RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 3, 2009

31_2.jpgTODAY: Russia-Israel meeting sidesteps thorny issues; draft nuclear agreement could be ready for Obama’s July visit; state won’t put money into Sochi this year; road blockaded by protesters in Pikalyovo

The Kremlin has said that the US and Russia may have reached a draft deal on nuclear reduction by the time of Obama’s visit to Moscow in July.  In his meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Sergei Lavrov has lauded Washington’s new approach to Iran and its nuclear issues, and added ‘we have confirmed the need to assure the international community of the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program’.  Lavrov made no public comment about dialogue with Hamas.  China and Russia are backing a ‘convincing’ response to North Korea.  A Georgian lawmaker has accused a St. Petersburg banker of having ties with Vladimir Putin and funding last month’s attempted uprising at a military base.  Georgian Defense Minister Vasil Sikharulidze has told Washington officials that Russia is re-enforcing its build up of troops in breakaway Georgian territory.

Apparently preparations for the Sochi Olympics will require no government funding in 2009 or 2010, as private investment is so ample.  A slightly different angle is reported in the Washington Post – that the government is slashing its Sochi budget due to the crisis, but state companies will step in and make up the difference.  This year’s Russian Open golf tournament has been canceled after main sponsor Inteko pulled out.

The World Bank has warned that environmental damage accumulated over Soviet years has made the whole of the eastern bloc more vulnerable to global warming.  New anti-corruption measures will see members of the police force wear name badges and police cars be equipped with video cameras.  The New York Times looks at the trial of 12 members of revolutionary Islamic organization Hizbut Tahrir as a reflection of ‘Russia’s often contradictory policies toward Muslims’.

According to the Deputy Prime Minister, unemployment may be continuing to decrease, but for recently made redundant workers in the town of Pikalyovo, statistics are of little comfort.  The workers have been sent $163,000 by Leningrad Governor Valery Serdyukov after they blocked a major highway to protest that poverty is rife in the city.

PHOTO: Unemployed residents walking along a road as they prepare to block a highway, June 2, 2009, in the town of Pikalyovo.  (Oleg Zagorujko/Reuters)