RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan. 18, 2008

180108.jpgTODAY: British Foreign Secretary accuses Russia of “staining” its own reputation. Bulgarian co-operation with Russia. Oleg Mitvol resigns. Two activists quit over row with Kasparov. Medvedev promises: no state grab. After officials were questioned by authorities, the British Council consented to close its offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. One journalist details British MPs’ responses. Another looks at the popularity of British music culture in clubs across Russia. The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has denounced Russia’s actions as “reprehensible” and a “stain” on its reputation. Britain has warned Russia that its actions could make it harder to strike a free trade deal with the EU or join international organizations. “Nothing impresses the great mass of the Russian electorate more than the sight of its leader taking a stand against its 19th-century imperialist rival, which is why Mr Putin has singled out Britain, rather than Germany and France, as the main object of his grandstanding exploits these past 12 months.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov insisted there is no contradiction between Bulgaria’s EU membership and its friendship with Russia.Russia’s deputy environmental watchdog chief, Oleg Mitvol, has tendered his resignation. Two leading figures of the non-governmental organisation, All-Russian Civil Congress, have quit because of a row with controversial Kremlin-critic Garry Kasparov. One, a human rights activist and another, a famous political analyst, said it’s “impossible to work with Kasparov“.  A poll by Russia’s VTsIOM, the Center for Public Opinion Studies in Russia of ideal presidential qualities, made last summer, says Russians think their ideal president should be either “the father of the nation” or “a modern manager”. President Vladimir Putin’s chosen successor, Dmitri Medvedev, dismissed fears that the Kremlin would nationalize Russia’s economy and said the state would not “grab everything for itself“. There has been some indication that Medvedev will put together a welfare system for Russia if he wins the next presidential election, and is set to unveil his election platform next week at the second national Civic Forum. Russia’s Central Election Commission has released data on the income and property of presidential candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party.The Russian-owned paintings to feature in the London Royal Academy exhibition come from “hero collectors”. Russian activists are pushing to abolish the death penalty.PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bulgaria’s President Georgi Parvanov look at honour guard soldier marching in Sofia, Bulgaria, Friday, Jan. 18, 2008. Putin arrived in Sofia on an official visit to Bulgaria with multibillion-dollar energy projects that have drawn criticism from local politicians and NGOs who fear it will foster dependence on Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)