RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Aug 20, 2008

200808.jpgTODAY: US and Poland sign missile agreement; Abkhazia to request recognition of independence; Russian troops to be out of Georgia by Friday; Georgia to reinstate monarchy?; all eyes on Ukraine; Nato freezes Russian relations; Russian Democrats comment on war; Belarus coerced into support? Poland and the US will sign an agreement on an anti-missile base today. Polish President Lech Kaczynski maintains that “no one who has good intentions toward us and toward the western world should be afraid of (the shield).” The White House is demanding that Moscow return any US equipment its forces seized in Georgia. Georgia’s separatist region of Abkhazia plans to formally request today that Russia recognize its independence. Russia and Georgia have struck a tentative agreement to accept unarmed military observers from the OSCE. Russia says that a draft UN Security Council resolution on Georgia contradicts the terms of last week’s ceasefire deal, which stipulated that its troops could remain near the South Ossetian border. Nicolas Sarkozy now wants Russia to completely withdraw from all Georgian territory, and the Kremlin says it will pull all troops out by Friday. Might Georgia reinstate its monarchy?

Mikhail Gorbachev writes in the New York Times today defending Russia’s position in Georgia and calling for a mutual agreement restricting the use of force. Sergei Lavrov writes in today’s Wall Street Journal, saying that the US must choose between Russia and its “virtual Georgia project”. Lavrov has also instructed Ukraine not to interfere with Russia’s naval base in Crimea. The Economist says that “attention may turn next to Ukraine” due to its partially pro-Nato population and Viktor Yushchenko’s siding, this week, with Georgia. Belarus has upped support for Russia against Georgia after the Kremlin reportedly “made it clear that it took an extremely negative view of Minsk’s “modest” position on the conflict in Georgia and postponed the consideration of Belarus’ request for a loan”. The President of Syria will visit Russia this week with the aim of expanding military ties with Moscow.Nato has frozen relations with Moscow. “Nato is useless.” “Nato is lost.” The British Foreign Secretary doesn’t want Georgia’s Nato membership process to be stalled.A group of Russian Democrats, including Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov, have signed a statement “On the conflict around South Ossetia”, calling for an investigation into “the decision to use military force outside the territory of the Russian Federation without the approval of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.”A former senior Investigative Committee official has been detained on suspicion of bribery. New research suggests that Moscow’s drivers lose over 12.5 hours to traffic jams each month.PHOTO: File picture shows US President George W. Bush with his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski in Gdansk. (AFP/File/Janek Skarzynski)