RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 16th, 2009

160209.jpgTODAY: Medvedev’s fireside chat offers to trade loyalty for transparency and insists the economy is stable; more Moscow protests; veterans mark 20 years since Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan; alcohol on flights, bear hunting.

In the first of a new series of televised ‘fireside chats’, President Dmitry Medvedev insisted that Russia’s ‘financial and economic situation is entirely stable’, and defended the government’s decision to stockpile its oil revenues over the last years.  He also promised a new deal of more government openness in exchange for Russia’s loyalty and support, and said that the biggest problem facing the country is its rising unemployment rate.

The New York Times is running a story on Vladimir Kirillov and Vitaly Sukhinin, who organized the anti-car tariff protests in Vladivostok earlier this year which so unnerved the Kremlin.  One of them claims he has already been warned not to stage further protests, and the other says, ‘If you speak out, you can get very hurt.’  Several hundreds of people marched through Moscow over the weekend to protest the deaths of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasiya Baburova.

The contradictions involved in Moscow’s stance on Afghanistan and the shutting down of Kyrgyzstan’s air base are schizophrenic’, says one commentator.  Another suggests that ‘the Kremlin is simply putting Washington on notice: This isn’t 2001 anymore.’  It has been twenty years since Russian troops pulled out of Afghanistan, and veterans have been marking the anniversary of the end of a war that killed about 15,000 Soviet soldiers.

A senior Interior Ministry official has called for a ban of alcohol on flights, due to the fact that drunken passengers are involved in ‘hundreds of onboard incidents each year’, such as brawls and hijack attempts, on Russian airlines.  Hunters in Siberia and Kamchatka are reportedly causing around 3,500 to become orphaned each year.  On Nikolai Kondratieff, a theorist of economic policy under Lenin.

PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during an interview to a Russian TV channel in Moscow February 12, 2009. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Dmitry Astakhov (RUSSIA)