RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 20, 2008

200308.jpgTODAY: EU makes provisions for Russia talks; US agrees to let Russia monitor its missile defense system. Other Russia calls for anti-Kremlin coalition; Medvedev talks about holding the government to account; priests advised to carry firearms to deter looters. The Other Russia movement has called on Russian opposition forces this week to form a coalition, but opposition parties expressed doubts such a grouping would be viable. Dmitry Medvedev says that Russian civil society groups should have a bigger role in forming policy and holding the government to account. “At 77, Gorbachev is the most senior ex-communist leader to show an interest in God.” Police in towns on the outskirts of Moscow have advised priests to apply for firearms licences and carry guns. Prosecutors have refused to meet a request for international legal assistance in the Mikhail Khodorkovsky-Platon Lebedev case that was submitted more than three years ago by then Russia’s Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov.

The European Union has made progress towards negotiating a new partnership accord with Russia, and should agree to launch talks in April. Moscow has now received written proposals from America, reassuring that a missile defense shield in Europe will not be a threat to Russia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said “We have succeeded in getting the Americans to admit that our concerns are not without foundation,” and that the US had agreed to allow Moscow to monitor the missile protection system.One blogger focuses on the issue of blogger intimidation in Russia.PHOTO: Russia’s president-elect Dmitry Medvedev attends a meeting of the supervisory board, the board of trustees and the public council for The Russian Orthodox Encyclopedia at the giant Christ the Savior Cathedral, Moscow, Wednesday, March 19, 2008. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Pool)