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

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TODAY: Medvedev calls for political parties to diversify, warns of stagnation; Foreign Ministry won’t take Saakashvili seriously until it’s in writing; Romanian minister calls for troops to leave Moldova; friendly NATO relations undermined by mistrust; unpopular notion of Russia in Afghanistan. Russia could join WTO within a year; Putin calls for free trade zone with EU; tiger summit ends, CPJ calls for investigation; Sochi mascot split, Volgograd’s edifying cartoons.
President Dmitry Medvedev has made a video address calling for increased political competition, complaining that progress is impossible ‘if the opposition hasn’t the slightest chance of winning in an honest fight‘, and that the current, unrelenting dominance of United Russia could transform stability into ‘stagnation‘.  The President is currently taking advice from his Twitter followers, he says.  Russia’s Foreign Ministry says it will not take Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s peaceful pledges seriously until they are ‘put on paper and acquire legal force‘, saying that it has been asking him to do so since 2008.  The Romanian Foreign Minister has called for Russia’s withdrawal of its troops from Moldova, calling their presence ‘an anachronism and a contradiction. We welcome this new openness between Russia and NATO.‘  Time Magazine reviews recent developments in the relationship between Russia and NATO, wondering why Dmitry Medvedev’s expression of distrust (‘Either we participate in full, exchange information, answer for the resolution of this or that problem, or we don’t participate at all‘) wasn’t made more of an issue of.  NPR looks at the unpopularity of the idea that Russia should assist with military efforts in Afghanistan.

Russia has struck a deal with the EU to phase out export tariffs on raw materials, the last remaining EU obstacle to the former’s entry into the WTO.  According to Igor Shuvalov, ‘We have resolved all issues, in line with the US position, and Russia has no obstacles [from the EU] now,‘ with the FT estimating that membership could be completed within a year.  In an article published in Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin calls for a free trade zone between Russia and the EU.  The BBC follows up on recent rumors that Russia may need to reform its territorial structure in order to boost economic development, explaining the ‘federal subject‘ status that keeps Moscow and St Petersburg dominant. 
The Tiger Summit has come to an end, celebrating $330 million worth of donor pledges. ‘The tiger has made the world realise that there is a crisis in nature taking place.‘  The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for an investigation into the arrests of two Russia Today reporters at a Georgia (US) protest earlier this week.  Former US and Russian ambassadors write in today’s New York Times, giving their verdict on the progress of the reset. 
Russians are split over the mascot for the Sochi Olympics, between ‘a fluffy blue frog named Zoich‘ and Mishka the cub bear.  Volgograd police have made a series of cartoons to convey the important issues of the day to young children, these being: terrorism, firearms, and protest rallies. 
PHOTO: Tajikistan’s President Imomali Rakhmon walks with Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during their meeting in Dushanbe, November 25, 2010. (REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool)