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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – September 20, 2010

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TODAY: Khodorkovsky warns UK coalition against improving relations with Russia; the status of women; extradition quandary for Poland on Chechen separatist; Russia will sell cruise missiles to Syria.  Luzhkov to take time off; speculation about the fate of Moscow mayor continues.  Nashi withdraws Le Monde lawsuit; Medvedev tries his hand at Putin-style photo-op

‘I, as a Russian political prisoner, would very much like Britain to understand the fate of 150 million people, capable and talented, that are searching for their way out of the darkness of totalitarianism into the light of freedom’: Mikhail Khodorkovsky has penned a piece in the Observer urging the British government to seriously consider its relationship with the Kremlin in advance of the first official trip by Foreign Secretary, William Hague, to Russia next month.  The Guardian points out that the coalition contains Tory elements sympathetic to Russia and keen to ease cold relations in pursuit of energy deals.  The Observer’s editorial concludes: ‘Khodorkovsky is no Solzhenitsyn. But the thrust of his argument is sound’.   David J. Kramer in the Washington Post argues that the US is failing to act on human rights abuses in Russia and lays out a six-point plan detailing how Washington can end what he views as its ‘complicity’ in Russian authoritarianism.  RFE/RL reports that 14,000 women die each year from domestic violence in Russia, more than ten times that reported in the US, in a sobering report on the lot of Russian women in the twenty-first century. 


Wanted Chechen separatist Akhmed Zakayev has been freed after his brief arrest in Poland, pending a ruling on his extradition, a move unlikely to please Russian authorities.  The BBC has a profile of the actor-turned-guerrilla.  Will Chechnya take on Tatarstan for the title of Russia’s core Muslim center?  Russia has affirmed that it will honor a 2007 contract to sell anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria, a move which Israel had reportedly attempted to block, claiming reassurances that the weapons are not liable to fall into the hands of terrorists.

Despite absenteeism being one of the major criticisms leveled againstYury Luzhkov in his recent televisual character assassination, theMayor has reportedly retreated to his Austrian chalet for one week ‘tothink’.   ‘The real danger in the Luzhkov scandal is that if such animportant, huge link in the corrupt chain as the city of Moscow istinkered with, the entire state edifice might come tumbling down’ says Alexei Bayer.  Vladimir Frolov concurs in this op-ed that unseating Luzhkov will not be as easy as it looks.  ‘Go Russia is called an “oppositional” movement. Only in Russia could a movement to support the standing president be called “oppositional.”‘  An English translation of the ‘Russia Without Tyranny or Lawlessness’ coalition’s founding agreement can be read on the Other Russia.  Tangled Web examines the Kremlin’s worryingly savvy use of the Internet.  Shaun Walker looks at the ‘quixotic’ output of TV station Russia Today.  Youth group agitator Nashi has reportedly withdrawn its defamation lawsuit against French daily Le Monde due to a lack of ‘constructive dialogue’.  

Evidence that Medvedev has taken a leaf out of Putin’s PR book to, some would say, less effect.  An ode to buckwheat.

PHOTO:Presidents Medvedev and Yanukovych standing by their vintage cars on the Ukrainian-Russian border during the St. Petersburg-Kiev motor rally Friday.  (Andriy Mosienko / AP)