RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 18, 2009

capt.photo_1245249372672-2-0.jpgTODAY: Wide-ranging talks with China conclude;  opinion argues Russia the weak link in BRIC; milk war with Belarus over, but gas battle to begin?; NGO law reforms presented; extradition of Chichvarkin demanded

The ‘friendly, constructive and confidential’ talks between Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese Chairman Hu Jintao have confirmed their ‘strategic relationship’, says the Russian President, who believes the level of cooperation met by the two nations is ‘exemplary’.  The countries have pledged to increase the use of their national currencies in bilateral trade.  They have expressed serious concern about North Korea and agreed that diplomatic efforts should be made to ease tensions over its nuclear program as well as that of Iran.  According to RFE/RL, Medvedev also made a dig at Washington, stating that no country should base its military on missile defense.  Russia has expressed some hopes regarding this thorny issue, with Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin telling reporters that the Obama administration was more ‘down-to-earth and more realistic‘.   A Russian observer has called the Iranian election ‘absolutely democratic’. 

The Times lambasts the attempts of BRIC leaders to stamp their presence on the world as ‘silly’ and suggests that the West has lost patience with ‘Russian arrogance’.  Another Times article concludes that Russia’s eagerness to host BRIC was due to its being the ‘weakest’ of the four, the one with ‘the most to gain from the others’ solidarity‘.  Reuters reports that the summit ended ‘quietly’ with the countries mulling their differences rather than establishing common ground

Russia has allowed milk imports from Belarus to resume and Belarus will dismantle customs posts at the Russian border.  But tensions may begin to flare over gas – Moscow has demanded $230 million in gas arrears.  Medvedev’s legislation to reform Putin’s heavy-handed NGO law has been sent to the State Duma.  The Moscow City Duma, which is dominated by United Russia, has signed legislation introducing a method that will significantly diminish the chances of an opposition party winning seats

The kidnapped son of Rosneft ‘s Vice President has been freed.  The Telegraph reports that Russia is seeking the extradition of flamboyant mobile phone tycoon Yevgeny Chichvarkin from Britain.  London high-society has welcomed Alexander Lebedev, but is the Independent a more suitable newspaper for the exiled billionaire than the capital’s Evening Standard?

PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (4thL) meets with Chinese President Hu Jintao (6thR) at the Kremlin, June 17, 2009.  (AFP/POOL/Dmitry Astakhov)