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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1612

Edited by Ilan Berman
January 8, 2009

December 14:

Four months after its conflict with Georgia, Russia is still contesting parts of the territory of its neighbor.
Pakistan's Daily Times reports that Russian troops have reentered the disputed village of Perevi, near the breakaway region of South Ossetia, just a day after withdrawing from the area. According to Georgian authorities, some 500 to 600 Russian soldiers are now stationed in the village, located on the Georgian side of the de facto border between Georgia and South Ossetia.

Russian police have prevented controversial writer Eduard Limonov and other members of his opposition party "The Other Russia" from protesting in Moscow.
The Associated Press reports that Limonov and some fifteen other activists from the anti-Kremlin party were detained when authorities broke up the group's planned demonstration in central Moscow.

[Editor's Note: "The Other Russia," founded by Limonov and former chess champion Gary Kasparov back in 2006, is a broad umbrella group that unites both liberal and far right opponents of the Russian government. Other prominent members of the group include political scientist Yevgenia Albats, Andrei Illiaronov, head of the Institute for Economic Analyses, journalist Yulia Latynina and Duma deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov -
all of whom took part in the organization's inaugural congress.

December 16:

The Russian government is planning to bail out 1,500 or more firms as part of its efforts to mitigate the effects of the global credit crisis,
reports the Moscow Times. Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin has declared that the Kremlin's planned economic stimulus package - now valued at some $200 billion - should encompass assistance to "no fewer than 1,500 Russian companies."

Russia's Kremlin-dominated television scene may soon have some competition - from Mickey Mouse.
The Agence France Presse reports
that the Walt Disney Company has announced plans for a joint venture with Media-One Holdings to launch a family television channel in Russia in 2009. The planned channel, which will be Disney-branded, will feature family-friendly programming on thirty stations throughout the Russian Federation. Media-One Holdings, the majority partner in the venture, already owns 86 regional radio and television channels in Russia.

December 17:

The Russian government could soon wield the power to label critics of official policy a "traitor" and subject them to criminal prosecution. A new bill proposed by prime minister Vladimir Putin would expand the existing definition of treason under Russian law to include any statements or actions that damage "Russia's constitutional order, sovereignty or territorial integrity,"
MSNBC reports. Such a broad definition, critics say, would allow the Kremlin to prosecute virtually any organization or individual who publicly opposes its policies and decisions. Human rights activists have decried the new measure, calling it "legislation in the spirit of Stalin and Hitler."