TODAY: Navalny questioned over new allegations of police assault; news site threatened for disclosing downed pilot’s salary; un-banned athletes will not compete this year; Russia deploys new nuclear-capable missiles in Baltic Sea; clash with US over alleged chemical weapons in Syria; Muscovites deluged by snow.
The defining issue of President Vladimir Putin’s upcoming fourth term “is likely to be the question of succession,” says The Guardian. Searching for a new way to disable the activities of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, investigators detained him for questioning over allegations that he assaulted a police officer at last month’s protests, which he denies. Putin is “hostile to democracy on his borders [and] to democratic change inside Russia”, says Reuters, trying to explain the authorities’ determination to overcome the challenge of Navalny. How will the Kremlin get control of the Internet before the next elections, asks this piece, which anticipates a possible ban on a global Internet giant, and a new rash of people being jailed for online posts. An independent news website based in St Petersburg has been threatened with legal action for disclosing the salary ($1,700 per month) of the Russian pilot downed in Syria last week. The 15 athletes who had their lifetime bans overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport will not be permitted to compete at this month’s Winter Games.
Responding to Russia’s permanent placement of nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, Lithuania’s president says Russia is a threat to Europe; Russia says the deployment was a response to NATO buildup near its borders. Violence has surged in Syria between rebels and Russian-backed state forces in the last day, with reports alleging the use of chlorine in attacks. Russia and the US clashed at a UN Security Council meeting over Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons against its citizens. Refineries in Europe say they are receiving worse and worse quality crude from Russia, as it re-routes much of its supply to China.
The Kremlin says it cannot help emigre businessmen who want to return to Russia if there are legal issues against them, because it is a matter of legislation. The army has been drafted in to help Muscovites trapped in the snow, after the capital was hit with more than a month’s worth of snow in just 36 hours, the largest fall in its recorded history.
PHOTO: A man walks during a strong snowfall at Kolomenskoye, near Moscow, on February 4. (YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)