RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 11, 2008

blast041108.jpgTODAY: Russia promises a response if Ukraine and Georgia enter NATO, helps Mongolia go nuclear, making deals on grain, Kosovo is worries about Ban Ki-Moon, and a major court decision limited property seizures. The Russian Army’s chief of staff Yuri Baluyevsky said on Friday that the country “will take steps aimed at ensuring its interests along its borders … These will not only be military steps, but also steps of a different nature,” if Ukraine and Georgia are allowed to join NATO. Baluyevsky’s comments follow upon similar statements from Sergei Lavrov and Vladimir Putin, who have promised to aim Russia’s missiles at the Ukraine if NATO military installations were ever built there. On the same day, the head of Russia’s Air Force announced an overhaul to boost the country’s air defenses.

Today President Putin met with Mongolian Prime Sanj Bayar, announcing a series of agreements between the two countries, including investment, cooperation in uranium production, and Russia’s assistance helping Mongolia built a small- to mid-sized nuclear power plant. “Work in this direction could be started right now. There is such a demand,” Sergei Kiriyenko said after Russian-Mongolian intergovernmental talks.Despite Russia’s rapidly increasing prices for basic food staples, the Agricultural Ministry has announced a new plan to vastly increase grain production for export to become one of the world’s leading suppliers over the next decade. Meanwhile, the Financial Times is reporting today that nations are increasingly making secret deals for grain: “Analysts say that while bilateral agreements could help secure supplies, prices are likely to be at market prices rather than discount levels. Diplomats say Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have been particularly involved in striking bilateral agreements as a way to expand their market share.“Following UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s three day visit to Moscow, capped off by Russia’s promises of increased funding to the organization, envoys are fearing that Russia may be able to convince Moon to leave Kosovo in a temporary status. The Times reportsThe Secretary-General has appeared almost apologetic since arriving in Moscow on Wednesday, acknowledging the hosts’ annoyance at the length of time it has taken for his first visit. Describing the Foreign Minister as “my dear colleague”, he said that he was “always grateful for the strong support and co-operation” of Russia in the work of the UN. He added: “I also hope that Russia can do more. This is what I have expressed to the Russian leadership.”“The Wall Street Journal reports on an important decision from Russia’s Supreme Arbitration Court, striking down one of the main legal provisions used by the tax authorities in nationalization cases. This law had previously been used in some of Russia’s most egregious cases against companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Yukos, and Russneft. The Journal writes, “the civil-court decision may be one of the first concrete indications incoming President Dmitry Medvedev’s rhetoric about strengthening the rule of law and easing government pressure on business could yield real improvements.PHOTO: Russia’s Chief of Staff Yuri Baluyevsky is seen in Moscow in this December 15, 2007 file photo. Russia will take military and other steps along its borders if ex-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia join NATO, Russian news agencies quoted Baluyevsky as saying on Friday. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Files