RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 12, 2009

capt.2ae314eac3154cde929a5b984bd4883f.japan_russia_tok205.jpgTODAY: Economic ties and energy on the agenda for Putin’s Japan meeting; no end to the stalemate in Georgia, fears of violence resurge; Obama visit to Russia in July; Medvedev undermines Constitutional Court freedoms

Prime Minister Putin has emphasized friendly links with the ex-premier of Japan, Yoshiro Mori, in an attempt to facilitate an improvement in Russo-Japanese relations.  Russia is reportedly looking to come to an agreement on territorial issues with Japan (the four South Kuril Islands remaining a point of contention) through the development of more substantial economic ties.  Barack Obama’s first visit to Russia has been scheduled for July 6-8.  Cracks may appear to be forming in the restart but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has insisted that he sees no political statement in Hillary Clinton’s absence from the meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the Middle East.  Russia, heading up the Security Council this month, has insisted attention be paid to the urgency of reaching comprehensive peace in the Middle East’ through the use of ‘vigorous diplomatic action’.

A meeting between Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and the opposition has ended in stalemate; his opponents are undeterred, vowing to continue mass protests.  One detractor, present at the meetings, laments, ‘our views are diametrically opposed. He thinks that everything is very good, and we think that everything is very bad. There is no other result from this meeting’.  The deadlock may well provoke renewed outbursts of violence, Reuters warns.  Saakashvili has denied that Russian peacekeepers were ever attacked by Georgian troops in last summer’s conflict.  The OSCE has revised proposals for its monitoring of Georgia; in an attempt to overcome Russian hostility to the program, their new proposals make no reference to South Ossetia.

In a move condemned as ‘a decrease in the level of democracy’ of the Constitutional Court, President Medvedev has proposed increased control over its choice of president.  The Irkutsk Region parliament has declared a day of mourning for regional Governor Igor Yesipovsky, who was killed in a helicopter crash on the weekend.

A gas pipeline explosion on the weekend ignited a fire, since described as the biggest in Moscow since World War Two, only a few hours after the fireworks display to end the Victory Day celebrations.  The two events are apparently linked by irony only. 

PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori meet in Tokyo, May 12, 2009.  (AP Photo/Alexei Druzhinin, Pool)