RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 31, 2008

310708.jpgTODAY: Mechel message could be a signal on the outcome of Khodorkovsky’s case; troops to be withdrawn from Abkhazia; Russian deputy in Cuba; Merkel to make mystery Russian visit next month; WTO membership would have a “substantial” impact on economic troubles; man given community service for online comments. A Moscow Times reporter warns that “the court will have to carefully consider the importance of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s [Mechel] message when it decides the Khodorkovsky case next month”, and that his comments were “a signal that this is not the time to be soft on corruption from big business.” Russia is removing the last of the soldiers it sent to Abkhazia as part of what it claims was a “humanitarian” effort to repair a railroad. The withdrawal “ends a deployment that had angered Georgia and its Western allies.” Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin is in Cuba this week to discuss the growth of bilateral trade and investment with his Cuban counterpart. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make her second trip to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev next month, although potential discussion topics have not been confirmed. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has recommended that the US partner with China and Russia “in order to blunt their rise as potential adversaries”.

One Russian journalist says that inflation and the overheating economy should give Russia cause to push for WTO membership, which would “substantially” impact these issues. Dmitry Medvedev appears to be “struggling” to find a leader for the “volatile” republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia, having missed a deadline for nominating a candidate. Medvedev has met with Nashi members in the Kremlin and gave a speech emphasizing Russia’s need for “innovation”.A regional Russian court has sentenced a man to 150 hours of community service for comments he left on an internet forum which allegedly “incited racial discord”.PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev meets a group of children from China’s earthquake-hit Sichuan province, in Moscow’s Kremlin, July 30, 2008. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA)