RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 23, 2008

230508.jpgTODAY: Medvedev in discussions with China; Baluyevsky proposes solution to CFE deadlock; British MP talks of “intimidation” over meeting with Russian embassy official; Litvinenko said Putin was “vetted” by Abramovich; football visa waiving boosted tourism. Dmitry Medvedev’s two-day visit to “ally and rival” China begins today, amid speculation that Russia is worried by China’s expansion in Central Asia. It is thought the two countries will discuss energy deals and military cooperation. Medvedev announced that strengthening Russia’s ties with other former Soviet republics is a priority. British MP Andrew Mackinlay said he was warned off meeting a Russian embassy official by a government minister, and told that he was being monitored by the security services. The Times is alleging that Alexander Litvinenko “made the astonishing suggestion that Mr Abramovich effectively vetted Mr Putin – on behalf of Russia’s powerful oligarchs – to succeed Boris Yeltsin as President.” Abramovich has won “the first round” in his $4.3 billion lawsuit with Boris Berezovsky.

General Yuri Baluyevsky proposed a way out of the CFE treaty deadlock, suggesting that Russia should be allowed to lift restrictions on arms in its European regions, “allowing it to freely move armed forces and hardware in this territory, and to react promptly to emerging situations.” The Moscow Times has published an interview with the youngest State Duma Deputy, Robert Shlegel.The decision by Russian authorities to waive visa requirements for football fans with tickets this week “paid dividends” as tourism brought in “bumper sales”. A group of Russian human rights activists have written an open letter urging President Dmitri Medvedev to free a number of political prisoners, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his former Yukos colleagues.The Economist looks at Russian relations with Georgia following the latter’s parliamentary elections. Russia has imposed a travel ban on a Ukrainian government official in retaliation for Ukraine’s bar on the mayor of Moscow, claiming that the official “insulted Putin”.PHOTO: The White House said Thursday it recognizes Moscow’s concerns over a US missile defense system in Europe but sees new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, pictured on May 20, as “open” to discussions about the plans. (AFP/RIA/File/Dmitry Astakhov)