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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 18, 2009

TODAY: Medvedev in Stockholm for EU-Russia summit; Transparency International laments Russia’s rampant bribery; protesters call for Beketov investigation and release of Limonov; tax claim against British Council thrown out; ultranationalist-antifascist tensions flaring; Iran to replace Russia?
Transparency International’s decision to up Russia’s spot in its annual corruption index ‘was based more on Medvedev’s words than his actions‘, and the watchdog pointed out that the anti-corruption drive has failed thus far to halt bribery, which costs Russia an estimated $300 million a year. ‘In the “vertical-power economy” established by Vladimir Putin, bribery accounts for at least 50 percent — and more likely 70 to 80 percent — of GDP,‘ says Yulia Latynina, predicting that Russia’s power vertical structure will not change whilst Putin is alive.  ‘Dozens‘ of protesters met in Moscow yesterday to demand direct government involvement into the investigation of the severe beating of journalist Mikhail Beketov, who had campaigned against the destruction of Khimki Forest. Police have detained protesters who were demanding the release of Other Russia leader Eduard Limonov, serving a ten-day jail sentence for organizing a rally last month.

Dmitry Medvedev is in Stockholm for a summit with European Union leaders to ‘rebuild relations‘ and discuss key issues of trade and energy.  Medvedev’s spokesman says Russia ‘welcomes EU reform‘.  The Federal Tax Service’s $7 million tax claim against the British Council, made following a ‘diplomatic spat‘ last year, has been thrown out by a federal court in Moscow.  Tensions between antifascists and ultranationalists are intensifying in Russia, says the New York Times, with ‘more serious weapons‘ being used in ‘street war‘ attacks, the most recent of which caused the death of Ivan Khutorskoy on Monday.  
Iran has upped its rhetoric against Russia following news of a new delay to the Bushehr plant, with a senior lawmaker accusing it of using Iran as a ‘pawn‘ in its dealings with the US, and ‘once more selling Iran to the Americans at a higher price‘.  These tensions have prompted speculation that Iran is going to replace Russia with Turkey in its role as key partner.   
PHOTO: Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia cries after her last unsuccessful attempt in the women’s pole vault final during the world athletics championships at the Olympic stadium in Berlin August 17, 2009. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch (GERMANY SPORT ATHLETICS)