RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 28th, 2009

280109.jpgTODAY: Russia to halt US retaliation plans; Church elects news leader; Russian military is a ‘paper tiger’; Russia-Georgia soldier spat; Putin ‘too trusting’.

Russia has halted its plan to retaliate against a proposed US missile defense shield by stationing its own missiles near Europe’s borders, and the US will welcome confirmation of the news.  London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies says that, despite many very visible demonstrations recently, and a 34% boost to its defense spending budget, the Russian military remains a paper tiger.  The Moscow Times reports on a Russian soldier who said he deserted his unit in South Ossetia and sought asylum in Georgia because of ‘unbearable living conditions’.  A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman suggested that the soldier’s comments were probably the result of ‘coercion’‘Russian and Georgian television reported Sergeant Glukhov’s story very differently – a Georgian channel described him as starving, while a Russian source stressed the theory that he had been abducted.  Georgia has promised to protect the soldier’s rights and says it will not hand him over to the Russian army.

The Russian Orthodox Church has elected outspoken 62-year-old Metropolitan Kirill, a long-standing church diplomat and skillful orator, as its new patriarch.  Many hope that he will end the church’s rift with the Vatican, but Kirill somewhat dampened these hopes in an address just before the vote in which he complained about Catholic missionaries working in Russia.

‘The murders of […] Kremlin foes – journalists, lawyers and critics of Russia’s security services – all have a common theme. Nobody is ever caught and punished,’ writes Luke Harding.  Moscow police are trying to persuade a university to take action against its student protesters.  Putin’s main fault in his own words?  Being too trusting.

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered his administration to rework a bill on treason to make sure that it does not curtail human rights. ‘It was unclear whether Medvedev’s orders represented a rift between him and Putin or simply meant that authorities had decided to back off on the bill.’  To mark the 65th anniversary of a Nazi siege of St Petersburg, Medvedev said Russia should resist attempts by some of its ex-Soviet neighbors to ‘falsify’ the history of World War Two by underplaying Moscow’s role in defeating Hitler.

PHOTO: More than 700 delegates met on January 27, 2009, in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow to elect a Russian Orthodox patriarch. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press)