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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan. 16, 2008

160108.jpgTODAY: Medvedev’s strength is Putin? The British Council drama continues. Georgian elections; Bukovsky will not be permitted to run for President; Zubkov speaks about gas safety; Polish President warns against drive to improve relations with Russia. Khodorkovsky – lawyer’s new complaint. Dmitri Medvedev’s “closeness to Putin”, together with the First Deputy Prime Minister’s having the President’s trust are the top two reasons why he is so popular with voters, according to a new poll. Russia’s Foreign Ministry’s complaints about the Georgian elections “pretty much sum up the Kremlin’s strategy for installing […] Medvedev as the successor to Vladimir Putin.” Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov sent a 17-page statement to the Prosecutor General’s Office yesterday disputing the State Duma election results in Mordovia. The Supreme Court of Russia has sustained the resolution of Central Election Commission refusing to register Vladimir Bukovsky as a presidential candidate. Today is the last day on which Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) will be accepting registration documents from presidential candidates for the upcoming election.

Putin has declared that the government needs to do more to deal with inflation, which soared to 11.9% last year and could exceed government forecasts of 8% this year. Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has expressed concern over a series of gas explosions that killed 15 people in apartment buildings in less than a week, demanding that authorities closely examine the causes and improve safety.The British Council saga continues. Sergei Lavrov has stated that the British have a “nostalgia for colonialism,” and yesterday a retired Russian spymaster accused the British Council of being “directly connected to the intelligence services of Britain and the United States.” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband reiterated his stance that cultural links between the countries are not the real issue, and the head of the Russian Federation Council’s international affairs committee says that the Council’s operations in Russia run counter to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Russia’s Federal Security Service says it will interview Russian citizens working for the British Council to prevent them from being used as an “instrument in provocative games” of the British authorities. There is concern in the press that the conflict shows Russia “is in the mood for a fight and will extend that to issues that do matter – such as Iran and energy investments.” Polish President Lech Kaczynski has criticized the new government led by Donald Tusk, opposing its policy of attempting to improve ties with Russia. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has expressed outrage over allegations that a government intelligence official had handed over research information to Russia.The Russian Defense Ministry has decided not to renew its lease on two Dnepr radar stations located in Ukraine near the cities of Sevastopol and Mukachevo. The Russian Defense Ministry began to have doubts about the Ukrainian stations’ dependability when the rent on the stations was doubled in late 2005. Russia has agreed to pay $2 million to Kazakhstan as compensation for environmental damage caused by the Proton M rocket booster crash in September of last year. A lawyer for former Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky has complained that Russian authorities have not announced a date or place for his next trial.PHOTO: Former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov speaks to the media outside the office of the Central Election Commission in Moscow January 16, 2008. Kasyanov delivered boxes containing what he said were the names of 2.2 million Russian voters supporting his bid as an independent candidate in a March presidential election. The sign reads: “Kasyanov 2008”. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin (RUSSIA)