The always-brilliant Robert Coalson, reporting over at The Power Vertical:
President Dmitry Medvedev picked up a bunch of positive press on February 18 when, apparently in response to the massive numbers of police-abuse scandals that have emerged in recent months, appeared at an Interior Ministry conference and laid down the law. Even fellow Power Verticalist Brian Whitmore and myself were mildly impressed that Medvedev had summoned the power to dismiss two deputy interior ministers and some 13 other police generals. It is the common wisdom that the Interior Ministry is one of those areas of government that Vladimir Putin keeps strictly under his thumb, so it seemed a little odd to see Medvedev making a strike so close to Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, a Putin protectorate.
Of course, the fact that Medvedev tapped Nurgaliyev to implement his as-yet-undetailed Interior Ministry reform is a pretty good clue that the changes are likely to be cosmetic. “Ogonyok” did a nice series of pieces on the ministry’s troubles and noted that “the majority of experts agree that for now the guiding tool in the matter of reforming police structures is not a systematic approach, but a “personal” one. That is, in good Soviet tradition, a reform initiative will just be used to settle political scores and/or provide the background music for a game of Kremlin musical chairs.
Robert Coalson reports, on the Power Vertical:
Remember the much-ballyhooed Russian “national projects”? Evidently, you aren’t supposed to.
Let me remind you then that the national projects were four long-term domestic-policy priorities laid out by then-President Vladimir Putin in 2005. They were supposed to bring dramatic improvements to the areas of housing, medical care, education, and agriculture. And they were under the oversight of then-First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. (The projects are now under Putin’s direct supervision.)
Now, according to a front-page report in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” it turns out that the Kremlin’s priorities have changed. The four projects have become, in the words of one analyst quoted in the piece, “non-priority priority projects.”
Robert Coalson, writing on The Power Vertical:
The reports of U.S. President Barack Obama’s private talks in New York yesterday with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev have generally optimistically highlighted the two leaders’ apparently growing agreement on the need to step up pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. Speaking to reporters after the talks, Medvedev repeated a statement he’d made earlier in Moscow that “sanctions are seldom productive, but they are sometimes inevitable.”
I have long been skeptical of the Kremlin’s interest in cooperating with the United States on Iran and should confess that I remain so.
Writing on his new blog The Power Vertical over at Radio Free Europe, Robert Coalson gives us the appalling details in Vladimir Putin’s ongoing crackdown on the Russian media as he seeks to sweep his grotesque mismanagement of the Russian economy under the carpet:
Last week the Prosecutor-General’s Office ordered its branches in the regions to keep an eye out for media reports about the financial crisis that could constitute “informational attacks against banks or inflame a mood of panic.” Since then several journalists — Oksana Panova of ura.ru; Yevgeny Gontmakher, for an article in “Vedomosti”; Pavel Verstov in Magnitogorsk — have received unwanted attention from officials for their writings related to the crisis. “Kommersant” reported yesterday that Verstov was expelled from the ruling Unified Russia party for an article asserting that suicide is on the rise in Magnitogorsk.
The Gontmakher case is intriguing as well.