RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 13, 2008

130508.jpgTODAY: Putin chooses new Cabinet, keeping former presidential officials in charge; tentative reports suggest Politkovskaya’s killer has been charged; EU, US and Canada weigh in on Georgia tensions; Zenit football club. In a busy first week as Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin has moved several of his most powerful former presidential officials to the Russian government, “bolstering the view that he will remain the centre of national power as prime minister,” and leaving Dmitry Medvedev “cast adrift within his own administration,” as one UK journalist put it. Several members of the siloviki were reportedly demoted. Major changes include the promotion of Igor Shuvalov and Igor Sechin as deputy prime ministers and the appointment of nuclear energy businessman Sergei Shmatko as energy minister. Medvedev has replaced the Federal Security Service’s longtime director with a veteran security agent who “could strengthen Medvedev’s hand over the law enforcement agencies.

After presenting his new Cabinet, Putin unveiled an art exhibition in St Petersburg, “leaving his hand-picked successor Dmitry Medvedev in the shadows.” A museum director is to be charged in Moscow for organizing the “Forbidden Art” exhibition in 2006, which was a protest against the artistic censorship forced on galleries during the time of Putin’s presidency. Putin and a former Japanese Olympic judoka have agreed to strengthen judo ties. Investigators in Moscow say they have charged 34-year-old Chechen Rustam Makhmudov with the killing of Anna Politkovskaya.Georgia has received a high-profile delegation of EU officials, implying support in the current conflict with Russia, but “no one really thinks the EU could afford to support Tbilisi at any price in a showdown with Russia.” US President George Bush expressed concern over heightened tensions between Georgia and Russia to Medvedev in a telephone call yesterday, as has Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister.Football club Zenit, known in its early days as Bolshevik, symbolizesRussia’s transformation from communist backwater to capitalist headhunter.” “If anyone was having trouble grasping the fact that Russia has an image problem, the sight of intercontinental ballistic missiles rolling across Red Square on Victory Day should have cleared matters up.PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev meet in Moscow’s Kremlin May 12, 2008. (Ria Novosti/Kremlin/Vladimir Rodionov/Pool/Reuters)