RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 24, 2008

241108.jpgTODAY: Medvedev meets Bush for the last time, travels to Latin America to strengthen ties; Georgian president accuses Russian troops of firing on him in South Ossetia; Lugovoi will visit UK if granted immunity; Supreme Court to investigate closing of Politkovskaya trial.

US President George Bush had a cordial meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the APEC summit, despite an earlier ‘poke in the eye‘ from Bush, who issued a statement celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Rose Revolution in Georgia hours before their meeting.  Nonetheless, both sides exhibited ‘a clear desire not to get obsessed with differences‘ – possibly because there are so many of them: according to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, promises of transparency will not alter Russia’s view of the US’ planned missile defense shield, and ‘it would be better if the Americans gave up the idea‘.  Medvedev has reiterated his hope that Barack Obama will abandon the missile defense plans altogether. Last week’s US-Russia talks on the soon-to-expire START arms reduction treaty were inconclusive, and the US is skeptical about Russia resuming normal relations with NATO so soon after the Georgian war. 

Talks in Caracas will focus on the creation of a joint consortium to develop the Orinoco oil field, as part of Medvedev’s desire to revive its former ‘privileged‘ ties with Latin America when he visits the continent this week.  Joint naval exercises with Venezuela will begin this week, according to Hugo Chávez.  Russia and Japan are moving to ‘normalize‘ relations, dispel an island ownership dispute and establish clear border definitions, and Russia and China have pledged to strengthen cooperative ties in the finance and energy spheres.

Russia denies claims from the presidents of Georgia and Poland that their motorcade was shot at by Russian troops as they drove through a checkpoint in South Ossetia.  Lavrov insisted that the claim was a provocation.  ‘They arrange provocations and then blame Russia,‘ he said.

The Supreme Court says it has opened an internal probe into the decision to keep the murder trial of Anna Politkovskaya closed to the public, as a ‘reaction to media reports about the judgement‘.  The Guardian reports on the attack on journalist Mikhail Beketov, and offers an overview of the dangers of being ‘a journalist who tells the truth‘ in Russia.

As Russians mark the second anniversary of the death of Alexander Litvinenko, Andrei Lugovoi has agreed to visit London in order to assist with Scotland Yard’s investigation into the former security agent’s murder…but only if British authorities agree to grant him immunity ahead of time.  Plans for the 2014 Sochi Olympics are running into difficulty as organizers struggle to cut costs.

PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit family photo session in Lima. (AFP/Luis Acosta)