RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 4th, 2009

040309.jpgTODAY: Obama denies ‘quid pro quo’, Russia open to discussion despite initial refusals of exchange, cooperates on Afghanistan route; Medvedev backing bills to support small political parties; Orlando Figes says Stalin book pulled for political reasons; Khodorkovsky supporters detained.

The BBC has posted a video of Barack Obama explaining the contents of his so-called ‘secret’ letter to Russia, saying that ‘the way it got characterized I think was as some sort of quid pro quo.  It was simply a statement of facts that I’ve made previously, that the missile defense program, to the extent that is deployed, is designed to deal with not a Russian threat but an Iranian threat.’  In which case, Dmitry Medvedev’s assurances that ‘no one sets conditions on these issues with trade-offs’ may seem excessively combative.  The New York Times reports that Medvedev’s administration is open to discussing the issue. Moscow has indicated that it is willing to cooperate with the US on transport routes for supplies to Afghanistan, allowing a supply cargo through its territory by train.  Are NATO’s relations with Russia soon to be mended?  Medvedev is apparently backing two bills that, if successful, would benefit smaller political parties by reducing the number of signatures required for a party to submit to register for parliamentary elections, and securing equal coverage on state television and radio for parties represented in the State Duma.

Russian historian Orlando Figes says he suspects his Russian publisher cancelled a contract to publish his latest book on Stalin-era repression as a result of ‘political pressure’, after archives used in the writing of the book were confiscated by police.  The Guardian has posted an interview with Figes here.  Several reports say that supporters of Mikhail Khodorkovsky were arrested or detained by police outside the court where the preliminary hearing took place.  Garry Kasparov responds to Dmitry Medvedev’s claim that the opposition can ‘say whatever they want’, but that ‘well, excuse me, I do not think that the Red Square is an appropriate place for them’.

In a victory for passengers, the Supreme Arbitration Court has banned audio advertising on aboveground transportation.  On Russian cyber criminals who target Russian companies.

PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev and Spain’s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero exchange documents after signing an agreement at Moncloa Palace in Madrid March 3, 2009. REUTERS/Victor R. Caivano/Pool (SPAIN)