RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb. 20, 2008

200208.jpgTODAY: Algeria accuses Russia of trying to sell it “substandard” aircraft; Russian Nationalists oppose Medvedev; further harsh words traded over Kosovo; UK press speculates over Russia’s past and future. One UK paper today debates the future of Russia, predicting that Vladimir Putin, as prime minister, will remain the architect of foreign and security policy, and that Medvedev will be left with a “somewhat humiliating role”. Russian Nationalists, meanwhile, oppose the idea of Medvedev’s leadership because they believe he is an “ethnic Jew”. The leader of a Russian ultranationalist youth group has been sentenced to three years in prison for yelling “Sieg heil” and “Kill the liberals” during a political debate.

Russia is the world’s second biggest arms dealer after America, but its “ambitions to become the world’s pre-eminent arms exporter” have suffered a setback after Algeria told the Kremlin it wanted to send back 15 fighter jets “because they were sub-standard,” second-hand aircraft. Russia may scrap its Admiral Gorshkov aircraft career deal with India due to disagreements over the cost.Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the US that Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia endangers international stability, and Putin’s envoy announced that EU countries that recognize Kosovo as a state will harm relations between Russia and the 27-nation bloc. A senior diplomatic source in Pristina has said that confrontation with Russia is a price worth paying for Kosovo’s independence.A BBC story today tries to explain some of the roots of Russia’s current tensions with the US and UK. Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, has made more provocative comments about the former spy.PHOTO: Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister and presidential front-runner, Dmitry Medvedev, takes aim with a Kalashnikov rifle during a visit to the Izhmash firearms plant in Izhevsk some 1000 km (625 miles) east of Moscow February 19, 2008. Russians will go to the polls on March 2 to vote for a new president. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool (RUSSIA)