RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 11th, 2009

110209.jpgTODAY: Spotlight on US-Russia foreign policy; Belarus wants more loans from Russia; Human Rights Watch condemns government’s treatment of migrant workers; political cartoons.

All eyes are on upcoming developments in US-Russia foreign policy. ‘The most difficult issue is likely to be how the US handles the Kremlin’s campaign to reclaim its former sphere of influence’, but ‘mutual distrust may be too deep to overcome’ on nuclear issues, suggests one source.  Nonetheless, the Kremlin announced yesterday that it is ready to work with Washington on nuclear disarmament, and US Vice President Joe Biden said he received a ‘very good’ response from Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov in response to his reset button speech.  Russia has agreed to a four-month extension of the UN peacekeeping mission in Georgia, on condition their mandate will be expanded in June and new security arrangements negotiated.  Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko says that Russia should offer cheaper loans to his country if it wants the full benefits of the air defense system linking the two countries.

Human Rights Watch has attacked the Russian government for not doing enough to protect migrant workers in the construction industry, in a new report on their exploitation.  The BBC has picked up the story.  View the results of a political cartoon competition run by Ekho Moskvy, which satirize the rapid devaluation of the Russian ruble.  A Russian-language search engine has noted that a mere 50 people have subscribed to receive regular updates about President Dmitry Medvedev’s blog posts.

PHOTO: People hold banners during a protest by the Kremlin-loyal Fair Russia party denouncing rising prices and tariffs in Moscow February 10, 2009. The banners read: “Put tariffs under control!” and “Lower tariffs or break up monopolies!” REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA)