TODAY: Orthodox Church endorses Medvedev; contract killings on the rise; BBC G7 poll on Putin; racially-motivated violence on the rise; increased media attention for Putin and Medvedev in run-up to elections. Alexei II, patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, has endorsed deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev ahead of next week’s presidential election, illustrating, according to one UK newspaper, “the unholy alliance the Church has forged with the Kremlin”. Mafia-linked assassinations are on the rise, according to Russia’s prosecutor general, who says “a wave of contract killings has hit the country.” A New York Times piece on Putin’s “iron grip”, published this weekend, has already received an overwhelmingly “sharp” response from Russian readers. The story, alleging that voters were forced into supporting Putin in the last elections, is similar to this piece on Medvedev.
A BBC poll of 16,000 people in the G7 countries found that 56% believed Putin had had a harmful impact on democracy and human rights in Russia and on peace and security in the world. A list of key foreign policy events for Russia since 2000 have been compiled here.Russia has accused the United States “of seeking to humiliate Serbia over Kosovo”.Putin’s praise of opposition candidate Andrei Bogdanov supports the theory that “his presence on the ballot blunts criticism from the West that Russia has excluded opposition candidates from the race.” Some soundbites from Medvedev have been compiled here, and an opinion piece from Reuters asks “Who is Medvedev?” Speaking over the weekend, the deputy prime minister outlined a strategy for developing Russia’s Armed Forces.The Kyrgyz parliament has passed a resolution appealing to Russian lawmakers to address the fact that an increasing number of Kyrgyz nationals are becoming victims of racial hatred. A Russian ship arrested by North Korean coast guards is accused of violating the North Korean border.PHOTO: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and First Deputy Prime Minister and presidential candidate Dmitry Medvedev listen to the state anthem during a celebration on the eve of Defender of the Fatherland Day in the Kremlin palace in Moscow February 22, 2008. REUTERS/Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool