RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 26th, 2009

260209.jpgTODAY: Medvedev orders crackdown on extremism, and calls for improved prosecutor performance; US human rights report critical of Russia, may turn to Iran for supply route; web monitoring, human trafficking, Putin mythology.

President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a crackdown on extremist groups trying to exploit the economic crisis by ‘destabiliz[ing] society’ and sowing unrest, although it remains uncertain whether he was referring to racist organizations or legitimate political protesters.  ‘Extremist actions are especially dangerous in the current conditions,’ he said.  Medvedev also urged prosecutors to improve their performance at jury trials after Alexander Bastrykin, chairman of the Prosecutor General’s office, said that the Makhmudov brothers, acquitted of the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, were involved in her death.

The United States’ annual human rights report says Russian civil liberties are ‘under siege’.  An Estonian court has convicted a former high-ranking security official of treason for passing sensitive information about NATO and the Estonian government to Russia, highlighting the potential security threats of Russian intelligence operating in Europe.  After Russia offered $2 billion in aid to Kyrgyzstan, leading to the closure of its US army base, the US is searching for an alternative route to supply its troops in Afghanistan.  Could it be forced to seek an alliance with Iran?

On Russia’s careful monitoring of online activity: ‘in less than three years, LiveJournal has been transformed from a respectable US startup to a shady Moscow-based enterprise, co-owned by the Kremlin’s favorite oligarchs.’  From the BBC: ‘the good times which Russia came to associate with [Putin’s] name are finished, for now at least, and will never return in quite the same way.’  Garry Kasparov writes on ‘the mythology of the Vladimir Putin era’.

Russia is taking tangible measures to reduce human trafficking, says this report.  

PHOTO: Sergei Kirienko, head of Russia’s nuclear energy organization waits for the start of talks with his Iranian counterpart at the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, 1200 kilometers (746 miles) south of Tehran February 25, 2009. REUTERS/Caren Firouz (IRAN)