev / AP)