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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 3, 2010

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TODAY: Medvedev’s think-tank to press for return to Yeltsin-era policies? Kaliningrad protests have officials worried, reports say; Russia and US reach nuclear reduction agreement ‘in principle’; police rally round commander accused of corruption; Ukrainian spies and election spats. 
The Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR), a think-tank set up by President Dmitry Medvedev, reportedly will propose ‘radical changes in Russia that would mark a return to a political system of the era of ex-president Boris Yeltsin‘ in a new report, said to be planned for release later today.  Officials have been visiting Kaliningrad to investigate the public fury that led to the weekend’s 6,000-plus (some estimate the numbers at 12,000) anti-government protest, which, sources suggest, ‘caught the Kremlin off-guard‘ and ‘stirred worries in the Kremlin‘.  The New York Times reports that locals are particularly fed up with Grigory Boos, the United Russia candidate that Vladimir Putin appointed in 2005 ‘after doing away with direct gubernatorial elections‘.  United Russia is reportedlybussing in paid supporters from outside the city‘ for a counter-rally.  Sergei Mironov, the United Russia speaker and head of A Just Russia who criticized some of Putin’s policies, is likely to be forced to resign, with other party members calling his remarks a reflection of a ‘personal moral crisis‘; but Mironov says that current legislature doesn’t allow his removal.

The WSJ reports that Russia and the US have reached an agreement ‘in principle‘ on a nuclear arms reduction treaty that would see deployed weapons reduced to 1,500 per side, and delivery systems to 800 per side.  Police commander Colonel Sergei Yevtikov has received ‘unanimous‘ support from his riot police in Moscow’s OMON, who insist that he is not guilty of corruption, and who are planning to file a lawsuit against the New Times magazine for its allegations earlier this week. Constant psychological pressure and fear over demolitions have caused the deaths of 12 elderly people in Rechnik, say inhabitants.  
Ukraine is stating publicly that it has caught and expelled five Russian spies, effectively breaking up a ‘spy ring‘.  The FSB says it only spies in Ukraine to counter-act the efforts of the SBU, and that such matters are usually resolved privately between the two organizations.  Ukrainian presidential hopeful Viktor Yanukovych left Yulia Tymoshenko debating to an empty lectern as he shunned a chance for public debate, but says elsewhere – speaking in Russian – that he can’t wait to fire Tymoshenko’s administration.  
Russia 88, a film based on the violent activities of Russia’s neo-Nazi groups, has been accused of propagating extremism and could be banned.   
PHOTO: Medvedev and Putin talking in a restaurant in St. Petersburg after attending the 11th United Russia congress in November 2009. The two reportedly met this week to discuss Russia’s social and economic situation. (Dmitry Astakhov / RIA-Novosti / AP)