RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 18th, 2009

180209.jpgTODAY: Medvedev courting Japan; Lavrov courting Egypt; Iran courting air defense systems. Moscow Mayor speaks out against Kremlin, United Russia tries negative campaigning ahead of assembly elections; Supreme Court head resigns after son accused of accepting bribe.

President Dmitry Medvedev and his Japanese counterpart attended the unveiling of a liquefied natural gas plant that will boost exports to Asia and the US, and used the occasion to call on Russia and Japan to consider expanding trade ties.  The two presidents also discussed ending a territory dispute over the energy rich island of Sakhalin.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Cairo looking to set up a strategic partnership with Egypt.  Iran’s defense minister apparently wants to convince Russia to sell air defense systems to his country to ‘help repel possible Israeli and US air strikes’.

Yury Luzhkov, the Mayor of Moscow, has spoken out against federal economic policies, in particular blaming Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin for the decision to keep Russia’s oil windfall in a government stabilization fund instead of spending it on infrastructure and boosting the economy.  Is the United Russia Party’s negative campaigning against Yury Yevdokimov, the Governor of Murmansk, going to backfire‘United Russia is clearing every obstacle from its path’ in the run-up to elections for deputies to the legislative assembly on March 1.  In a two-hour closing argument, a defense lawyer for one of the men on trial for the murder of Anna Politkovskaya accused prosecutors of fabricating evidence.

Alexander Karpov, the deputy head of the Russian Supreme Court, has resigned after his son was arrested on suspicion of accepting a reported $30,000 bribe from a suspect due to face trial.  Karpov says he is estranged from his son, but the resignation was referred to as ‘a matter of judicial etiquette.

PHOTO: Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, center, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, react, during the opening ceremony of the liquefied natural gas plant in Prigorodnoye at south of the Sakhalin Island, Russian Far East, Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev , Presidential Press Service)