RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 5th, 2009

050209.jpgTODAY: Kyrgyzstan to vote on US base closure next week, but government says it has already made its decision; CSTO Summit leads to creation of rapid reaction force for economic and military support to former Soviet states; Russia welcomes new US treaty; UN Council calls for and end to violence against minorities and journalists.

Kyrgyzstan’s parliament will vote next week on whether to shut its US air base, considered an important staging post for US troops in Afghanistan.  ‘The government needs parliamentary approval to proceed with the closure but this is seen as a formality as the chamber is controlled by a pro-presidential party.’  The government says it has already sent a decree to parliament to end its cooperation with Washington on the base.  Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin denies there is a link between Moscow’s decision to give Kyrgyzstan aid worth more than $2 billion and President Bishkek’s decision to close the air base.  ‘It is interesting to try to figure out exactly what Russia is trying to achieve. After all, it is hard to deny that the United States and NATO are defending Russia’s national security in Afghanistan.’  Despite the move to close the base, Dmitry Medvedev says he wants to help the US campaign in Afghanistan.

During this week’s Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Summit, Russia promised to contribute $7.5 billion to a crisis rescue fund and ‘rapid reaction force’ that will include the former Soviet states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. ‘We are creating this fund to issue loans … to our allies,’ said Dmitry Medvedev, but there is also a strong military aspect to the alliance, which will include a force formed mainly by Russian paratroopers.

A meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council has called for Russia to do more to stop violenceagainst minorities, torture by the police and army, and murders ofjournalists.  The report Russia presented to the Council insistedthat Russia is ‘a democratic state based on the rule of law’.

Sergei Ivanov, the Deputy Prime Minister has welcomed news that the US wants its new treaty with Russia, designed to replace the START treaty which expires in December, to significantly limit the use of nuclear weapons.  Russia has also reportedly offered its services in assisting the US to initiate talks with Iran.

PHOTO: The building that houses the offices of Renaissance Capital, one of Russia’s biggest investment banks, is reflected in a traffic safety mirror in Moscow in 2008. (AFP/File/Alexey Sazonov)