TODAY: The Merchant of Death, Russia pressures the UN on Kosovo, problems with Poland, nationalizing the airport, Moscow Mayor looks to climb, and a look at Putin’s PM power play. Reputedly one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers, the Russian citizen Viktor Bout, has appealed directly to Moscow for help from his jail cell in Thailand. “I, Viktor Bout, call on the government of Russian Federation as a Russian citizen, and ask them to take measures for my liberation, as I am jailed under fabricated charges,” he said. The state news agency also reports that Bout’s brother is claiming that U.S. officials tried to extradite him to the United States without the move being sanctioned by a court. Bout’s extradition hearings will take about 60 days, but the Russians insist that they never ordered his capture in the first place.
During UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s first visit to Moscow, he was pressured by Putin and Medvedev on Kosovo, met with Patriarch Alexey II of the Orthodox Church, and was promised increased payments from Moscow. Moon said that “a return to status-quo in Kosovo is impossible.“Russian officials have been incensed by statements made by Polish President Lech Kaczynski regarding NATO enlargement and Poland’s blocking of EU-Russia negotiations. Yesterday Kaczynski gave an interview to Reuters saying that he would hesitate to lift his veto on EU-Russia talks until big EU powers agree to put Georgia and Ukraine on a clear path to join NATO. In response to the outrage from Moscow, the president is now denying what he stated in the interview. “If Poland wants to make the European Union a hostage of NATO, this is a step in the right direction,” a source at Russia’s foreign ministry said.The Moscow Times is running a report about the Domodedovo Airport, which “has for years fought a bitter struggle for control, court cases, rate hikes and even attempts to renationalize it.” The Federal Property Management Agency, which is ignominiously known for its unlawful seizure of a St. Petersburg University on safety technicalities, is fighting the private company East Line in court to gain control of the valuable real estate. With regard to the latest cases to take over new buildings, East Line says “If this decision is used as a precedent, then it opens the way for corruption and a redefinition of private property.“Moscow’s populist Mayor Yury Luzhkov, 71-years-old, is rumored to leave City Hall this summer to take on a high ranking position within the Kremlin. Meanwhile a Russian man is facing life in jail for poisoning his family’s dinner “for fun.”Next month when Putin takes over as Prime Minister, many expect the bulk of executive power to swing away from the presidency to the premiership. The first indication of this power shift is now occurring as the state may take over control of the appointment of regional envoys. Russian newspaper Vedomosti cited unidentified officials in United Russia, the pro-Kremlin party that dominates parliament, and one ministry as saying that the envoy’s role should now be economic and that they should answer to the government.Photo: People pass a currency exchange sign in central Moscow April 10, 2008. The U.S. dollar exchange rate has been falling in Russia, making people look for alternative savings and investments. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev (RUSSIA)