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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Nov 13, 2009

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TODAY: Medvedev’s state of the nation address warns opposition against using democracy to rock the boat; talks up modernization. Media unconvinced President can match word with deed. Topol-M problem for START replacement talks;  Litvinenko suspect Lugovoi willing to speak to London prosecutors?; is Russia really cracking down on nationalists; Putin world’s third most powerful according to Forbes
In President Medvedev’s second state-of-the-nation address, highlights of which can be found here, he warned opposition politicians not to use democracy as a way to ‘destabilize the state and split society’. The fact that the speech emphasized long-term goals, related to cutting time zones, technology and industrial modernization, heralds a call for re-election argues one analyst, quoted in the Moscow Times. The Guardian suggests that zone trimming would allow the government a firmer hold over the occasionally restive Far East. No criticisms of Prime Minister Putin were apparently explicitly made, but ‘in targeting inefficient state-owned corporations, he also is attacking the centralization of economic power under his predecessor and current prime minister’, argues the Wall Street Journal. Opposition politicians are apparently scathing about the prospect of reform, citing the fact that the President made no mention of the disputed October elections. He has ‘precious few policies to back up his liberal rhetoric’ says Shaun Walker in the Independent. The more the President talks of reform, the more palpable the actual lack of it becomes, suggests an article in the Times. The Moscow Times has a run down of what the President proposed in his first state of the nation speech, and what he achieved.


START replacement talks are apparently stalling, with a series of issues that Russia wishes to discuss before a deal can be concluded, such as removing US monitors at the Topol-M ballistic missile plant. Russia will add more than 30 ballistic missiles and three nuclear submarines to its arsenal next year as part of its armed forces upgrade. Poland’s foreign minister has apparently sent a letter to NATO voicing concern about recent Russian military exercises.

Deputy Andrei Lugovoi, who is wanted in Britain in connection with the Alexander Litvinenko murder, has said that he is prepared to go to London to face questioning ‘under certain conditions’. The Khamovniki district court of Moscow has extended the investigation prison custody for former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev. RFE/RLponders the connection between whistleblower policeman Aleksei Dymovskyand the 22 criminal cases launched against state corporations – something the siloviki should be worried about? An article in the Economist suggests that the arrest of two ultra nationalists for the Markelov-Baburova killings is evidence that the Kremlin is organizing ‘a serious and co-ordinated crackdown on the neo-fascists in Moscow’. The editor of a paper in south Russia’s Krasnodar Territory is to face charges of extremism after publishing an apparently racist poem.  

Vladimir Putin has been voted third on Forbes most powerful list, behind Barack Obama and Hu Jintao; Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin was placed 42, and Medvedev 43.

PHOTO: President Dmitry Medvedev delivering his second state-of-the-nation address to hundreds of dignitaries in the Kremlin’s St. George Hall on Thursday, November 12, 2009. (Igor Tabakov / MT)