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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1497
More missile defense deadlock
Edited by Jonas Bernstein
September 19, 2007
Rosbalt reports that Andrei Lugovoi, the former KGB officer charged by Britain in the radioactive poisoning death of dissident ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, will be the second person on the list of candidates for Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) in this December’s State Duma election. Lugovoi’s name will be between that of Zhirinovsky, who will top the ticket, and Zhirinovsky’s son, Igor Lebedev, who heads the LDPR faction in the State Duma. In announcing Lugovoi’s candidacy, Zhirinovsky called him a target of “British special services attacks.” Russia has turned down a British request to extradite Lugovoi. A State Duma seat would give Lugovoi immunity from criminal prosecution.
The U.S. is hoping that technical experts who plan to visit the Russian-operated Gabala radar in Azerbaijan on September 18th can help jump-start talks on a Russian proposal for missile defense cooperation, the Associated Press reports. Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested the U.S. and Russia could share the Gabala installation and a radar under construction in southern Russia as part of U.S. efforts to defend against the potential threat of Iranian missiles. Russia opposes U.S. plans to install 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Rood and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak met in Washington in July and again in Paris last week to try to resolve differences, but made little progress.
Moscow’s Basmanny district court has sanctioned the detention of Shamil Burayev, the former head of Chechnya’s Achkhoi-Martan district, on suspicion that he arranged the murder of the award-winning journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow last October. Burayev was arrested in Moscow on September 12th. According to Kommersant, acquaintances of Burayev are certain he is innocent. The newspaper quotes Chechnya’s former press and information minister, Ruslan Martagov, as saying that Burayev, who is an opponent of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, sympathized with Politkvoskaya’s criticism of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow administration.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Russia is worried about the possibility of war with Iran, Agence France-Presse reports. Lavrov expressed “concern” over “multiple reports that military action against Iran is being seriously considered,” adding: “It’s hard to imagine what that could do to the region.” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who is in Moscow, called for “working on precise sanctions” against Iran’s nuclear program and said that France and Russia have differences on the issue. He added, however, that “everything should be done to avoid war.”
Acting Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has tendered his resignation because he is a relative of newly-named Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, NEWSru.com reports. Zubkov, who is Serdyukov’s father-in-law, announced the defense minister’s resignation in between meetings with President Putin at the presidential residence in Sochi. It is not clear whether Putin will accept Serdyukov’s resignation. Zubkov also said that the formation of the new cabinet of ministers will be completed by September 21st, the last day of the seven days the Russian constitution gives for the formation of a new cabinet. Mikhail Fradkov resigned as prime minister on September 14th.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak has said that Moscow and Washington have not overcome their differences over missile defense, the BBC’s Russian service reports. “Two rounds of consultations over ABM have been held, but I cannot say that we managed to bring the position of Russia together with the position of the U.S.,” he said. RIA Novosti quotes Kislyak as ruling out the inclusion of Azerbaijan’s Gabala radar site in a U.S. system that would include sites in Poland and the Czech Republic.