TODAY: Bout pleads not guilty as extradition case darkens US-Russia relations; START faces multiple stumbling blocks, White House continues to push; Clinton solicits Republican support; NATO may trade arms with Russia. Kashin speaks to investigators; have prisons really cleaned up since Magnitsky’s death? Artists to face arrest; Russian universities no longer source of pride; Putin seeks puppy name
Extradited arms dealer Viktor Bout has pleaded not guilty before a US judge to charges of supporting terrorism. According to RFE/RL, Russia’s consul general in New York has accused the US of attempting to coerce the 43-year-old ‘businessman’ into confessing to crimes he did not commit. Republican Senator George Voinovich, an Ohio moderate, has chimed in with Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona’s concerns about START, signaling spiraling antagonism to the landmark treaty. As opposition to the agreement mounts, Sam Nunn in the New York Times argues that improving nuclear security is indispensable for preventing international terrorists from gaining access to weapons. Julian Borger in the Guardian responds with a bleak conclusion: ‘The question now is whether such cooperation will be feasible if the New Start treaty dies in the Senate’. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton is on a charm offensive to seek GOP backing, says the New York Times. Desmond Butler of the AP argues that, ‘at a time when America’s political winds are blowing overwhelmingly in the Republicans’ favor’ there is little reason for Republicans to defy their leadership and back Obama. White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, has said the President will continue to push. US Vice President Joe Biden has warned that a failure to ratify START will jeopardize national security.
NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin has, in a sign of improving ties, said that Russia may soon sign an agreement to trade arms with NATO’s procurement agency. Rogozin also commented that Russia will not send personnel to Afghanistan even if expanded cooperation is agreed upon.
Beaten Kommersant journalist Oleg Kashin has told investigators that he believes the savage attack perpetrated against him was linked to his coverage of the destruction of the Khimki forest. President Medvedev has told a Slovenian newspaper that ‘a political assessment of the incident involving Oleg Kashin’ has been made and it is up to law enforcement to ‘have their say’. Mixed results one year on from the death of Sergei Magnistky, says this Vedomosti editorial. RFE/RL has a video report from inside a Russian prison where officials vaunt ostensibly improved facilities. A St. Petersburg court has sanctioned the arrest oftwo artists from the Voina collective on suspicion of flipping overpolice cars in St. Petersburg in an action against policecorruption.
Russian universities are considering creating their own ranking system, as none of the country’s higher education facilities made it onto the top 200 list of the world’s best schools by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. ‘The show trial against Khodorkovsky is a huge malignant tumor that has crippled the Russian political system’ says Konstantin Sonin in the Moscow Times. In an online form to propose a name for Vladimir Putin’s new Karakachan puppy, thousands of bloggers have apparently suggested ‘Yukos’.