RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 21, 2008

210508.jpgTODAY: Medvedev adviser indicates that power still lies with Putin; Russia calls EULEX mission in Kosovo “illegal”; Iran closely following Syrian military meetings with Moscow; corruption threatening growth; Alexander Lugovoi interview; changes in journalism controls under Putin. Igor Yurgens, a senior adviser and ally of Dmitry Medvedev, has indicated that Vladimir Putin took most of his presidential authority with him when he became prime minister. He also said that Russia would struggle to overcome economic issues because “public discussion is not there because democracy does not exist in this sense of the word.” An EU offical has warned that corruption, comparatively low levels of foreign direct investment and a failure to diversify away from the energy sector is threatening Russia’s growth rates. Russia has condemned the planned deployment of the European Union’s rule-of-law EULEX mission in Kosovo as “illegal“. Georgia’s Interior Ministry has released a video which allegedly proves that Moscow is deploying heavy weaponry in Abkhazia.

President Dmitry Medvedev said that the establishment of an independent judiciary would be the central pivot for planned reforms to the judicial system. A Russian newspaper looks at changes made to journalism controls under Vladimir Putin. Several national newspapers called off their threat to print blank front pages in today’s papers as a protest against a hike in postal charges for subscribers that is seen as an attack on free speech. According to The Other Russia, draft Duma legislation could give the country’s security services the right to listen in on mobile telephone calls.Israel is “closely following” meetings being held in Moscow this week between a high-level Syrian military delegation and Russian Defense Ministry officials, amid fears that Damascus is seeking to acquire advanced military platforms.Read an interview given by Alexander Lugovoi to UK newspaper The Guardian. “For a person accused of murder, Lugovoi appears relaxed.” Somewhat controversially in light of diplomatic relations, Lugovoi plans to attend the Champions League football final in Moscow this week. A Russian millionaire was denied permission to build a 54,000-square-foot mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut, after neighbors objected that the house would be too big.PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting on the development of transport infrastructure, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, May 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, pool)