RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 23rd, 2009

230309.jpgTODAY: Murmansk mayor leaves his post over rumors of Kremlin clampdown; Lavrov calls NATO dealings in former Soviet states ‘unfair’; Poland says missile agreement was a risk; Shuvalov doubtful over G20; Russia trying to win back ex-pats.

Just a week after independent candidate Sergei Subbotin won the Murmansk mayoral elections, beating his United Russia rival, reports say that President Dmitry Medvedev has replaced Yuri Yevdokimov, the region’s governor, a United Russia official who supported Subbotin during the election campaigns.  The move ‘suggests that the Kremlin wanted to clamp down quickly on hints of disloyalty among its cadre of governors as it faces possible discontent at the regional level over the financial crisis.’  Other reports suggest that Yevdokimov ‘resigned’.  Opposition party A Just Russia is putting forward a candidate for the already ‘crowded’ Sochi mayoral elections.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia is unhappy with NATO’s dominant role in European security and its ‘unfair’ dealings with former Soviet states – EU plans to strengthen ties with six former Soviet republics by offering aid and energy arrangements are likely to cause irritation.  The Polish Foreign Minister says Poland took ‘something of a political riskin signing an agreement with the US to host a missile defense system – which Russia strongly opposes – on its land, and says he hopes the plans will not now be abandoned.  More speculation on the future of US-Russia relations.  The Deputy Foreign Minister said, ‘We are ready for cooperation on missile defense, but not as a cart horse that is attached to a harness and pulls in a direction given by others,’ whilst Dmitry Medvedev praised ‘the surprising term ‘reset’ [which] really reflects the essence of the changes we would like to see […] I hope it will take place.’

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov is doubtful about the ability of the G20 summit to bring significant progress on the reform of the International Monetary Fund, citing a lack of ‘serious decisions’.  The State Duma has passed the second reading of a bill that would allow prosecutors to offer plea bargains.  Russian journalists were banned from the hall at the Brussels Forum 2009 where Sergei Lavrov announced the intention to up the stakes on the fight against terrorism with a new security treaty. 

The Russian government is trying to deal with a severe population decline by luring back Russians who live abroad, reports the New York Times.

PHOTO: The sun sets over St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday, March 22, 2009, behind one of the city’s landmarks, the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral’s belltower, at left. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)