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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 19, 2008

190308.jpgTODAY: Russia’s relations with the West are on the decline, announces Foreign Ministry; US-Russia missile talks take positive tone, but fail to reach a solution. Rice meets with Yavlinsky over breakfast. Nevzlin case begins. Gorbachev reveals his Christian faith. Although both sides adopted a “strikingly moderate tone after a long period of rancor”, high-level talks between Russia and the United States on missile-defense and arms treaties have ended without agreement, as predicted. In a sign of some progress, the two countries have agreed to negotiate a “strategic framework” document that would formally put in writing the basic elements of their relationship. Russia’s Foreign Ministry says that the United States has so far failed to provide written missile shield proposals, despite a pledge to submit them by Tuesday evening. During her visit, Condoleezza Rice, who has “accused the Kremlin of harassing the political opposition”, met some leading liberals including Grigory Yavlinsky, but did not meet with the Kremlin’s most strident critics, Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Kasyanov, who were “noticeably absent”. Subjects discussed included freedom of speech and free elections. Parties that failed to win at least 3% of the vote in the December elections are now trying to pay off debts to the federal budget, largely for television ads.

There has been no decisive moving away from the stereotypes of the Cold War era in the political policies of the British elite,” says Russia’s Foreign Ministry, signaling no imminent diplomatic thaw. “If this problem is not resolved it will be hard to count on the normalisation of Russian-British relations.” In its annual review, the Foreign Ministry also said that the West may face new diplomatic problems with Russia because of “European and US efforts to stifle Moscow’s influence”.A Moscow court has begun hearing the case against the former Yukos Vice-President Leonid Nevzlin. It is being reported that prosecutors are trying to link the Yukos cases with the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Russian prosecutors are seeking the extradition from Germany of former Yukos-linked executive Ilya Kantselson.China and Russia have completed water sampling of a border lake as part of a five-year joint environmental project to monitor water quality. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov starts a three-day tour of the Middle East today, focused on mediating in ongoing regional violence, particularly in Lebanon. Moscow has agreed to restore air travel between Russia and Georgia, more than 17 months after imposing a transport blockade.Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Communist leader of the Soviet Union, has acknowledged his Christian faith for the first time.PHOTO: Russian policemen chat while guarding the entrance of the Red Square in Moscow. (AFP/File/Mladen Antonov)