RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 7, 2008

070708.jpgTODAY: State Duma to quadruple funding for United Russia; Medvedev playing “good cop” at G8; UK says Russia spy activities are distracting from fighting terrorism; Medvedev warns Georgia over breakaway regions. The State Duma has unanimously passed a bill quadrupling government funding for major political parties, entitling the ruling United Russia party to millions of dollars of additional government funding. The measure will leave liberal opposition parties with nothing, due to the stipulation that parties receive at least 3% of the popular vote in order to be eligible for funding. British prime minister Gordon Brown will have his first meeting with Dmitry Medvedev today. The UK Foreign Secretary has reportedly promised the wife of ex KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko that Brown will press Medvedev on the matter of Litvinenko’s death. British officials are complaining that Russian spy activities are distracting intelligence sources away from uncovering terrorist plots. A “Russian dissident” associated with Litvinenko has been granted asylum by the UK, as has the leader of Russian youth opposition group ‘Pora!’.

Analysts see Dmitry Medvedev playing the role of “good cop” at the G8 summit, on the sidelines of which he met separately with US President Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Medvedev’s meeting with George Bush (who called his Russian counterpart a “smart guy”) revealed cooperation on Iran but continued tension over missile defense. Condoleezza Rice is in Prague today to sign an agreement for stationing missile defense radar on Czech soil. Instead of using the G8 to present a united European front, “much to the delight of the Kremlin, each EU member state is scrabbling to extract the best bilateral deal it can get from Moscow.”Dmitry Medvedev urged Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to refrain from “stoking tensions” in Georgia’s breakaway regions, and the Russian Defense Ministry is warning that “new war” could break out in Abkhazia if Tbilisi uses military force.“Unless horrendous [prison] abuses stop, Russia will never become the rule-based state of law-abiding citizens about which new President Dmitry Medvedev constantly speaks, no matter how many times he repeats this mantra.PHOTO: Svetlana Medvedev (right), wife of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, shakes hands with Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s wife Kiyoko Fukuda, at a spouses’ luncheon in Toyako, on Hokkaido island. (AFP)