RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec 18th, 2008

181208.jpgTODAY: Motorist protests are first sign of public anger over financial crisis, activists concerned over widening of treason definition; Russia to give Lebanon fighter jets; Medvedev to have early meeting with Obama.

Protests by Russian motorists on foreign car duty, some of which involved clashes with riot police, ‘were on such a scale that they can no longer be considered only isolated affairs‘, writes Boris Kagarlitsky, who sees the tariffs as an opportunity for ‘disenchanted citizens to mobilize‘.  Sunday’s protests, reporting of which was very limited in Russia, may have been ‘the first visible public anger at one of the government’s responses to the global financial crisis‘.  Activists and opposition members are concerned that the Kremlin’s move to widen the definition of treason will outlaw protests and completely shatter the remains of Russian civil society.  Solidarity, the new opposition party, intends to ‘dismantle‘ the present system of power.  But with pressure from the government increasing, how is it going to do this, wonders a Guardian columnist.

Say it with flowers…or fighter jets.  Russia will give 10 MiG-29 jets to Lebanonas a gift‘.  Is this gesture an effort ‘to regain its former cold war role as the Arab world’s chief patron‘?  The New York Times calls it ‘a slap to the United States‘.  A senior US diplomat is predicting that Russia is planning to ‘test the mettle‘ of President-elect Barack Obama, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is still sounding hopeful about negotiating a new arms control with the US under the new president.  President Dmitry Medvedev has announced that he will meet with Obama shortly after his inauguration.  NATO and Russia will resume talks during an informal meeting tomorrow, to agree on a road map for restoring relations.  

Does an ongoing spat between a banker and a radical novelist signify an increasing antagonism between rich and poor in Russia? 

PHOTO: A woman leaves a currency exchange office in Moscow. (AFP/File/Natalia Kolesnikova)