RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 24th, 2009

240209.jpgTODAY: Communists gather 2,000 supporters; the precariousness of the armed forces; could base closure spell trouble for Russia? Eyes watching for any militarization of the Arctic. Belarus and the EU; World Chechnya Day.

The Communist Party reportedly gathered over 2,000 supporters in central Moscow yesterday to protest military reforms and call for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s dismissal.  The Telegraph looks at the possibility of Vladimir Putin losing the support of the armed forces, suggesting that ‘a growing number of disgruntled servicemen, including senior officers, are making contact with Russian opposition groups for the first time since he came to power in 2000’.  Many in the non-commissioned ranks reportedly live in dire conditions, but another threat are the 200,000 ex-officers who lost their jobs when the military was downsized.  Does the closure of the US military base in Kyrgyzstan mean Russia is ‘inviting trouble’ in a volatile region, both by opening itself to security risks and aligning itself with an unpopular regime?  Meanwhile the head of the Russian armed forces says the country is watching developments in the Arctic and will respond to any attempts to militarize the territory.

On Belarus’ political movements away from Russia and closer to the EU.  Alexei Pankin says that, despite the various issues at hand, the outcome of the Anna Politkovskaya trial was that ‘the jury system earned widespread approval and, by extension, the trust of the people. In today’s Russia, that is very good news indeed.’  Today is World Chechnya Day, marking Stalin’s 1944 deportation of the Chechen population to Siberia and Kazakhstan.  A former FSB general was found shot dead in his car in north Moscow on Sunday.

PHOTO: A carnival float depicting Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s face on the grip of a gun with the words: ‘Putin’s Freedom of Press’ written on it is watched by a group of revelers prior to the traditional carnival parade in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Monday, Feb. 23, 2009. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)