RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – August 31, 2009


TODAY: NATO head upbeat on relations with Russia; Medvedev looks to imams for help with Caucasus Islamic insurgents; suggests a TV channel.  Russia on the defensive regarding WW2; 70th anniversary of its start to prove a diplomatic minefield?  St Petersburg heritage status in jeopardy with Gazprom tower looming.

The New York Times reports on how the period of relative tranquility in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan has ended with a surge in violence.  Reuters relays Russian claims that an al-Qaeda agent has been killed in Dagestan.  The republic’s recovering President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov has warned Medvedev that Islamic insurgency has ‘permeated all facets of life in society’.   The Russian president has urged Muslim clerics to help discourage young people from joining the ranks of terrorists and suggested setting up a digital TV channel dedicated to Islamic themes to clarify the religion’s message.  A military court has sentenced a Russian army lieutenant-colonel to prison for handing on military secrets to Georgia prior to last year’s war.

Apparently the Obama administration is contemplating alternative options to the Bush-designed missile defense plans that would involve bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.  NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said that there have beenpositive signals’ in relations between the organization and Russia. 

We increasingly often encounter the facts of a biased, and sometimes cynical attitude to the history of our country, and European and world history’, said Presidential chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin at the first meeting of the commission on the falsification of history.  President Medvedev has called placing equal blame on the Nazis and Stalin’s Russia a cynical lie‘.  Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post argues that Putin’s reasons for attending the ceremony in Gdansk to mark the anniversary of the outbreak of WW2 may be to ‘“contextualize” the pact between Hitler and Stalin by comparing it to other diplomatic decisions’.  Poland may be hoping (in vain) for an apology, suggests the Telegraph.  The Katyn files will not be reopened, reports ITAR-TASS.  Medvedev has suggested that a single history text book be introduced to prevent children’s minds from being confused by conflicting interpretations.

St Petersburg investigators have ruled that shouting ‘beat the blacks’ does not encourage racial hatred.  The city may lose its status as a UN world heritage site if Gazprom’s plans to build a 400-meter skyscraper city come to fruition.

PHOTO: Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva reacts as she visits the grave of her slain Chechen colleague Natalya Estemirova at a cemetery in Koshkeldy, 70 km (44 miles) east of Grozny, Chechnya, Aug. 30, 2009.  (AP Photo/Musa Sadulayev