RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 16, 2011

rosneft.jpgTODAY: Medvedev challenges Putin in verbal address; Russia’s richest man to enter politics? Foreign Ministry dismisses Amnesty International rights criticisms; Khimki forest activists detained at demo. Belarus jails presidential candidate; Japan takes issue with Vice PM’s Kuril visit; Lavrov affirms opposition to foreign interference in restive Middle East; anti-Semitic text deemed ‘educational’; Sochi countdown

A person who thinks he can stay in power indefinitely is a danger to society […] Excessive concentration of power is a dangerous thing‘: the words of President Medvedev at a meeting with young lawmakers, which has prompted the Telegraph to speak of a veiled attack on Prime Minister Putin.  The Moscow Times, on the other hand, underplays Medvedev’s ostensible defiance, arguing, ‘the phrasing was vague enough to pass for an ordinary pre-election speech’.  ‘[N]o place for Medvedev’: a Reuters analysis suggests that Putin’s All Russia People’s Front is the culmination of many steps sidelining the President.  Could billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov take up the helm of the Medvedev-leaning Right Cause party?  The Financial Times has an interview with Russia’s answer to Julian Assange, Alexei Navalny.  The Foreign Ministry has criticized Amnesty International’s Russia-critical human right report as being ‘politically biased’.  Police have detained five activists at an unsanctioned rally, believed against the demolition of the Khimki forest, in downtown Moscow.  According to the Other Russia, Kasparov.ru correspondent, Viktor Shamaev, has been arrested at a Day of Wrath protest rally in Penza.  In Belarus major opposition figure Andrei Sannikov has been sentenced to five years in jail following a conviction for helping to organize a rally against Lukaschenko’s re-election.

Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, the latest high-profile visitor to the Kuril islands, was, it would seem, distinctly unimpressed by the disputed territory’s infrastructure.  Japan’s Foreign Ministry has lodged a complaint against the visit.  President Medvedev has reiterated calls for Russia to have an equal role in a European missile defense system in a letter to members of the NATO-Russia Council.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has apparently urged for negotiations to take place as soon as possible between Libyan rebels and Moammar Gadhafi’s government and emphasized the Kremlin’s opposition to any foreign interference in Syria or other regional states, adding that the Libya contact group, ‘from the point ofview of international law […] has no legitimacy‘.  A sober warning from the head of Russia’s Union of Afghan Veterans on the future of Afghanistan.  E. Wayne Merry in the Washington Post argues that the death of Bin Laden has proved that ‘for the United States, a generally cooperative relationship with Russia contributes to a Eurasia in which opportunities appear and flexibility develops for American policymakers.’

The Public Chamber has demanded that the Prosecutor General’s Office ban a Hitler-vaunted anti-Semitic text shortly after Moscow prosecutors found it to be of ‘historical and educational’ value.  Brace yourselves for another Mascot competition – Russia has won the right to host the 2016 world ice hockey championships.  Only 999 days left till the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

PHOTO: BP chief executive Dudley, on screen, looking ‘optimistic’, on May 13, 2011, about a decision on the deal with Rosneft.  (Gianluca Colla / Bloomberg)