RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 5th, 2009

050109.jpgTODAY: Ukraine gas cuts affecting the supply of seven EU countries; Russia calling for Gaza ceasefire; navy to station warships all over the world; opposition newspaper offices hit by fire; US-Russia adoption slammed by United Russia.

The Czech Republic, Romania, Poland and Germany are among the six European countries whose gas supply was initially affected by Russia’s cuts to Ukraine, but Croatia has now also reported pressure drops in its pipelines, bringing the total to seven.  The dispute, over unpaid bills and future pricing, may not be resolved until after the Orthodox Christmas holiday when Gazprom can check its books, suggests this report.  Gazprom is now offering Ukraine a new gas price of $418 per cubic meter, an almost 60% hike on its original offer.  Both sides have asked for European support, and EU ambassadors are set to meet in Brussels today to discuss the situation, although the EU reportedly does not intend to take the side of either party.  Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin told Andrew Lloyd Webber that he hopes Ukraine will vote for Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest. ‘Perhaps he will refuse to turn the gas taps back on until they do so‘?

Read a summary report of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ views on Russia, and in particular his opinion that there is potential to build a closer relationship between the two countries. Russia is continuing to press for a ceasefire in Gaza, and has sent a senior official to the region.  President Medvedev has signed into law the ratified Russian-Venezuelan intergovernmental convention, relating mostly to tax issues.

Russia has approved a plan by its ‘resurgent‘ navy to station warships permanently in a number of ports around the world.  The new security strategy ordered by President Dmitry Medvedev last summer is to take effect next month.  Among other things, the strategy assumes the possibility of future military conflict erupting over energy resources, but won’t a new approach need to be defined in light of the economic crisis?

The offices of an opposition newspaper in Vladivostok have been destroyed in a fire that officials have not yet ruled out as being caused by arson.  United Russia deputies are speaking out angrily on the death of a Russian boy adopted by a US family, but critics say that they are unnecessarily politicizing the discussion.  Boris Gryzlov is ‘indignant‘ over the case, and says that foreigners want to adopt Russian children because they are ‘genetically smarter and healthier.‘ 

PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talk during a skiing holiday in the Krasnaya Polyana ski resort near Sochi January 4, 2009. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool (RUSSIA)