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

KMO_101780_02514_1_t208.jpgTODAY: Georgian authorities to protest to the European Union about violations of the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement by Russia; Corruption in Russia is at its worst for eight years, watchdog Transparency International states; Georgia states it had shot down a Russian reconnaissance drone over Georgian territory just south of South Ossetia; Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrives in China for a three-day state visit, part of a world tour including Russia, Portugal and France; . Georgian dignitaries today propose to protest to the European Union about “violations of the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement by Russia.” Tbilisi has stressed that the agreement was violated in the village of Khurcha, a region near the border with Abkhazia, where one Georgian policeman has died and two were wounded in gunfire issuing from as of now unknown sources. Shota Utiashvili, head of the Georgian Interior Ministry information department, told Kommersant that “on Sunday night, a diversionary group crept up to the village from the direction of the Russian checkpoint located nearby and it opened fire with snipers rifles, machineguns and grenade launchers.” Ruslan Kishmaria, Abkhazian presidential representative in Gali District, responded in stating that “this was an internal Georgian clash and the Abkhazian side has no relation to it.” Watchdog Transparency International said on Tuesday that corruption in Russia is at its worst for eight years, stoking investor fears just a week after Russian markets suffered their biggest losses in nearly a decade. The annual survey issued by the Berlin-based watchdog put Russia in 147th place alongside Bangladesh, Kenya and Syria.

“All this data taken together demonstrates that the situation in Russia has reached a threatening scale,” the watchdog reported in a commentary attached to the survey.“The phenomenon of corruption … seriously undermines the very statehood of Russia.”Corruption has penetrated every realm of life in Russia; from politics, notably in the actions of police and the lack of transparency in the judiciary to business, health and even education, as documented by the report.“Corruption as a systemic challenge, as a threat to national security, as a problem which leads to a lack of faith among citizens in the ability of government to bring order and protect them,” President Medvedev said in an interview with Reuters in July.A senior Russian prosecutor estimated earlier this year that corrupt officials were pocketing $120 billion annually, a sum equivalent to one third of Russia’s budget.Georgia stated today it had shot down a Russian reconnaissance drone over Georgian territory just south of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, the first such incident since last month’s war.The Russian authorities could not confirm whether a drone had indeed been shot down and continue to maintain positions inside undisputed Georgian territory after they repelled a Georgian assault in early August to retake South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.Under the terms of a French-brokered pullback deal, Russian forces are due to withdraw from the ‘security zones’ adjacent to South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, by October 10.Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez today departs for a foreign tour, in which a major portion will be devoted to Russia.Chavez has previously pledged that his country would set up a joint venture with Russia to manufacture drilling equipment for oil fields. According to Chavez, they are willing to produce oil production equipment in Venezuela.The trip will finalize at the end of this week by a short-time stay in Paris by invitation of France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy.