RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 23, 2009

capt.photo_1240413177729-1-0.jpgTODAY: Sergei Lavrov opens talks in Pyongyang; Russians skeptical about Medvedev’s level of power; Medvedev’s blog flooded with comments; PM to have access to state secrets?; Siberia sells ‘anti-democracy’ truck

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in North Korea for two days of talks regarding nuclear issues and bilateral talks.  Despite critical noises, Lavrov has said that Russia does not see NATO as ‘an inherent source of danger but rather as a core factor in ‘Euro-Atlantic security’.  As the end of his first year in office approaches, a survey says only 15% of Russians believe that President Medvedev is really in charge, with 27% believing that Putin pulls the strings, the Moscow Times reports.  ‘Any of us can write what we want, and nothing will happen to us?‘ was one of the first comments to be posted on Medvedev’s new blog

The corruption trial of ex-chief of the Investigative Committee’s main investigative directorate, Dmitry Dovgy, has begun.  According to ITAR-TASS, Medvedev has ordered that the work between controlling and supervisory agencies be checked for possible ‘corruption ties’.  The Yukos lawsuit represents more than one problem for the Kremlin, says the Moscow Times, with damages sought by Yukos investors who claim protection under Article 26 of the Energy Charter Treaty.  Putin will chair a meeting to discuss the possibility of giving the prime minister and other senior government officials access to classified information.  Medvedev has led a State Council Presidium meeting in Ryazan on improving training of young people for conscription.

As redundancies threaten social stability, monthly unemployment reports will be kept secret by the State Statistics Service.  The Baltiisk shipyard in Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast has seenworkers protest over overdue wages.  The New York Times analyzes a Siberian factory’s hopes to sell alarge number of ‘anti-democracy trucks‘ to be used in protestsituations. Russia’s paramilitary police are being trained to guard against‘extremism’, as the Kremlin foresees crisis-induced social unrest, theBBC reports.  Communists gathered in Red Square to celebrate the anniversary of Lenin’s birth and to denounce the capitalist crisis, says Bloomberg.

A painting by Ivan Aivazovsky has sold for $1.35 million at a Russian art auction at Sotheby’s, New York, though other works did not fare so well as the ultra-rich reduce their luxury spending.

PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev records his first video address for a new blog, at the presidential residence outside Moscow in Gork.  (AFP/POOL/Vladimir Rodionov)