RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 12th, 2009

120109.jpgTODAY: Russia and Ukraine reach accord after weekend of disputes over conditions for resuming gas supplies; angry Bulgaria seeks help to reduce Russia dependency; Medvedev opens interactive comment website; Beketov moved to intensive care; Czech foreign minister writes on Russia.

Russia, Ukraine and the European Union signed an accord on resuming gas supplies to the EU via Ukraine early yesterday, but the deal was still uncertain by the end of the day due to a dispute over a declaration added to the agreement by Ukraine which said, ‘Ukraine has always been and remains a reliable transit country and has not interrupted transit of gas to the EU member states.’  Dmitry Medvedev called the declaration ‘a mockery of common sense’.  A deal viewed acceptable by both sides was reportedly signed this morning, after Ukraine removed both the offending statements and its previous conditions on supply monitoring, but a spokesman for Vladimir Putin warned that the gas could still take some time to resume its flow.  A reported 11 people died of cold in Europe last week.  According to this report, angry Bulgarians see Russia’s gas cutoff as the instigation of a new Cold War, and has asked the EU for €400 million to help ease its dependence on Russia.  EU ministers are to hold talks today on short-term help for members suffering due to gas shortages.  Read a timeline of the Russia-Ukraine dispute, beginning in 2005. 

According to a poll by VTsIOM, the majority of Russians believe that stripping lawmakers of their parliamentary immunity would make the fight against corruption in Russia more efficient.  Mikhail Beketov, the environmental activist who was severely beaten last year, has been moved into intensive care, apparently due to receiving inadequate treatment in hospital.  The Kremlin’s envoy to the State Duma, Alexander Kosopkin, and six other people died when their helicopter crashed during a hunting trip in the Altai region.

Dmitry Medvedev has opened an interactive comment page for the public on his personal website, promising to ‘read all of them with great interest’, but the Kremlin plans to edit each one before publishing – supposedly to avoid grammatical and spelling mistakes.  ‘It is astonishing that, while Russia has its own Vogue magazine and Internet cafes, its political process is now more arcane, more eccentric and yet more public than it was during the 18th-century […]’

Karel Schwarzenberg, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, writes in today’s Guardian on the importance of negotiating a new Partnership and Co-operation Agreement between the EU and Russia.

PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits the mechanical treatment shop of the Moscow Machine-Building Plant Salyut. (AFP/Ria Novosti/Mikhail Klimentyev)