POLICE REFORM. The new law took effect on Tuesday (see here for a discussion of its provisions). As if in celebration, Medvedev dismissed seven high ranking police officers from around the country. And high-ranking they are indeed. No reasons were given. He had a meeting with Interior Minister Nurgaliyev and signed a number of decrees moving the effort forward. Something I have often wondered about is how one gets from here (an institution with a culture of corruption and incompetence) to there (something much better). It appears (but the wording of his instructions to Nurgaliyev is not clear and this is my best guess of what Medvedev told him) that all members of the present force (“militia”) will be, as it were, passed through a sieve and either dismissed or allowed to join the new force (“police”). Senior officers will be examined by the Head of the Presidential Administration, Sergey Naryshkin, and approved by Medvedev. So, it would appear that everyone’s job is at risk. The examinations are to be complete by 1 June which, only two months away, seems an unrealistically early date. Given the existing corruption as well as the powerful resistance all bureaucracies present to change that threatens their “corporate will”, this is a very tall order and certainly all the crooks and incompetents will not be weeded out by then. But one assumes that if someone slips through the sieve by bribing his superior or by lying and is caught, he will be subject to instant dismissal. Those who are interested in reforming intransigent and locked-in bureaucracies run mad, should watch this experiment carefully.

MISSILE DEFENCE. Foreign Minister Lavrov has called for a formal agreement that NATO and Russia will not target each other with their defence systems; he says Moscow is willing to sign. Such a formal declaration – which is supposed to be NATO’s official policy anyway – will go some of the distance to resolve differences between the two. I repeat that Moscow has no reason to trust any informal declaration from NATO.

GOVERNORS. In January Medvedev said that he had already replaced one third of the regional heads: “I think it is a normal, objective practice… And all governors should understand that they have two, three terms at the most to prove themselves… Secondly, people need to understand that they can’t be in office forever.” Two more have just gone – Kamchatka Oblast and the Karachay-Cherkess Republic. This too is part of “modernisation”.

“PUTIN’S PALACE”. So-called. A medium sized flap over this monster house (“a billion dollars”) allegedly being built for Putin. Turns out it’s a hotel and conference centre and it has just been bought by a Russian plutocrat. But, no doubt, the anti-Putinites will say this is just a cover story: for them everything visible in Russia is a manipulated illusion covering what’s really happening. Oddly enough, they alone have penetrated the deception and uncovered the Truth.

PEOPLE POWER. The Blue Buckets are back in their campaign against “blue lights”. Their latest stunt is handing out stickers for cars that read “I only give way to 01, 02, 03,” (the emergency numbers for police, fire and ambulance services). The Moscow police, as usual, don’t know how to react to these clever campaigns.

RETURN. Last week four families of Old Believers (23 people) returned to Russia from Bolivia. They are to be given land in Primorskiy Kray.

GORBACHEV. Was 80 yesterday and Medvedev awarded him the Order of St Andrew. I invite you all to consider what the world would look like today had Viktor Grishin been chose as GenSek in 1985, as he might have been. Grishin died in 1992. Incidentally, in contrast with the way Yeltsin treated Gorbachev, the Duumvirate is much more respectful.

BUSHEHR. On 26 February Iran announced that it was unloading the fuel from the reactor for “technical reasons”; on Tuesday another spokesman said fuel was not being unloaded. The same day RosAtom (which would be doing the work) said it was being unloaded because of the possibility that metal particles could get into the machinery. The Iranian nuclear program is not going well and common speculation centres on the Stuxnet virus. The story is very murky and it will likely be years – if ever – before we find out what happened but there are those who see a Russian connection.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see