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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Feb 8, 2011

TODAY: Medvedev signs police reform bill; Umarov claims responsibility for Domodedovo; Guardian reporter deported from Russia; Yashin police report falsified; Kuril islands spat continues; Khodorkovsky verdict will not be overturned; concerns about US missile defense; opposition registration, Sochi mascots, television coverage of Yeltsin anniversary. 
President Dmitry Medvedev has signed into law the long-debated law-enforcement agency reforms, which will cut the number of officers by 20% and change the agency’s name from the Soviet-era ‘militia‘ to its czarist name ‘police‘. ‘[P]olls show most Russians don’t expect the changes to lead to improvements.‘  Announcing that the bill had been signed, Medvedev criticized officials for acting ‘unprofessionally‘ in response to the Domodedovo airport attack, calling for increased efforts to fight terrorism.  Meanwhile, a newly-released video message from Doku Umarov, the leader of Russia’s Islamist movement, claims responsibility for the January 24 attack (click for video).  Guardian reporter Luke Harding has been deported from Russia without explicit reason, although the newspaper’s editorial today, calling the deportation a ‘bad omen‘, blames Harding’s having reported ‘on the many deficiencies that increasingly disfigure Russian politics and society‘.  AFP reports that the ban was an order from the security service, who consider Harding an ‘undesirable person‘, and notes that he had been reporting on Russia-related US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks just before his attempt to return to Moscow.  This article lists the circumstances in which three other British journalists were frozen out of Russia in recent years.

A police report on the arrest of opposition activist Ilya Yashin at a Strategy 31 rally was falsified, says its author.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has responded to the Japanese Prime Minister’s renewed complaints about Russia’s presence in the Kuril islands, calling them ‘clearly undiplomatic‘, while Medvedev’s foreign-policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodko, said that Russia’s sovereignty over the territory is ‘not subject to revision either today or tomorrow.‘  Brian Whitmore writes on the current issues of contention within the ruling tandem.  Even if foreign experts are invited to investigate the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his verdict will not be overturned, says Medvedev’s rights council. 
Russia is apparently already reviewing its nuclear deal with the US, over concerns about the latter’s plans to increase the potential of its missile defense system.  ‘NATO’s and Russia’s missile defense systems are inherently incompatible,‘ writes Alexander Golts.  The Party of People’s Freedom is considering registering ahead of the presidential elections, but is there any point?  Solidarity says there is ‘practically no chance to get registration‘, and therefore questions the spending that it would require.
Alexei Pankin bemoans state television’s coverage of the 80th anniversary of Boris Yeltsin’s birth, saying that ‘the fact of his having founded the modern Russian state was lost,‘ against a backdrop of more stringently political internet coverage.  The line-up of potential mascots for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics (which includes a snow leopard, a bird, and a rabbit) has been unveiled, with the public vote to take place at the end of this month. 
A new ‘sacred texting‘ service – designed to ‘remind people of eternal values‘ – has already received 3,000 subscribers.  On Frédéric Chaubin and the photographing of the Soviet era’s ‘most unusual architectural creations‘. 
PHOTO: Islamist rebel leader Doku Umarov gestures in this still image taken from undated video footage. Umarov said on February 7, 2011 he had ordered a suicide bombing that killed 36 people at Russia’s busiest airport last month.