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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – August 13, 2009

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TODAY: Putin promises to fortify Abkhazia with new base; Ukraine still smarting from Medvedev blow.  EU urges Russian leadership to work on safety of human rights advocates.  Lawyers in Russia beware – it is not just their clients who face prison terms.

On a one-day visit to Abkhazia, Vladimir Putin assured the breakaway state that Russia would provide, ‘systemic economic, political and, if needed, military support’, worth between $350 million and $500 million (reports vary on the exact sum) over the next two years.  A significant amount will be allotted to ‘the development of our military base and strengthening of Abkhazia’s state border next year’, the Prime Minister told reporters.  A new naval base which will be constructed in Ochamchira, close to the Georgian ports of Poti and Batumi, which have been visited by US warships of late, could raise US eyebrows.  Russia apparently does not plan to increase the number of troops that it has in the rebel regions, nor will it redeploy its Black Sea Fleet warships from Ukraine to Abkhazia.  The government of Abkhazia has denounced the attempt to silence the pro-Georgian blogger Cyxymu as it sees the internet as a tool to encourage ‘constructive debate’.


The young leadership of Russia is turning into a hostage of old imperial complexes’, says Viktor Yushchenko’s chief of staff.  A spokesman for President Medvedev has assured outraged Ukrainian politicians that his open letter to Yushchenko is addressed to the President alone, and does not imply hostility towards the Ukrainian nation as a whole.  A Financial Times commentator has lamented Medvedev’s heavy-handed approach, calling the letter ‘doubly crude’.  A spokesman for the US Department of State has said that it is favorable that Russia and Ukraine have a ‘constructive relationship’ and suggests Ukraine’s right to join NATO should be respected.

The EU has condemned the murder of Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov and ‘urges the Russian authorities to do everything in their power to ensure the protection of human rights defenders’.  Novaya Gazeta will withdraw its journalists from Chechnya following the killings.  ‘Tragic routine’: says a statement from the Moscow Helsinki Group found on the Other Russia.  The Washington Post examines the dangers lawyers face when dealing with Russia’s ‘corruption-ridden courts’: one of the three lawyers representing Hermitage Capital is now in jail.

PHOTO: Vladimir Putin and Sergei Bagapsh, right, visiting a Sukhumi maternity hospital on August 12, 2009. Doctors named twins after Putin and Medvedev.  (Alexei Nikolsky / RIA-Novosti / Reuters)