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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 27, 2008

270308.jpgTODAY: Third Yabloko official under investigation. Anglo-Russian relations under scrutiny again after release of new report. President Bush to visit Putin in Russia. President Bush announced that he has accepted an invitation by President Vladimir Putin to visit him in Sochi next week. “I think a lot of people in Europe would have a deep sigh of relief if we’re able to reach an accord on missile defense. And hopefully we can,” he said. A new section of a human rights report from the British Foreign Office says that Russia has experienced “a shrinking of the democratic space” over the past year and a half. Analysts say the report is not meant to aggravate the political climate between the two countries. The current investigation into BP is causing concern among British MPs. One article looks at the Kremlin-backed Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, which is opening branches in New York and Paris. A third Yabloko official is facing criminal investigation: Oleg Kochkin, Yabloko’s top official in the Penza region and publisher of an independent weekly newspaper, has been charged with extortion and accused of trying to blackmail Penza’s governor. Investigators are now saying that “personal motives” are behind the murder of Russian journalist Ilyas Shurpaev. Marina Litvinenko is writing in the British press today, calling for a full inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. Following the controversial lending of Russia’s masterpieces to Britain’s Royal Academy, Britain is to lend 110 works by JMW Turner to Moscow for a “ground-breaking” exhibition.

If controversial amendments make it through to the State Duma, federal law could be changed to increase the number of cases where regional authorities can force owners to hand over land for low-income housing and “social infrastructure buildings.”Under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-I), Russia has dismantled another six outdated Topol mobile missile systems. Russia has admitted to violating Finnish air space last year. The chief of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has spoken out about the global “terrorist threat”, blaming religious extremism for its growth. He also said that the FSB thwarted a number of “saboteur and terror acts” being planned around the last elections. Russia’s Defense Ministry officially refuted information about resignation reports submitted by generals, reportedly saying “Big-name resignation reports don’t exist.”PHOTO: Russia’s president-elect Dmitry Medvedev visits a fish factory in the city of Tobolsk in Western Siberia, Wednesday, March 26, 2008. (AP Photo/ RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Pool)