RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 12th, 2009

120209.jpgTODAY: Putin announces no defense spending cuts; military spending to be cut; arms exports to rise. Medvedev turns his attention to prison population. Court deports US rabbi; study center predicts rise in racist attacks; Lavrov says Russia open to allowing NATO shipments for Afghanistan through its territory.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that the state would keep defense contracts ‘fundamentally‘ unchanged, with no spending cuts, and urged MiG to improve the quality of its work to avoid losing funds due to foreign countries’ rejecting poor-standard products.  Meanwhile, the head of the military has announced overall spending cuts of 15%.  There are also rumors of a 6% increase in arms exports.  President Dmitry Medvedev has proposed the broader use of house arrest and bail to help to reduce the number of people in detention awaiting trial, and over all to reduce Russia’s prison population.  Over 400 Russian military officers were convicted of criminal offenses in 2008, reports the Other Russia.

Russia has supposedly been spending money on a PR team to improve its international image.  What’s the point, wonders a BBC reporter who alleges he was detained for hours by police for visiting a greenhouse.  A Vladivostok court ordered a senior rabbi to be deported to the US, after it ruled that he had misrepresented his activities in the country on his visa application.  A spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia said, ‘We believe the violation was not serious enough to deport him.‘  Sova Group, A center that studies racist attacks expects fascist and skinhead groups to use the economic crisis as an excuse for xenophobia and racist violence, and for the number of attacks to rise this year, and is concerned by certain pro-Kremlin youth group slogans such as ‘Our Money for Our People’, which, it suggested, could legitimize racism.  It also noted that the number of hate crimes in Russia rose last year.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia is open to letting the US and NATO ship equipment to Afghanistan through Russian territory, but that broader cooperation on Afghanistan would be contingent on improvement of Russia-NATO ties.  A privately owned US communications satellite and a defunct Russian military satellite collided in space this week.

PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, visits a workshop at a juvenile prison in Vologda, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Presidential Press Service)