RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 20, 2008

200608.jpgTODAY: EU-Russia Summit to be held next week; new row with Lithuania; federal programs; corruption and Russia’s “rotten” legal system. Leading up to next week’s EU-Russia Summit, European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson says that Russia and the European Union must work together to prevent disputes over trade and agree on a “grand energy bargain” focused on security of supply and demand. “Let’s be honest: each suspects the other of employing double standards, of using the energy weapon as an instrument of politics,” he said. Mandelson denies that a new row between Russia and Lithuania over the banning of Soviet symbols will affect the summit. Ostensibly, the EU views its relations with Russia as one of its top priorities, and hopes that Russia will join the World Trade Organization by November 2009, but Russian MP Konstantin Kossachov, who chairs the Duma’s foreign policy committee, is “pessimistic” about the prospects for a new partnership treaty.

Several federal programs have seen their funds disappear in the past, but the government continues to implement a “mind-boggling” number of new ones. “The government has so far spent only about 6.5% of the 682.2 billion rubles earmarked for 47 targeted federal programs this year.”The BBC today focuses on the shortcomings of Russia’s “rotten” legal system, and the Moscow Times is running a story on the problem of corruption. “Everyone pays bribes.”“The portraits of Putin that dominated government offices during the eight years of his presidency are giving way to photographs of Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev together.” A bronze monument of an enema carried by three angels, unveiled at a Russian health spa, was “inspired by Botticelli.PHOTO: Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev visit an exhibition showing the Spanish work of Russian photographers in Moscow June 19, 2008. REUTERS/Misha Japaridze/Pool (RUSSIA)