RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 7, 2011


TODAY: START treaty ratified; Islamist rebel leader issues threat, Domodedovo bomber identified? Japan still outraged over Kuril islands; Khodorkovsky documentary stolen; Moscow City Hall grants permission for Day of Wrath protest; floods in Kaliningrad; Medvedev defends exams; protesters urge no immunity for Sas; Lenin’s body; philanthropy increasing.
The new START treaty between Russia and the US has finally come into effect, with papers exchanged in Munich between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the weekend, limiting warheads on each side to 1,550.  The agreement brings the two sides closer to ensuring that the button that ‘would unleash nuclear destruction […] will never be pushed‘, Clinton said (click for video).  New Wikileaks indicate that Russia’s support for the treaty was secured by the US promising to share information on Britain’s nuclear capability. ‘[T]he question now is where Obama is going with his disarmament project,‘ says The Guardian.  Doku Umarov, the leader of Russia’s Islamist rebel movement, has issued some strong rhetoric about 2011 being a year of ‘blood and tears‘ for Russia if it does not withdraw from the North Caucasus, but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the Domodedovo suicide bombings.  Officials believe that they have discovered the bomber’s identity, naming 20-year-old Ingushetian Magomed Yevloyev, and placing two further names on a wanted list.  The Japanese Prime Minister is still seething over the ‘unforgivable outrage‘ of Medvedev’s visit to the Kuril islands, designating February 7 as ‘Northern Territories Day‘ and demanding that the islands still held by Russia be returned.  Right-wing campaigners in Toyko ‘dragged the Russian flag along the ground‘ in protests earlier today.

The finished version of the German documentary ‘Khodorkovsky‘ has been stolen from its director’s production offices in Berlin – the second theft attack on the movie in the last month.  ‘The theft is certain to feed conspiracy theories about possible Kremlin involvement in the crime.‘ Moscow City Hall has authorized a Day of Wrath opposition rally for the first time ever; the rally will be held this Saturday, with analysts suggesting that the approval has been granted in order to undermine former Mayor Yury Luzhkov, against whom many of the previous rallies were focused.  Kaliningrad’s floods have reached emergency status
President Dmitry Medvedev is defending SAT-style high school graduation exams from Russian critics, saying that their transparency makes them anti-corruption, and that they simplify the old system.  Protesters are demanding that Shchelkov judge Valery Sas not be permitted to claim immunity for his role in a deadly car crash.  RFE/RL is reporting on a young soldier who fled his unit, apparently after being beaten by ‘several older soldiers and officers‘. 
Masha Lipman: ‘The latest initiative to remove Lenin’s body may be an attempt by Kremlin loyalists to actually appear to do something progressive while not shifting the fundamental state order nor greatly stirring public passions.‘  Russian philanthropy is on the up, say NGOs. 
PHOTO: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov exchange documents after finalizing the New START treaty during the Conference on Security Policy in Munich, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011.