RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 11, 2008

110308.jpgTODAY: Putin the Theatre Critic. Music students protest eviction, factory workers protest unpaid wages. Praise for remnants of Communism. US and Poland reach agreement on missile defense. Russian relations with Georgia and South Africa. Students at one of Russia’s most prestigious music schools organized a surprise protest in one of the city’s busiest shopping malls to draw attention to their being evicted from their only dormitory, accusing the school of “selling the culture of our country”. Moscow unveiled a $45 million bobsledding track earlier this week, Russia’s first to meet international standards. Dmitry Medvedev commented, “Until recently, we were poor, and we could not allow ourselves to have complexes on this global level. Now our athletes will not have to go abroad to train but can do so at home, and the home surroundings help.” A group of factory workers are on hunger strike to protest months of unpaid wages. Vladimir Putin is in the news today as a theatre critic, after he attended a Moscow theatre and then suggested improvements for the play to its director. “A fork that Putin ate from can slay a vampire with one stab.”

Russia’s Communist Party “continues to have a powerful grip on the nation’s collective imagination”: one columnist praises Russia’s “lingering vestiges of Communism”. “Is it more important to see a country governed democratically, or to conduct the practice of international relations democratically? With Russia, these currently stand in opposition.”Georgia’s largest air carrier, Airzena Georgia Carriers, has paid Russia $2 million as a part of a debt payment required to resume air transport between the two countries. An EU official has voiced fears that Russia may recognise Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia after lifting its trade restrictions.US President George Bush pledged to bolster Poland’s defenses against Russia in return for Warsaw agreeing to host a US base of interceptor rockets for Washington’s missile defense project, but the White House denies that the military help is a reward for Polish agreement on the interceptors or that it is needed because of a Russian threat to Poland. First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov says that Russia’s GLONASS satellite system will be complete with 24 satellites in a year and a half. Ivanov has just arrived in Pretoria, South Africa, for talks aimed at increasing bilateral trade and investment.PHOTO: Russia’s president-elect Dmitry Medvedev, 3rd right, and the Minister of Sport, former ice hockey star Viacheslav Fetisov, fourth right, speak with various sportsmen at the opening ceremony of a toboggan and sledge sports center in Paramonovo, outside Moscow, Monday, March 10, 2008. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Pool)