RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Aug 19, 2010

TODAY: Medvedev hosts Afghan, Pakistani and Tajik leaders and pledges support for Afghan peace efforts; Armenia extends Russia’s lease on its military base there over concerns about conflict with Azerbaijan; Lavrov defends sale of missiles to Azerbaijan; Khimki concert planners granted permission; police and prosecutors buy their jobs, says rights group; heatwave ‘over’; tat-for-tit-for-tat with Romania; espionage in Abkhazia.
President Dmitry Medvedev hosted the leaders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan yesterday to discuss terrorism, the drugs trade, and general stabilization in the area, and pledged Russia’s support for Afghan peace efforts.  The US responded positively to the meeting.  Russia will be permitted to keep and expand its Armenian military base until 2044 after the lease was extended, apparently due to the latter’s security concerns over relations with Azerbaijan, to whom Russia is reportedly selling S-300 surface-to-air missiles.  Responding to these reports, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said ‘We never export weapons to regions where such weapons may cause the destabilization of the situation.‘  Police are monitoring the country’s major infrastructure after yesterday’s Caucasus bombings and a scare on Moscow’s World Trade Center.  It’s official, say meteorologists: the heatwave is over.  But Moscow’s smog has yet to disperse completely as fires continue and a landfill covering 15 hectares is burning northeast of Moscow.

RFE/RL calls it ‘jaw-dropping news‘: Moscow authorities have approved a request to hold a concert this weekend in Pushkin Square supporting the efforts of the Khimki Forest activists.  Boris Nemtsov agrees with this Duma deputy’s view that the ousting of Georgy Boos is a victory for the opposition.  Independent rights group Clean Hands says that police officer and prosecutor are the top jobs that can be bought in Russia, apparently with the role of traffic policeman costing the most at $50,000.  Firefighters are poorly paid and ‘ill-prepared to work in forests‘, meaning that the staple firefighters are those ‘who work for the thrill‘, reports the Moscow Times. 
Tat-for-tit-for-tat?  Russia is threatening to respond to Romania’s response to its detention of Romanian diplomat Gabriel Grecu.  Russia says that Romania’s expulsion of its diplomatwas not linked to any kind of activities giving a basis for such a decision‘.  Newsweek reports on Abkhazia residents’ response to Russia’s security presence in the region.  This BBC radio program examines Russia’s spy activity (‘flying and spying away, just like the old days of the Cold War‘) and the Russia-NATO relationship. 
PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, 18 August 2010. (AFP)