RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 19th, 2009

190109.jpgTODAY: Understanding reached between Russia and Ukraine, but EU remains cautious until gas flows are restored; Putin tries to temper Obama expectations; his charity painting sells for over $1m; suicide and bullying major problems for Russian military.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart, Yulia Tymoshenko, reached a mutual understanding after a late-night meeting over the weekend, and promised that Russian gas would begin flowing to Europe today, but the EU has responded cautiously to the news, referring to ‘many false dawns.  Putin said Ukraine would pay 20% less than 2009’s European gas price, ‘but the complex, opaque nature of the two nations’ gas dealings and the lack of full detail about the outline agreement makes it very hard to be certain what is really happening’.  In any case, the two leaders are to sign an official agreement in Moscow today.  The New York Times wonders whether Russia will be able to win control of Ukraine’s gas pipeline system, which it apparently ‘continues to covet’.  This month’s crisis has its roots in Viktor Yushchenko’s initial gas deals with Russia, in which he ceded too much control, says the Washington Post.

Vladimir Putin has warned against ‘excessive expectations’ of US President-elect Barack Obama.  Read a special report on John Beyrle, the new US ambassador to Russia, whose American father was a Soviet soldier.  Putin’s first painting sold for $1.14 million at a charity auction in St Petersburg, to a gallery owner

Russia’s defense ministry has confirmed ‘worrying’ reports that the armed forces lost 471 service personnel to non-combat deaths in 2008.  Suicide and bullying are said to be the primary cause for non-combat deaths.  The British Ministry of Defence is investigating a ‘major breach’ in security in the form of  a virus that supposedly sent all e-mail traffic from a number of RAF stations to a Russian internet server.  President Dmitry Medvedev has accepted a request from President Hamid Karzai to provide military aid to Afghanistan.

PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin walks with Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko as they make their way to speak to the media early Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009. (AP Photo/Aleksandr Prokopenko, Pool)