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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 10, 2010

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TODAY: Russian military general says US missile defense plans are delaying START negotiations; Albright criticizes notion of ‘sphere of influence’; Georgian opposition leader in United Russia deal.  Duma to create new council to boost representation; Kadyrov withdraws libel cases; Medvedev congratulates Yanukovych. 
Russia’s top military general says that US missile defense plans are directed against Russia, and that the issue is holding up progress on a new arms treaty between the two.  ‘[I]t’s completely understandable that we have a very negative attitude about this issue.‘  The White House denies the claim that the issue is an impediment to START negotiations. ‘It certainly wasn’t what President Medvedev told President Obama.‘  Madeleine Albright is the second political commentator (after James Corum) to seize on Russia’s use of the term ‘sphere of influence‘ this week. Speaking in her capacity as adviser to a NATO strategy group, Albright said that the term ‘is not recognized as a legal principle‘.  Georgian opposition leader and former prime minister Zurab Noghaideli has signed a deal to work together with United Russia.

The City Duma, which currently consists of deputies from the Communist Party and United Russia, could pass a bill that would create a ‘consultative council‘ with the power to draft legislative proposals, made up of party members that currently do not have representation.  Yabloko is not impressed. ‘We believe the Duma is illegitimate and that cooperation with it is unacceptable,‘ said Sergei Mitrokhin.  Moscow’s city administration is taking measures to protect its homeless from the cold.  Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has withdrawn his libel lawsuits against two prominent rights activists, including the head of Memorial, and the liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta – apparently on the advice of his mother.  
President Dmitry Medvedev is the first foreign leader to congratulate Viktor Yanukovych in public on winning the Ukrainian presidential elections, although he avoided using the word ‘victory‘.  Yulia Latynina says that ‘only wealthy people are truly capable of electing their leaders in a responsible manner‘.  The Guardian praises the Russian language.  Russian border guards have seized a shipment of 447 bear paws near the border with China.  
PHOTO: Madeleine Albright, former U.S. State Secretary and head of an international panel that is working to update NATO’s mission statement, shakes hands with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) as they meet at the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow February 10, 2010. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin