RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan. 23, 2008

230108.jpgTODAY: Medvedev makes his first major campaign address, targeting corruption and pledging peaceful development. Kasyanov criminal probe continues with accusations on both sides. Putin’s naval task force exercise “farcical”. Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office has launched a criminal probe against former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. His campaign managers have issued a statement saying that those who had signed Kasyanov’s campaign documents were being threatened with home searches, arrests and dismissal from their jobs. His spokeswoman said that the investigation was “a political decision that is made by one person. Everybody knows who that person is.” Meanwhile, Democratic Party leader Andrei Bogdanov could be registered as a presidential candidate despite the elections commission claiming that 3% of his signatures were invalid. Dmitry Medvedev has made his first major campaign address, stating his main goal as being the continuation of peaceful and stable development in Russia. Medvedev said that Russia was in the grip of “legal nihilism”, that the fight against corruption should become a national program, and that Russia will not sever relations with “problem states” – presumably such as Iran and North Korea – despite international pressure to do so.

Vladimir Putin’s decision to send his naval task force to the Bay of Biscay “in what Moscow billed as its biggest navy exercise in the area since Soviet times” was “a logical, if slightly farcical, response.” This autumn, the number of draftees into the Russian Armed Forces will double as part of the transition to one-year terms of service. The government says that new rules for foreign visas issued by the Foreign Ministry “do not include any additional obstacles”. “How should the rest of the world deal with resurgent Russia?”Russia’s Supreme Court has refused to release Vasily Alexanian, a jailed Yukos executive who says he will die in prison because prosecutors are deliberately denying him life-saving treatment. Moscow’s National Information Center – to be headed by Putin’s friend Vasily Shestakov – will “tackle Russia’s tarnished image”.PHOTO: Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev seen addressing a Kremlin-organized forum of civil-society organizations in the Manezh exhibition center in Moscow, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)