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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 20, 2008

200508.jpgTODAY: Medvedev to assume personal responsibility in battle against corruption; Global Peace Index ranks Russia low on its list; Cyprus court refuses to extradite former Yukos executive; libel bill will not be passed; Georgia could support Russia’s WTO bid. Dmitry Medvedev is to head a council to battle corruption, winning praise in the Russian press for assuming “personal responsibility”. The Moscow Times have picked up on Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s interview with a British newspaper in which it was implied he is “cautiously optimistic about the new president’s desire to overhaul the country’s notoriously corrupt legal system.” A Cyprus court has refused to extradite Alecos Panayioutou, a former senior Yukos executive, to Russia, saying that the case is politically-motivated, and that “there is a real risk that his right to a fair trial will be flagrantly violated”. A Moscow scientific institute has dismissed reports that its deputy director, Svetlana Zheludeva, died of poisoning. The State Duma will not pass a bill, authored by youngest Duma member Robert Shlegel, that had raised concerns about media freedom by toughening the penalties for libel.

The Global Peace Index, drawn up by the Institute for Economics and Peace, has ranked Russia 131st out of a list of the 140 most peaceful nations. “It was quite obvious that Putin began forming a second center of power immediately after his confirmation as prime minister. It is difficult to imagine Putin paying no attention to the siloviki. This is why Medvedev made his first trip as president to a missile base.”Medvedev plans to sign economic agreements with China and two space deals with Kazakhstan this week. French foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner arrives in Moscow today for a two-day official visit to meet the new president. Russia, together with the US and China, opposes a proposed United Nations global ban on cluster bombs.The Russian Foreign Ministry says that a recent incident in Abkhazia was a “preplanned hostile action by the Georgian authorities“, but Georgia is ready to support Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organization, “if both countries resolve issues inhibiting bilateral relations”.The Champions League football pitch in Moscow is running into trouble, as fans pour into Moscow ahead of tomorrow’s match. A profile of Roman Abramovich.PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev visits a missile base in Teikovo in the Ivanovo region, May 15, 2008. (REUTERS/Pool)