TODAY: Yury Baluyevsky leaves his post following conflicts; Politkovskaya suspect released; Kasparov criticizes Russian press; Duma to ban Valentine’s Day. Following reports of disagreements with Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov over the direction and implementation of military reforms, General Staff chief Yury Baluyevsky has left his post. Conflicting reports say he was fired by Dmitry Medvedev, and that the President “endorsed his resignation”. Another report says Baluyevsky “had become an obstacle to a campaign launched by former President Vladimir Putin to tighten control over military spending.” Medvedev is in Berlin today for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Climate change could alter the whole of Russia’s traditional way of life,” says the BBC’s Moscow diarist. Shamil Burayev, a suspect in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, has been freed from custody. Russian officials have reportedly confirmed the deaths of four inmates who were apparently beaten at a prison in the Ural Mountains. “Russia has announced plans to ban foreign toys and Valentine’s Day in a bid to protect the country’s youth from moral corruption by the West.”A video of Garry Kasparov’s speech on Russian press freedom, given at the World Association of Newspapers meeting in Sweden, has been posted at The Other Russia’s website. During the speech, Kasparov said Vladimir Putin had damaged press freedom in Russia. “Make sure they have to respond and make sure your governments raise the issue,” he said.Poland says it would agree to regular inspections by Russian military experts at the proposed US missile defense shield, but not to their permanent presence. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer demanded Russia withdraw hundreds of military personnel from the separatist region of Abkhazia, calling its presence there a “breach of sovereignty” for Georgia. “The West could be sleepwalking into a war on the European continent.”12 of Forbes 25 Richest Europeans are Russian. “Like escalating prices on Russian paintings and domestic fashion, Russian film is regaining popularity and financial success”.PHOTO: Russia’s armed forces’ chief of general staff Yuri Baluyevsky speaks during a news conference in Moscow in this December 15, 2007 file photo. Medvedev on June 3, 2008 replaced Baluyevsky, who media said had clashed with Russia’s defence minister. Medvedev announced the appointment in his place of General Nikolai Makarov. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/Files (RUSSIA)