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Opposition Parties Banned From Election, French Warship Sale Angers Georgia

A French Navy Mistral amphibious assault ship docks on the Neva River in central St. Petersburg, 23 Nov 2009

A French Navy Mistral amphibious assault ship docks on the Neva River in central St. Petersburg, 23 Nov 2009

Opposition Parties Barred From Sverdlovsk Elections
The Sverdlovsk regional election committee has rejected applications by the non-parliamentary opposition parties Yabloko and A Just Cause (SD) to run in regional duma elections on March 14. Committee head Vladimir Mostavshchikov told RFE/RL that of the 5,473 signatures submitted with Yabloko’s application, 3,035 were “unauthentic” or “invalid.” In an earlier ruling, 80 percent of SD’s signatures were similarly invalidated. Regional Yabloko leader Maksim Petlin is convinced the election committee received orders from above and says Yabloko is prepared to challenge the decision in court. SD has refused to participate in the elections, since “Unexpectedly practically all sponsors (both from the region and from other regions) who had promised to support SD refused to finance the campaign,” regional party head Konstantin Kiselev told RFE/RL.
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France's Proposed Mistral Sale Irks Georgia
France has provisionally agreed to sell a “Mistral” class helicopter carrier to the Russian Navy and is considering selling an additional three similar ships to Russia. The deal, the first of its kind with a NATO member, has aroused concern with several of Russia’s neighbors, including Georgia. “… this ship has a completely different philosophy for conducting military action at sea which…Russian sailors will get to know,” military specialist Aleksandr Golts told RFE/RL. A Georgian military expert has said that the new vessel will change the balance of power in the Black Sea, claiming, “There wasn’t a single meeting of the president, parliamentary representatives or high ranking foreign ministry officials with French, U.S. and representatives of other NATO member states at which Tbilisi did not express its concern about Paris’s plans to sell such a threatening weapon to Russia.”
[read in Russian]

United Russia Faces Continuing Dissent, Fall-Out

In the wake of Kremlin unrest following Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov’s televised criticism of the government’s economic policies, political analyst Dmitri Oreshkin assesses growing disfavor of United Russia among Russia’s political elite. Oreshkin tells RFE/RL that Putin and United Russia are in a no-win position because the financial crisis has caused a protracted economic depresssion and public spending must be curtailed; however, given current social tensions in the country, the United Russia government is not prepared to take such unpopular measures. “Against this background, they are beginning to run from responsibility, although someone has to take responsibility for the crisis…. It would be logical for Putin (as prime minister) and United Russia (as the ruling party) to take the blame for the crisis. Naturally, neither Putin nor United Russia likes this idea.”
[read in Russian]