RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 19th, 2009

190209.jpgTODAY: ECHR to accept $34 billion Yukos lawsuit against Russian government; US officials to meet with NATO and will informally discuss reopening Russia dialogue; Kyrgyz government to vote on US air base today; 9% of Russians trust their police force; global warming; Russian marine thought to have shot down Chinese cargo ship.

The European Court of Human Right has accepted a request by a group of former managers from Yukos to take Moscow to court for $34 billion – the largest claim ever made in the court – over its investigation of the former oil giant.  The managers’ statement said, ‘Yukos’ tens of thousands of stakeholders saw the company destroyed and the trust they put into it and Russia taken away with the single swipe of a revengeful political hand.’  The court decided to accept the case, in part, because it had a ‘moral dimension’.  You can find the text of the decision here.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates will meet with NATO officials in Poland today and tomorrow.  Gates anticipates that the ‘unofficial topic’ of the meeting will be how to resume dialogue between NATO and Russia, and underscored the importance of constructing a good relationship with the country on a number of issues.  ‘The US and its Nato allies would do well to speak with one voice’ in response to Moscow’s mixed messages, writes this Guardian journalist.  Russia and the US need to cut their nuclear stockpiles down to a minimum, but ‘there’s reasonable disagreement among experts about the minimum number of nuclear weapons the United States and Russia should maintain,’ says the New York Times.  Kyrgyzstan’s parliament is widely expected to approve a government proposal to close a US air base that provides transit links for US troops fighting in Afghanistan when it votes on the matter today.  An EU envoy has announced a deal between Russia and Georgia, designed to prevent the outbreak of further conflict, which will include ‘weekly meetings to discuss incidents’.

A new poll from the Levada Center indicates that only 9% of Russians have complete trust in the police force, with almost half of respondents saying that police fail to be of help in emergencies.  A new report from a government body, reportedly the first to document climate change in Russia, says the country will likely see more forest fires, droughts and floods in the coming century due to global warming, and warns of large-scale change in conditions.

Russia’s Ambassador to Ukraine has been chastised after describing the country’s feuding leaders as ‘at each other like dogs’.  Kirov Governor and former opposition member Nikita Belykh has appointed a liberal activist as his adviser on social issues in the impoverished region.  The Justice Ministry has officially registered the Kremlin-backed, pro-business party Right Cause as a political party.  A Russian marine patrol may have opened fire and destroyed a Chinese cargo ship last week at the Russian seaport of Vladivostok, from which seven crew members are still missing.  Read an obituary of Veronika Dudarova, one of the world’s rare female conductors.

PHOTO: People walk across Red Square during snowfall in Moscow February 18, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (RUSSIA)