RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 9th, 2009

090209.jpgTODAY: Russia and US ‘in agreement’ on Afghanistan despite Kyrgyz base closure; Medvedev will not comment on Biden speech; more Georgia tensions; economists, opposition and presidential advisers displeased with government’s handling of economic crisis; Putin denies attending ABBA concert.

Despite the imminent closure of the Kyrgyz base, considered a key supply route to US troops in Afghanistan, the Federation’s International Affairs Committee says ‘Moscow and Washington do not have any serious disagreements over Afghanistan‘, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia would allow the United States to resume the shipment of non-lethal military supplies for Afghanistan across its territory.  The US says its military operations will not be affected by the closure.  This (Russian) article suggests that Kyrgyzstan’s move to close its US army base has more to do with ‘internal politics‘ and the low rental price for the base than anything else.  A Kremlin spokesman said that President Dmitry Medvedev would not comment on US Vice President Joe Biden’s reset button speech.  Biden says it is up to Georgia to decide whether or not to become a member of NATO, and Russia-Georgia tensions continue, with the latter’s foreign minister accusing Russia of sending 27 fighter jets to a former Soviet air base in the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The opposition movement, Solidarity, is trying ‘to woo’ Russia’s poorest inhabitants by accusing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of wasting billions of dollars in public funds, saying that these funds would be better spent on direct compensation.  But many economists are also criticizing the way that the government has dealt with the crisis thus far, and apparently, so is an adviser to President Dmitry Medvedev, who reportedly said that Russia’s reaction to the world economic crisis threatens to increase state control over the economy and reduce national competitiveness.  ‘Medvedev’s influence remains limited, but it is growing as he finds ways to assert himself without offending Putin and the old guard.’

Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has denied that the prime minister attended a concert by an ABBA tribute band, and the Moscow agency which organized the show now denies that the concert even took place.

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PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reacts as he listens to a question during his and European Commission President Jose-Manuel Barroso, unseen, news conference in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 6, 2009. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)