TODAY: Medvedev goes “campaigning”; Putin appoints controversial new NATO envoy; Zubkov to set up gambling zone; Nashi falling afoul of the law; British Council defy orders as promised; disagreements in the UN. First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev met with the family of the 100,000th child born in Moscow in 2007 in a visit “that had all the trappings of a campaign event.” Medvedev has reportedly begun signing up governors to campaign for him in their regions. Opposition candidates have called the move “a blatant abuse of Kremlin powers for electoral purposes”.
Vladimir Putin has sealed the appointment of “hawkish” “firebrand” and “outspoken nationalist” Dmitry Rogozin, the ex-leader of the Rodina (Motherland) Party, as envoy to NATO in Brussels. Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has been touring Nalchik in preparation for a Cabinet meeting aimed at boosting the region’s economy. Zubkov has drawn up a ruling to set up a gambling zone, Azov-City, in the Scherbinovsky district of Krasnodar. The country’s inflation rate rose in 2007 to 11.9%, the highest in four years. “Imitation democracy” is creating mounting tension in Russia’s political environment. Police detained dozens of Nashi activists at an unauthorized rally outside the European Commission’s offices in Moscow, in “a rare instance of the pro-Kremlin youth group running afoul of the law.” Separate reports say Nashi claimed responsibility for a recent attack on a Russian Pentecostal church.As predicted, the British Council’s office in Yekaterinburg has re-opened after the holidays, in defiance of demands by the Foreign Ministry to suspend activities. British foreign secretary David Miliband reinforced his statement that the demands were illegal, and urged Russia not to use the British Council as a “political football”. Moscow has commented on Lebanon’s presidential crisis, urging all parties to respond to the plan drawn up by the Arab League. Russia and Poland begin talks on the proposed US missile shield this month, with Poland looking set to delay its decision for as long as possible. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has given a cautious response to a French proposal to broaden the UN Security Council, warning of a potential split.Australia is considering acquiring Russian bombers and fighters to replace its outdated fighter jets. “Russia today ranks as a leading consumer of heroin.”PHOTO: First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits a Moscow family into which officials say the Russian capital’s 100, 000th child in 2007 was born, January 9, 2008. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/RIA Novosti (RUSSIA)