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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – September 21, 2010

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TODAY: Deaths in detention reach hundreds; step forward for media freedom with damages ruling; Nikolai Alekseyev speaks out on abduction; Baturina puts the blame for anti-Luzhkov campaign on 2012 election. Pentagon takes issue with missile sale to Syria; ersatz arms; flipping police cars

The cases of Sergei Magnitsky and Vera Trifonova may be among the best known, but according to findings by the State Duma Committee on Legislation, over 200 seriously ill persons, either on trial or awaiting a verdict, died in Russia’s pretrial detention facilities in 2009.  The Supreme Court has ruled that courts should not award vast sums in compensation in libel suits against the media, which are of a regular occurrence in Russia (see here for today’s example) as this practice can be too often exploited to stifle freedom of expression.  The New York Times examines the culmination of acts of intimidation perpetrated against gay rights advocate Nikolai Alekseyev: his recent two-day abduction by the authorities.


Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov’s wife, Yelena Baturina, has lambasted the campaign against her husband as the work of pro-Medvedev forces who fear a lack of mayoral support in the 2012 elections.  Apparently certain senior officials have affirmed that Moscow’s most famous cap-wearer will be ousted, but the Kremlin would prefer it if the mayor would leave willingly.  It would seem that Luzhkov still has some allies: channel TV-Center apparently refused to broadcast the Cap Affair, with host Andrei Karaulov, describing the NTV documentary as featuring ‘the biggest lies I have ever come across to in my life’.  Vladimir Ryzhkov of the new opposition coalition has written an op-ed in the Moscow Times addressing the six major flaws in contemporary Russian politics.

Apparently Israel is not the only country perturbed by Russia selling missiles to Syria: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has voiced concern that the move could ‘further destabilize’ the volatile region.  Perhaps Syria could try the inflatable approach to armaments, which, according to the Moscow Times, does a roaring trade in Russia.  ‘Illogical’ is how the speaker of Russia’s upper house has branded Poland’s temporizing over the extradition of Chechen separatist leader Akhmed Zakayev. 

The Guardian reports on the fight to save one of botanist Nikolai Vavilov’s seed banks, the Pavlovsk Research Station, a living encyclopedia of plant life, from developers wanting to build dachas.   Could Twitter soon enjoy a Russian-language service?  St Petersburg Art group Voina, responsible for several eye-catching art stunts, have apparently begun turning over police cars in a critique of corruption.

PHOTO: Nikolai Alexeyev said that security officials had detained and pressured him to withdraw a case from the European Court of Human Rights.  (AFP)