RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 20, 2009

capt.0a2e513c1574482a96070038d1fe91ff.russia_orthodox_easter_xaz113.jpgTODAY: Medvedev the latest to criticize NATO exercises; perseverance required in nuclear talks; budget revenues may fall short; one million temporary jobs to be created; London’s Speakers Corner ‘cool’

President Medvedev has spoken out against the NATO war games to take place in Georgia, calling the move ‘the wrong decision’.  China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have engaged in military exercises for the first time since Kyrgyzstan said it would close down the Manas air base, the last U.S. air base in Central Asia.  At a conference for ‘Overcoming Nuclear Dangers‘, Mikhail Gorbachev and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz have discussed their failed 1986 US-Russia Reykjavik summit and urged the new presidents to persevere when it comes to nuclear disarmament talks.

AzerbaijaniPresident Ilkham Aliyev has claimed  ‘a very close and friendly relationship with President Medvedev following the weekend’s meetings.  The detention of a Russian citizen and Nashi youth group member in Georgia has been hotly contested by the Kremlin.  A story of ‘hate’ is how an article in the New York Times analyzes the relationship between Mikheil Saakashvili and Vladimir Putin.  The invitation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to the Eastern Partnership summit has apparently been welcomed by Moscow.

Deputy Finance Minister Tatyana Nesterenko has said that budget revenues may well fall $23.9 billion below target, meaning further employment of reserve funds could be necessary, and Russia may have to slash expenditure by 30%.  500,000 people were affected by wage arrears last month as they reached a three-year high.  President Medvedev has said he hopes to create 1 million temporary jobs over the next year.  ‘This is no fairy tale’, says First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov on his ambitious Strategy 2020; an op-ed piece in the Moscow Times disagrees.  An article in the Washington Post suggests that population decline will reduce Russia’s presence on the world stage.
‘The authorities are holding the elections amid total fraud and censorship, says opposition candidate Boris Nemtsov on the Sochi election, where six candidates remain.  Reports storming the blogosphere that Russian filmmaker Fyodor Bondarchuk criticized ‘Russian totalitarianism’ have been denied by the director himself, the Other Russia reports.  President Medvedev has apparently told human rights activists that London’s Speakers Corner iscooland would welcome a similar institution in Moscow.

PHOTO: People light candles during an Easter service in Novosibirsk, Russia, April 18, 2009. Eastern Orthodox churches, which observe the ancient Julian calendar, usually celebrate Easter later than Western churches.  (AP Photo/Ilnar Salakhiev)