RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 24, 2010

FRONT-1-start.jpgTODAY: US-passed START to reach Duma today? Czech Republic espionage concerns; wife of Belarusian presidential candidate expresses concern over husband’s injuries. Opposition politicians pledge to unmask Putin; managed nationialism’; Young Guard accused of stirring racial tensions; Moscow mayor pledges to improve public transport; Putin’s popularity

Apparently Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev congratulated one another by phone over the ratification of the START treaty: the New York Times offers an analysis of the agreement’s dilatory passage.  The BBC has a video report here.  Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov told reporters yesterday that ‘if the conditions stated in the resolution do not touch the core text of the treaty, then we can ratify it tomorrow‘  (ie, the last session before the end of the year) The Moscow Times explains why this could be over-optimistic.  The Federation Council will reportedly ratify it immediately after the State Duma, according to ITAR-TASS.  The New York Times reports on how the Rakhardzho affair, a recent spy scandal in the Czech Republic, has resurrected latent fears about ongoing Russian espionage in the ex-Soviet state.  The wife of arrested Belarusian presidential candidate Vladimir Neklyayev has told the media that she believes the authorities are blocking her prison visits to prevent her seeing how badly he has been beaten as repressive measures rain down on opposition politicians.

If Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Milov and Vladimir Ryzhkov win their slander suit against Vladimir Putin, they have pledged to use the 1 million roubles in damages on ‘anti-corruption activities, first and foremost the release of documents that detail the corruption in circles surrounding Putin’‘[T]he joke is that these same authorities are cultivating all this wildness. So that they can save the country at just the right moment. And, at the same time, settle some old scores’: Aleksandr Golts presents his take on recent inter-ethnic tensions on RFE/RL.  Charles Clover also has an insightful look at the phenomenon of ‘managed nationalism’ and in particular Nashi’s early involvement with football gangs.  A blogger has told Moscow authorities that some of the articles to be found on the web site of the pro-Kremlin Young Guard movement (to which Anna Chapman has recently lent her PR skills) incite social and ethnic hatred.  

The Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg group has expressed concern over the number of young conscripts who have fallen ill in Leningrad Oblast.  Moscow’s new mayor Sergei Sobyanin continues to chip away at his predecessor’s legacy, promising that funds previously earmarked for road construction will be redirected to public transport, and investigations into corruption among city officials pursued.  Putin’s first Christmas present: in a survey released yesterday, the Prime Minister has been voted politician of the year, with 55% of the vote.

PHOTO: U.S. Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar smiling during a press conference after the Senate ratified the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty.  (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)