TODAY: Police draw up North Caucasus suspect list for airport attack; Kremlin’s policy in the region deeply flawed, say commentators. Medvedev takes Putin’s line on Khodorkovsky; justifies protest crackdown; Nemtsov found not guilty of resisting arrest; Moscow attempts to eject democratic monitors. New ambassador to Britain named; Orthodox Church and United Russia join forces on spiritual handbook; World Cup preparations ride roughshod over citizens?
According to the New York Times, investigators into the Domodedovo airport bombing are convinced that a terrorist cell from the North Caucasus was responsible for the attack, with a list of ten suspects at the present moment. The Independent reports that their efforts are fixed on an ethnic Russian Christian, Vitaly Razdobudko, who converted to Islam, although police have apparently contradicted this claim. A Washington Post editorial highlights two cracks in the Kremlin’s current anti-terrorist operations: an intelligence deficit for which the FSB is responsible, and a failure to address ‘the underlying problem that fuels most of the attacks’. Disparities in the scale of the insurgency and the particularity of socio-economic issues in each of the North Caucasus’ seven republics make a sweeping policy in the territory almost an impossibility, says RFE/RL’s regional expert Liz Fuller.
During a Bloomberg interview at Davos, President Medvedev has reportedly defended the Khodorkovsky trial by comparing the jailed oligarch (as Putin notably did) to Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernard Madoff, and explained that a presidential pardon would imply that Russian courts were not fulfilling the role assigned to them adequately. Medvedev also defended the recent incarceration of Boris Nemtsov and other opposition activists saying protesters need to ‘get accustomed to observing laws’. He has not, it would seem, heard the news that members of a special city commission have concluded that one time Prime Minister Nemtsov did not resist police during the most recent Strategy 31 rally on Moscow’s Triumfalnaya Square. The Moscow Times reports that Russia wants the Council of Europe to cease its regular monitoring of the country’s compliance with democratic standards and has drawn up a 25-item road map to achieve this objective.
Deputy foreign minister and ‘cautious diplomat’ Alexander Yakovenko has now been appointed Russia’s new ambassador to Britain. Reuters introduces the Russian Orthodox Church’s new spiritual guide, a collaborative effort with United Russia, which apparently sees scant mention of God, but emphasizes the values of ‘justice, patriotism and solidarity’. ‘It’s like we are back in Stalin’s era when you get shot if you refuse to comply’, says a resident of World Cup host town Saransk in an article which highlights the Kremlin’s apparently myopic aims for the 2018 soccer extravaganza.
PHOTO: Igor Shuvalov speaking at a Davos session, Thursday, January 28, 2011. He responded to Bill Browder’s query about the Magnitsky case. (Virginia Mayo/AP)