United Russia candidate Anatoly Pakhomov has been declared the official winner of the Sochi election with 76.8% of the vote. Opposition candidate Boris Nemtsov has stated that workers were forced to vote by absentee ballot for the United Russia candidate or lose their jobs. The Putin critic has apparently pledged to contest the election result in court, and will go so far as the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, says the Financial Times.
NATO head Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has taken a conciliatory tone regarding the forthcoming Georgia war games, saying, ‘we hope that Russian observers will come’. Sergei Lavrov has reiterated fears that the exercises are a danger, and that Georgia should be forced to accept the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan. An op-ed piece in the Moscow Times suggests that Russia remains a ‘colossus on clay feet with a bad reputation in the world‘, analyzing the progress the country has (or has not) made in the last twenty years. The Russian ambassador to the US has said that it is necessary to overcome ‘old stereotypes‘ to improve relations. Talks on a replacement for the START treaty have been scheduled for May. Joint projects between Russia and China will help both countries face the financial crisis, says Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to ITAR-TASS.
Ex-Yukos lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina has been released from a prison hospital, having been granted parole last week. The Eurasia Group risk consultancy has predicted a 20% possibility ofsocial unrest in Russia in 2009, and 15% chance of Ukraine turning towardsRussia, Reuters reports. Non-governmental xenophobia watch dog Sova says over 50% of Russians are in favor of restricting employment on an ethnic basis.
PHOTO: President Dmitry Medvedev heads up a meeting about Russia’s Olympians Support Fund outside Moscow in Barvikha. (AFP/RIA/Mikhail Klimentyev)