TODAY: Luzhkov may have pick of new job if (or rather when) ousted; Moscow gay rally crushed; judges seek protection over badgering; FSB steps up investigations into spying; rights associations complain on checks. Russia intransigent on missile sales to Syria; Kyrgyzstan president to throw spanner in works of US base operations? Hardline Islam gaining ground in central Asia; architecture under threat.
According to today’s reports, an unidentified Kremlin source apparently received Mayor Yury Luzhkov last Friday and informed him that he had one week to resign, and that a new job would be found for him within two to three weeks. The cancellation of a TV show in his defense, ‘Russian Hell’, due to apparent technical glitches, has also been taken as a sign that Luzhkov is becoming more marginalized. Meanwhile police have broken up an unsanctioned gay rally near Moscow’s City Hall, against the notoriously homophobic mayor’s policies, where ten activists were detained. The Moscow Times reports on the case of two St. Petersburg scientists who were arrested in March on spy charges by the Federal Security Service, which rights activists claim are factitious accusations, trumped up by FSB agents who need to provide evidence that the Services are working. Moscow’s top judge, Olga Yegorova, has told reporters that 13 judges have sought police protection this year in an unprecedented spate of harassment complaints. Moscow Memorial, Transparency International-Russia and the Moscow Helsinki Group are among several rights group to issue a statement protesting last week’s impromptu checks of their documentation.
Undeterred by criticisms from the US and Israel, Russia has pledged to complete its delivery of anti-ship missiles to Syria and may even consider selling more. The Defense Ministry reportedly plans to spend $613 billion over the next ten years upgrading the armed forces, which may include the first purchases of US military technology since World War II. Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva has told the US that the country would like to terminate Pentagon contracts to supply fuel to a US airbase, in favor of using a joint Kyrgyz-Russian supplier. NATO officials apparently hope that an upcoming summit between the organization’s leaders and President Dmitry Medvedev will herald increased cooperation on key security issues.
Kalmykia’s first deputy prime minister, Alexei Orlov, has been nominated as the new leader of the Buddhist republic by President Medvedev. The republic’s chess-loving incumbent, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, is the subject of a profile in the Independent. The Moscow Times has an in-depth report on the growth of radical Islam in poverty-ridden central Asian states, notably Tajikistan.
Locals in the town of Samara will attempt to save the city’s hammer and sickle-shaped canteen, a landmark of 1930s Soviet architecture, from demolition. Activists in Moscow are concerned about the construction of an allegedly unapproved building, near the Kremlin, which they say will blemish the panorama of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
PHOTO: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, left, and Chung Mong-koo, chairman of the Hyundai Motor Company, launch Hyundai’s first plant in Russia outside St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The plant will produce a small sedan optimized for the local market and have a capacity of 150,000 cars a year. (Dmitry Lovetsky/AP)