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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – July 24, 2009

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TODAY: Russia says no to Georgia rearmament; Biden firm on support for Georgia, asserts that democracy and prosperity key to reintegration of rebel territories.  Incumbent president of Kyrgyzstan looks set to win; the opposition claims electoral fraud; Ukraine to expel Russia diplomat.  Anti-graft cases rake in money. 

US Vice-President Joe Biden has adopted a more aggressive tone on Russia, stating that the Kremlin used a ‘pretext’ to invade Georgia, and has asserted that renewed relations with Russia ‘have not…will not, and…cannot’ imperil the relationship Georgia has with the US.  To see a video of Biden’s standing ovation met address, see the BBC.  Biden has called upon Russia to honor last summer’s ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of troops to their ‘pre-conflict positions’ out of Georgia’s ‘territorial area’.  He has suggested that hope for restoring territorial unity is through ensuring the state is ‘secure, free and democratic’.  The New York Times argues that Biden’s message on how to reclaim control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia ‘had a hard kernel of advice, though: do not try to fight Russia but rather to construct a country ‘so appealing that the separatists would eventually return voluntarily’. 


Russia is apparently ready to take ‘concrete measures’ to stop Mikheil Saakashvili’s regime from re-militarizing.  The Kremlin has claimed that Georgia is planning events ‘of adistinctly provocative nature’ onthe border with South Ossetia as theanniversary of last year’s incursion approaches.  Deputy ForeignMinister Grigory Karasin has expressed dismay that some countries areresponding to Tbilisi’s calls for foreign weapons ‘in a surprisingly calm and even positive way’ and has claimed that the government receives arms under the guise of aid. 

Early results from the presidential election in Kyrgyzstan suggests incumbent Kurmanbek Bakiyev is very much in the lead.  The New York Times reports that opposition candidates claim the election is unlawful.  Ukraine will reportedly expel a Russian diplomat who was implicated in discussions about the disputed Russian Black Sea Fleet.  Tajikistan is readying to introduce a bill that would forbid the use of Russian in official documents, claiming ‘a state language … is an attribute of political independence‘.

A recent poll has seen high approval ratings for Medvedev and Putin.  Corruption cases worth $29 billion hit Russia’s courts in the first six months of the year, a statistic reportedly announced to show that Medvedev’s anti-graft drive is reaping positive results.

The Economist has a tribute to Natalya Estemirova.

PHOTO: US vice-president Joe Biden and the Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili during a welcome ceremony in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. (Irakli Gedenidze/AP)