TODAY: Putin trust rating plummets; children encouraged to pray for their leaders; human rights activists urge France to address rights abuses during Putin Paris trip; Solidarity coalition leader assaulted. Russia and China at SCO meeting – cooperation or competition? Lavrov says Iran missile deal unaffected by sanctions; Kremlin plans major overseas arms purchases; don’t call Duma deputies ‘slackers’; hunt for ‘Russian Rambos’ steps up a notch
Apparently Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ‘trust‘ rating with the Russian public has fallen to the lowest level since 2006, according to the Public Opinion Fund. Putin may have rebuffed suggestions that a cult of personality can exist in Russia; this article offers compelling evidence to the contrary. Will the tandem remain in place? The Power Vertical has an in-depth analysis of the responses to Putin’s oblique comments about the 2012 elections. Putin’s liberal facade is lambasted by a Moscow Times op-ed: ‘he instantly threw off his liberal mask and revealed his true disdain toward political opponents, democracy and pluralism’. Human rights activists are urging France to address the issue of rights abuses during Putin’s working visit to Paris, but the New York Times suggests that energy, aviation deals and the Mistral warships will dominate the agenda.
Lyudmila Alekseyeva, veteran head of Moscow’s Helsinki Group, has promised that the organization will help Sergei Makhnatkin,the man jailed for 2 1/2 years for allegedly assaulting a policeofficer during the December 31 protest rally. The head of theopposition Solidarity coalition in Kaluga has been attacked with a knife; Andrei Lupandin claims to have previously been assaulted for his political activities. The Moscow Times reports that a court may close a criminal case against former Yukos vice president Vasily Alexanyan,who is suffering from cancer and AIDS, because the statute oflimitations has expired. An 80-year old man has been given a suspendedsentence for fraudulently claiming to be a World War Two veteran in order to receive generous state benefits.
Russia may buy $12 billion of arms from European and Israeli companies over the next five years as domestic companies fail to provide quality weapons. The Kremlin has pressed the US for information regarding the number of people involved in Afghan drug trafficking. Chinese President Hu Jintao has asserted the need for greater economic and military cooperation at his SCO meeting with Dmitry Medvedev. RFE/RL suggests Russia-China rivalry may be the tacit theme of the summit. Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko has denied Interfax reports that the Iran missile deal has been frozen in the wake of sanctions against Tehran; Sergei Lavrov has seconded this assertion. With a newly-elected Japanese Prime Minister, will long-standing territorial issues with Russia finally be settled? EU-Russia visa-free travel must be reciprocal to work, says Sergei Lavrov.
‘Neither Dvorkovich nor the robot had a stellar night’ at their highly publicized chess match, says the Moscow Times. The head of the Duma’s public and media relations department has taken issue with some of the terms used for its truants. Russian security forces have reportedly caught an alleged member of a group of anti-police vigilantes suspected of being responsible for a series of attacks on police in the far eastern Primorye region. The Other Russia reports on the rise of the self-styled ‘Russian Rambos’, who are apparently frustrated with police lawlessness.
PHOTO: Dvorkovich and chess prodigy Arina Shtypel studying their positions. Dvorkovich managed to win the robot’s queen. (Vladimir Filonov / MT)