TODAY: Medvedev interview focuses on security and sport, dodges Khodorkovsky question; soldiers sent into regions badly hit by economic crisis; Orthodox media.
President Dmitry Medvedev’s Christmas Eve message to Russians focused on Russian security and the necessity of using force to protect it, defending his relationship with Vladimir Putin as ‘right, and rather effective‘, and praise of Russian sport. One UK report says his comments were ‘interspersed with highly nationalistic video footage‘. He also dodged a question on a potential pardon for jailed former Yukos executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky, saying all decisions would be left to the courts. ‘No one should interfere, neither a village elder nor the president of the country.‘ A Moscow court today found Alexei Kurtsin, a former manager of Yukos, guilty of abuse of office and embezzlement. The Kremlin’s youth organization, Nashi, has awarded Georgia, Ukraine and the US the honor of holding the most antagonistic relations with Russia in 2008, and intends to deliver gifts to their respective embassies.
The Other Russia reports that national guard soldiers are being sent into the regions suffering most from job losses. Read a report on unemployment, which has increased across Russia’s labor force since the beginning of the economic crisis, and a summary of government responses. ‘Many workers are experiencing a return to levels of poverty and uncertainty that have not been seen in Russia since the late 1990s.‘
The International Herald Tribune writes on Russia and the US forming new ties once Barack Obama has been inaguruated. ‘Obama should signal to the Russians that he wants better relations. That would mean cutting back on belligerent talk and inviting the Russians to high-level consultations on areas in which the United States and Russia can quickly achieve cooperation – say, on combating piracy.‘ Russians are increasingly turning to their Orthodox roots, causing a surge of religious media, says the New York Times.
PHOTO: A Chechen man dressed as Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, walks with two children in front of a new mosque in Grozny, Chechnya, southern Russia, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev)