RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 17th, 2009

170309.jpgTODAY: Medvedev speaks of NATO threat and announces rearmament plan; US panel underscores need to fix relations with Russia; Moscow pledges support for Afghanistan; Olympic woes; Sochi elections; Yevloyev death to be investigated; South Ossetia lacking aid.

At a Defense Ministry meeting this morning, President Dmitry Medvedev claimed that NATO is continuing attempts to broaden its military infrastructure towards Russia’s borders, and used the claim as justification for a new military rearmament plan to increase ‘the combat readiness of our forces’, which will commence in 2011.  A panel of former high-level US diplomats and members of Congress is urging the US to seek Russia’s cooperation on Iran, saying it should not proceed with a missile defense system in Europe without Moscow’s acquiescence.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has emphasized Moscow’s willingness to support international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Investors are running out of cash, building is behind schedule and environmentalists are protesting the use of land from a nature reserve to house facilities: is Russia’s Olympic dreamin trouble?  Meanwhile the next mayoral election in Sochi is attracting attention, as Alexander Lebedev is the latest to announce his intention to run. Andrei Lugovoi and Boris Nemtsov are also set to run, although ‘local observers are convinced that the authorities will do everything in their power to deny Nemtsov official registration’.

Prosecutors in Russia’s Ingushetia region have ordered a new investigation into the death of Magomed Yevloyev, the journalist who was shot in the head whilst in policy custody last year. South Ossetia says it is seeing less Russian aid than was promised to it for reconstruction after the war, despite assurances from Russia’s Finance Ministry, who said aid for the region was protected from spending cuts.

PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attends a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow about the state of the economy, Friday, March 13, 2009. (AFP/POOL/Dmitry Astakhov)