RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 17, 2009

front-1.jpgTODAY: Russia lifts special security regime in Chechnya; Kremlin and NATO clash on Georgia exercises; former PM warns of social unrest; Medvedev in favor of political competition?

The Kremlin has ceased its decade-long counter-terrorism operations in Chechnya, a move seen to strengthen the authority of Kremlin-backed President Ramzan Kadyrov.  Is this really a victory for the Kremlin? asks the BBC.  The Telegraph reports NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin’s most recent comment about proposed NATO military exercises in Georgia: ‘These exercises look like NATO is giving both moral and armed support to the Saakashvili regime’.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has joined with Rogozin in demanding that the exercises be called off.  Reuters reports on mutual accusations of building up troops voiced by Russia and Georgia.  The first hearing in Georgia’s case against Russia over human rights violations has taken place in the European Court of Human Rights.

Russia is reportedly disappointedby North Korea’s decision to expel UN nuclear inspectors.  Sergei Lavrov will reportedly spend two days in Pyongyang to attempt to persuade the state to return to international discussions.  A high-ranking Russian politician has denounced the content of a US think tank report that recommends ‘minimal nuclear deterrence’, says Ria Novosti.  Russia and the US will begin to discuss how to reduce strategic nuclear weapons as of next week.  The 26% increase in Russia’s military spending is the subject of an article in Time magazine. 
President Medvedev has told rights activists that there ‘should be political competition, which cannot be substituted by anything’, in an apparent shift in tone from his predecessor’s hard line.  Ex-Prime Minister and leader of the People’s Democratic Union, MikhailKasyanov, has warned that a social crisis, possibly even revolution,may occur, if the financial fiasco continues, and the government does not relax political restrictions.  President Medvedev has urged that proposals be drawn up to enhance financial discipline.  Modernization of the fishing industry to reduce imports is a government priority says First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubko.  The Moscow Times reports that an illegally built resort in a nature reserve on the Black Sea is linked to the Kremlin.  Charges of fraud held against Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak have been dropped.

PHOTO: Chechen children in national costumes dancing in Grozny, April 16, 2009 during celebrations of the Kremlin’s decision to lift Chechnya’s security regime.  (Said Tsarnayev / Reuters)