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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 25, 2010

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TODAY: Russia expected to bristle as Poland receives US battery, no reaction so far; EU to reassure Eastern partners; Georgia-Russia flights resume; US-Russia basketball rapprochement. Medvedev orders army modernization; Russia mulling over naval offers from Spain and Netherlands. Ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov says Khodorkovsky trial politically motivated; chess battles. Mining widow expresses fears of local mafia attempting compensation extortion; Moscow’s heritage under siege; orthodox churches strengthen ties

Poland has received a U.S. Patriot missile battery as per an agreement with NATO to increase the country’s air defenses.  The move may have been expected to irk Russia, but apparently the Kremlin is, so far, taciturn on the arrival.  The first EU-Eastern Partnership gathering in more than half a year has taken place in Sopot, in advance of the Russia-EU summit which will apparently focus on visa relaxation.  This meeting is supposedly to reassure the eastern states that their interests are not overshadowed.  Georgian deputy prime minister Georgi Baramidze has voiced skepticism about any Russian involvement in the Eastern Partnership.  Georgia’s main airline has resumed flights to Russia although apparently not on ‘political grounds’.  To attend the Sochi Olympics ‘would make all of us complicit in cementing in practice Russia’s changing European borders by force, even if we reject those changes in principle’.  How basketball is bringing the US and Russia closer.  From the Washington Post,  one of many recent articles arguing that Obama has paid a heavy price for the reset.  President Medvedev has suggested that there needs to be a 30% increase in the amount of modern weaponry in the army.  Having purchased a Mistral from France, Russia is apparently also contemplating similar offers from Spain and the Netherlands.  Alexander Golts discusses the ‘incompetence of the military at large and its fundamental inability to fight a war’ in an op-ed in the Moscow Times.


Former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has testified thatVladimir Putin ordered the prosecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky becausehe was supporting political parties, the New York Times reports.  Ria-Novosti suggests that Kasyanov called the trial ‘ludicrous and politically motivated’.  ‘It’s a theater of the absurd […] Ilyumzhinov says that for him chess is a hobby. I was world champion. For me chess is my life; the Karpov-Ilyumzhinov battle rages.  RFE/RL reports on how Ukraine’s media landscape is facing increasing domination by two moguls from the ranks of the political elite.  Alexei Pankin praises Russia’s media in the Moscow Times. 

The widow of one of the miners killed in the Raspadskaya explosion says that families of the dead are being extorted by local criminal gangs who want their compensation money.  The miners’ protests continue.  The wobbling Volgograd bridge is apparently ‘structurally sound‘ but will remain under inspection.  Around 50 opponents of a controversial development plan to create housing and commercial complex in the historic Zamoskvorechye district in Moscow have blocked the road leading to the construction site.  Shaun Walker in the Independent looks at the Strelka Institute, a new architectural center designed to refine Moscow’s architectural sensibilities. 

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has embarked upon a 10-day visit to Russia as part of a move towards improving relations between the two main Orthodox churches.  The two patriarchs, along with 40,000 other people, attended celebrations of the Day of Slavic Culture and Literature in central Moscow. 

The last Romanov born in Russia, Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, has died at the age of 95.

PHOTO: Mikhail Kasyanov, pictured in a 2007 file photo, testified Monday at the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former chief executive of past oil giant Yukos. (Igor Tabakov / MT)