TODAY: Kasyanov harassment; Putin’s carbon footprint; Rogozin to work constructively with NATO; Japanese government withdraw claims of espionage; Moscow’s wedding boom. The harassment of Mikhail Kasyanov’s campaign leaders was “a clear, a well-coordinated effort designed either to discredit the former prime minister or force him out of the race altogether” – and the latter now looks certain to be the case. According to the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin’s visit to Bulgaria last week was his 190th foreign trip, leading one journalist to note that “it is difficult to imagine anyone leaving a larger carbon footprint than Putin”. Russia’s new NATO representative, Dmitry Rogozin, has said that he is ready to work constructively with the alliance. On his appointment to the role, he said, “A country has the right to send either a traitor or a patriot. I am a patriot.” Russia has played down reports that a draft UN resolution on Iran’s nuclear programme will call for new sanctions, although Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the draft does call for countries to be vigilant in their trade with Iran.
The case of the Japanese government employee accused of giving secret information to Russian intelligence has taken an unexpected turn as Japanese officially have “practically admitted that there was no espionage”. Now that “it has become fashionable to get married,” Moscow is planning a wedding palace to cope with the recent surge in Russian marriages.PHOTO: Members of the banned National Bolshevik party wave their organisation’s flag during a protest outside an apartment building accommodating deputies of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, in Moscow January 25, 2008. Members of the banned extreme left-wing group gathered on Friday to protest against the results of Russia’s December 2 parliamentary elections, unfolding a banner that read “False Deputies hand back your mandates!”. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (RUSSIA)