RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 2, 2011

5D848B90-D3E7-43C5-9BDF-FB8D399E2531_w527_s.jpgTODAY: Medvedev announces expansion of human rights committee at tribute to Yeltsin; a dozen victims of 1999 apartment bombing remain unidentified; Domodedovo death toll rises to 36; judge in Markelov case withdraws.  Ireland in diplomatic dispute with Russia; Anna ChapmanTM; Russia steps to Belarus’ defense on sanctions; Kremlin denies Sochi corruption link; another satellite lost; Luzhkov to move to Britain?; Putin/Campbell

President Medvedev, in an apparent tribute to the unpredictable style of post-Soviet leader Boris Yeltsin, made the ‘spontaneous’ announcement to increase the efficiency and numbers of the Kremlin’s human rights council, ordering it to examine the cases of Sergei Magnitsky and Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  The news came at a ceremony unveiling a monument to the deceased former President, who, the Guardian suggests, is the subject of a rehabilitation campaign.  Boris Nemtsov is among those to praise the Yekaterinburg native as the founder of democratic Russia’, whose worth has been increasingly recognized as Putin’s authoritarianism grows.  The Moscow Times is shocked to report that 12 years on from the Moscow apartment bombing, which precipitated the second Chechen conflict, 12 victims apparently remain unknown, as the authorities lack the financial resources to undertake the necessary DNA tests.  The death toll from last week’s Domodedovo airport atrocity has risen to 36; 114 injured remain hospitalized.  The judge involved in the Moscow murder trial of alleged ultranationalists Nikita Tikhonov and Evgeniya Khasis, accused of killing human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova in January 2009, has apparently withdrawn from the case, possibly due to death threats.

Ireland has ordered the expulsion of a Russian diplomat after discovering Russia’s intelligence service used six stolen Irish identities as cover for its US sleeper spies.  Russia has vowed to respond to this ‘unfriendly’ measure, says AFP.  Spy-turned-cover girl Anna Chapman has registered her name as a trademark, says an official at the state patent agency, who has suggested ‘maybeshe wants to open the ‘Anna Chapman’ dry-cleaner or make cookies‘.  Russia has criticized EU and US sanctions against Belarus as ‘counterproductive’, whilst the Lukashenko regime reportedly continues to menace the opposition and media outlets.

Time magazine considers how Russia’s opposition has embraced the Egyptian example.  Despite multiple tourism agency warnings, apparently Russians are still flocking to the restive nation for a break from the unforgiving winter.  ‘Russians get less worried at such situations’, says a spokesman for the Federal Tourism Agency: ‘This is a trait of national character’.  The New York Times reports that the Kremlin has been quick to assert that the departure of Olympstroi chief Taimuraz Bolloye was not related to corruption.  More technical problems for Russia’s military satellites.  After an unsuccessful attempt to gain Latvian citizenship, former Moscow mayor Yury Luzkohv is apparently hoping to attain British citizenship, as he seeks pastures new following his fall from grace.

‘The girls in the erotic calendar were courageous and they were not scared’: Vladimir Putin offers his pearls of wisdom to supermodel Naomi Campbell for GQ magazine.

PHOTO:  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev unveils the monument to Boris Yeltsin in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, February 2, 2011 (ITAR-TASS)