RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – July 22, 2009

EC3AEF1F-04AA-4BDD-9280-A0F0ADF2E278_w393_s.jpgTODAY: Biden reassures Ukraine that Russia-US reset a benefit for all; Minsk and Moscow sparring again over meat and diesel. UN human rights activists seek entry to Russia.  Medvedev backs ethics/religious education in schools; post to be opened by security services.

US Vice President Joe Biden has apparently reassured Ukraine that the US will continue to back Kiev’s bid to join NATO despite opposition from Russia.  He has allayed fears that the reset will undermine their relations: ‘The more substantive relationship we have with Moscow, the more we can defuse the zero-sum thinking about our relations with Russia’s neighbors’, and good relations with Russia ‘can actually benefit Ukraine’.  Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has urged the US to expedite the delivery of weapons to prepare the country for potential aggression from Russia.  The Russian Foreign Ministry has rebuffed US fears that nuclear cooperation with Myanmar would be a conflict with the Nonproliferation Treaty.  Yulia Latynina writes on how hooligan state’ Russia has held the West hostage.

Belarus and Russiaare at loggerheads again over trade, with Minsk announcing it has shutdown a major Russian diesel pipeline and Moscow banning certainBelarussian meat products.  Is the distinction between church and state narrowing again?  President Medvedev is openly advocating the study of religion in schools and the employment of chaplains from major Russia religions to work in education and the Army.  The Telegraph reports on the Kremlin’s controversial new decree allowing intelligence services to open letters and obtain information about citizens from the postal service. 

Seven UN human rights experts have asked Russia to allow them entry to assist in investigating the slaying of Natalya Estemirova ‘in light of the failure to effectively and impartially investigate’ previous killings.  Former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has testified to the European Court of Human Rights that the prosecution of Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky six years ago was ‘political’.  Kasyanov has told the FT that Putin spoke with him personally about the case and criticized Khodorkovsky’s donations to the Communist Party

Moscow Heritage at Crisis Point’ : a new report seeks how to preserve the city’s history through its buildings; a more creditable source of information than history books?  On RFE/RL a commentator wonders why Russia still bears the hallmarks of terror and totalitarianism in its street names.

PHOTO: ‘We do not recognize — and I want to reiterate it — any sphere of influence’. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (left) told Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, on July 21, 2009. (AFP)