Government attempts to curb corruption, despite backing from the very top, are still running into powerful officials who are able to use the police and courts to thwart investigators, prosecutors and witnesses. Meanwhile, the government is easing up on restrictions placed on public demonstrations by those opposed to government policies. There are many in the government, at the highest levels, who do not want Russia again becoming a police dictatorship.
Russia has agreed to provide more equipment, training and intelligence for the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but no Russian troops will go there to participate in the fighting. However, Russian agents will continue to enter Afghanistan to assist in taking down major drug operations. Russia apparently maintains an informant network in Afghanistan.
Russian officials indicate that the ten Russian spies arrested in the United States last June were betrayed by a Russian espionage official (identified only as "colonel Shcherbakov") in the SVR (Russian CIA). The U.S. claimed they had been watching the ten sleepers for several years, which may indicate that Shcherbakov has revealed a lot more if he was on the American payroll all that time. Shcherbakov was in charge of the SVR sleeper cell operation. The Russians use military ranks in the police and intelligence services, and colonels are middle-management. There is political pressure to on the head of SVR to resign, indicating that the damage was greater than anyone wants to admit. Russian intelligence services lost most of its best people in the 1990s, as better opportunities in the commercial sector beckoned. The redoubtable Russian intelligence services have shown numerous signs of having lost its Soviet era skills.
November 15, 2010: The government has renounced a 1956 deal to return two of the four Japanese Kuril islands. Recently, Japan has been pressuring Russia to make good on the 1956 promise (made at the time Japan and the Soviet Union resumed diplomatic relations). But Russia has reneged, claiming Japan was plotting to get the other two islands back as well. The Japanese have been pressuring the Russians to return the Kurile islands (off northern Japan) for decades, and this has caused a lot of tension recently. These four islands were seized at the end of World War II, and the Russians kept them. The Kurils had been occupied by Japanese for centuries, but when Russia reached the Pacific coast in the 17th century, they began to send ships down to the Kurils. In 1875, Japan and Russia signed a treaty settling claims in the area. Japan acknowledged Russias claim to the larger Shakalin island to the north, while Russia acknowledged that the Kurils belonged to Japan. After World War II, Russia expelled the 17,000 Japanese inhabitants of the four Kuril islands. Russians were brought in, and about 16,000 of them (including many Ukrainians, Koreans and so on) currently inhabit the islands. There’s not much economic value to the Kurils, except for the good fishing. But it's believed there are oil and gas deposits off shore, and valuable mineral deposits on land. Meanwhile, the Russians are still hacked off at losing a war to Japan in 1905, and to Japanese soldiers occupying parts of eastern Russia after World War I. Japan and Russia had a non-aggression treaty for most of World War II. But Russia declared war on Japan on August 15th, 1945, and promptly invaded Japanese occupied northern China (Manchuria). Japanese surrendered to the United States a month later. You could say that Japan and Russia have a lot of unresolved issues.
November 14, 2010: Another Mi-26TC heavy lift helicopter was delivered to China. This chopper is for civilian purposes. While Russia has stopped delivering much military equipment to China (because of Chinese technology theft), civilian helicopters are a big export, and Russian and Chinese firms are jointly designing and building helicopters.
November 13, 2010: In Dagestan, police killed three Islamic terrorists, including a leader who had organized several high profile attacks.
A Russian rocket launched another American communications satellite. This is a big business, because the Americans have a lot of satellites to launch and the Russians do it cheap and reliably.
November 9, 2010: Russia and Kyrgyzstan have agreed to exchange information and cooperate in fighting terrorism and organized crime (especially drug smuggling and distribution.)
November 5, 2010: Georgia says it arrested fifteen spies who were working for Russia. In response, Russia denied everything and mocked Georgia. Russia mocks Georgia a lot, and occasionally invades. Georgia tweaks the Russians any time it can, which does little to improve relations.
October 31, 2010: Vietnam has agreed to buy a Russian nuclear power plant for $5.6 billion.