RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 14th, 2009

140109.jpgTODAY: Gazprom blames US for ongoing gas dispute; Ukraine says no pressure in gas pipelines; Bulgarian and Slovakian prime ministers to visit Russia and Ukraine; European Commission may advise EU to sue; Russian political freedoms at a low as car tariff protesters plan strike; helicopter crash caused by attempts to hunt endangered animals.

Russia turned the gas back on yesterday, but the EU said little or no gas was flowing to countries suffering urgent shortages.  Both sides blame each other, and Gazprom is now even attempting to blame a ‘suspicious’ agreement between Ukraine and the United States for the ongoing dispute.  Gazprom also says international monitors confirmed that Ukraine has blocked the transit of gas to Europe, but Ukraine says there is simply not enough pressure in the pipeline system.  Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko told Slovakia today that it could not resume gas deliveries because ‘we do not have our own supplies.  Bulgaria and Slovakia, among the worst hit of EU states, are sending their prime ministers to Moscow and Kiev in attempts to see supplies restored.  The European Commission says it will advise EU firms to sue Russian and Ukrainian energy companies unless gas supplies are restored quickly.  Ukraine’s political opposition, meanwhile, wants its government to resign.

Is BBC Russia pandering to the state’?  Read the full text of the new Freedom House report, which ranks Russia near the bottom of its list for political rights and civil liberties, and classifies it, along with 41 other countries, as not free.  Demonstrators in Vladivostok are calling for a general strike to be held against the government on January 31st if new, raised tariffs on car imports are not revoked.
President Dmitry Medvedev presented eight couples with the Order of Parental Glory – awarded for having more than four children – at a ceremony in the Kremlin yesterday.  Reports say that the Russian officials killed and injured in a helicopter crash last week in south Siberia were hunting the endangered Altai mountain sheep.  Russia has demanded that the US apologize and explain its reasons for breaking up cooperation in the military sphere with NATO over the Georgian war.  Russia and Japan are seeking greater inter-parliamentary cooperation.

PHOTO: A European Union observer looks at a computer screen at Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom’s Sudzha pumping station January 13, 2009. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov