RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 21, 2009

capt.photo_1240252434926-1-0.jpgTODAY: Medvedev tentative regarding US nuclear deal; Russia to boycott forthcoming NATO meeting?; early voting takes place in Sochi; ombudsman says human rights situation in Russia is static

President Medvedev has expressed caution regarding Obama’s plans for nuclear disarmament, saying that ‘more conditions’ need to be agreed upon.  According to Ria Novosti, the President says the replacement START treaty should also include delivery systems.  Medvedev has also reiterated concerns about ‘unilateral efforts’ to establish missile defense in Europe, says the Washington Post.  Dmitry Rogozin has threatened that Russia may boycott next month’s NATO meeting if the latter’s exercises in Georgia go ahead.  An op-ed piece in the Moscow Times analyzes the ‘obvious discrepancy‘ between the NATO war games and ‘Russia’s heated overreaction’.

The Kremlin is apparently awaiting a response from NATO following its withdrawal of troops from the Kaliningrad region.  Moscow plans to increase the number of airplanes at its military base in Kyrgyzstan, strengthening its footing in Central Asia.  Medevedev has recommended that an international forum should take place for agreeing a new European security pact. 

Forty teachers have already voted in the Sochi mayoral election; a Communist Party election observer has called it ‘a violation of the electoral process‘.  United Russia member and local councillor, Vladislav Funtyakov, whose application to run for mayor was rejected, has expressed disillusionment with the election, saying, ‘my platform was not to lie, not to steal’, Bloomberg reports.  The New York Times analyzes Russia’s lavish spending upon ‘trophy projects’ like Sochi and Vladivostok, both towns to host international events, despite the financial crisis and problematic planning.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has complained that that the charges against him are so confused that neither he nor the prosecutors can understand them.  The Telegraph reports that the fomer Yukos CEO will not enter a plea.  Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin has said that the human rights situation in Russia has remained unchanged during his five years in office, and complains that Russia has yet to ban the death penalty.  He also says that the majority of complaints received by his office concern illegal activity on the part of lawmakers and policeman.  The BBC reports upon claims from a migrants’ organization that prison officials assault Muslim prisoners and burn copies of the Koran.  The Independent describes the legal and political intrigue surrounding the 2002 Nord Ost siege.

PHOTO:  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev meets with Finnish President Tarja Halonen in Helsinki.  (AFP/RIA NOVOSTI/Dmitry Astakhov)