RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 30, 2009

PH2009042900976.jpgTODAY: NATO and Russia resume formal dialogue; Russia-Ukraine tensions easing?; Kyrgyzstan denies talks with US on military base; Kasparov confronts prosecutor at Yukos trial; Novaya Gazeta wins award

Formal contacts between Russia and NATO have officially recommenced under the framework of the NATO-Russia Council.  Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has voiced optimism but warned that differences are likely to remain.  NATO has expelled two Russian diplomats on the basis of undercover intelligence activity, the FT reports.  Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov has denied that he is in talks with Washington on the prospect of keeping a US military base open.  Defense cooperation between Russia and China is not aimed against third countries, states President Medvedev.  Following a meeting of the Arctic Council, Sergei Lavrov has said Russia has no plans to bolster its military presence in the region.

Whilst energy was the main issue for Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko, renewed and ‘promising economic ties were also emphasized.  International affairs chief Konstantin Kosachev has said that PACE is mistaken in confounding political and humanitarian issues in Georgia and South Ossetia.  Russia will sign security pacts with South Ossetia and Abkhazia to help them protect their borders, fearing an attack by Georgia.  The Guardian analyzes the EU’s recent overtures towards the former eastern bloc countries. 

Garry Kasparov made an unexpected appearance at the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and accused a prosecutor of replacing ‘the force of law with the law of force’.  A Rosneft unit has been ordered by a Dutch court to repay Yukos Capital $390 million of loans.  The Moscow Times reveals that the man set to be interim police chief, following the dismissal of Vladimir Pronin, attempted to get six Higher School of Economics students expelled, after they participated in an anti-Kremlin demonstration.  Any attempts to hold a gay parade in Moscow next month will be stopped by authorities, on the basis that no official applications have been made; in the past three years, all official applications have been rejected.  Novaya Gazeta has been awarded the International Press Institute’s Free Media Pioneer Award for 2009.

A blog user has praised President Medvedev’s quick response to a complaint about the state of a local children’s hospital posted on his live journal.  Teenagers may be pained to know that Medvedev has approved a law introducing a 10pm curfew for under 18s unaccompanied by an adult.

PHOTO: Kremlin opponent Garry Kasparov speaks to press, as he is attending the trial of fallen oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Moscow, April 29, 2009.  (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)