RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 25, 2011

putin.jpgTODAY: Russia rejects idea of Libya sanctions; Putin cautions EU against Western meddling; 7 sacked from interior ministry; Domodedovo death counts rise to 37.  Russia embarks upon major military spending program; Mistral warships to go to Kuril islands?  Judge Viktor Danilkin denies whistleblower’s claims; Nemtsov lined up for TV appearance; new film on murdered journalist; conductor praises Putin’s commitment to culture

As EU member countries mull over sanctions against Colonel Gaddafi’s shaking regime in Libya, a somewhat scathing Vladimir Putin told a press conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that Western efforts to influence the rebellions currently underway could have counter-productive results, citing previous interventions in Palestine and Iran as proof of Western temerity.  Chrystia Freeland, the global editor of Reuters, reports that in a Russian opinion poll, one-third of respondents thought the Egyptian scenario of mass protests was possible in Russia: ‘That is the kind of thinking that can tip a potential for rebellion into a revolution’, she adds.  A Moscow Times editorial considers how Medvedev’s comments on potential rebellion in Russia, specifically his oblique reference to an unspecified enemy, echo a similar ‘conspiracy’ based approach to attacks on the state previously employed by Putin.  AFP reports that the President has fired seven senior interior ministry generals, without immediate explanation.  A victim of the Moscow airport suicide bombing has died in a hospital, raising the death toll to 37.  Grigory Shvedov, chief editor of Caucasian Knot, describes the Winter Olympics in Sochi as a ‘dream come true for terrorists’, in an interview quoted by Bloomberg.

Russia will reportedly spend $650 billion on updating its superannuated military equipment with 600 new warplanes, 100 ships and 1,000 helicopters, by 2020, as well as possibly acquiring eight new nuclear submarines and two Mistral aircraft carriers in addition to the two that have been bought from France.  The Telegraph looks at the nervous global reaction Russia’s rearmamentplans have elicited around the world.  Is a rising China the Kremlin’s main fear?  Japan may well be amongst those concerned: apparently Russia could send one or even two of its Mistral warships to the Pacific to protect the disputed Kuril Islands.  Russia’s Foreign Ministry has deemed Washington’s attempts to intervene in the territorial quarrel as unacceptable’.  The Economist considers the movement of post-Soviet states away from Western values, back towards the East.

In an interview on the Man and Law TV program, Khodorkovsky Judge Viktor Danilkin has firmly denied claims by court aide Natalya Vasilyeva that he was pressurized into his verdict, and argued that the sentence received by the Yukos founder and business partner Platon Lebedev was not ‘harsh’.  A legal adviser to President Medvedev says he was ‘ashamed’ to hear the allegations made by the whistleblowing court assistant.  The Moscow Times reports on the problems flagging political party ‘A Just Russia’ is facing ahead of elections.  After some uncertainty, it seems that well-known Russian television host Vladimir Posner will invite opposition movement co-leader Boris Nemtsov on his show sometime in March; details of other possible Kremlin-critical guests are to be found here.   Russian film director Marina Goldovskaya has plans to make a new film about murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya, entitled, ‘A Bitter Taste of Freedom’.

Conductor Valery Gergiev praises Vladimir Putin for never ignoring ‘the importance of cultural institutions’ in an interview with the Independent.

PHOTO: Energy talks in Brussels on Thursday, February 24, 2011, did not result in exempting Gazprom from European Union energy rules. (Yves Herman/Reuters)