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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 18, 2009

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TODAY: Rasmussen says NATO will never attack Russia; new high-speed train links Moscow and St Petersburg; Georgia demolishes Soviet memorial; Gordon Brown welcomes investigation into Magnitsky’s death; Medvedev and Obama to discuss treaty in Copenhagen; freezing in Moscow.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen clearly rebuffed Dmitry Medvedev’s Euorpean security pact during his trip to Moscow, saying that NATO already had a similar framework in place.  Speaking in Moscow, Rasmussen pushed for a new phase of partnership between NATO and Russia which, he said, is ‘fighting the ghosts of the past [….] NATO will never attack Russia.  Never.  And we don’t think Russia will attack us.  We have stopped worrying about this, and Russia should stop worrying about us as well.‘  Russia has unveiled its first high-speed train link between Moscow and St Petersburg, cutting the usual journey time by an hour and a half.  The defense ministry is ‘concerned‘ after Georgia demolished a Soviet Second World War memorial to make room for a new parliament building.  Three journalists were killed in Russia in 2009, says the Committee to Protect Journalists, noting a worldwide record on the back of a massacre in the Philippines.  The Novosibirsk Region is awash with foreign spies, if its regional department is to be believed. 

The Kremlin, which is ‘generally ill disposed to lectures from western politicians, especially British ones,‘ will not be pleased about news that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has publicly welcomed ‘the Russian undertaking that there will be a full investigation‘ into the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.  Bill Browder also weighed in on the matter, saying that Brown’s statement ‘show[ed…] that people around the globe are deeply concerned about […] the deterioration of the rule of law in Russia.‘  Medvedev will meet with US President Obama on the sidelines of the Copenhagen climate change summit today to discuss the delayed START treaty replacement, for which an outline has reportedly already been agreed, although Sergei Lavrov indicated that disagreements were to blame for slowing the process, particularly over issues of less intrusive verification.  
It is so cold in Moscow that at least two people have died of hypothermia and cash machines have been disabled by cold.  Irkutsk’s heating networks are breaking down.  The Moscow Times laments the ‘safest choice and blandest ceremony yet‘ for Russia’s contemporary art award, The Kandinsky Prize.  ‘Most Russians, in search of a scapegoat for the turbulent, chaotic 1990s, continue to demonize Gaidar to this day. But their negative reaction to Gaidar is tantamount to Russia’s cholera outbreak in the late 19th century,‘ says Konstantin Sonin.  
PHOTO: A passenger reacts to the camera as she looks out of a window aboard the Sapsan high speed train in Moscow, December 17, 2009. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin