RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 23rd, 2009

230109.jpgTODAY: The popular Mr Putin; Medvedev trying to sway Uzbeks; Russia could broker Afghan deal with NATO; Human Rights Watch says both sides of the Georgia-Russia war violated the law, accusations continue to fly.

A new poll by the Levada Center says that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has retained sky-high approval ratings despite the economic crisis, and despite the fact that the percentage of Russians who believe that the country is going in the right direction has fallen from 54% to 43% since October.  ‘It’s not for nothing we call him the Teflon president, because criticism doesn’t stick,’ said Lev Gudkov, the Center’s director.  President Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Uzbekistan yesterday, amid reports that he will try to persuade the country that it should ignore European efforts to persuade it to transport gas through routes that bypass Russia.  The leaders also discussed regional security in relation to supply routes through Afghanistan.

Russia could make a deal with NATO to re-supply its forces in Afghanistan in exchange for the restoration of contacts broken during the Georgian war.  Human Rights Watch wants Russia and Georgia to investigate a 200-page report documenting human rights violations, including possible war crimes, committed during the war last year.  The report says that all parties in the conflict violated the law.  Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Georgia’s refusal to allow its inspectors to access military installations on its territory will have political consequences.  Georgia has accused Russia of blackmailing Belarus in order to get it to consider recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Alexander Lebedev, one of the owners of Novaya Gazeta, says that the newspaper’s journalists are being made targets for assassination in a bid to force its closure, and blamed ‘an atmosphere of lawlessness in Moscow [that] allows people to kill with impunity,’ on the killings, ‘brazen even by Russian standards,’ of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova.

One of the seven officials killed in a recent helicopter crash during a hunting trip was Viktor Kaimin, an Altai republic official whose committee was responsible for protecting the region’s wildlife.  A federal judge has ordered Russia to preserve a number of 18th century religious documents that are currently being held in the Russian State Military Archives, in response to fears that they could be sold into the black market.

PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov pose for a picture during their visit to Samarkand January 22, 2009. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Dmitry Astakhov (UZBEKISTAN)