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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – July 23, 2009

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TODAY: Biden in Georgia expresses support for freedom and territorial integrity; Russia-NATO Council meeting pragmatic.  Body of missing Russian activist  Andrei Kulagin found, second murder in a week.  Nobel laureates plead for justice for Estemirova; Russia says no to UN probe into her death.

Mikheil Saakashvili wasted no words in condemning Russia in his meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden.  Biden pledged his support by sending out an ‘unequivocal, clear message to all who will listen and some who don’t want to’, in an apparent tacit reference to the Kremlin.  ‘We refuse to recognise that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not part of Georgia’, Biden told the BBC.  Resurrected discussions of the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Georgia on spying charges have been criticized by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Karasi as a spy-themed show of strength for the benefit of Saakashvili’s American guest.  Tbilisi has accused Moscow of trying to undermine stability in the region after a visit by Russia’s top security officials to South Ossetia.


The latest talks between Russia and NATO have seen the pair focus on ‘practical issues’ such as Afghanistan and Somalian pirates.  Russia and China have started joint war games.  Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister of Sweden, now holding the presidency of the EU, says Russia ‘will be welcome to take part in relevant activities’ regarding the Eastern partnership in an article in the Moscow Times.  Following a trade spat with Moscow, Minsk has promised to reopen a closed pipeline.

Human rights group Spravedlivost has said the body of the director of its Karelia region branch, Andrei Kulagin, has been found in a sand pit outside Petrozavodsk, following his disappearance on May 14.  A Moscow court will start preliminary hearings in August for the retrial of three suspects in the 2006 murder of reporter Anna Politkovskaya.  A group of Nobel peace laureates has called on Russia to find the killers of activist Natalya Estemirova.  Russia has said UN experts will not be allowed to investigate her death, but they will be permitted to give evidence to police.  An anti-corruption investigator linked to the GMU research center in Vladivostok has been detained in Moscow.

Another blow for gamblers: the government has removed poker’s status as a sport in Russia.  The New York Times has a retrospective piece on a famed meeting between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev.

PHOTO: Visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, listens to Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili, right, speaking during a reception in presidential residence in the capital Tbilisi, Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Biden arrived in Georgia Wednesday from Ukraine on a mission to reassure both former Soviet nations that the United States will not abandon them as it seeks to improve badly strained ties with Russia. (AP Photo/Irakly Gedenidze, Presidential Press Service, Pool)