TODAY: Foreign Ministry raises alarm over NATO’s Libya campaign; Putin’s cucumber comments threaten EU relations. Saakashvili claims dissidents are Kremlin-sponsored; stars attend five day war film premiere. US Senate voices concern over Khodorkovsky verdict. Top military doctor’s graft charges; Yelena Baturina’s brother found guilty of fraud;
dead soldiers remembered via social network
Russia has reportedly apparently expressed concern about the pace of the NATO operation in Libya, after Britain and France announced they had deployed attack helicopters against loyalist forces. The move prompted Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov to suggest that NATO is ‘one step’ from sending ground troops into the North African state to assist rebels in removing the languishing dictator Moammar Gaddafi from power. Doing little to improve relations with Brussels ahead of an EU summit, Vladimir Putin has rebuffed criticisms that Russia’s ban on European vegetable imports contravenes WTO regulations commenting: ‘This may be against “the spirit of the WTO … but cucumbers that people die from after eating really stink’. The Prime Minister has affirmed that the ban will not be lifted until the EU establishes the cause of the deadly E.coli outbreak.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has apparently claimed to have proof that opposition leaders whose protests were dispersed last month are funded by Russia. Andy Garcia and Sharon Stone flew to Tsibili on the weekend to promote a new Russia-irking film about the August 2008 conflict. The remote Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has denied joining with Venezuela, Nicaragua and the Pacific State of Nauru in recognizing the independence of Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia. According to the Moscow Times, the U.S. Senate has voiced concern about the situation surrounding jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in pretrial detention. On the political benefits (for both halves of the tandem) of freeing Khodorkovsky.
A Moscow military court has approved the arrest of the country’s chief military doctor on corruption charges, after he allegedly accepted a kickback of $175,000. Meanwhile Russian businessman Viktor Baturin, the brother of property developer Yelena Baturina, wife of the former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov, has received a suspended three-year jail term for fraud.
The BBC has a moving report on how the Mother’s Right Foundation charity has employed an unusual method to draw attention to the plight of victims of ‘dedovshchina’, a brutal form of military hazing.
PHOTO: Vladimir Yakunin watching a train exit a tunnel Friday, June 3, 2011, at the opening ceremony of a reconstructed railway tunnel in Novorossiisk. Putin also attended the event. (Vadim Lazarev / Reuters)