September 12, 2010: The government is making a major effort to reform the national police, including renaming them "police". Currently, the Soviet era force is called "militia" ("militsiya" in Russian). This was derived from the early (1917) communist attempts to create a "peasants and workers" militia to replace the Western concept of police (the communists wanted more political correctness and less protection of rights and property). The militia force never worked very well. Part of the problem was using conscripts as militia, meaning a lot of the young "cops" were teenagers with only a month or so of training, and in the job for less than two years. Corruption and lack of professionalism were a problem early on and got worse after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Now the government is going to gut the current militia and try and start all over again. This is part of a larger anti-corruption drive that includes the entire judicial system (where information, and decisions, are often for sale.)
Meanwhile, the militia are kept busy ensuring that the "right to assembly" (guaranteed in the current constitution) is not used by groups that oppose the government. Senior officials, like prime minister Putin, are blunt in telling political opponents that they have no right to stage demonstrations against government policies. Despite these threats, there are growing number of public demonstrations against the return to centralized government and police state tactics. Meanwhile, the government is installing vidcams at sites of work they had ordered to be done, usually quickly, so that senior officials can monitor if local officials are carrying out their orders.
The drought this Summer has caused over $2 billion in damages (from wildfires) and other losses (mostly crops). Related economic damage amounted to $12 billion. About a quarter of this year's harvest was lost. National GDP is expected to lose .8 percent of growth because of the disaster. Dozens of senior officials have been fired for incompetence or just mismanaging the response to these emergencies.
The wildfires reached a peak of 500 in August, but a recent cold snap and rains has reduced it to 66. American weather and ground survey satellites reported to the Russians that 178 potential wildfires were still there (based on how hot and dry the ground and atmosphere was.) So far, the three months of fires have killed at least 50 people. In addition over 2,500 houses in 150 towns were destroyed. Thousands more structures were damaged and nearly 4,000 people are homeless. Several military bases were damaged.
September 11, 2010: Two policemen were killed in the Caucasus (Ingushetia and Dagestan) in two separate attacks. A third attack, in Kabardino-Balkariya, wounded five police when the truck they were in was hit with a roadside bomb.
September 9, 2010: In the Caucasus, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives outside a crowded marketplace, killing 17 and wounding over 130.
September 5, 2010: In the Caucasus (Dagestan), a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives outside a military camp, killing 5 and wounding over 39.
September 4, 2010: In the Caucasus (Dagestan), a bomb planted in the car of a provincial official went off, wounding two people.
September 2, 2010: Russia is sending over a thousand troops, along with aircraft and other equipment, to participate in counter-terror exercises this month in Kazakhstan (Central Asia.) Over 5,000 troops are participating, coming from China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan
August 29, 2010: In Chechnya, local police killed 12 of several dozen gunmen who attacked the home village of the Chechen president. This was part of a clan war between groups supporting Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov and those opposed (most of whom want an Islamic religious dictatorship.) There are over a hundred clans in Chechnya, and Russia backed Kadyrov because he assured them he could persuade, or force, most of the clans to be calm. He has largely succeeded, but some clans, and several Islamic radical groups, continue to resist.
Over the weekend, Russian troops in the Caucasus (Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan) killed ten Islamic terrorists. One policeman died in these operations. Elsewhere in the area, a local official was murdered as well.
August 27, 2010: In Dagestan, a car bomb was used to kill a local official. The effort failed, but three people were wounded.
August 23, 2010: In Dagestan, a border guard was killed and his commander kidnapped.
August 22, 2010: In Ingushetia, police, acting on a tip, caught four Islamic terrorists apparently on their way to carry out an attack. In the resulting gun battle, all four terrorists were killed. One of them turned out to be the leader of Islamic terrorists in Ingushetia (Ilez Gardanov). Shortly thereafter, Gardanov's followers announced they would retaliate for the killing of their leader. They did, and for the next week, there was a sharp increase in terrorist violence.
August 21, 2010: In Dagestan, police located and killed a senior Islamic terrorist leader (Rustam Munkyev).
August 20, 2010: After years of delays, Russia has finally turned over a nuclear submarine to India, which has leased the boat for ten years. India also provided cash to complete the sub, and another of the same class.
August 19, 2010: After a year of court battles, judges in Thailand ordered Russian gunrunner Viktor Bout extradited to the United States. Russia tried to halt the process, fearing what Bout might say to American prosecutors about Russian government involvement in many illegal arms deals in the last two decades.