RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 23, 2010

chapman_1791297c.jpgTODAY: The New York Times reveals disquieting details from official investigation into Magnitsky death;   Moscow police chief blames outsiders for racial tensions; Strategy 31 displeased with rally sanctions; Novaya Gazeta and Wikileaks partnership.  START passes; Belarus concerns; Britain-Russia diplomatic spat rumbles on; innovative anti-alcohol campaign; Putin shows off

The New York Times examines official documents from the Magnitsky case, which uncover details of the deplorable circumstances of the lawyer’s death.  A second article deals with the subsequent investigation, in which prison officials reportedly appeared ‘frightened’ and the doctor who examined Magnitsky ‘distraught’ when questioned.  Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev has suggested that opposition protesters and non-Muscovites are largely responsible for the wave of ethnic violence that has racked the city of late.  Moscow law enforcement is apparently considering the establishment of a special department to deal with ethnic criminal groups.  In a blow to those militating against police violence, five Siberian policemen who were convicted of torturing suspects have reportedly received suspended sentences.  Khimki Forest Defenders movement leader Yevgenia Chirikova has been detained at a protest.  Apparently both opposition rallies planned for December 31st have been sanctioned, subject to conditions so restrictive that both groups will reject the offer.  According to RFE/RL, Russian weekly Novaya Gazeta, owned by Aleksander Lebedev, plans to collaborate with whistle-blower site WikiLeaks to unmask corruption in Russia.  Medvedev is unfussed: the President apparently told reporters that he ‘doesn’t give a damn’ about the assessments of the country’s domestic affairs expressed in Wikileaks’s revelations. 

The new START treaty (‘the most tangible foreign policy achievement of Mr. Obama’s two years in office’, according to Peter Baker) has finally been passed, 71-26.  ‘Relations with Moscow are about to grow more challenging. This is partly because some of the easy pickings – including this treaty – have already been harvested’.  Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov has praised the ‘positive effect’ the treaty will have but said that Moscow will need to examine the documents before it returns it to the State Duma.  Whilst this report claims that the treaty could be passed by the new year, apparently some feel there’s no rush.   ‘The E.U.’s policy toward Belarus is in complete shatters’: the New York Times reports on the geo-political implications of Lukaschenko’s fourth term.  Seven presidential candidates who ran against the country’s authoritarian leader may face up to 15 years in prison, with apparently one so greviously assaulted that he cannot walk.  Meanwhile President Medvedev has explained to the Indian Institute of Technology the futility of creating ‘universal democracy’.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has called the expulsion of one of its diplomats from the UK ‘groundless’ and ‘unfriendly’, whilst Britain maintains that ‘there is clear evidence of activities by Russian intelligence services against UK interests’.  The Japanese government has decided to dismiss its ambassador to Russia for failure to inform Tokyo about the visit of  President Medvedev to one of the four disputed Kuril Islands.

A new advert is reportedly using a terrifying rodent to deter Russians from drinking.  ‘Overall Vladimir Vladimirovich has an excellent technique’: the latest in Putin’s sporting exploits.  

PHOTO: Anna Chapman takes part in a congress of a pro-Kremlin youth group Molodaya Gvardiya (The Young Guard) in Moscow (EPA)