RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 24, 2009

240309.jpgTODAY: Sochi opposition candidate splashed with ammonia, blames government; Medvedev says Sochi funding will not be cut; Obama met with Gorbachev; Russia should unite with US against Iran?; Georgia opposition funding row.

The Other Russia says that Boris Nemtsov, the Solidarity candidate running for Mayor in Sochi, has been ‘beset with pranks, provocations, and what seems to be a local unsaid order to stonewall his effort’, whilst Nemtsov himself has blamed Kremlin-backed supporters for an incident in which he was doused with ammonia.  The attack coincided with the publication of an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev, saying that preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics would strain Sochi to breaking point.  Medvedev insists that the economic crisis will not draw state funding away from planning for the Olympics, although the pledged figure has halved to $6 billion and there is talk of employing student labor.

US President Barack Obama reportedlyheld talks with Mikhail Gorbachev in the run-up to his meeting withDmitry Medvedev.  The chairman of the US Senate Armed ServicesCommittee has suggested that the US should seek Russia’s cooperation in siding against the perceived missile threat of Iran.  ‘The Russians are likely to try to push for a tough bargain,’ says the BBC.

Top Georgian officials have charged that Russia is financing opposition groups in hopes of toppling Mr. Saakashvili’s government, prompting the former Russian ambassador to demand evidence. ‘If you fail to do so, we will consider that they are nothing but a groundless PR campaign, which only aims at scaring the society and discrediting opposition.’ 

From the Moscow Times: ‘If the military threat is supposedly growing from the United States and NATO and if their combined forces are many times larger, better qualified and better equipped than Russia’s, how can our leaders speak of cuts to the military?

PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev looks on during his visit to the Southern Federal Center for Sports Training, Monday, March 23, 2009, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the Russian city that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. (AP Photo / RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service)