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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – September 10, 2009

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TODAY: Chavez in town for oil and arms; transatlantic trend report reveals East/West Europe divisions on Obama policy in Russia; journalist critical of dam rescue operation beaten; Gulag Archipelago to hit reading list; Georgia says boycott Sochi Olympics.

On his visit to Moscow, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has lauded what he views as Putin’s standing up to a United States which ‘wants to dominate the entire world…’.   An article in the Times suggests thatMoscow delights in irritating Washington over its relationship with Venezuela, which it describes as a “counterweight to US influence”‘.  Russia may offer Venezuela a loan for a new arms contract.  The New York Times reports on a new survey, Transatlantic Trends, which suggests that Europeans are divided on the new US administration’s approach to Russian belligerence.  Whilst 43% of West Europeans believe that relations between the United States and Europe had improved under Mr. Obama, only 25% of Central and East Europeans think likewise.  Ria-Novosti relays expert opinions that suggest that Hilary Clinton’s upcoming visit to Moscow is unlikely to herald any major breakthrough in relations.


Seumas Milne in the Guardian backs Medvedev’s branding of recent Nazism/Stalinism comparisons a ‘cynical lie’.  Excerpts from dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s ‘The Gulag Archipelago’ will be compulsory reading for Russian high school students.  Rights watcher Lev Ponomaryov suggests the move is an attempt to quash support for the Communist party which has somewhat rebounded with the financial crisis.  A Khakasia journalist who questioned the handling of the Sayano-Shushenskaya power plant disaster says he was attacked and beaten unconscious by two men.  In a country known for straightjacketing the press, ‘why does Vedomosti’s opinion page enjoy such freedom?’.  Konstantin Sonin replies in the Moscow Times.

In Belarus, riot police have broken up a rally of more than 30 protesters opposing joint military exercises with Russia.  Belarus should not be with Russia, but with Europe’, one demonstrator told journalists.  Georgia wants to organize a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, a stone’s throw from rebel region Abkhazia, harking back to the 1980 US boycott of the Moscow Olympics.  

A spokesman for Vladimir Putin has said he cannot confirm reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a secret meeting in Russia this week.  The BBC examines the theory that Israel intercepted the Arctic Sea.  Over and out. 

PHOTO: President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela addressed Russian students in Moscow on September 9, 2009.  (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)