TODAY: Sixteen-year bid to join WTO ends in dramatic turnaround; Russia says North Korea may launch missiles again; Kremlin acknowledgment of threat from Iran may ease negotiations with Washington; Medvedev visits violence-hit Dagestan; United Russia founder criticizes Russia’s political institutions
Despite positive indications this week from the EU and the US, Vladimir Putin has declared that Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will renounce their plans to enter the World Trade Organization unilaterally and will bid to enter as a ‘united customs union’. Negotiations will begin after January 1, 2010, following the legalization of this organization. The New York Times reports that Russian authorities have announced that ‘there are signs of preparations for the launch of missiles’ from North Korea. According to Russia’s envoy, Vitaly Churkin, the UN is close to reaching consensus on a resolution regarding the rogue state. The prospects for missile defense negotiation with Washington have been improved by Moscow’s new recognition of the missile threat from Iran.
During a visit to Dagestan, whose top police official was assassinated last week, President Medvedev blamed recent violence on ‘all kinds of freaks’ who are ‘coming here to do harm on our territory’. One of the region’s top judges has reportedly been killed as she dropped her children off at school. ‘Russia is losing the Caucasus’, says Yulia Latynina in the Moscow Times.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has asserted that Russia’s now-extended ban on 1,200 Belarussian dairy products is not a political gesture. The Foreign Minister has also urged Belarus to return to the Parliamentary Assembly of Europe. The President of the republic of Bashkortostan, one of the founders of United Russia, has launched a career-jeopardizing attack on the Kremlin, accusing the country of ‘walking away from the process of democratization’. A recent survey has revealed that 72% of people have not had any encounters with the police in the past year, implying that the government’s anti-graft campaign is taking effect.
The Guardian says that the sighting of wanted mobile phone tycoon Yevgeny Chichvarkin in Russia’s ‘third capital’ is ‘likely to irritate the Kremlin, which regards Britain as a haven for its many enemies’. Russian prosecutors are seeking a 15-year sentence in absentia for comrade-in-exile Boris Berezovsky.
PHOTO: President Dmitry Medvedev sights an automatic weapon at a special forces training center while visiting the provincial capital Makhachkala, Dagestan, southern Russia, June 9, 2009. Second right is Chechenya’s regional President Ramzan Kadyrov and third right is Dagestan’s regional President Mukhu Aliev. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)