TODAY: Russia-EU talks mandate: still no agreement; A Just Russia to hold annual congress; “PR battle” relations with Georgia worsen; the demographic trend of depopulation. Also: Japan, Iran, Prokhorov, Ukraine. Talks in Brussels have failed to reach an agreement on a mandate for partnership talks between Russia and the EU, although diplomats are hopeful that a decision will be reached by the end of May. The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg, will meet with Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev today. This comment piece implies that Medvedev’s presidency and Putin’s premiership will be a change of roles that will allow things to remain the same. “Medvedev is to keep the throne warm for his master.” A Just Russia will hold its third annual congress today, and is expected to “expel thousands of members who were not aware that they were members”.
Following Russia’s commitment to boost ties with breakaway regions, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has warned that “the normal international diplomatic process has been put under a very serious threat“. The UN Security Council has failed to reach a decision over the shooting down of a Georgian spy plane. One journalist sees the dispute as a “PR battle”. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko expects to visit Russia in late May. Talks between Japan and Russia this weekend will likely focus on G8 preparations and “establishing personal relations”. Russia and Iran have signed a memorandum on mutual understanding for cultural matters.The Times today focuses on Mikhail Prokhorov’s plans to redefine the word Snob. “It’s what you would call a self-made man – somebody who has not inherited their wealth but achieved it for themselves and gained a right to be snobby.”“Russia’s brutally high levels of mortality, along with anemic fertility levels, fashion a second “exceptional” demographic trend for the country: depopulation.”Russia will celebrate Easter this Sunday. One article comments on the re-establishment of Orthodox traditions in the country. City Hall will not permit a gay pride parade in Moscow next month.PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, tennis player Yelena Dementyeva and First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, right, seen at a ceremony marking the 85th anniversary of the famed Russian sports club CSKA in Moscow, Thursday, April 24, 2008. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)