RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 11, 2010

monument-4-storypic.jpgTODAY: Medvedev to discuss thorny issues on first trip to Syria; Obama submits civilian nuclear bill to Congress; Putin Black Sea base plans sends message to Ukraine.  Replica of destroyed Georgian war memorial to be built in Moscow; past and future at Victory Day; compensation for mine blast victims; new poll says a majority of Russians apparently unfussed by violations of civil rights

President Obama has resubmitted to Congress the formerly shelved civil nuclear energy deal with Russia on the basis that the Georgia situation ‘need no longer be considered an obstacle’.  This article in the Huffington Post looks at what lies in the way of  improved US-Russia ties.  Dmitry Medvedev’s trip to Syria is the first ever by a Russian head of state: RFE/RL has an interview with Mark Katz, an expert on Russian policy in the Middle East, examining what Medvedev hopes for from this meeting.  Sensitive issues such as Syria’s donating Russian rockets to Hizballah, nuclear energy and military cooperation are expected to be discussed.  A minor diplomatic spat between Israel and Russia occurred on Monday night as authorities in St. Petersburg refused to allow an Arkia plane to fly out of the city.  The Moscow Times suggests that Putin’s recent visit to the new Russian naval base in the Black Sea, ‘sent a political message that Russia would continue to take precautions against potential future changes in the Ukrainian government’.  Pro-Western protesters have mounted a demonstration in Ukraine against President Viktor Yanukovych’s overtures towards the Kremlin.

Putin has urged all mining industry officials to ensure systemic decisions be in place to avoid a repetition of the weekend’s tragedy, whose death toll stands at 43.  Putin has assured the families of the deceased that they will receive $33,000 in compensation.

A thoughtful op-ed in the IHT on the Prime Minister’s muted position on Stalin: ‘Mr. Putin’s ambivalence reflects, in part, his oft-stated desire to consolidate Russian society and avoid social conflict over contentious issues.’  The New York Times looks at the release of Nikita Mikhalkov’s big budget war epic ‘Burnt By the Sun 2’, which one critic has described as a faithful reflection of the Putin era:  ‘Manipulating and profiteering from the great past, which you did not forge but which you have privatized?‘  Medvedev’s Victory Day address, Tony Halpin in the Times suggests, ‘presented him as the candidate of youth and modernity’.  Did the absence of some world leaders cast rain over the parade?  This commentator would have it so.  In Moscow, construction has begun on a smaller version of the Georgian memorial to the Red Army, which was blown up last year on the orders of Mikheil Saakashvili.  Mr Putin was joined by opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze for the placing of an initiatory cornerstone.  Chinese President Hu Jintao profited from the Victory Day visit to hold brief talks with Putin and Medvedev.

This op-ed wonders if the church will be able to take responsibility for the artistic treasures it will receive under new legislation.  According to a new poll, 72% of Russians are allegedly ready to accept ‘certain violations of democratic principles and restriction of personal freedoms’ if it is required to ensure order.  

PHOTO: From left to right, Georgian opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov walking during a cornerstone ceremony for a replica of a destroyed memorial in Georgia, Saturday, May 8, 2010.  (Mikhail Metzel / AP)