RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 8, 2008

080708.jpgTODAY: UK security officers say Litvinenko murder was backed by Russian state; blogger given suspended sentence; Medvedev’s meeting with UK’s Gordon Brown leaves relations “in the deep freeze”, and “no particular progress” with the US; Russia and EU to scrap visas. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has held his first face-to-face meeting and “extremely frank” discussion with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the G8 summit in Tokyo, but it is being reported that Brown received “little sign that Moscow was prepared to give ground” on issues of TNK-BP visas, the closing of the British Council, or the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, and that relations remain “in the deep freeze”. Supposedly, Brown received “scraps of comfort” regarding investment and in the implication that Russia “would continue to be helpful on trying to nudge Iran down from its nuclear ambitions,” but other reports allege that Vladimir Putin spoke with Iranian President Ahmadinejad yesterday, pledging to speed up the construction of Iran’s first nuclear-energy plant. Perhaps the UK “should be asking whether there is not something about Britain in particular that rubs the Kremlin up the wrong way”. The Russian press sees the meeting as “completely positive”. On his meeting with President George Bush, Medvedev commented, “There is no particular progress”, and the US has called on Russia to reverse its “recent provocative steps” in Abkhazia.

Security officers from Britain’s Whitehall believe that the murder of Alexander Litvinenko was carried out with the backing of the Russian state, and that MI5 officers believe they thwarted an attempt last year to assassinate Boris Berezovsky. A Russian blogger has been given a one-year suspended sentence for a comment left on a website regarding corrupt police officers, for which he was accused of “inciting hatred and enmity”.“If the G-8 nations want to see a real change in Russia’s international engagement, they will have to convince Medvedev that they can help solve his problems.” Medvedev’s liberal image is “part of an ongoing campaign to improve the country’s image in the west,” says one UK journalist, and “if Medvedev really wants to send a signal to the west, both that his words are not just idle chitchat and that he is the man now in charge of Russia and not Putin or the siloviki, he will allow Khodorkovsky to be released”. Henry Kissinger on Vladimir Putin: “The ceding of power by a ruler at the height of his influence is unprecedented in Russian history.”Russia and the European Union are reportedly planning to cancel visa procedures in 2-3 years. Russian authorities’ toughening of regulations for foreign workers could increase the numbers of illegal laborers and trafficking. July 8 is a new Russian holiday, apparently marking a day of “family, love and faithfulness”.PHOTO: Leaders of Group of Eight take shovels to plant trees commemorating the G8 summit prior to a group photo session in Toyako, northern Japan Tuesday, July 8, 2008. From left: U.S. President George W. Bush, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. (AP Photo/Kimimasa Mayama, POOL)