RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 28, 2011

caucasus.jpgTODAY: Russia condemns Libyan repression; backs UN sanctions; how unrest in the Middle East affects the diarchy.  New police reform law; skepticism as to its effects; Pearl Ensign trial delayed; Navalny proposes anti-United Russia election strategy.  Two top regional officials resign. ID cards; Voina off art prize shortlist; Sochi Mascots

The Russian foreign ministry has urged the Libyan authorities to immediately stop the repressions against people, ITAR-TASS reports.  According to a statement on the Kremlin’s website today, President Dmitry Medvedev heavily criticized Libya’s use of force against civilians, arguing that such acts could qualify as crimes under international law.  Russia apparently supports UN Security Council sanctions against leader Moammar Gadhafi, even though the measures could cost it $4 billion in arms deals.   Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov claims that contrary to some reports, he did not discuss the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Reuters analyzes how unrest in the Middle East will affect whether it will be Medvedev or Putin to run for President in 2012.  The news agency also offers some scenarios predicting the consequences of the return of Putin, or a second term for Medvedev.  As entrenched authoritarian regimes in North Africa tremble, Clifford J Levy considers the former Soviet space: ‘Here in Lenin’s former territory, across the expanse of the old Soviet Union, rulers with iron fists still have the upper hand’.  ‘There are, indeed, clear parallels between the pre-revolutionary situation in Libya and the situation in Russia’, argues an op-ed in the Moscow Times.  Why the Kremlin need not fear a ‘Twitter revolution’.

‘People are more afraid of the cops than they are afraid of criminals and thugs in the streets‘.  Tomorrow Russia’s new police reform law goes into effect, but will it have any tangible effects, wonders the Los Angeles Times.  RFE/RL considers the same issue and raises particular concern about the section of the law that prevents officers from discussing their superiors’ orders or voicing their opinions publicly, seemingly designed to discourage whistle-blowers.  A St. Petersburg court has postponed hearings in the case of alleged police abuse by the officer dubbed ‘Pearl Ensign’, due to the defendant being hospitalized.  Discover here whistleblowing blogger Alexei Navalny’s new strategy against ‘the party of swindlers and thieves’, otherwise known as United Russia, in the upcoming elections.  ‘Lying is elevated to the rank of state policy,’ agrees Garry Kasparov in an op-ed on Russia’s ‘downward spiral‘ in the Other Russia

Russia’s lower house of parliament has ratified an agreement to allow the United States to ferry troops and supplies across Russian territory for military operations in Afghanistan.  President Medvedev has met with Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian for talks that included ‘regional issues’, i.e. the dispute over the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.  The President has accepted the resignation of Karachayevo-Cherkessia Republic President Boris Ebzeyev as well as that of Kamchatka Governor Alexei Kuzmitsky, a move the Moscow Times suggests could be pre-election spring cleaning.  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has consulted with the head of the Federal Security Service after a large-scale militant attack in the country’s restive North Caucasus region.  Russia apparently plans to introduce a universal ‘identity-payment card’ for all of its citizens.

A collection of 21 historical archive documents from the Tsarist era have been returned to Russia by the United States.  Art collective Voina’s ‘A Penis in KGB captivity’ work has been removed from the shortlist of a major contemporary arts prize.  The Sochi Olympics has its mascots: a leopard, polar bear and hare.  The voting process was, it seems, not without controversy.

PHOTO: Karachayevo-Cherkessia leader Boris Ebzeyev giving a speech last year.  (Sergei Rasulov / AP)