TODAY: Diplomat accuses US of overplaying threat from Iran; what did Putin tell Bill Clinton?; Russia-Belarus tensions flare on loan; Amnesty slams human rights standards; reclaiming Soviet-confiscated art
Russia will not object to a new UN Security Council resolution over North Korea but will continue to oppose sanctions. According to the Guardian, senior diplomat Alexander Sternik has criticized the US for grossly exaggerating the nuclear threat posed by nations such as Iran. The Moscow Times reports that at a private meeting in January, Prime Minister Putin offered assurances to ex-US President Bill Clinton that Medvedev is not his puppet and that the Kremlin and Washington would be able to come to an agreement on missile defense. Poland is apparently pushing the US to secure the stationing of Patriot troops near Warsaw, much opposed by Russia. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has denied that he succumbed to Russian ‘blackmail‘ in amending his Caucasus report.
Russia will hold off on a loan to Belarus amid fears for the financial solvency of the country – whose attitude Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has blasted as ‘parasitical’. The Washington Post reports that Belarus in fact turned down a $500 million-worth loan tranche on the basis that it was in rubles not dollars. ‘The closer he moves to the EU, the greater the alarm in the Kremlin‘: an op-ed piece in the Moscow Times looks at the vacillations in Lukashenko’s foreign policy.
The ex-leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration has been found guilty of hate speech. A state prosecutor has warned of the ‘steady rise in nationalist, racial and religious hate crimes’. Amnesty International has condemned Russia’s regular violations of human rights, which it says have worsened during the economic crisis. Meanwhile police have undertaken an unlawful search of the offices of the Justice human rights group in Moscow.
A French citizen is attempting to reclaim Van Gogh’s Night Cafe, which he claims was confiscated from his great-grandfather on Lenin’s orders. Another morsel from Putin’s column in Russian Pioneer, which goes on sale today. The former President professes to fire people himself, because ‘you have to be civil about it’.
PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk. (AFP/Alexey Druzhinin)