RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 19, 2010

zil_1.jpgTODAY: Russia seeks to regain hold over its neighbors; Ex-PM Tymoschenko fears Ukraine break up; Medvedev proposes CSTO membership to Ukraine; NATO’s relationship with Russia.  Official who killed child in traffic accident will not face charges; Medvedev to be informed of Khodorkovsky hunger strike; Guantanamo vs Russia prison. Toxic spill; new mine explosion; UNESCO site endangered by highway

According to Bloomberg, Russia is exploiting the West’s negligence of Eastern Europe to re-solder its influence among its ex-Soviet neighbors.  ‘No one could say that Russia is subtle in its drive to gain influence over Ukraine’ argues the Times.   President Medvedev has wooed Kiev with an invitation to join the Collective Security Treaty Organization.  The President has asserted that Russia will not use its Crimea-based Black Sea Fleet for aggressive purposes.  A protest planned by Ukrainian nationalists in Kiev against the Russian leader has been quashed.  Ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoschenko has told the Times that Ukraine’s rapprochement with Russia is undermining stability in the country and has heralded a ‘rolling back of democracy, a destruction of the rule of law and the beginning of repression against the opposition’.   An op-ed in the Moscow Times present five reasons why Ukraine’s new government will not bring reforms.  The Moscow Times reports on a Russian exodus from restive Kyrgyzstan.  There is an interview with the father of one of the Moscow metro suicide bombers in the New York Times.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that START will give the U.S. greater insight into the nature of the Kremlin’s nuclear arsenal.  The former ambassador to NATO is interviewed about the organization’s (complex) attitude to Russia on the BBC.  Rejecting Stalin is one part of Russia’s new pro-Western foreign policy strategy, argues an analyst in the Moscow Times.

Russia’s ombudsman says President Medvedev will be made aware of a letter written by Mikhail Khodorkovsky in which he declares a hunger strike in protest against what he believes to be an unlawful court rulingto extend his stay in pretrial detention.  The leader of a Russianhunger strike committee at a tractor making factory in Altai Krai,charged with organizing illegal protests, has had the criminal caseagainst him dismissed.  Is Guantanomo preferable to Russian prison?  Having filmed local police in violation of traffic regulations, a driver has now been charged with driving without a license, the Moscow Times reports.  A former Volgograd prosecutor who killed a 7-year-old boy in a traffic incident will not face any charges; the child’s parents maintain that the official has been whitewashed. 

Residents of the town of Tuapse in Krasnodar have protested after a toxic fertilizer spill imperiled local ecology and sparked respiratory problems among the population.  Another mine blast in Kuzbass has left two workers missing.  The construction of a new highway is, this report claims, endangering the Vladivostok Fortress, a UNESCO world heritage site.  Nikita Mikhalkov’s high hopes for Cannes.

PHOTO:  Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov standing in a ZiL during this year’s Victory Day parade on May 9, 2010.  (Igor Tabakov / MT)