Putin tries to make nicey-nice.

As much as I’d like Bush to tell ole Vlad to shove it where the sun don’t shine. Keeping Russia talking for now is the smart move. Well played, George. Your winner are few and far between lately, but I’ll give you this one.

ROSTOCK, Germany –

Vladimir Putin, bitterly opposed to a U.S. missile shield in Europe, presented

President Bush with a surprise counterproposal Thursday built around a Soviet-era radar system in Azerbaijan rather than new defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic. Bush said it was an interesting suggestion and promised to consider it.

Putin’s formula would force a major rethinking of U.S. plans for defending Europe against attack from hostile regimes such as Bottom Iran or North Korea. While outright acceptance of Putin’s idea appeared doubtful, the White House seemed eager to avoid further inflaming tensions by giving it short shrift.

The Russian president said he would abandon his threat to retarget missiles on Europe — if Bush accepted the Kremlin’s missile-defense proposal.

“This is a serious issue and we want to make sure that we all understand each other’s positions very clearly,” Bush said after an hour-long meeting with Putin. Speaking through a translator, Putin said he was “satisfied with the spirit of openness” from Bush.

Boris Yeltsin is dead at age 76

Boris Yeltsin is dead at age 76 – Europe – MSNBC.com

MOSCOW – Former President Boris Yeltsin, who engineered the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed Russia to embrace democracy and a market economy, has died, a Kremlin official said Monday. He was 76.

Kremlin spokesman Alexander Smirnov confirmed Yeltsin’s death, but gave no cause or further information.

The Interfax news agency cited an unidentified medical source as saying he had died of heart failure.

50% Good News Is the Bad News in Russian Radio

Gee!  Can anyone say “fairness doctrine’?  It’s nice when your government decides what is offensive, fair, extremist, etc..

First they take your guns.  Then they take your voice.  It’s all downhill from there. 

Remember, the term “Political Correctness” originated in the former Soviet Union. 

50% Good News Is the Bad News in Russian Radio – New York Times

MOSCOW, April 21 — At their first meeting with journalists since taking over Russia’s largest independent radio news network, the managers had startling news of their own: from now on, they said, at least 50 percent of the reports about Russia must be “positive.”

In addition, opposition leaders could not be mentioned on the air and the United States was to be portrayed as an enemy, journalists employed by the network, Russian News Service, say they were told by the new managers, who are allies of the Kremlin.

How would they know what constituted positive news?

“When we talk of death, violence or poverty, for example, this is not positive,” said one editor at the station who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution. “If the stock market is up, that is positive. The weather can also be positive.”

In a darkening media landscape, radio news had been a rare bright spot. Now, the implementation of the “50 percent positive” rule at the Russian News Service leaves an increasingly small number of news outlets that are not managed by the Kremlin, directly or through the state national gas company, Gazprom, a major owner of media assets.

The three national television networks are already state controlled, though small-circulation newspapers generally remain independent.

This month alone, a bank loyal to President Vladimir V. Putin tightened its control of an independent television station, Parliament passed a measure banning “extremism” in politics and prosecutors have gone after individuals who post critical comments on Web chat rooms.

Parliament is also considering extending state control to Internet sites that report news, reflecting the growing importance of Web news as the country becomes more affluent and growing numbers of middle-class Russians acquire computers.

On Tuesday, the police raided the Educated Media Foundation, a nongovernmental group sponsored by United States and European donors that helps foster an independent news media. The police carried away documents and computers that were used as servers for the Web sites of similar groups. That brought down a Web site run by the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a media rights group, which published bulletins on violations of press freedoms.

“Russia is dropping off the list of countries that respect press freedoms,” said Boris Timoshenko, a spokesman for the foundation. “We have propaganda, not information.”

With this new campaign, seemingly aimed at tying up the loose ends before a parliamentary election in the fall that is being carefully stage-managed by the Kremlin, censorship rules in Russia have reached their most restrictive since the breakup of the Soviet Union, media watchdog groups say.

“This is not the U.S.S.R., when every print or broadcasting outlet was preliminarily censored,” Masha Lipman, a researcher at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said in a telephone interview.

Instead, the tactic has been to impose state ownership on media companies and replace editors with those who are supporters of Mr. Putin — or offer a generally more upbeat report on developments in Russia these days.

The new censorship rules are often passed in vaguely worded measures and decrees that are ostensibly intended to protect the public.

Late last year, for example, the prosecutor general and the interior minister appeared before Parliament to ask deputies to draft legislation banning the distribution on the Web of “extremist” content — a catch phrase, critics say, for information about opponents of Mr. Putin.

Moscow Police Beat Anti-Putin Protesters

Moscow Police Beat Anti-Putin Protesters | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited

MOSCOW (AP) – Riot police beat and detained protesters as thousands defied an official ban and attempted to stage a rally Saturday against President Vladimir Putin’s government, which opponents accuse of rolling back freedoms Russians have enjoyed since the end of Soviet communism.

A similar march planned for Sunday in St. Petersburg has also been banned by authorities.

A coalition of opposition groups organized the “Dissenters March” to protest the economic and social policies of Putin as well as a series of Kremlin actions that critics say has stripped Russians of many political rights. Organizers said only about 2,000 demonstrators turned out.

Thousands of police officers massed to keep the demonstrators off landmark Pushkin Square in downtown Moscow, beating some and detaining many others, including Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who has emerged as the most prominent leader of the opposition alliance.

Police said 170 people had been detained but a Kasparov aide, Marina Litvinovich, said as many as 600 were – although about half were released quickly. Kasparov, whom witnesses said was seized as he tried to lead a small group of demonstrators through lines of police ringing the square, was freed late Saturday after he was fined $38 for participating in the rally.

“It is no longer a country … where the government tries to pretend it is playing by the letter and spirit of the law,” Kasparov said outside the court building, appearing unfazed by his detention.

“We now stand somewhere between Belarus and Zimbabwe,” he said.

Russia points it’s crooked finger at US/Israel, while Nancy shakes it’s hand.

The Russian pot stirring continues with respect to US involvement in the Middle East. It should be obvious at this point that Russian motivation revolves around garnering favor and peddling influence. And that is to be expected given the new US presence in the oil rich region. But let’s not take the Russian rhetoric too seriously. It’s quite easy to win friends by pointing fingers. A trick the Russians have picked up from the Democrats.

The concern should be that radical elements would seize on this fantasy as cause for a ‘pre-emptive’ strike of their own. Certainly, the Syrians have now been emboldened to take a harder line with Israel, thanks Ms. Speaker. So, all eyes should be watching that theater for a potential “Arch Duke Ferdinand” event. While it’s highly doubtful the U.S. will do more than sabre rattle of the Iranian coast, any small event involving Israel may be enough to cause either side to jump. Iranian President ‘ImANutJob’ is already unabashedly anti-Israel. Any statements he makes that could be construed as hinting Iranian involvement in action against Israel may be enough to tie the ‘Nuke’ to ‘Threat’ knot for the Bush administration.

Interfax > Politics

Russian general says U.S. continues preparations for military action against Iran

MOSCOW. April 8 (Interfax-AVN) – The release of the 15 British sailors and marines captured by Iran has robbed the U.S. of a pretext to attack Iran, but the U.S. has not given up plans to attack Iran militarily, said Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy for Geopolitical Problems, a Russian think tank.

“Preparations to strike Iran’s strategic facilities continue. Three major groups of U.S. forces are still in the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. Altogether, they have up to 450 cruise missiles on alert,” the general told Interfax-AVN.

“Military operations against Tehran will begin with the launch of at least two unexpected strikes using Tomahawk cruise missiles and air power in order to disable Iran’s air defense capabilities,” he said.

“According to our data, up to 150 aircraft are to be involved in each strike on Iran. Land-based air defense systems will be disabled in the first place, then mobile short-range systems, which Tehran has (including some 30 new systems),” he said.

Primary targets will include command centers, air defense installations, the navy, airfields, ports and docking facilities, the general said.

“Nuclear facilities may be secondary targets. According to expert assessments, at least 20 such facilities need to be destroyed in order to stop Iran’s nuclear program,” Ivashov said.

Ivashov did not rule out that nuclear weapons may be used against Iran.

“Combat nuclear weapons may be used for bombing. This will result in radioactive contamination of the Iranian territory, which could possibly spread to neighboring countries,” he said.

“If Iran strikes back at Israel with missiles, Tel-Aviv is likely to use nuclear weapons on Iran,” Ivashov said, adding that such a “development of the situation would undermine stability not only in the Middle East, but also in the entire world.”

Adding fuel to the fire is this story.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to announce on Monday the installation of 3,000 centrifuges for uranium enrichment in the Natanz nuclear facility, the official Iranian news agency reported.

The announcement will be made as part of the Islamic Republic’s “National Nuclear Day” celebrations. (Dudi Cohen).

So now we can throw the word ‘imminent’ into the equation.

These combined events further raise my ire at the callousness and temerity with which Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Hoyer and other in congress display by anointing themselves de facto foreign policy makers for the Office of the President. Like so may school children, Pelosi and her ilk now run to every despot, dictator and terror sponsor with a message of “play with me and I’ll share my candy”. Foreign policy is not your personal political plaything Madame Speaker. Reign yourself and your little clan of miscreants in before you cause irreparable harm to my country.

Nuclear Politics: Russia’s refusal to send fuel to Iran for nuclear enrichment

Today in Investor’s Business Daily stock analysis and business news

Nuclear Politics: Russia’s refusal to send fuel to Iran for nuclear enrichment pulls the rug out from under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions. A sign Russia’s finally getting serious?

Iran was right on the cusp of completing its Bushehr nuclear reactor, a $1 billion project under construction since the days of the Shah.

But something happened in the past two weeks as Ahmadinejad prepared to celebrate — Russia suddenly announced it would halt the last bit of construction of the 97% complete project because Iran wasn’t paying its bills.

Now Russia’s Security Council Secretary, Igor Ivanov, reportedly has told diplomats that Russia won’t send fuel to Iran either unless it stops nuclear enrichment for weapons production.

Russia’s since backtracked slightly, saying the fuel halt is only related to Iran’s deadbeating. But Iran vigorously denies it’s missing payments and threatens to make public its bank statements that show them.

It’s no big deal to the West either way. If Russia wants to save face for its involvement in this commercial nuclear project and its defense of Iran’s nuclear arms program, what’s important is that it has come to its senses about what it has been supporting before it’s too late.

Russia has since withdrawn its 2,000 technicians, engineers and specialists from the Bushehr project, U.S. and European diplomats say, and it risks losing a $1 billion contracted payment for a project it has worked on since 1995.

Nevertheless, a new willingness to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s hands enhances Russia’s stature.

Russia has gone public about its Iran estrangement, which probably means it’s serious. It’s always difficult to read Russia’s motives or forecast its moves, but at a bare minimum, a public announcement means that a move backward would cost Russia its credibility.

U.S. officials say they’re somewhat baffled by Russia’s positive moves. ‘We are not sure what mix of commercial and political motives are at play here,’ said a Bush administration official in Washington.

Nevertheless, the groundwork for the squeeze on Iran probably was based on the U.S.’s quiet diplomacy, which seems to finally be working.

Russian Firm That Paid $700G to Crooked U.N. Official Still on Approved Vendor List

FOXNews.com – Russian Firm That Paid $700G to Crooked U.N. Official Still on Approved Vendor List – International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

Nearly two years after a FOX News story led to the discovery of widespread corruption in the United Nations’ multi-billion-dollar procurement department, revelations in a U.S. federal courtroom last week by one of the corrupt U.N. officials testifying against another show that the rot continues.

Signs of the problem spilled out in testimony that a gigantic Russian-based air transport company paid at least $700,000 in “consulting” fees to a United Nations procurement officer, in an arrangement involving at least 10 to 12 U.N. contracts awarded to the firm.

The value of the contracts is unknown — and the U.N. refuses to divulge it — but based on fragmentary evidence obtained by FOX News from U.N. Web sites and other sources, the total easily runs into tens of millions of dollars.

Click here for FOXNews.com’s United Nations center.

Both offering and accepting inducements of any kind is a violation of U.N. regulations, which supposedly results in punishment not only for the employee but also for the contractor, who is, according to the rules, liable to be cut off from further U.N. contracting.

Yet even after those revelations, delivered by the man who took the money, the company that broke those rules, Volga-Dnepr Airlines, can still be found on a list of firms currently authorized to do business with the United Nations.

Contacted by FOX News by e-mail to discuss the charges and the company’s current relationship with the U.N., a spokesman for Volga-Dnepr declared that “at the moment we would refrain from any comments on the subject.”

In fact, Volga-Dnepr’s name can be found twice on the so-called U.N. vendors’ list, listed both as Volga-Dnepr Ireland (vendor ID 14515) and as a Russian firm, Volga-Dnepr Airlines (ID 6006). Such multiple registration is also forbidden under U.N. regulations.

Volga-Dnepr is a globe-girdling air-transport concern that was founded in 1990 amid the crumbling ruins of the Soviet Union. It currently claims, on its corporate Web site, to hold 56 percent of the international market for carrying extra-heavy and oversize cargo — a type of transport especially important for U.N. peacekeeping forces, which move large numbers of troops, supplies and heavy equipment, such as vehicles, around the world.

American Mother, Daughter Hospitalized in Moscow for Thallium Poisoning

FOXNews.com – Report: American Mother, Daughter Hospitalized in Moscow for Thallium Poisoning – International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

MOSCOW — Two American women were hospitalized for treatment of thallium poisoning, the Interfax news agency said Tuesday, citing the Russian consumer watchdog agency Rospotrebnadzor.

The women became ill Feb. 24 and were being treated at Moscow’s Sklifosovsky clinic, the city’s top emergency medicine hospital, the report said.

Russian media reports said the women — identified as Maria Kovalensky and her daughter, Yana — had come to Moscow for a relative’s wedding and were staying in a Moscow hotel when they became ill.

Rospotrebnadzor’s Moscow office reported that the women were in “moderately serious” condition, Interfax said.

Rospotrebnadzor declined to comment to The Associated Press. The city health department also declined to comment, referring questions to the U.S. Embassy.

An embassy spokeswoman, speaking on the usual condition of not being further identified, said “consular officials are in close contact with the family and we are assisting them.” She did not provide further details.

Thallium is colorless, odorless and deadly in doses as small as 0.04 ounces. It was initially suspected to be the toxin used in last year’s fatal poisoning in London of former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko, but it was later determined he had ingested the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210.

Russian Reporter Dies In 5-Story Fall, Suicide Or Murder? Newspaper Correspondent Was Disliked By The Government

So first the guy gets shot outside of DC, a story we covered here. Now this poor sap “falls” out of his window. Yeah, that’s how it happens. Coincidences like this happen all the time. Pay no attention, there’s nothing to see here folks.

Russian Reporter Dies In 5-Story Fall, Suicide Or Murder? Newspaper Correspondent Was Disliked By The Government – CBS News

A military correspondent for Russia’s top business daily has died after falling out of a window, and some media alleged Monday that he might have been killed for his critical reporting.

Ivan Safronov, the military affairs writer for Kommersant, died Friday after falling from a fifth-story window in the stairwell of his apartment building in Moscow, officials said. His body was found by neighbors shortly after the fall.

With prosecutors investigating the death, Kommersant and some other media suggested foul play.

“The suicide theory has become dominant in the investigation, but all those who knew Ivan Safronov categorically reject it,” Kommersant said in an article Monday.

Safronov’s colleagues and relatives have described him as a strong, cheerful person who would be extremely unlikely to kill himself.

The Moscow city prosecutor’s office did not respond to repeated calls for comment about the investigation into his death, and neighborhood prosecutors could not immediately be reached.

In a report that may have been aimed to quash speculation of foul play, the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted an unidentified law enforcement source as saying investigators had “not even any minimal information” pointing to the possibility of murder.

Safronov, who had served as a colonel in the Russian Space Forces before joining Kommersant in 1997, frequently angered the authorities with his critical reporting. He was repeatedly questioned by the Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor, which suspected him of divulging state secrets.