President Vladimir Putin said Friday that “a new arms race has been unleashed in the world” as the United States moves forward with a missile defense system in Central Europe. And he dismissed American assurances that the system was not directed against Russia as nothing more than “diplomatic cover.”
“It’s not our fault. We didn’t start it … funneling multibillions of dollars into developing weapons systems,” Putin said in what may be his final major address before he leaves the Kremlin after presidential elections March 2. “Russia has and always will have a response to these new challenges. Over the next few years, Russia will start production of new types of arms, with the same or even superior specifications compared to those available to other nations.”
He said, however, that Russian military spending should not come at the cost of its economic and social development.
Putin spoke Friday to Russia’s State Council, a gathering of ministers, regional governors and members of parliament. Among those watching was Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s chosen successor as president, who faces little opposition in next month’s vote and is expected to coast to victory. His most vocal opponent, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, was barred from running.
Bhutto report says blast killed her
Scotland Yard investigators have concluded that Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed by the impact of a suicide bomb blast, not gunfire, according to a report released Friday.
The much-anticipated report concurred with the Pakistani government’s earlier assertion that a head injury Bhutto sustained in the blast had caused her death. However, contrary to earlier speculation that two men carried out the Dec. 27 attack, the British-led inquiry concluded that there was only one assassin.
“The inevitable conclusion is that there was one attacker in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle in which Ms. Bhutto was traveling,” said the report, which was released a day after thousands of Bhutto’s supporters converged on her burial site to mark the end of a 40-day mourning period.
Members of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, or PPP, immediately condemned the findings, insisting that she had been shot to death. They also renewed calls for the United Nations to launch a separate independent investigation into her assassination.