TODAY: Gorbachev launches own political party; Union of Right Forces in league with the Kremlin?; Lavrov says Russia not disrupting Middle East balance of power; troop set to withdraw from Georgia this week; surprise military drill. Mikhail Gorbachev and “maverick ex-KGB officer turned billionaire banker” Alexander Lebedev have announced plans to form a new opposition political party – the Independent Democratic Party of Russia. Has the Union of Right Forces been in league with the Kremlin this year? Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is defending Russia’s military ties with Syria against accusations that they disrupt the balance of power in the Middle East. But others argue that Russia is seeking to fill the region’s vacuum of power, and regaining influence there. Russia and India have extended military cooperation for another ten years.
Around 300 EU monitors are in place to oversee Russia’s troop withdrawal from Georgia, which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday. Russia has put aside its differences with the EU, sending a small rescue mission to aid the peace effort in Chad. Where does the OSCE currently stand on relations with Russia?Russia has staged a full military drill in St Petersburg, taking many residents by surprise and drawing criticism from the West. A $17 million fund from Russia will go towards improving safety and eventually fully decommissioning the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.PHOTO: South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev shake hands during a press conference at the Kremlin in Moscow. (AFP/Natalia Kolesnikova)