President Dmitry Medvedev publicly criticized the Soviet Union and one of its leaders, Joseph Stalin, more severely than in the past. Since 1991, Russian leaders have tried to balance criticism of the Soviet Union with praise for its accomplishments (being a nuclear armed superpower, for example). But this time around, Medvedev stressed what most older Russians remembered, that the Soviet Union was a brutal and economically bankrupt police state. Medvedev also made it plain that Stalin was a disaster as a leader, something which had been increasingly played down since Stalin was first denounced a year after his death in 1953. But now Russian leaders are willing to admit that Stalin was a mass murderer, responsible for killing over ten million Russians. But at the same time, most (54 percent) of Russians consider Stalin a great national leader. Three years ago, the government changed textbooks to focus on Stalin's accomplishments of industrializing Russia in the 1920s and 30s. Thus while the head of government comes right out and calls Stalin a bad man, many Russians still admire that sort of violent tyrant as a national leader. This frightens current Russian politicians, because many of Stalin's victims were fellow bureaucrats, and the kind of Russians who, today, run for office. For these Russian democrats, the realization that most Russians would prefer a murderous despot like Stalin, is a scary prospect.
May 6, 2010: Russian commandoes freed a Russian tanker, seized by pirates yesterday some 800 kilometers off the Somali coast. The tanker crew (of 23 Russians) had taken refuge in a safe room, disabled the engine and called for help. One of the nearest warships was a Russian frigate with commando detachment on board. The Russian frigate rushed to the scene and landed less than a dozen commandoes on the tanker. The helicopter also opened fire on the pirates. That, plus the commandoes on board, got the job done. One of the eleven armed pirates was killed, before the rest of the pirates surrendered. The tanker was carrying $50 million worth of oil from Sudan to China via the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
In an effort to keep the growing Chinese air force at bay, Russia and India are moving ahead to develop a 5th generation fighter (similar to the U.S. F-22). Russia will contribute most of the technology, India will provide most of the cash. Both will then buy a hundred or more of the aircraft, by the end of the decade, for over $100 million each.
April 29, 2010: In Ingushetia, police arrested an Islamic terrorist leader, responsible for two recent bombings.
April 28, 2010: In Dagestan, a suicide car bomber killed two policemen and wounded seven others, plus ten civilians.
Russia published the files on the 1940 Russian massacre of 20,000 Polish military and civilian leaders at Katyn (outside Smolensk). Until the Cold War ended, the Russians blamed this on the Germans, and most nations went along with the lie. In the 1990s, Russia admitted it was they, not the Germans, who did the killing. But only a few scholars were allowed to examine the Russian records. Now everyone can see these documents, on line.
April 25, 2010: As part of new nuclear arms reduction treaty, Russia closed down the last plutonium producing nuclear reactor on the planet. According to the new treaty, the U.S. will reduce its nuclear warhead arsenal to the same level as Russians (about 1,600). In eight years, both countries will begin destroying 34 tons of plutonium each. That 68 tons of plutonium could build 17,000 nuclear weapons.
April 24, 2010: A Russian firm is aggressively marketing a version of the Klub cruise missile that can be carried in a 40 foot shipping container. The launcher and the missile have to slide out of the container before firing, thus limiting where it can be placed on a ship, particularly your typical container ship. But you could get two or three of these shipping container Klubs on most cargo ships, turning the vessel into warship. The containerized Klub can also be hauled around by tractor, like many other shipping containers.
In the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, police found and defused a terrorist bomb.
April 22, 2010: Police arrested two students outside Moscow, after finding the two were carrying homemade bombs.
April 21, 2010: Ukraine was persuaded to extend the lease on the Russian naval base at Sevastopol 25 years (to 2042), by offering $30 billion in discounts on Russian natural gas.
April 19, 2010: Unrest broke out in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, after popular opposition to former president, and former reformer, Kurmanbek Bakiyev caused Bakiyev to flee the country. The new government is having a hard time establishing order.