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

Thumbnail image for 201108.jpgTODAY: United Russia congress; Georgia-Russia talks progress, Russia wants UN to monitor weapons trade; Poland seeking to allay tensions over missile defense; Bakhmina, Politkovskaya.

The United Russia party is holding its congress today, giving party leader Vladimir Putin a chance ‘to re-assert his status as Russia’s most popular politician‘.  Putin has already been quoted as having pledged to spend an extra $1.8 billion on defense over the next two years, and to transfer $1 billion to the IMF to fund crisis rescue packages.

Initial conciliatory talks between Georgia and Russia have made progress, according to diplomats, although territorial disputes have temporarily been put aside.  Kazakhstan, in anticipation of taking the OSCE chair in 2010, says it wants to help resolve the situation.  Russia wants the UN to review the international system of arms exports, and blames Ukraine and the US of supplying Georgia with arms in the lead-up to the war.  Poland intends to reassure Russia with ‘written proposals for confidence-building measures related to missile defense, on the basis of transparency and reciprocity,‘ although the final decision on the defense shield lies with US president-elect Barack Obama.  Poland says it will not lobby on the issue.  Russia wants NATO to get involved in EU security talks next year.

Masha Lipman writing in today’s Washington Post says that Svetlana Bakhmina is ‘simply suffering collateral damage from the harsh campaign against Khodorkovsky’, and holds Dmitry Medvedev ‘personally responsible for her suffering‘.  Garry Kasparov writes in today’s Wall Street Journal, calling on Obama to ‘label the Putin dictatorship correctly from the start‘.

Human rights groups, journalists and family members respond to the news that Anna Politkovskaya’s trial – already somewhat frustrated due to the fact that her killer remains at large – will now not be conducted publicly due to fears for the safety of the jury.  ‘This is a politically motivated decision by the government,‘ said Dmitry Muratov, the editor of the newspaper where Politkovskaya worked.  

PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister and chairman of United Russia ruling party Vladimir Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev enter the tenth United Russia Party Congress in Moscow, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2008. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)