RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Jan 11, 2010

bel.jpgTODAY: Putin-critical children’s ombudsman ousted; Medvedev’s governor appointments suggest no clean-up; how a ‘reset’ doesn’t seem to mean a re-START; pressure on poultry talks. Russia’s ‘dirty war’; sunset on Ukraine’s orange revolution? Question marks remain over Chernobyl deaths; theater as platform for social criticism

Children’s ombudsman, Alexei Golovan, who fell foul of the orthodox church for advocating the establishment of a juvenile justice system and openly criticized the state of children’s rights under Vladimir Putin, has been dismissed after just four months, and replaced by Pavel Astakhov, a lawyer with no known experience in human rights.  The Moscow Times looks at Medvedev’s recent spate of hiring and firing of governors, in particular the reappointment of  Primorye Governor Sergei Darkin and Alexander Berdnikov of the Altai republic, both men with allegedly checkered pasts.  An op-ed in the Moscow Times suggests that limiting the number of terms a President can serve would be the smart move for Medvedev.  In the same paper, Dmitry Trenin looks for a new analytical model with which to analyze the Medvedev-Putin diarchy.

How Russian reliance upon nuclear weapons is putting START on hold, by Ariel Cohen in the New York Times – and why the US needs to assert protection of national security as a result.   US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has expressed hope for ‘meaningful’ talks with Moscow over a stoppage on imports of U.S. poultry, warning relations could be imperiled if the issue were not resolved.  Much at the moment on Russia looming over Ukraine’s presidential election with ‘opinion polls favouring candidates ready to do business with Russia‘, according to the Guardian, and pro-Kremlin candidate Viktor Yanukovych ‘expected to garner 33.3% of the vote’.

Following the violent events of the end of last week, Medvedev has instructed the FSB to routinely kill rebels in the restive republics.  A disturbing piece in the Washington Post describes Russia’s ‘policy of state terror’ against insurgent enemies in the Caucasus, and what it views as its horrifying toll on human rights.

The law introducing house arrest for certain crimes has reportedly come into force.  The Guardian examines how hard it is to establish concrete statistics for the number of cancer deaths which arose from the Chernobyl disaster.   RFE/RL has a feature on the wave of New Drama which is not afraid to tackle the darker aspects of Russian society.

PHOTO: An oil refinery on a branch of the Druzhba pipeline near Mozyr, Belarus, where supplies were halted for two days.  (Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters)