TODAY: US presses Russia on rights abuses; bikers up in arms; army officer’s extraordinary bribes; competition for Prokhorov? China takes Russian side on US missile defense; NATO Sec-General criticizes Russian ‘out of date’ attitude.
RFE/RL has an interview with Michael McFaul, senior director of Russian and Eurasian affairs on the U.S. president’s National Security Council on the latest session of a high-ranking U.S.-Russia talks on human rights, in which the US apparently made their concerns known ‘very bluntly’. Vladimir Putin famously met with bikers in a photo-op to boost his macho image; he may have to woo them again as motorcyclists protest over an accident which left a young biker in a coma after being hit by a businessman speeding in a Porsche. Meanwhile the Federation of Russian Car Owners plans to rally against rising gasoline prices in downtown Moscow today. It is anticipated that billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov will be elected leader of the Right Cause party during a congress at the Moscow Planetarium next week, but he may have to fight off strong opposition from the Union of Right Forces its former incarnation, says this article.
The Moscow Times reports on how an army officer has been found guilty of claiming 60,000 rubles in bribesfrom a young conscript, in exchange for extra leave, seen as asign of the deeply-rooted nature of graft in the armed services. According to Ria-Novosti,jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky will be sent to a prisonin the north-west Russian Karelia region close to the border withFinland.
Russia has won the backing of China and other members of the SCO in criticizing U.S. plans for missile shield defense on the basis that it would ‘damage strategic stability and international security’. The Czech Republic has announced that it will withdrawfrom plans to participate in Washington’s missile defense program outof frustration at its decreased role in the initiative. According tothe Telegraph, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has taken Russia to task on plans to build a new offensive weapon, arguing, ‘This type of rhetoric is unnecessary. This type of thinking is out of date. This type of investment is a waste of money’. Gunfights in Dagestan have taken the lives of five suspected militants and the commander of an elite police unit.
PHOTO: A teen riding past billboards for the St. Petersburg forum,where investors hope to receive a signal that the political scene willremain stable after 2012. (Yelena Kuzmina / Vedomosti)