RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 3rd, 2009

030209.jpgTODAY: Russia offers money to Kyrgyzstan to abandon obligations on its US military base; Tajik President cancels Moscow trip; Peskov says Putin was misunderstood; more protests on the horizon, Amnesty International demands release of opposition protesters; two Medvedevs; PR smears.

Russia will grant Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev major financial incentives, including a $150 million grant, if he agrees to shut down a strategic US airbase which holds 1,000 troops and which is a crucial supply station for US operations in Afghanistan.  Bakiyev, ‘under increasing domestic pressure due to heavy indebtedness’, is in Moscow today.  The BBC writes on the reforms planned for the Russian military, and the implications that they have on future foreign policy moves in relation to NATO and the US.  Poland wants NATO to adjust its contingency planning to take into account what it views as ‘the growth in danger’ from newly-assertive Russia.  Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has cancelled the trip to Moscow he had scheduled for this week, ostensibly due to domestic problems, but the move has sparked speculation that Dmitry Medvedev’s trip to Uzbekistan last month has soured Moscow’s relations with Dushanbe, or that Rahmon wants to pressure Moscow for financial support.

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has written to the Financial Times complaining about the reception of Putin’s Davos speech, saying it was misconstrued and that no one had ‘actually listened’.  Judge for yourself with a full text of the speech.  Reports suggest that last weekend’s protests were just the beginning of a new wave of demonstrations, as the weather warms up and the economic crisis deepens.  Amnesty International is demanding the immediate release of four members of the Other Russia coalition, placed in administrative detention during the weekend’s protests, as it believes they were detained to prevent them from exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Two Medvedevs appear in the Moscow Times today: one whose ‘demonstrative support for Novaya Gazeta […] could one day be seen as a symbolic and consequential event in Russia’s post-Soviet history’; and another whose sham liberalism is made up of ‘superficial photo ops and meaningless statements’.  On Russia’s phenomenon of negative PR campaigning: ‘Haggard, homeless people, for example, have been given signs expressing support for opposition figures such as former world chess champion Garry Kasparov in an apparent attempt to discredit Kasparov’s supporters.’

PHOTO: Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, foreground, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev walk for a reception for participants of Russian Orthodox Church Civil Council at Moscow’s Kremlin St.George Hall on Monday, Feb. 2, 2009. (AP Photo/Dmitry Kostyukov, pool)