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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 30, 2009

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TODAY: Georgia fuming about war games; US-Russia officials meet in advance of Obama trip; more US cargo to go throgh Russia to Afghanistan?; journalist dies of injuries sustained in an assault two months ago; casino closure imminent

The military exercises in the Caucasus will be the largest to take place since the fall of the Soviet Union, with 8,500 troops participating.  ‘They involve an unprecedented number of servicemen and the newest military hardware of Russia’, says Georgia’s deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Nalbandov.  Tbilisi has described the exercises as pure provocation’.  RFE/RL looks at how Russia’s heavy-handed tactics in the North Caucasus have only spurred on insurgent movements, rather than eradicating them.  Will the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, be called in to take on the whole region?
 


US lawmakers have met with Russian counterparts to discuss international issuesin anticipation of President Obama’s visit to Moscow.  Details are emerging of the President’s agenda: he will make a commencement speech to 1,000 guests at the New Economic School. Russia’s ambassador to NATO has said that the United States and the Kremlin may sign a deal increasing transits of US military cargo to Afghanistan via Russia during the trip.  Foreign Minister SergeiLavrov has expressed some caution regarding the restart,acknowledging that while the political relationship between Moscow and the US ‘became too adversarial’, to overcome itwill take time‘.  Despite a ban, gay rights activists are planning to stage a pro-same-sex marriage rally to coincide with Obama’s appearance. 

The editor of the Rostov-on-Don investigative newspaper, Corruption and Crime, who was attacked two months ago, has died in hospital.  ‘The best traditions of Soviet journalism have been maintained in the democratic era’; says an op-ed piece in the Moscow Times.

According to a new survey, most Russians support changing election laws to reinstate direct votes for regional governors and to facilitate the entry of smaller parties to enter parliament.  Russian roulette is the talk of today’s newspapers as the closure of casinos takes effect as of tonight.  The Washington Post reports on the move that will leave 400,000 unemployed and the Moscow Times looks at the difficulties of creating four replacement ‘Las Vegas style’ gaming zones in far-flung parts of the country.

PHOTO: Gamblers sit at the roulette wheel at a casino in downtown Moscow, June 29, 2009.  (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)