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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan. 24, 2008

240108.jpgTODAY: Zyuganov won’t pull out of the presidential race, although Medvedev looks set for an overwhelming victory. Lavrov speaks out on international disputes. NATO-Russia summit to go ahead in April. Kremlin wants Russian GPS system to rival the US. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov insists that he won’t pull out of the forthcoming presidential elections, despite reports that poor media coverage has pushed his party to consider it. The party secretary said, “The outcome [of the elections] is almost predetermined. The question is whether there is any sense in taking part in this farce.” Zyuganov believes that a media campaign is being waged against him. The Liberal Democratic Party leader and presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky gave a speech in front of the British Embassy, blaming Britain for fomenting the 18th-century war between Russia and Sweden and starting World War II. “In time, Britain will be recognized as the most barbaric country on the planet,” he said. Mikhail Kasyanov has run into further problems with his bid to run for president, with authorities now claiming that 50,000 of Kasyanov’s signatures show “discrepancies”. A new poll by Levada, in any case, shows that “Kremlin front-runner” in the forthcoming election, Dmitry Medvedev, already has the backing of 82% of voters.

NATO has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to a NATO-Russia summit on the margins of a summit of NATO leaders in Bucharest this April, to help “clear the air on issues where we disagree”. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia would not soften its stance in major international disputes, “slamming the Western position on Kosovo, NATO activities and the behavior of the British Council as outside international law.” A top Kremlin figure threatened to fire space agency officials at Roskosmos unless they get on with developing a Russian satellite navigation system to rival the US-controlled global positioning system GPS.The situation of former Yukos executive Vasily Aleksanyan has brought to light the issues facing HIV/AIDS patients incarcerated in Russia. According to one NGO, in the Leningrad region alone, only around 100 HIV/AIDS patients out of 3,500 receive the treatment they require.PHOTO: Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Aleksey Kudrin speaks during a working session at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday Jan. 24, 2008. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)