TODAY: Russia may withdraw OSCE funding; National Bolshevik web master jailed; court requests Khodorkovsky evaluation; Medvedev working on new personnel; Russia may retaliate with Cuba bomber base; religious battle with Ukraine. Russia is threatening to withdraw its annual financial contribution from the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, criticizing it for a lack of democracy. The Other Russia reports that Russian authorities have jailed an opposition activist, charging him with “creating and moderating the website of the banned National-Bolshevik Party”. A Siberian court has reportedly requested an evaluation of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s “behavior” in jail for consideration of his parole application. If released for parole, it is thought that Khodorkovsky would be banned from making any “political statements”. President Dmitry Medvedev is reportedly working on building a new personnel of young and experienced candidates to work in the government as part of “one of the important components of the modernization that has been much talked about”. The Education and Science Minister has called for underperforming higher education institutions to be transformed into universities’ affiliates or midlevel professional schools, saying that only 150 out of the country’s 1,000 institutions are “competitive”.
The US has commented on Russia’s potential partnership with Venezuela, praising Russia’s denial of reports that it plans to send strategic bombers to Cuba as “a very good thing”. It is thought that Russia is considering a nuclear bomber base in Cuba in retaliation for the US’ Eastern Europe missile defense plans, possibly using Cuba as a refuelling point. Russians are following the US presidential campaign with “rapt interest”, with a large number of Russian blogs reportedly being set up to cover the race. The director of New York-based think tank Freedom House talks about the difficulty that many in the former Soviet republics face in accessing media information.The Moscow Patriarchate is fighting to retain influence over the mostly Orthodox Ukraine as “religious battle looms”. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko says the country wants to unite its three Orthodox churches. Russia’s Defense Ministry will remove 400 soldiers originally sent to repair railroads in Abkhazia by August.Moscow’s construction boom is reportedly putting historical monuments at risk. The growth of Stalin’s popularity in recent years “is undoubtedly partly to do with an unofficial state campaign to rehabilitate his image”. Roman Abramovich has decided to run for election to the Chukotka region’s council, just weeks after resigning as governor. “One of the biggest causes of environmental degradation is that the Soviet legacy of inefficiency has finally caught up with Russia.”PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, center, flanked by Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, left, and Nizhny Novgorod region Governor Valery Shantsev, right, is seen upon his arrival for a meeting with metal producers, near Nizhny Novgorod, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Moscow, Thursday, July 24, 2008. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Druzhinin, Pool)