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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan. 7, 2007

070108.jpgTODAY: Russian Christmas; Clinton on Putin; Georgian elections – Russia doubts democracy; Poland signals stronger position on missile defense shield; Russia and the Middle East; could Russia give the OSCE a hard time this year? It is Christmas Day in Russia today. President Vladimir Putin issued Christmas greetings to Orthodox Christians and all Russian citizens, saying, “this is a holiday that has borne the light of faith, hope and love for centuries. It draws us to the true spiritual values that unite millions of people.” US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reportedly declared, in response to a voter’s question, that Putin “doesn’t have a soul.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry doubts that Saturday’s presidential elections in Georgia were democraticbecause they were accompanied by pressure on opposition candidates”. A similar complaint was made by a number of organizations against Russia during its last elections.”This is an American, not a Polish project,” said Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, signaling a tougher position in negotiations with the United States on the proposed anti-ballistic missile shield. Sikorski says the new Warsaw government is not prepared to accept US plans to deploy part of the shield in Poland “until all costs and risks are considered.” Moscow has urged the world community to continue joint efforts in tackling the Middle East crisis, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia would render significant financial aid to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). It also said it would be willing to host an international conference on the Middle East in 2008 if the region begins to stabilize. The Russian and Libyan navies have resumed contact after a long hiatus “in the interest of strengthening mutual understanding and building trust in the Mediterranean region”. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) “looks to be in for a difficult year, with participant Russia at the center of many of the likely clashes.”Russia has sought German assistance to deal with the ex-Soviet nuclear submarines that “lie rotting, like ticking ecological time bombs” on the Barents Sea coast.PHOTO: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a Christmas Eve service at a church in the ancient Russian town of Veliky Ustyug, in the Vologda region, late January 6, 2008. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Gregorian calendar, which places Christmas on January 7. REUTERS/Misha Japaridze/Pool (RUSSIA)