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    Main News of February 23

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    A roundup of what has happened in the past 24 hours.

    RUSSIA

    *Vladimir Putin’s participation in a mass rally of his political supporters this week marked a significant change of tack for a leader who has in the past worked to keep politics off the streets, made necessary by pressure from his critics, analysts said

    *Head of the St. Petersburg State University is not required to disclose his income because the university was founded by the tsar back in 1724, prosecutors said

    *Two presidential candidates and an independent conservative group held separate rallies in Moscow on Thursday, when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stole the media spotlight by gathering an estimated 130,000 supporters for a presidential campaign event

    *Stability, the lack of an alternative and patriotism were the buzzwords on Thursday afternoon as tens of thousands of supporters of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s bid to secure a third stint in the Kremlin packed a snowy south Moscow stadium

    WORLD

    *Pope Benedict XVI will share his blessings during the 40-day Lenten season via Twitter, the head of Vatican’s social communications office, Claudio Maria Celli said

    *Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan discussed the situation in Syria in a telephone conversation on Thursday, the Kremlin said

    *Seven Afghans have been killed in the clashes between Afghan security forces and protesters, rallying against Quran’s burning by the U.S. soldiers, Afghan Interior Ministry said

    *At least 60 people were killed and over 200 were injured on Thursday in series of blasts that ripped through areas near to Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Al Arabiya reported citing security officials

    *Ukraine will be fine and authorities will find a way out of the situation if Russian gas export giant Gazprom stops gas transits via Ukraine, the country’s prime minister said

    SPORT

    *Olympic bronze medalist Elana Meyers is among a host of international bobsled and skeleton atheletes who will test the Sochi Olympic run in Russia, Russian national luge and bobsled coach Oleg Sokolov told RIA Novosti

    *French Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyon have rejected a 5 million euro bid from Russia’s Rubin Kazan for midfield playmaker Kim Kallstrom as insufficient, Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas said

    *European figure skating champion Evgeny Plushenko feels good after an operation on his knee in Germany, he said

    *Russia's first Formula One race will be as great a milestone for the sport as Hungary's first Grand Prix in 1986, four-time F1 champion Alain Prost said

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