RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Jan 29, 2010

iran.jpgTODAY: First meeting of the Russia-US Civil Society Working Group; Khodorkovsky on corruption. Senior police says Politkovskaya killers will be brought to justice; rights official condemns Rechnik methods. Rosoboronexport defends right to sell to Iran; fighter jet test flight a success; Georgia proposes reintegration plan. Baikal plant reopened but what of the environment? Goodbye Lenin

An agreement on joint efforts to monitor corruption in Russia and the U.S. was reached between Russian negotiators and Transparency International during the first meeting of the ‘reset’-inspired Civil Society Working GroupRFE/RL has an interview with the US co-chair Michael McFaul, who is apparently aware of the irony of Vladislav Surkov being co-chair on a panel about  right and transparency.  In a piece in the International Herald Tribune, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky singles out ‘corruption’ as Russia’s second biggest export after hydrocarbons.  According to the Moscow Times, a senior police investigator has insisted that the suspects acquitted in the slaying of journalist Anna Politkovskaya were guilty and will be charged.  The Interior Ministry has apparently uncovered a criminal group who have been bribing journalists for stories.  Human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin has weighed in on the Rechnik demolition debate, saying that the methods used are ‘completely unacceptable’.  Moscow mayor Luzkhov is still showing no mercy.

There are no formal bans which would bar the delivery of any types of weapons to Iran’: Anatoly Isaikin, head of Rosoboronexport, keeps the Iran door open.  The test flight of the new Sukhoi fighter jet has proved successful, according to the New York Times.  The T-50 reflects a growing rearmament trend, suggests the Telegraph.  Why is Russia taking the news of a US military battery to be deployed in Poland so calmly?  Georgia is apparently offering Abkhazia and South Ossetia commercial and educational aid as part of a re-integration strategy.  The Economist ponderswhy the republic of Tatarstan has never posed the same problem ofsedition for Russia as the republics of the North Caucasus.  Brian Whitmore wonders who will be next to fall among the regional governors.
The Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, employer of 1,500 people in eastern Siberia, has re-opened on the orders of Vladimir Putin, but what will this mean for Lake Baikal’s fragile ecosystem?  The offices of NGO Baikal’s Ecological Wave have apparently had their computers removed by police in a warrantless search.  An article in the Moscow Timesunveils some dubious links between a hotel construction in a supposedlyprotected nature zone on the Black Sea, and the Kremlin. 

The BBC has picture report on life in a remote Russian school.  The costs of communism: the city of Voronezh is planning to sell its statue of Lenin, as it cannot afford the upkeep.

PHOTO: Rosoboronexport head Anatoly Isaikin speaking to reporters Thursday, 28 January 2009. He said sales hit a new record last year.  (Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP)