RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Aug 21, 2008

210808.jpgTODAY: Russian troop withdrawal status in chaos; conflicting reports on Nato ties. Khodorkovsky’s parole hearing postponed until tomorrow. What will China’s response to Georgian conflict be? Polish support for missile defense shield increases; Syrian president in Sochi. Supporters of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos executive and “the country’s most prominent prisoner”, have been gathering signatures for a petition to free him. Khodorkovsky has had his early release appeal adjourned until tomorrow. His lawyers are calling the hearing a test case for President Dmitry Medvedev. Russia is sending mixed signals on its promised pull-out from Georgia. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said he did not believe Russia would keep its promise to withdraw from most of the country in the coming days, and according to this source, Russia plans to build a long-term military presence in Georgia by adding 18 checkpoints manned with troops. Russia has apparently begun withdrawing some of its hardware from Georgia, but other reports say Russian forces have blocked the only land entrance to Georgia’s main Black Sea port city of Poti, and that troops still remain in Gori. Red Cross says its relief workers have been allowed to enter South Ossetia for the first time since the outbreak of conflict.

Russia is supposedly reviewing its relations with Nato, with one foreign ministry spokesperson expressing “regret” over western condemnation of its recent actions. According to Norway, however, Russia plans to sever all military cooperation with Nato and its allies. The British foreign secretary indicated that Nato had launched Georgia’s path to membership this week, contradicting the alliance’s members.“You have Putin’s war, and it seemed for a moment, you had Medvedev’s peace. It’s hard to say. Clearly Putin’s in control.” What effects will Russia’s conflict with Georgia have on China? Yulia Latynina writes on Georgia: “This amazing young nation had only one defect: uncontrollable revanchism.”“The ideological element is absent in both Russian and U.S. foreign policies today.” Russia’s foreign ministry sees the US-Poland missile defense pact as part of the creation of a new European arms race, and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice responded by calling the accusation “bizarre”. Poland’s population are increasingly in favor of the missile shield in light of Georgia’s troubles, says one report. On Russia’s reasons for seeking to draw Syria back into its orbit. The Russian and Syrian presidents will meet in Sochi today, reportedly to discuss military cooperation. Ukraine’s Defense Minister is “playing down” confrontation with Moscow over ships in the Crimea.Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has drawn attention to Russia’s poor public sector record for science teaching, calling for measures to foster young scientists. A peculiar article on friction between British and Russian tourists.PHOTO: Russian soldiers sat on a tank on Wednesday before a portrait of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin in Tskhinvali, in South Ossetia. (Dmitry Lovetsky/Associated Press)