RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 1, 2011

egipt_1.jpgTODAY: Strategy 31 rallies broken up in Moscow and St Petersburg; participants speak of heavy-handed treatment by law enforcement; Nemtsov invokes Egyptian example; Washington voices concern.  Deputy Foreign Minister praises cooperation with US; Olympstroi chief quits; 100 days of Sobyanin; anniversary of the birth of Boris Yeltsin prompts tributes; reappraisal of his presidency?

RFE/RL reports that police detained several dozen people at Strategy 31’s freedom to assemble rallies in Moscow and St Petersburg.  600 people apparently attended the protest held in Moscow’s Triumph Square, of which around 20 were detained, including prominent activist Eduard Limonov.  They were subsequently released.   About 60 protesters also were detained in St. Petersburg.  The headquarters of the Other Russia group had been subject to a police raid on the weekend, designed, activists say, to deter them from participating in the demonstrations.  Those present at the rally spoke of a new level of brutality on the part of the OMON.  Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov took the opportunity to compare Vladimir Putin to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, whose regime is teetering on the precipice after mass protests across the country.  Vladimir Ryzhkov in a Moscow Times op-ed suggests that unfortunately Russia’s lack of youth and its political apathy make the scenario very different to that currently occurring in Arab states.  The White House is, according to the New York Times, ‘troubled’ by the reports of the mistreatment of protesters at the hands of the police.  A Moscow court will continue to review a libel suit filed against Boris Nemtsov and fellow Kremlin critic Vladimir Milov by Novatek shareholder Gennady Timchenko, who was accused of corruption in the ‘Putin. Results. 10 years‘ pamphlet penned by the two men.

The Washington Post has a report on Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s appearance at the Nixon Center last week, where he apparently lauded ‘unprecedented’ coordination with the US on Iran and Afghanistan, though highlighted a difference in opinion in the efficacy of sanctions.  The head of construction for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Taimuraz Bolloyev, has resigned, citing health concerns.  Sergei Gaplikov, a deputy head of Putin’s staff, will reportedly replace him.  The Moscow Times considers Sergei Sobyanin’s first 100 days in power: a relative success?  The next step in Anna Chapman’s political career.  

February 1 is the 80th anniversary of the birth of Boris Yeltsin, and it is being celebrated with the unveiling, by President Medvedev, of a special monument in the deceased politician’s hometown of Yekaterinburg.  The BBC hasnoticed a favorable reevaluation of the famously tipsy President’s timein power by Kremlin-sponsored TV documentaries this week.  RFE/RLtells the heartening tale of a Swiss carpenter who has established acharity helping the underprivileged in the town of Tarusa.  TheIndependent has a nose around Putin and Medvedev’s 24 palatial residences.

PHOTO: Hundreds of activists listening to liberal opposition leaders speak on evening of Monday, January 31, 2011 on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad.  (Igor Tabakov / MT)