RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 8, 2012

John Kerry and  Sergei Lavrov  in MoscowTODAY: Russia and U.S. put differences aside to discuss Syria; agree on calling international conference on the problem state; Kerry meets rights activists; three more added to foreign agent list. Putin attacks cabinet performance; corruption looms over Russia’s economy; Alexander Lebedev granted London visit; prison break.

Following talks during which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asserted ‘significant common interests’ between Russia and the United States, the two sides have agreed to call an international conference aimed at ending the civil war in Syria. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed contentment at the wholehearted effort on the American side to develop our relations in economics, political dialogue and international cooperation’.  Meanwhile ‘productive’ security talks were held between FBI Director Robert Mueller and Russian counterparts in Moscow.  ‘Experts say the atmosphere is a bit more favorable for US-Russia detente today than a few months ago’.  Kerry also met with leading Russian human rights activists, among them Helsinki Group chief Lyudmila Alekseyeva, to discuss the crackdown on rights movements. It has been reported that three more NGOs have been branded foreign agents: the Moscow School of Political Studies, the Urals human rights group and the Public Verdict human rights foundation.

At a meeting with the cabinet President Putin has lambasted ministers for their failure to carry out landmark reforms such as development in the Far East and assisting regional leaders.  Prime Minister Medvedev’s anti-graft drive has certainly fallen by the way side.  ‘Corruption, which Putin now officially battles, announcing the arrest of a corrupt official at least every week, is deeply corrosive – and few seem to believe the anti-corruption campaign to be genuine’.  Business ombudsman Boris Titov will submit a request to free more than 100,000 entrepreneurs serving prison sentences for white-collar crimes to the State Duma next week.  Meanwhile galloping inflation has the attention of the Finance Ministry.  Tycoon Alexander Lebedev has been granted a trip to London in the middle of his trial for hooliganism (the result of punching property magnate Sergei Polonsky live on TV) which could land him five years in jail.

Telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor has once more placed a Russian-language Wikipedia article on cannabis smoking on its blacklist of prohibited websites.  Russian oil major Rosneft and gas producer Itera are discussing a possible purchase of Armenia’s largest petrochemical plant and chloropene rubber maker Nairit.

What can you do with a spoon, a blanket and a rope?  Escape from one of Russia’s most famous detention centers, apparently.

PHOTO: U.S. secretary of state John Kerry speaks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov at a joint press conference in Moscow. (Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA)