RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb. 27, 2008

270208.jpgTODAY: Election run-up sparks various media debates on Dmitry Medvedev’s future and the legacy of Vladimir Putin. Russian authorities make special efforts to ensure strong voter turnout. Czech prime minister supports US missile defense radar. Hillary Clinton struggles to name Putin’s successor. Dmitry Medvedev’s recent public speeches have “displayed a style of articulation that political allies and pundits say intentionally mimics that of the tough-talking Putin.” In an attempt to ensure a strong turnout for the election, Vladimir Putin will give a televised speech this week calling on citizens to vote. Voters are reportedly being offered perks at polling stations, including the chance to win a car, vote for Sochi’s 2014 Olympic mascot, and concert tickets. The Kremlin has reportedly asked regional governors to deliver voter turnout of at least 65%. Opposition leader Garry Kasparov has called for Western nations to “snub” Medvedev following his expected victory in Sunday’s presidential election. It is being speculated that Medvedev’s first top appointments as president could include his fellow law graduates. A summary of members of his “circle” can be found here.

Medvedev has commented on the US election, saying he would be willing to work with any future US president who did not have “semi-senile views.” Meanwhile, US Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has come under fire in the press for stumbling over the First Deputy Prime Minister’s name. When challenged to name the Russian presidential candidate in a TV debate, Clinton reportedly said, “Meh, uhm, Me-ned-vadah — whatever.”Why have both Putin and Medvedev been “stressing in recent weeks the need to help the country’s destitute”? One report sees it as the Kremlin “making concessions”. Economic stability for Russia has meantthat the health care and education systems have been left in dire straits, that pensions remain insufficient, that a good part of the rise in incomes is eaten up by inflation and that the inequalities that arose in the 1990s have only grown greater”.Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek has said that a planned US missile defense radar in his country is crucial for security, rejecting Russian criticism. Moscow says the project will upset the military balance in Europe. Russia’s fleet of military transport aircraft has become “dangerously obsolete”, and the country may be left without military cargo planes by 2015.PHOTO: A man walks past a giant election poster, calling people to take part in the upcoming presidential election, in St.Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008. The sign in the poster reads ‘Ballot paper.’ Russians go to the polls to elect a new president on March 2. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)