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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – April 7, 2010

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TODAY: Medvedev winning good press on response to terorrism; interview draws attention to high mortality rates and poor conditions in prisons; Obama homes arms treaty with Russia will improve relations; Latynina sides with Chichvarkin over mother’s death; Khodorkovsky takes the stand.
President Medvedev has ordered the creation of an anti-terrorism task force, and set a team of officials to prepare a proposal on new measures to combat terrorist acts, and The Times says that recent suicide bombings have ‘cast Medvedev in a new light‘, contrasting his response thus far with former President Vladimir Putin’s behaviour during his conflicts with Chechnya.  ‘Putin’s once seemingly impregnable regime may be fading in the same way as its predecessors’ regimes,‘ but a likely outcome is that his immediate circle will ‘hijack whatever new system emerges and put it to work in the service of their own interests,‘ writes Andrei Piontkovsky.  Brian Whitmore at RFE/RL argues that the Kremlin will search for a way of keeping Putin in the political game for as long as possible.  The New York Times writes on the grassroots incidents that fuel unrest in the Caucasus.  A court in Grozny has ruled that an encyclopedia entry on Chechnya published at least four years ago is ‘extremist‘, and ordered that the volume be confiscated.

A top federal prosecutor has drawn attention in a recent interview to high mortality rates and overcrowding in prisons and pretrial detention centers, and violations committed by prison officials.  The Other Russia covers the interview in detail here.  US President Barack Obama reportedly hopes that his signing of a nuclear treaty with Russia tomorrow in Prague in which the two sides will agree to reduce nuclear arsenals by a third, will be a step towards better ties with Moscow.  But the changes are ‘gradual rather than transformational‘ suggests this article.  News that President Viktor Yanukovych has scrapped a state body set up to deal with Ukraine’s NATO accession is ‘certain to please Moscow‘. 
Yulia Latynina is taking former Yevroset (or Euroset) owner Yevgeny Chichvarkin’s side in this claim that his mother’s death was not an accident, and says that ‘this is not the first death connected with the Yevroset case‘.  The Moscow Times reports on yesterday’s appearance of former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky in a packed-out courtroom, taking the stand in his trial for the first time in a year.  Khodorkovsky reportedly mimed the transfer of a jar of crude oil to his lawyer as a metaphor for the issues in the case. 
Slovakia: Russia’s ‘most important partner‘, says Medvedev
PHOTO: Rasul Magomedov, the father of the second Moscow subway suicide bomber Maryam Sharipova, left, speaks to reporters, as his wife, right, looks on in the village of Balakhani, Dagestan, southern Russia, Tuesday, April 6, 2010. (AP Photo)