RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Jan 31, 2011

front-1-speedv2.jpgTODAY: Man behind airport massacre apparently identified; attack designed to hit foreigners, say authorities; Kremlin pledges more money for Sochi security.  Blue bucket protest; police reform bill passed. Medvedev signs START; Moscow voices concerns over treatment of Russians in US; Belarus releases detainees as EU sanctions loom; Poles invited to join in Smolensk investigation; St Petersburg rejects historical label

The New York Times reports that the Domodedovo Airport bomber has been identified as a 20-year-old from the North Caucasus; apparently 32-year-old Vitaly Razdobudko, who was considered in some quarters to be the prime suspect, has been ruled out due to DNA evidence.  Russia has apparently introduced a color-coded alert system akin to that employed in the United States after 9/11.  The investigative committee has stated that the attack’s location was chosen precisely because the bomber was targeting foreigners‘When Moskovsky Komsomolets surveyed its readers on Jan. 27, 41% of Muscovites responded that the terrorist attack at Domodedovo was most likely organized by the country’s own siloviki’.  Medvedev had a hard time selling his ten Davos principles under the circumstances, argues the New York Times‘Security systems cannot work in a country rotten with corruption’, says Elena Panfilova, director of Transparency International in Moscow, in a piece from Newsweek on the failings of Putin’s counter-terrorism measures.  An increase in Slav-Islamic terrorism prompted by poor standards of living in Russia is particularly alarming for the Kremlin, argues the Telegraph.   Following the spate of post-bombing firings, President Medvedev has appointed Russia’s road police chief as deputy interior minister responsible for transport security.  As fears that the Sochi Olympics will be a terrorist target mount, the Kremlin has pledged that it will spend $2 billion on security measures.

The Washington Post’s Kathy Lally looks at how the opposition plans to confront an increasingly authoritarian Kremlin.  Apparently concern for the state of democratic freedoms in Russia reached London on the weekend.  Moscow police have detained five activists staging individual protests outside the State Duma against the draft law on police.  The Duma has passed the police reform bill in its second and third final readings, rebuffing most amendments suggested by minority parties and the public.  Around 70 members of the Blue Buckets brigade have staged a rally in Western Moscow, in response to recent abuses by cars sporting migalki.  Price hikes in food and electricity have sparked protests in Vladivostok.  

According to the Independent, President Medvedev has signed the law completing the ratification process of the START treaty.  Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has raised issues related to the US authorities’ treatment of certain high-profile Russian citizens (Viktor Bout and Oleg Deripaska among them) on a trip to Washington.  Belarus has released seven detainees, including a formercandidate for the presidency, as the EU declares that it will impose a visa ban on the re-elected President and otherBelarusan officials.  The Moscow Times reports that Russia’s Investigative Committee has invited Polish specialists to enter theinvestigation into the Smolensk plane crash.

St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko shows that architectural conservation is far from being a top metropolitan priority.

PHOTO: The 660-kilometer line will allow specially built high-speed trains to make the journey between Samara and St. Petersburg in two and a half hours. At the moment, the fastest Sapsan trains that operate on the original line take four and half hours.  (Wikimedia Commons)