TODAY: Russia and Ukraine agree on gradual rise in energy prices, disagree over Georgian arms; Czech government suspicious of Russian intelligence; will troops withdraw from Georgia? Union of Right Forces disbands, Kremlin pressure suspected; Politkovskaya case reaches court. Russia and Ukraine have agreed on a gradual rise in gas prices over the next three years, as opposed to an immediate sharp rise that many predicted. ‘We came to the conclusion that our countries don’t need price shock therapy,’ said Yulia Tymoshenko, although Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expressed some doubt about future relations between the two countries, and tensions over allegations that Ukraine supplied arms to Georgia remain strong. ‘I don’t think there is a graver crime than supplying arms to a conflict zone,’ Putin said. The Czech government is concerned over intensified intelligence activity by, it alleges, Russian agencies. Russia has allowed EU observers into Georgia’s breakaway territories to oversee their planned troop withdrawal, but reports suggest that they aren’t seeing much. The EU Council’s Parliamentary Assemble (PACE) wants Russia to annul its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Next week, Russia will hold its largest air force exercises since the collapse of the Soviet Union ‘to demonstrate its force to the world, particularly the US’. It also plans to deploy a new nuclear missile next year.
‘In what is widely seen as a Kremlin move to round out the political spectrum with obedient parties,’ the opposition Union of Right Forces Party will disband, with some members electing to join with other parties and form a more Kremlin-friendly opposition. Reports suggest the the Party could see no other means of surviving, and that the Kremlin offered to cancel the Party’s massive election airtime debt if it disbanded. Former members of the Party who remain anti-Kremlin are urging the opposition to form a unified movement. The murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been sent to court. Lawyer Inna Yermoshkina claims that she is being targeted by authorities as retribution for a series of complaints filed over nepotism and corruption.St. Petersburg’s football club has ‘distanced itself’ from reports that the Russian mafia attempted to fix the results of last season’s UEFA Cup semifinal.PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Timoshenko during their meeting in the residence of Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow. (AFP/Natalia Kolesnikova)