RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 27th, 2009

270109.jpgTODAY: Russia and NATO to resume ties by next month; Russia to build ‘illegal’ naval base in Abkhazia; new patriarch will be ‘alleged former KGB agent’; Storchak case re-opened; Putin and Medvedev ‘at odds’ about economic crisis; alleged army abuses.

Full ties between Russia and NATO could be resumed as early as next month, according to envoy Dmitry Rogozin, speaking after yesterday’s informal preliminary meetings.  ‘Everything was very constructive,’ he said.  NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer confirmed the re-engagement.  Moscow could start building a naval base in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia region this year, potentially fueling Western concerns about its growing military presence there.  Tbilisi says the move would violate its sovereignty, and Georgian lawmakers say the plan is absolutely illegal.

Russia’s next patriarch will be chosen from a selection of ‘alleged former KGB agents’, says The Times.  Final voting is already in process.  Investigators have finally resumed last year’s probe into the case against Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, who was accused of embezzlement.  Supporters of an independent mayoral candidate, who was suspended after being accused of breaking fundraising rules, say her suspension is ‘ludicrous and contrived’, and may be connected to her environmental activism regarding a highway construction project. 

A recent article in a Russian weekly suggests that Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev ‘are at odds about how to deal with the mounting economic crisis’‘The temptation for Mr Putin will be to rig one more election before his “power vertical” crumbles, giving him six years to rebuild in time for re-election in 2015.’

What was the cause of a recent double outbreak of pneumonia at two army bases in Kaliningrad and Siberia – harsh treatment, ‘primitive’ barrack conditions, or is it the result of a more general ‘contempt towards the conscripts’?  Moscow authorities have backtracked on a rule requiring expatriates to register their apartment rental contract following ‘a flurry of criticism and concern’.

PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev speaks with writer Daniil Granin after awarding him the Andrey Pervozvanny Order in the Konstantinovsky Palace outside St. Petersburg January 26, 2009. REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk (RUSSIA)