RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Aug 5, 2008

050808.jpgTODAY: Putin talks terror, calls for stronger ties with Cuba; world tributes for Solzhenitsyn; Khodorkovsky parole hearing set; new general appointed as NATO envoy. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has expressed concern that there is currently a high risk of a terrorist attack in Russia. Putin called for renewed ties with Cuba following a trip by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin during which a number of contracts were signed. “We will restore our position in Cuba and other countries,” Putin said. The Prime Minister has led world tributes to the writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who died at the weekend: “His entire long, thorny life journey will remain for us a model of true devotion, selfless service to the people, motherland, the ideals of freedom, justice and humanism.” Some see the overall response as “relatively subdued”. Read some responses to a New York Times Russian-language blog question on Solzhenitsyn – “the funniest writer since Oscar Wilde”. “With yesterday’s passing of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose first major work, “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” took its inspiration from Solzhenitsyn’s time as a guest in the Soviet gulag, we couldn’t help but think of that other famous Russian prisoner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky,” says a WSJ blog. The early-release appeal hearing for Khodorkovsky, “seen as a test of President Dmitry Medvedev’s commitment to establishing a rule of law”, has been set for August 21, but “there are fears that Khodorkovsky could serve even more time”. Khodorkovsky’s mother is quoted in Forbes today saying, “I don’t think he believes he will get parole.

President Dmitry Medvedev’s plans to recruit more qualified people to serve in the government is “unlikely to solve the fundamental problems that make the government so ineffective and incompetent,” says the Moscow Times. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called for new anti-monopoly legislation to be drafted in September by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. The appointment of one of Russia’s most senior generals as a military envoy to NATO “is meant to underline the importance Moscow attaches to its relations with NATO.” Army General Alexei Maslov said the country would develop ties with the alliance only if it saw “real, equal partnership”.Israel will stop selling offensive weapons and unmanned drone aircraft to Georgia, reportedly because of a request from Russia. The President of South Ossetia says that the region will not conduct negotiations with Georgia unless Russia is involved. At least 24 Russian-made Sukhoi-30 fighter jets have been delivered to Venezuela. More than 80,000 people have signed a petition in the Russian republic of Ingushetia calling on the authorities to sack the Kremlin-backed president.PHOTO: 19th February 2008. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Cuba’s President Fidel Castro stand side by side during Putin’s official welcoming ceremony outside Havana’s Palace of the Revolution. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Files (CUBA)