RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 24, 2009

PH2009042300227.jpgTODAY: No quick fix for North Korea arms issue; US-Russia nuclear talks imminent; law proposed to make Nazi rehabilitation a crime; opposition struggles for the airwaves in Sochi; local newspaper faces closure for use of one word

‘We do not foresee any breakthroughs’, Sergei Lavrov has reportedly commented after talks with North Korea’s Foreign Minister regarding the latter’s nuclear arms program.  Tomorrow negotiators from Russia and the US will meet for the first time to discuss a new nuclear disarmament treaty.  The Washington Post reports that Sergei Lavrov will meet with Hilary Clinton in Washington on May 7.  Russian analysts say that during his first 100 days as President, Barack Obama has exceeded Russia’s expectations for improvements in bilateral relations.  According to Ria-Novosti, Russia has resumed counter-terrorism operations in three districts of Southern Chechnya.

Georgian and South-Ossetian officials have come together in a meeting held by OSCE and EU observers, in the presence of Russian delegates.  Legislation that would criminalize the rehabilitation of Nazism could result in a freezing of diplomatic ties between Moscow and ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic States, says the Moscow Times.  During his meeting with Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, expressed thanks that the country ‘can definitely call Russia its strategic partner’.

In Sochi the United Russia candidate and acting mayor, Anatoly Pakhomov, has a virtual monopoly over the local media, the Moscow Times reports.  Sochi is set to allow Abkhaz people with local residency to vote, a decision criticized by candidate Boris Nemtsov.  Anastasia Akopyan, a journalist in the Olympic city, has been attacked following an interview she undertook with the opposition candidate.  Authorities in Kirov have begun administrative proceedings against a local independent newspaper for using the word ‘nazbol’, meaning a member of the banned National Bolshevik Party.  There is an interview with human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov regarding his recent assault in the Los Angeles Times.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has asked the court to remove prosecutors Dmitry Shokhin and Valery Lakhtin from his case, saying they have a personal interest in the result of the trial.  The EU is looking to agree on a pact with Russia to reduce organized crime.  An op-ed piece in the Moscow Times examines Russia’s $300 billion corruption market.

PHOTO: Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, is greeted upon his arrival at an airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 23, 2009.  (AP Photo/Kyodo News)