RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 31, 2009

310309.jpgTODAY: Russia and China planning to push world currency at G20?; NATO highlights perceived tensions; industrial regions increasingly troubled; opposition activists charged for blog post; Russia calls for OSCE monitoring in South Ossetia; space tensions; Nikolai Gogol.

President Dmitry Medvedev will pay a one-day visit to Germany next week to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of the G20 summit to discuss Russia-EU relations.  During the summit, ‘Russia will side with the Germans and other Europeans who oppose US-British plans to drag the world out of recession by further spending,’ predicts The Guardian.  The Kremlin says Russia will push the possibility of creating a new world reserve currency at the summit, and has suggested that it is coordinating these proposals with China.  Reuters says it is ‘way too early for a productive debate about a new world currency’.  NATO’s top commander and the chief of US forces in Europe, General John Craddock has suggested that Russia’s ‘overall intent may be to weaken European solidarity and systematically reduce US influence’.  But on the other side, ‘NATO’s eastward expansion has unquestionably come at the expense of its relationship with Russia,’ says the New York Times, calling on the alliance to ‘recognize the limits of its own success’.

The BBC looks at the political threat of mass protests in Russia’s increasingly troubled industrial regions.  Pikalevo’s trade union leader Svetlana Antropova has reportedly helped to channel public anger over dwindling supplies, and the fact that she is also a United Russia member is, the BBC says, ‘a particularly troubling sign for the government’.  Meanwhile, ‘despite the crisis, the country’s top leaders are living very well, and their only “anti-crisis strategy” is to preserve their power and personal property until oil prices rise again’, says the Moscow Times.  Dmitry Solovyov, head of the Kemerovo branch of the youth opposition group Oborona, has been charged with hate speech for quoting another blog writer in one of his own posts, which criticized the FSB.  He faces up to two years in prison if convicted.

Russia now wants OSCE monitoring on both sides of the Georgian-South Ossetian border ‘to form a more complete picture of events’.  Russia’s Mars-500 project is moving forward despite difficult economic conditions.  Are commercial interests interfering with the harmony between US and Russian astronauts?  The latest spat between Ukraine and Russia is reportedly over author Nikolai Gogol, as the 200th anniversary of his death approaches.

PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talks with Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina during a meeting on the Russian automobile industry in Togliatti in the Samara region March 30, 2009. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Pool (RUSSIA POLITICS TRANSPORT BUSINESS)