RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 3, 2011

forum.jpgTODAY: 2010 saw harassment of activists up by 50%, says new survey; expert panel to consider Khodorkovsky trial; Medvedev defends trial by jury; Gennady Timchenko wins case against Nemtsov; United Russia falling out of favor?  Luzhkov vows he will face his enemies on Russian soil; Obama signs ratification of START; pay packet increase for military; Russia ceases art loans to US; pantomine and politics

The Other Russia reports that, according to human rights association Agora, cases of persecution against activists and non-governmental organizations in Russia doubled in 2010, with 41 civil activists being injured in attacks.  Unsubstantiated reports are circulating that ex-cop-turned-whistleblower Alexei Dymovsky has been attacked on a trip.  It has been confirmed that a panel has been given the go-ahead to undertake an expert evaluation of the case against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and present its findings to President Medvedev.  The President has said that the fact that these findings could be used for an appeal or even pardon was ‘perfectly obvious’, but ‘a separate subject’.  Khodorkovsky has warned the President in an open letter that the public will lose patience with the state if it fails to fulfill its pledges on corruption and legal nihilism.  Taking a contrary stance to the Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev has reportedly asserted that trial by jury should be preserved, but not for corruption cases because of their ‘exposure to outside influence.  ITAR-TASS reports that opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and economist Vladimir Milov have been ordered to pay 100,000 rubles each in damages to Putin ally and Gunvor chieftain Gennady Timchenko, after he won his libel battle against them.  A precarious start to the year for United Russia; apparently in January the ruling party’s popularity rating slumped to its lowest point in more than a year.

Despite reports of seeking foreign citizenship, ex-mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov has apparently pledged to remain in Russia, accusing his critics of ‘political bullying’ as the government scrutinizes the detritus of his 18-year tenure.  ‘Yeltsin deserves his statue. He was a democrat, whatever that means […] I don’t believe he set out to destroy lives as a deliberate policy, unlike several of his predecessors’, says a comment piece in the Guardian of the first monument to a Russian leader since the Soviet epoch. 

Setting the reset in stone, U.S. President Barack Obama has signed ratification documents for the START treaty.  The Kremlin plans to up military wages by 50% and increase the number of military officers, says the New York Times.  Apparently Russia may have found its wayward satellite, but its future trajectory remains uncertain

The New York Times reports on how a set of Jewish religious documents held by Russia have put a freeze on art loans from Moscow and St Petersburg’s museums to US institutions.  Find here an in-depth report from the Washington Post on the tale of Kamchatka’s Cinderella adaptation, whose time zone jokes sparked a row over censorship; Will Englund talks to some of the actors involved.

PHOTO:  Sberbank CEO German Gref, right, and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin speaking at a Troika forum on Wednesday, February 2, 2011.  (Igor Tabakov / MT)