RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 14, 2008

140508.jpgTODAY: Judge admits pressure from the Kremlin; US military attachés made “uninvited visit” to aviation factory; Abkhazia leader wants Russian military base for “protection”; Moscow Mayor barred from entering Ukraine; Joseph Stalin, a national hero? Yelena Valyavina, first deputy chair of the Supreme Arbitration Court, has testified in court that a Kremlin official threatened to cut off her career if she did not follow his instructions. Her lawyer called the testimony “an exceptionally courageous and heroic act”. The story has been picked up by The Other Russia. The State Duma is expected to consider two bills that would extend the powers of judges over people with suspended jail terms. Anna Politkovskaya’s killer may have been charged, but his whereabouts are unknown and one journalist comments, “The prosecutors may be getting ahead of themselves if they think they have solved the murder.

The two American military attachés expelled from Russia early this month had apparently made an uninvited visit to a military aviation factory in Siberia that Russia. US Congress may attempt to block the civilian nuclear deal with Russia over Moscow’s links to Iran’s nuclear program. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has reportedly called on top UN powers to give Iran security guarantees to help resolve the crisis. US President George Bush has nominated John Beyrle to be the new US Ambassador to Russia.Abkhazia’s separatist leader says he wants Russia to open a military base in the region for “protection”. Russia will meet with Indian and Chinese foreign ministers in Yekaterinburg to discuss economic relations. The Mayor of Moscow has been barred from entering Ukraine for suggesting that it should cede the city of Sevastopol to Russia.The manager of Zenit St Petersburg football club is denying that he previously said his club’s fans were racist. The Independent has picked up on the charges made against the director of a Moscow art gallery, concerned that “freedom of expression in Russia is becoming further restricted,” and Human Rights Watch are calling on authorities to drop the charges. A competition has been launched to find the “Name of Russia” – a historical hero to become a national symbol for the country. Why is Joseph Stalin on the shortlist?PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin poses with actors on a set of World War II drama directed by Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov – ‘Burnt by the Sun – 2’ outside St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, May 13, 2008. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Sergei Subbotin)