TODAY: US State Department condemns Russia’s government accountability. Putin talks with Yavlinsky. Carbomb threat outside Federal Security Service. Anti-inflation bill could fail. Russian farmland going to waste. President Vladimir Putin has held “rare closed-door talks” with Grigory Yavlinsky, the Yabloko opposition-party leader. Few details have been confirmed, but Putin has reportedly agreed to personally look into complaints about election violations and the detention of Maxim Reznik. The Central Election Commission has submitted its final accounting report on the December elections to the State Duma. The US State Department’s annual report of human rights practices around the world has condemned Russia’s “centralization of power in the executive branch, a compliant State Duma, corruption and selectivity in enforcement of the law” for eroding government accountability to its citizens. Read the full report here. A man who threatened to blow himself up in a car parked outside the Federal Security Service in Moscow explained that he was trying to draw attention to the “difficult situation in Russia”. If negotiations are completed this summer, Russia may become a full member of the World Trade Organization from January 2009.
Serbia and Russia have demanded that the UN administration in Kosovo halt the transfer of authority to the European Union, calling a handover illegal. Russia has called on UN Security Council members to consider sanctions against rebel groups challenging peace efforts in Darfur. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Senegal to take part in the 11th summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). On a trip to France earlier this week, Lavrov called on the international community to start new talks with Iran over the country’s nuclear program.“Tariffs and protectionism” are preventing thousands of hectares of valuable farmland in Russia from being used. Economic Development and Trade Minister Elvira Nabiullina has warned that attempts to impose long-term price controls on basic foodstuffs could lead to shortages, prompting uncertainty over a proposed anti-inflation bill. The Russian army is to auction off property ranging from mansions to barracks and even whole towns to raise cash to build modern housing for its officers. “Conservative estimates” put the total value of the army’s property at $12bn.PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with the head of liberal ‘Yabloko’ Party Grigory Yavlinsky during a meeting in Moscow’s Kremlin on Tuesday, March 11, 2008. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)