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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – September 17, 2010

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TODAY: Opposition coalition lays out plans for 2012 bid; Putin domain name indicating he will run for President? Case into mysterious death of journalist re-opened; gay activist detained. Senate Foreign Relations Committee says yes to START; Zakayev arrested in Poland. Public Chamber contemplates Khimki highway; Kalymkian President has another off-the-wall idea

The prospect of having the great Putin till the year 2024 in our country is a disaster for Russia’: the words of Boris Nemtsov at yesterday’s press conference inaugurating the new opposition coalition, ‘Russia Without Tyranny or Lawlessness’.  Shaun Walker in the Independent hints at the fact that soldering Russia’s dissenting forces may not be as easy as it looks: Garry Kasparov for example was notable by his absence.  Not to mention the problems posed by the powers that be: the conference had a last-minute venue change which organizers believed to be a government attempt to disrupt proceedings.  The New York Times reports that a government agency has registered the web address Putin-2012.rf, which reporters have taken as a sign that the current Prime Minister will be making a bid for the presidency in two years time.  Whilst talk of a fissure in United Russia over Mayor Luzkhov rumbles on, A Just Russia deputy Gennady Gudkov has decided to create a cross-party modernization movement called ‘Go Russia’, after President Medvedev’s landmark speech.  Under the patronage of Mikhail Gorbachev’s foundation a new political alliance, called Civil Dialogue, has been established.


Investigators have reopened an inquiry into the suspicious 2003 death of Novaya Gazeta journalist Yury Shchekochikhin; colleagues at the newspaper believe the deceased’s interest in uncovering corruption may have made him a target for murder.  Prison doctors who were investigated for their role in the death ofHermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in pre-trial detention have been cleared, much tothe disappointment of rights activists.  An unusual volte-face from the authorities on the harsh sentencing of opposition protestor Andrei Pivovarov.  Gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev has apparently been mysteriously detained by police at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport in what was an alleged attempt to coerce him into scaling down his high-profile gay rights actions.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has voted 14-4 to approve the new START treaty; the accord will now face the Senate proper.  The news comes amid positive reports back from the meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, though no progress was made on prickly issues such as Georgia and US missile defense in Europe.  Kyrgyzstan may drive a hard bargain for its continual hosting of Russian military facilities.   Polish police have, as promised, arrested exiled Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev. 

The Public Chamber has held hearings to collect opinions from experts and environmentaliststo determine whether to give the go-ahead to the Khimki forest-razing $8 billion Moscow-St.Petersburg highway. Apparently the verdict was ‘inconclusive’.  The Telegraph reports that another zealously patriotic history textbook has angered historians.  Kalmykia’s fabulously wealthy, allegedly alien-visiting leader Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has proposed to buy Ground Zero for $10 million and build a chess center.

PHOTO:  From left, Russian opposition leaders, Mikhail Kasyanov, Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Milov seen at a news conference in Moscow, September. 16, 2010.  (Sergey Ponomarev, AP)