DOMODEDOVO. A suicide bomber team killed and wounded many in the arrivals area of Domodedovo Airport. Not the first time jihadists have attacked outside the security zone and we will see more. It is possible that this attack may wake up Westerners to the reality that it’s all the same thing: the NORAD commander appears to understand. On the other hand, others still blame the “Putin system”; one assumes these editorialists blamed the December Stockholm bomb on the “Reinfeldt system”. Medvedev has dismissed several officials, blaming lax security. Some of this is the ancient Russian tradition of pretending to solve the problem by firing somebody, but it also fits with Medvedev’s policy of clearing out deadwood.
START. The Duma finally ratified the agreement on Tuesday by a comfortable margin and the Federation Council did so the next day. The question of missile defence is still a potential stumbling block and Russia will denounce the Treaty if it feels US developments in this area threaten it. But that was always the reality and one hopes that a rational settlement will be found.
OPPOSITION ALLIANCE. The alliance of Limonov and his NatBols with the liberals, about which so much was written a few months ago, appears to be over. It was always unnatural: the two groups have quite different aims, no matter how much they may share a dislike of Putin. Lyudmila Alexeyeva appears to be emerging as the principal leader; she has the advantage of not being tainted by the Yeltsin years and Putin cannot say about her what he said about some of the Yeltsin-era oppositionists: “they want to come back and refill their pockets”. She has broken with Limonov who is now calling himself head of the Other Russia party but doesn’t appear to have taken over the website (registration of his party was turned down yesterday). The authorities are probably not unhappy with this development and Moscow City has (again) given permission for her group to demonstrate on the 31st but not Limonov’s. Limonov will likely show up anyway for some street theatre.
THE NEW MEDIA. Medvedev, who must be one of the most Internet-savvy leaders around, had quite a bit to say about it at Davos. It leads to the “creation of communities of people… in different countries… by a shared goal or idea, and no national government can claim to have a strong impact on such communities” (as we see in Egypt and elsewhere today). There are dangers that criminals or terrorists use it. But “this universal connectedness must become a powerful driver of economic growth”. He promised “Russia will not support initiatives that may jeopardise Internet freedom”. There is general agreement that the New Media flourishes in Russia and the government leaves it alone.
LENIN’S TOMB. I think it’s finally going to happen. The official line has always been that the body will be buried in St Petersburg when the population wants it. A Duma Deputy started the current campaign and there is a website on which people can vote; so far a solid majority wants the body moved out of Red Square. So, what will replace the Mausoleum? My bet is whatever was there before. And what about the Kremlin wall necropolis, Stalin’s ashes and all the rest of the Communist Pantheon? Surely, if Lenin goes, Stalin and the others have to too.
ANOTHER OIL ENGAGEMENT PARTY. RosNeft and ExxonMobil have made an agreement to jointly develop hydrocarbon findings in the Russian part of the Black Sea. The wedding season has come early to Russia!
MURDER. Last week another mass murder was discovered – most of a family of a local crime boss was found dead in a garage in Stavropol. Will it be discovered, in this case too, that the local authorities were providing cover for him or for his murderers?
KACZINSKI CRASH. Two defenders of the Russian findings have spoken up. David Learmount accepts them. Poland’s lead investigator agrees. As the first said of the report: “It does not make happy reading for the Polish people or their government, and indeed they are finding its truths difficult to swallow”.
FRIENDS AGAIN. It is claimed that practically all the problems between Moscow and Minsk have been resolved. Of course, now that the West has decided it doesn’t like Lukashenka (again), he doesn’t have many alternatives. There was a brief moment there when Belarus was being spun as a fellow victim of Moscow’s “gas weapon”.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)