RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – March 30, 2010

muscovites.jpgTODAY: Metro attack death toll rises as Moscow mourns; Lavrov hints at Afghanistan militant connection.  Speculation mounts about political fallout.  Newsweek editor fights off controversy; Ryabinin case closed; emergency light abuse. START conclusion disappointing?  Red Square photo ban ends; struggle to keep housing promise to war veterans

The death toll from yesterday’s metro bombings has risen to 39, according to ITAR-TASS.  There is a sampling of opinion from Russian language blogs compiled in the New York Times.  The same newspaper’s Room for Debate blog has a handful of Russia experts commenting on what the bombings spell politically.  Analyst Liliya Shevtsova foresees the following government trajectory: ‘Terrorist atrocity; threat to national security; strengthening of the regime’.  There is some speculation in Bloomberg as to whether the attacks will impugn Medvedev’s ability to quash terrorism, rather than Putin’s.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has reportedly said that militants operating on the Afghan-Pakistan border may have helped organize the suicide bombs, although he did not specifically mention al-Qaeda.  Following reports that ‘Muslim-looking people’ has already been the victims of vigilante reprisals, with two Muslim women apparently being beaten on a metro train, the Head of the State Duma Security Committee has urged that the bombings should not affect Russia’s immigration policy nor its attitude towards minorities.  ‘Are the siloviki about to have a Mathias Rust moment?’ wonders Brian Whitmore here.  Azerbaijan’s National Security Ministry has announced its detention of eight people who were allegedly planning to carry out attacks on a school and a kindergarten in the capital, Baku.

The German publisher of Russian Newsweek, Axel Springer, has defended the magazine’s editor, Mikhail Fishman, as the victim of a ‘targeted campaign based on lies’ after incriminating videos of him appeared on Youtube.  ‘This pales in comparison with the campaign to discredit former Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov in the 1990s‘ says a jaded Alexei Pankin in the Moscow Times.  Prosecutors have closed an investigation into alleged abuse of office on the part of Mayor Yury Luzhkov’s deputy Alexander Ryabinin, due to insufficient evidence. Vedemosti has worked out that more than 120 cars are using emergency flashing lights when they apparently have no right to do so.
‘Moscow gave in to practically all U.S. demands’
: this commentator is unimpressed by Russia’s START negotiation methods.  Talks seem to have reached a conclusion, so why does the nuclear threatstill remain? asks Time magazine.  An U.S. deputy secretary of state has cautioned that the France-Russia Mistral deal should be closely examined.

President Medvedev has ordered that a ban on professional photographers taking photos in Red Square and the Kremlin be lifted.  The clock is ticking for 19 regions whose promise to give war veterans free apartments before the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany looks like it may be unfulfilled.

PHOTO: Few commuters, quite uncommon for a Monday afternoon, in a subway train making a stop at the Park Kultury subway station that was earlier hit by an explosion, in Moscow, Monday, March 29.  (Misha Japardize / AP)