RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan. 1, 2008

blast010108.jpgOn New Year’s Day in Russia, there were reports of a sudden shortage of pet rats, a new law banning fireworks, and popular adulation of foreign football coaches. Although 2007 closed with political relations between Russia and the West at a particularly low point, East-West trade has flourished – once again with the Skoda automobile as the unlikely trade ambassador. “The quality of the goods have improved markedly,” one expert told the New York Times. “The Russian consumers knows they are buying quality goods. They know that Skoda, for example, really is made by Volkswagen.”

President Putin also sounded optimistic if not sentimental in his New Year’s address to the nation: “This is a holiday filled with love for our dear ones, with the warmth of our homes. A holiday of hope and belief that everything will turn out the way we want it to turn out. That our life will become better. That our children will be happy. That our elderly people will be healthy and safe. That our country will become stronger and blossom.“In other news, Iran has arrested the person who spread the false rumor of an assassination plot against Putin in Tehran last October, while their Foreign Minister contradicted earlier comments from the Defence Minister that Russia was going to supply Iran with an advanced anti-aircraft missile system. Iran celebrated the new year with the second shipment of enriched uranium from the Russians to the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is due to go online in mid-2008.UK-Russian relations continue to be quite rocky – despite reaching a settlement on the feud over the delivery of works for a major art exhibit in London with the enactment of a new law, Britain has also decided to defy orders from the Russian authorities to cease operations at several British Council offices. “We’ve made our position very clear. There is a very sound legal basis for the British Council to operate, and that’s what they’ll be doing,” said an Embassy spokesman.Today the Metropolitan Lauras, head of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia, turned 80 years old today.(Photo: People celebrate the new year on an ice rink in Red Square in Moscow January 1, 2008. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (RUSSIA))