RA’S Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 27th, 2009

sisyphus-interpretation-source-nkozakon-ru-thumb.jpgTODAY: A year after Medvedev’s election, pundits are split over his status as a reformer; Putin says he wants Russia to conform to European human rights standards; a European court rules on a Russian judge’s unfair dismissal; the North Caucasus situation gets dicey; and as NATO’s 60th anniversary approaches, Russian diplomats push for a special session to normalize relations.

As Medvedev’s one-year presidential anniversary approaches, experts wonder, is he really a reformer? Meanwhile, Putin will celebrate his own anniversary, amid questions over whether his grip on power has been irreparably damaged by the financial crisis. In the wake of a U.S. report on human rights abuses in Russia dismissed by the Russian Foreign Minister, Putin says Russia will continue to invest in social policy projects, since “We share the same understanding of basic social rights [as Europe] … The same holds true for the sphere of human rights.” The European Court on Human Rights seems to disagree with this assessment: on Thursday, it ruled that a former Moscow judge was wrongly dismissed for complaining of pressure on the city’s judiciary and ordered the Russian government to pay her 10, 000 euros.

Recent reports of increased Russian military operations to combat alleged extremism in the North Caucasus means “Russian authorities simply can no longer hide the fact from thepublic that not all is well” in the region; anotherconfirmation of this was Moscow’s decision to “categorize all means oftransportation arriving from the national republics of the NorthCaucasus as potentially dangerous.” Meanwhile, “Despite its bellicose, threatening rhetoric, modern Iran is far removed from the extremist policies of the Khomeini era,” and thus a prime target for increased Russian investment. Indeed, “The commercial and military components of Russian-Iranian relations compliment the two countries’ shared political interests.” Speaking of Iran, the American media tours its latest Russian-built nuclear facility. And speaking of nuclear, Russia has signed a preliminary nuclear deal with Jordan.

A Russian ambassador says Russia wants a special session with NATOto normalize relations and discuss matters related to the Caucasus. Andin economic news, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Alexei Kudrin, says thateven if oil prices rise to over $55 per barrel, the Russian economywill continue to contract. But Economic Development Minister ElviraNabiullina disagrees: “According to our estimates, growth is possible with the $50 oil priceand effective anti-crisis measures.”