RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 20th, 2009

1903091.jpgTODAY: Divided voices on US-Russia relations; Ukraine to seek $5 billion loan from Russia; Belarusian president leaning on Russia; visa rules to be eased for skilled workers; Moscow holds its biggest ever contemporary art exhibition.

A Republican senator has urged the US to mend ties with Russia, threatening that ‘the foundation of the US-Russian strategic relationship is at risk of collapsing in less than nine months’, but Russia’s Foreign Ministry is sounding much more optimistic about restored relations, referring to initial contact as ‘encouraging’.  A ministry spokesman said Moscow is ready to make progress on difficult issues such as the US missile defense shield and the reduction of strategic arms, and informal meetings between top officials are currently in progress ahead of a presidential exchange.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko intends to seek a $5 billion loan from Russia next month to assist it with energy debts and a struggling economy, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko emphasized his country’s close economic ties with Russia at a meeting with Dmitry Medvedev this week. ‘Nobody is going to split apart the economies of Belarus and Russia’.
Government worries about a shortage of qualified personnel have prompted the Federal Migration Service to implement plans to ease visa rules for skilled immigrant workers from the European Union, the United States and Japan.  Russia will hold its biggest ever contemporary art exhibition this weekend in Moscow in Daria Zhukova’s Garage gallery.

PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks with workers while visiting the state-controlled Khrunichev State Research and Production Center, a top Russian rocket manufacturer, in Moscow, Wednesday, March 18, 2009. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Pool)