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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – September 14, 2010

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TODAY: UN human rights chiefs chides Russia on activist slayings; Microsoft to institute changes following NY Times allegations; Luzhkov pledges to sue; new ruling reduces pressure for income declarations; law to release ill suspects deemed vague.  Moscow castigates EU for lack of movement on visas; Georgian accusations of Russian war crimes heard in the HaguePutin claims demographic decline in reverse; wild fire victims to monitor rebuilding of homes via webcam

The United Nations’ human rights chief Navi Pillay has launched an attack on Russia for its failure to address attacks on rights workers.  ‘We unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacy or pursue improper personal gain‘:  Microsoft has responded to the New York Times’ reports of complicity in abuses of human rights via its anti-piracy division with a series of major changes to its policy.  Bloomberg has an Inside Track video with Richard Falkenrath on the issue here.  Prominent journalist Olga Romanova has accused departing Federation Council Senator Vladimir Slutsker of being behind the unjust incarceration of her businessman husband: a case of neat timing as the Senator’s immunity from prosecution will disappear with his departure.  Opposition politicians are apparently disappointed with the Duma’s new bill to release gravely ill suspects from pre-trial detention, as it does not specify the illnesses which would justify their release.  Another blow to Medvedev’s apparent transparency objectives: a Finance Ministry order will apparently allow family members of civil servants to dodge filing their income declarations



Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkhov, no stranger to lawsuits, has pledged to sue the TV channels whose recent programs impugned his reputation.  The Other Russia hassome clips along with a translation ofits unfavorable narration.  Ria-Novosti reports that the TV channelshave hit back with claims to have materials at their disposal provingthat the allegedly ‘defamatory’ programs were based on fact.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has cautioned the EU that ‘foot dragging’ on visa relaxation could be deleterious to relations.  Hearings into Georgia’s claims that Russia perpetrated ethnic cleansing in its breakaway regions following 2008’s five-day war at the International Court of Justice in the Hague have begun.  The Kremlin steadfastly maintains that such allegations are fabricated.  David Hearsy in the Guardian examinesa new book by two investigative journalists, Andrei Soldatov and IrinaBorogan, into the murky activities of Putin’s former stomping ground, the FSB(to be published, rather tellingly, in English and outside of Russia).  Anundisclosed source has told Vedemosti that Putin may not headUnited Russia’s electoral list in next year’s parliamentary elections. The title of ‘president’ may be about to become rather more exclusive.

A Bashkortostan official has been fired after a video of his outrage-provoking ‘red Army’ style sports lesson was posted on the internet, in what the Guardian’s Luke Harding calls ‘another victory for Russia’s vigilant and politically active blogosphere’.  Vladimir Putin has gleefully told attendees at a WHO forum that life expectancy has increased, meaning that the average Russian can now look forward to 69 years on earth.  In Volgograd officials have banned the sale of strong liquoruntil the state of emergency is declared over as inhabitants affectedby the wildfires drown their sorrows.  Who needs a house when you’ve got a computer?  Residents of the razed town ofNikolaevka will be able to monitor the re-building of their homes via a webcam.

PHOTO: Lefortovo Prison, a facility in Moscow.  (Igor Tabakov / MT)