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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 1, 2008

010508.jpgTODAY: May Day rallies; government may waive visas for UK football fans; Russia-Georgia tensions continue, Nato alarmed; remains of Czar’s children identified. Kasparov a “nuisance”? Russia is marking May Day with a number of rallies. United Russia is marching in Moscow together with trade union activists, and the Communists and the Other Russia movement will hold demonstrations against the government. High-level discussions are reportedly taking place within the Russian Government over scrapping visas for UK football fans who want to visit Russia for the Champions League, as “a gesture of goodwill at a time when political relations with Britain are at their worst since the end of the Cold War.” A letter published in the Wall Street Journal criticizes Garry Kasparov for his failure to “promote a social and economic model that combines freedom and governability,” and says that, if the Russian government would imprison Mikhail Khodorkovsky, “an entrepreneur who attempted to work out a feasible economic alternative to the country’s archaic traditions”, but not Kasparov, it must see the latter as nothing more than “a nuisance”.

Nato says Moscow’s rapid build-up of troops in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia threatened Georgia’s territorial integrity, and Nato’s secretary general apparently “said he’d eat his tie if it turned out that a Nato Mig-29 had magically appeared in Abkhazia and shot down a Georgian drone”. Meanwhile Georgia says it will block Russia’s WTO entry unless it withdraws it support for the breakaway regions. Read the RFEL’s full report on the situation. The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay around $95,000 in compensation to residents of a Siberian town over the length of time taken to consider claims connected to a 1990s radiation leak. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has emphasized the need for the restoration of Palestinian unity as a goal that must precede all others in the Israel-Palestine conflict.Robert Kagan, a neoconservative scholar and foreign-policy adviser to US presidential candidate John McCain, has asserted in his new book that a democratizing Russia was ready to accept NATO’s eastward expansion a decade ago. “He’s mistaken. Russia was in fact strongly opposed; it was just that the West, then feeling triumphant, didn’t pay attention.” Scientific tests have confirmed that remains found in Russia last year belong to the last Czar’s male heir and his daughter, missing since the royal family was executed in 1918. A lawyer for royal descendants said, “The tragedy of the Czar’s family will only end when the family is declared victims of political repression.PHOTO: Georgians protest outside the Russian embassy in Tbilisi on April 25. (REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)