RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb. 4, 2008

040208.jpgTODAY: Medvedev begins official campaign, emphasizes continuity of power. Poland reaches missile agreement with United States; Russia may withdraw offer. Nashi denies imminent demise. More on the “new Cold War” – the West is already losing, apparently. Russia’s presidential election campaign has officially begun, with first deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev as “the clear favourite to win”. United Russia has revealed that it will give Medvedev its backing. Speaking publicly this weekend, Medvedev emphasized the continuity of power and promised to continue subsidies for farmers. Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov will appeal to the Supreme Court over his disqualification from running in the election. Following news that Poland said it had reached an agreement “in principle” with the United States on plans to install a missile defense system on Polish territory, Russia has hinted that a proposed deal with the US over the use of Russian radar stations as an alternative to building part of the system in eastern Europe now may not be reached. In a new military cooperation pact “certain to irritate Russia”, the United States promised Kazakhstan to help it bring its armed forces up to NATO standards.

A new book argues that the West is not just fighting a “new Cold War” against Russia, but losing the conflictwhile having barely noticed that it has started.” An open letter from British-educated members of Russia’s business, government and media elite warns Vladimir Putin that the British Council closures “not only injure the image of Russia” but represent “a blow to the interests of millions of Russians“. Prosecutors have asked Britain to extradite five suspects in a fraud case at state-owned shipping giant Sovkomflot.Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has announced that more than $3 billion is to be allocated for the building of sports facilities in Russia’s Sochi Olympic resort. Russia’s birthrate for 2007 was the highest since 1991. Pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi has dismissed reports of its imminent demise, saying it is seeking to double its membership this year.Former Yukos executive Vasily Aleksanyan, who claims to have been denied treatment for AIDS while in detention, is to remain jailed while being tried on embezzlement and tax-evasion charges.PHOTO: Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev looks on wearing an alpine ski suit at the Polyana Grand Hotel tourist complex in a Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Presidential Press Service)