RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec 17th, 2008

171208.jpgTODAY: Pro-Putin ministers slam Finance Ministry; anti-corruption bill to get second reading; Peskov goes after negative stereotypes; Kremlin backing Lukashenko?  Russian mayor stabbed to death.

President Dmitry Medvedev’s anti-corruption bill will have its second reading in the Duma today, although changes made thus far, according to the Communist opposition, ‘make life easier for corrupt officials‘.  Meanwhile, Duma deputies from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party have criticized the Finance Ministry for the way it has spent the government’s reserve funds during the crisis, saying that too much money was given to large corporations, who promptly converted it into foreign currency.  The deputies have reportedly proposed to raise direct subsidies to the citizens through higher pensions and public sector wages.  

Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s personal spokesman, writes an article attacking the negative stereotypes attributed to Russia by the British press, saying that ‘decaying villages, poverty, alcoholism, high male mortality and general hopelessness‘ can be found in plenty of countries other than Russia.  Russia’s ambassador to Britain says that his country’s ties with the UK are on fragile ground, and a Russian military officer has warned that Moscow feels threatened by US policy in ex-Soviet Central Asia. 

The Kremlin’s backing of Belarussian president Aleksandr Lukashenko was made obvious by its observer mission during the suspect, landslide election in September, says the New York Times.  The mayor of Kandalaksha in north-west Russia, whose predecessor was jailed for bribery, has been stabbed to death.  A political analyst who wrote an article suggesting the potential dangers that the power vertical could cause for Russian cities economically dependent on industrial production is trying to find out why he has been accused of inciting extremist activities.

PHOTO: Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin responds to journalists’ questions upon his arrival for an OPEC meeting in Algeria’s western city of Oran December 16, 2008. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra (ALGERIA)