RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 1, 2009

capt.photo_1241105115053-1-0.jpgTODAY: NATO-Russia contacts reach immediate hurdle; security pacts reignite tensions as do spying claims; attacked journalist in coma; labor day today – but is there much to celebrate?

The security agreements Moscow has signed with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which will see Russia gain formal control over the borders for five years, have been met with criticisms from NATO.  ‘This is in clear contravention of the 12th August and 8th September agreements negotiated by the European Union‘, an organization spokesman has said.  According to Ria Novosti, the Foreign Ministry is surprised it has incurred NATO’s ire, claiming, ‘Russia has not signed any truce agreements with anyone in that region’.  The Guardian reports on NATO’s decision to expel two Russian diplomats over a spying scandal, one of whom is the son of Russia’s ambassador to the EU. The allegations of spying have been denied by NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin, and the move calleda vulgar provocationby the Russian Foreign Ministry, which has pledged a ‘clear and tough’ response.  

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has said that Russia is a principle culprit in restricting religious freedoms, in particular, ‘a new body in the Ministry of justice with unprecedented powers to control and monitor religious groups’, the Washington Post reports.  The editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper ‘Corruption and Crime‘ is in a coma following a violent assault in the southwestern city of Rostov-na-Donu.

‘The real spoiler may turn out to be Russia‘: an article in the Economistexamines the difficulties of achieving a peaceful settlement in thesouthern Caucasus.  According to a recent poll, the St George ribboncampaign, which is designed to honor the memory of those who fought in World War Two, is approved of by 79% of Russians.

Labor day, labor crisis: RFERL reports on the increasing desperation of workers at the Molot arms plants, where food has become a substitute for pay.  At a recent demonstration, workers suggested that in lieu of food a more fitting salary substitute would be the Kalashnikov assault rifles they themselves assemble.

PHOTO: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is flanked by South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity (right) and his Abkhazian counterpart Sergei Bagapsh after a formal signing ceremony in Moscow.  (AFP/Pool/Natalia Kolesnikova)