RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 8, 2008

blast040808.jpgToday: The race for global position technology, Sergei Storchak emerges in court, Russia sends the first Korean to space, dividing the Ukraine, a question about missiles, and a wave of hate crimes. Today the Financial Times reports that a new three way space race between the European Union, Russia, and the United States is “taking off” as competitors to the GPS, Glonass and Galileo, made separate announcements to speed up their projects. The Russian system, built by the state-owned company OAO Information Satellite Systems, plans to launch 18 satellites for domestic coverage this year, and 24 satellites for global coverage next year. The former Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, who has been held in prison under pre-trial detention under embezzlement charges since November, appeared in court today to hear that his ruling will be delayed until July. “We will definitely appeal today’s decision,’ Storchak’s lawyer, Marina Nikolskaya, told Reuters. “The prosecution did not put forward a single argument in favour of keeping Storchak behind bars.” The investigator leading the Storchak probe is himself under investigation.

South Korea celebrated yesterday as Yi So-yeon, the country’s first astronaut, was launched into space on a Russian operated Soyuz TMA-12 from Kazakhstan. So-yeon was not originally planned to be on the voyage, but rather replaced another Korean astronaut that the Russians had accused of espionage.There were more problems for the Ukraine-Russia relationship today as the Moscow Times reports that President Vladimir Putin “lost his temper” during the NATO Summit, and privately told President Bush that “Ukraine is not even a state!” and threatened to encourage the secession of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, where anti-NATO and pro-Moscow sentiment is strong. Meanwhile the Pro-MAP faction within NATO advanced, bringing cautious optimism to both Georgia and Ukraine regarding succession.Following the friendly U.S.-Russia summit at Sochi, President Putin has demanded unlimited and permanent access to the proposed missile shield sites in Poland and the Czech Republic. Polish missile negotiator Witold Waszczykowski said after talks with Russian diplomats in Moscow that “the installation could be accessible to visitors or inspectors, but we don’t think there is any need for a permanent presence of Russian inspectors there. In addition to that, we have to establish a sort of mutual regime. Polish inspectors have to have the right to inspect some Russian installations.“A new wave of hate crimes targeting non-Slavic people in Russia is being blamed on growing racism. The Washington Post reports that “The killing of Shirinbekov, which remains under investigation, is part of a wave of racially motivated murders in Moscow that has put the city’s migrant communities on edge, particularly people from Central Asia, according to human rights groups. Easily singled out because of their non-Slavic appearance, Central Asian workers have borne the brunt of the attacks by skinheads and neo-Nazis.Photo: Russia’s Soyuz TMA-12 spacecraft is installed on its launch pad in Baikonur on April 6. South Korea’s first astronaut Yi So-Yeon was in buoyant mood as she prepared to blast off to the International Space Station in a historic debut for her Asian homeland. (AFP/File/Alexander Nemenov)