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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Aug 19, 2008

190808.jpgTODAY: Medvedev is hawkish on further conflict; Russia has not withdrawn troops, closes Georgian border, begins exchanging prisoners; Red Cross barred from entering South Ossetia; youth movement coordinator charged for blog entries; PR war continues; US freezes Nato-Russia Council; concern over racial violence; Prokofiev. In a move that “appeared to be aimed at projecting an image of him as the politician calling the shots in Moscow,” President Dmitry Medvedev has announced that any power moving against Russian citizens would suffer “a shattering blow”. Despite a Russian announcement that a gradual withdrawal from Georgia was underway, Russian troops and tanks did not move out through the main military crossing point last night. Borders between the two have been partially closed by Russia, ostensibly to prevent it from being entered by “foreign terrorists”. It is thought that the exchange of Russian and Georgian prisoners, which began today, may reduce tensions and hasten a troop withdrawal. Although Moscow may have won the military war against Georgia, analysts suggest that it lost the PR war. “I can’t recall another conflict, or any government at another time of crisis, using CNN the way the Georgian government is,” said one. Georgia has barred broadcasts by the Russian-language RTVi television channel after it screened an interview with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, during which he criticized Georgian leadership. Russia has been spinning President Mikheil Saakashvili’s tie-munching, and Fox News is accused of cutting short a pro-Russia war report, says the Moscow Times. Novaya Gazeta’s St. Petersburg edition has been accused by the federal media watchdog of inciting hatred toward Georgians and faces possible closure.

The International Committee of the Red Cross will hold talks with Russia’s government on gaining access to South Ossetia after being denied entry for five days. “The growing suspicion is that ethnic cleansing is still going on.” Russia is apparently planning to construct an elite neighborhood named in honor of Moscow in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali.This UK newspaper blog wonders why British foreign aid, through the EU, is being delivered to Russia. The coordinator of an opposition youth movement is being charged with “inciting social discord” for his weblog posts. A UN human rights committee has expressed concern over mounting racial violence in Russia.“The missile defence system is necessary after all: it will stop the missiles Russia will now aim at Poland, the Czech Republic and the UK in response to, er, their involvement in the missile defence system.” Russia’s threats of a nuclear strike against Poland is “empty rhetoric”, according to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates. In its Nato role, the US is demanding that the alliance punishes Moscow for its operations in Georgia, and has blocked a session of the Nato-Russia council. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, however, says that the US will not push for Georgia to be allowed into Nato – “a tacit admission that America and its European allies lack the stomach for a military fight with Russia.” The US may approve a $1 billion aid package for Georgia. Russia meanwhile reports that it has delivered 3,700 metric tons of humanitarian aid to South Ossetia, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said that Russia will support the region in forming its new government.Sergei Prokoviev returned to Russia at the height of Stalin’s rule. What effect did it have on his music and career?PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev decorates an unidentified soldier during a rewarding ceremony at the 58th Army headquarters in Vladikavkaz. (AFP/Natalia Kolesnikova)