RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 16, 2010

front.jpgTODAY: More than 1000 people detained in Moscow in anticipation of ethnic clashes; rights activist attacked; Wikileaks reveal Politkovskaya faced barrage of death threats. START avoids delays, democrats hopeful; Russia attacks Britain for ‘spymania’; verdict on Khodorkovsky delay; corruption; extremism; Putin Q+A

A heavy police presence was seen in Moscow yesterday amid fears of a repeat of the weekend’s ultranationalist rioting, with law enforcement officers detaining around 1000 people.  According to the New York Times, many of the detainees were armed with ‘knives, clubs or stun guns’.  Mikhail Fedotov, the head of Russia’s presidential council on human rights, suggests that these mass ultra-right mobilizations have been ‘specially organized’ to destabilize the state.  A US embassy cable reprinted by the Guardian reveals that Anna Politkovskaya ‘constantly’ received death threats prior to her assassination.  Nadezhda Azhgikhina, executive secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists pays tribute 300 slain colleagues in the Moscow Times.  Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov is pursuing a hunger strike in protest against his detention on charges of disobeying police orders during a sanctioned weekend rally.  Yevgeny Bobrov, the head of the Voskhod human rights organization, claims to have been attacked by two men on December 14, an assault which he believes to have been motivated by his journalistic activities.

Having managed to avert some apparent Republican delaying tactics, an early test vote has suggested that President Obama is close to reaching Senate approval for START, with a result of 66 in favor of hearing the debate on the treaty, to 32 against (67 are required for approval).  It is believed that Democrat Evan Bayh, who missed this session, will provide the 67th vote.  The Russian Foreign Ministry has apparently accused Britain of ‘paranoid spymania’ amid the suspicions swirling around Liberal Democrat aide Katia Zatuliveter, and suggested that the issue could derail Britain-Russia relations.

The Kremlin wants to have the announcement closer to the New Year celebration, when no one cares about politics …’  Analysts broadly concur that the delaying of the Khodorkovsky trial is to quell the public and media reaction.  See a video from outside the courtroom on RFE/RL.

Putin’s annual live conference call with the public takes place today.  700,000 questions have been submitted, 21% of which are apparently about social housing.  This article in the Moscow Times looks back on a bumper year of corruption scandals.  Reuters reports on how a religious extremism law is being used to promote the agenda of the Russian Orthodox Church.

PHOTO: Riot police officers detaining young men they suspect of seeking to stage interracial riots outside the Kievsky train station in Moscow on Wednesday, December 15, 2010.  (Mikhail Metzel/AP)