RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 20th, 2009

200109.jpgTODAY: Putin and Tymoshenko sign 10-year gas deal, networks to return to working order in 36 hours; Medvedev sanctions countries selling arms to Georgia; Human Rights Watch calls for probe into death of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasiya Baburova.

Human Rights Watch is calling for a government probe into yesterday’s disgraceful contract killing of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasiya Baburova, and has urged the EU to put pressure on Russia ‘to bring to justice those responsible for the killings‘.  ‘The larger story here is of serial murders of Mr. Putin’s opponents, at home and abroad,‘ says the Washington Post.  20-year-old Anton Stradymov, one of the Oborona activists detained last year and a protester involved with the banned National Bolshevik Party, has been beaten to death in Moscow.  The 18-year-old leader of a nationalist group has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison by a Moscow court for staging a mock killing.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly ordered that European gas shipments be resumed this morning, after he and Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko signed a new ten-year agreement on gas and transit prices that will see Ukraine pay double what it used to.  Officials say it will take at least 36 hours for gas to reach Europe.  ‘It certainly looks like a good deal for Putin,‘ says one analyst.  ‘He has won his game of chicken with Ukraine. It also looks like a victory for Tymoshenko. She has emerged as the can-do politician who brokered a deal.

President Dmitry Medvedev has empowered his government to impose economic sanctions on countries that sell arms to Georgia, supposedly as a measure second-best to an arms embargo.  The Moscow Times says the move ‘seemed to be directed primarily against Ukraine‘.  The Georgian Foreign Ministry described Medvedev’s the ban on arms exports to Georgia as ‘out of sync with present-day reality‘.

Read a round-up of proceedings from last month’s International Conference on Stalinism, held in Moscow last month.

PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin follows Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as they enter the hall to attend a document signing ceremony in Moscow, January 19, 2009. (Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters)