RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 9, 2008

blast040908.jpgTODAY: Tanks on Red Square, Ban Ki-Moon visits Russia, big business pleads before Medvedev, China buying less weapons from Russia, castration for pedophiles, and the seven-year presidential term. The May 9th Victory Day parade in Moscow once again features parades of tanks and other displays of military might reminiscent of Soviet times – which poses extraordinary damage to the cobblestones of the UNESCO-protected Red Square. This year the tanks and vehicles will be fitted with rubber soles to ease the damage. Reuters writes that “The decision to revive the tradition is regarded by some observers as a sign the Kremlin is flexing its military muscles.” Others are more skeptical: “This is a military in crisis; there’s no other way to describe it,” said Stephen Blank, a security expert at the U.S. Army War College. “And it’s a crisis 17 years in the making.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon made his first visit to Russia today, meeting with both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev to talk about Kosovo and peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Africa. Yevgeny Volk of Heritage told RFE/RL that “Naturally, Russia is interested in increasing the powers of the Security Council in order to use its power of veto or the threat of this power of veto to make clear its position. The last few years have shown that in practice, Western countries, led by the United States and Great Britain, because they are aware of Russia’s position [on international matters], have learned to sidestep the mechanism of the UN Security Council and to take their decisions under the auspices of NATO or the European Union, which was the case with Kosovo. In this way, they have managed to limit the role of the UN Security Council and thus ignore Russia’s position on many key issues.“Although Medvedev used the Moon visit to take a swipe at the West, Russia is working hard to entice the UN chief away from the United States by promising increased financial commitments to the organization.The country’s most important business lobby, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, was summoned before president-elect Medvedev to plead for fair play, contract and property rights, and a more limited and predictable role for the state in the economy. “There should be clarity about the role of the state and private business in the economy,” said RSPP head Alexander Shokhin. “Direct participation by the state should be limited to sectors crucial for national security and those where investment is slow to return. Property rights should be guaranteed. Without this the development of business will be limited.“The most difficult sticking point of the business lobby’s meeting with Medvedev was the issue of Domodedovo Airport, where the owner East Line is currently fighting an attempt by the Federal Property Management Agency to nationalize some of its assets.After years of surging arms and defense orders from Russia, in the year to date weapons contracts with China have dropped off steeply. UPI reports that “The lack of significant new arms orders for Russia from China could be caused by its efforts to further develop its own arms industry, dissatisfaction with delays on outstanding orders, or disappointment with the quality of Russian weapons delivered in recent years.” China may still purchase limited numbers of Sukhoi combat aircraft, but Russia is concerned that these limited acquisitions are only intended for China to produce copies.The Russian Public Chamber have come up with an initiative to amend the legislation allowing chemical castration of pedophiles. CBS reports “We plan to present a package of legal initiatives to a relevant State Duma committee, in particular the introducing a measure such as chemical castration of individuals condemned for sexual crimes against underage children,” Anatoly Kucherena, the head of the Pubic Chamber’s committee supervising the activity of law enforcement agencies and reforming legal and judicial system, announced. Speaking about castrating convicted pedophiles, Kucherena said, “On the one hand, as a lawyer I am of course against any measures of physical influence; moreover, judicial mistakes and abuses are possible in such cases. But on the other hand, I as a person, a citizen and a father of a little child understand that some radical measures to fight against scum who rape and kill children must be taken.“What term limits? Russia’s Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov has put forward a proposal to extend the president’s tenure to seven years and the term of State Duma’s authority to five years. Mironov also proposed two year gaps in between parliamentary and presidential elections.Photo: Workers repair the cobble stone surface of the Red Square in front of the Kremlin in Moscow April 9, 2008. Russian tanks will be fitted with rubber-soled tracks to protect the cobble stones on historic Red Square when they join the annual parade on May 9 Victory Day for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union. REUTERS/Yuri Maltsev (RUSSIA)