RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 27, 2009

270309.jpgTODAY: United Russia anti-crisis meeting; Britain and Russia ‘in harmony’ ahead of G20; Merkel calls for Russia-NATO cooperation, US emphasizes NATO’s importance; more candidates for Sochi elections; Britain unhappy with Russia’s human rights; contemporary art.

United Russia’s met to discuss the government’s anti-crisis measures yesterday, where Boris Gryzlov criticized banks for not getting state aid payouts into to reach the real economy, and accused crisis protesters of getting their ideas about ‘undermining the country’ from abroad, citing ‘the rallies in Vladivostok, where the demonstrators marched with a Japanese flag.’  A more likely explanation for the use of the Japanese flag in these rallies was that it made reference to import duties on used cars coming primarily from Japan.  Russian officials were reportedly angered after a leaked British government document allegedly divided G20 members into two lists of descending importance, with Russia ‘relegated to second division status’, but other reports suggest that the British Prime Minister has noted ‘the harmony in the positions of Britain and Russia on most of the aspects of preparation for the G20 summit’.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on NATO to strengthen cooperation with Russia and urged Moscow to send a signal to build trust, insisting that ‘Cold War times are irrevocably over’.  In a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, US President Barack Obama said his administration intended to reset ties with Russia ‘in a way that’s consistent with NATO membership’.  The British Foreign Office’s annual human rights report has included Russia among 21 ‘major countries of concern’, in part due to its lack of ‘media freedom’ and ‘safety of journalists’.  The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay €3,000 in compensation to Dmitry Yelizarov, a member of the National Bolshevik Party, for his illegal one-year pre-trial detention.

The Sochi Mayoral elections now have over twenty candidates intending to run, with a former ballerina and an adult film actress being the latest to submit their documents to join the race. Is the government going to attempt a crackdown on ‘Mayor Mania’The Economist writes on the state of the contemporary art market in Russia.  The government plans to slash spending on a program aimed at attracting Russians home from abroad after its first year saw a ‘disappointing response’.

PHOTO: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin applauds after he decorated Russian State Duma member Artur Chilingarov, the leader of the 2007 Arctic deep-water expedition, with the Hero’s Golden Star during a ceremony in Moscow’s Kremlin in this February 21, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Pool/Files