RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 16th, 2009

160109.jpgTODAY: Following suggestion from Putin, Eni tries to form consortium to get gas pipelines working again; gas summit to meet tomorrow in Moscow; Putin in Germany, Poland siding with Ukraine.  Gas row boosting public support for Putin at home; US needs Russia, says lawmaker; post-Soviet mortality; Medvedev is ‘the president without a team’.

The Russia-Ukraine gas dispute hits its eleventh day.  In light of another failed attempt at a resolution, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin suggested that European countries suffering from the dispute should form a consortium to purchase gas directly from Russia.  ‘Russia is not ready to take all the risks,’ said Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.  Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is the only leader so far to have backed the plan, but Eni is in the process of trying to do just that, organizing a consortium to provide enough gas to get pipelines and pumping stations working again.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has urged EU leaders to attend this weekend’s energy summit in Moscow, but France says there is no need to attend a summit until gas supplies have resumed.

Vladimir Putin is on his way to Germany for a two-day visit to discuss energy relations, and the already-strong relationship between the two countries is sparking hopes of a solution.  Chancellor Angela Merkel is reportedly planning to insist that Putin ensure reliable gas supplies.  The Polish president is siding against Russia, and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has proposed setting up a special EU commission to investigate claims that Ukraine stole Russian gas.  Russia’s political analysts say the row is doing wonders for Putin’s popularity at home, by ‘showing that he is in charge’.

A senior US lawmaker says that America must work on its relationship with Russia, partly because it needs a partner in Moscow to help deal with Iran.  A new study on post-Soviet mortality rates in Russia, published in a British journal, is summarized in the New York Times.

Speculation abounds over the relationship between Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, but one analyst insists that Putin will always have more power in the relationship, because Medvedev has no power base.  ‘I call him the president without a team,’ she said.

PHOTO: Members of a right-leaning youth group hold a poster with a caricature of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during an anti-Russian protest in front of the Russian embassy in Kiev January 15, 2009. REUTERS/Konstantin Chernichkin (UKRAINE)