RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – June 8, 2009

front.jpgTODAY: Kremlin downplays hopes of START breakthrough; Belarus won’t offer political support for money; Gorbachev argues need for perestroika on global level; Putin playing to the crowd, Medvedev left in the wings?; Litvinenko suspect to sit in duma; Sochi construction chief ousted

The Kremlin is being ‘pragmatic’ and does not have ‘high expectations of the outcome’ of Obama’s upcoming Moscow trip, saying as long as the issue of missile defense remains ‘unclear, it will be unwilling to reduce its own weaponry.  Mikhail Gorbachev has penned an article in the Washington Post suggesting that the US is in need of its own perestroika.  Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has rejected Russia’s offers of a $500 million loan as it is reportedly contingent upon Belarus recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.  Russia has banned imports of milk products from Belarus.

The Guardian reports on the wave of industrial protests taking place across the country.  The Moscow Times wonders if the payment of wage arrears in Pikalyovo has set a ‘dangerous precedent’ that will be difficult to match.  Analysts have remarked that Putin’s hands-on appearance in Pikalyovo dramatically upstaged Medvedev’s ‘no-champagne’ speech at the rainy St Petersburg Economic Forum.  ‘It was a very clear demonstration of who is really in charge in Russia,  said a senior diplomat.  For Putin, the visit to the troubled city was ‘the most important trip of the year, perhaps, of his whole premiership‘, argues the Other Russia.

The head of the company managing the construction of the Sochi Olympics has been dismissed by Putin amid fears that preparations for the $13 billion games are too slow.  President Medvedev has implied that some senior government officials may be fired for failing to deal with the financial crisis adequately.  The Times reports that the suspected murderer of Alexander Litvinenko, who is wanted by Scotland Yard, has been appointed to the security committee of the Duma, raising British concerns.  The New York Times has a feature on investigative journalist Sergei Kanev

Russia’s Defense Ministry has removed the text that offended Poland from its website.  An article in the Telegraph suggests that Russia’s revisionism stems from itstruggling with the idea of itself since the international humiliation of losing its empire nearly 20 years ago’.  RF/ERL reports that a post-soviet breakup identity crisis’ could account for the tendency towards extreme racism in the different parts of the ex-USSR.

PHOTO: Medvedev walking past a backdrop reading ‘Expectations’ during the opening of the World Grain Forum in St. Petersburg on June 6, 2009.  (Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters)