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Questions for Putin, Menatep Compensation, Railroad Repercussions

A woman watches Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's nationally-broadcast interview at a bar in Novosibirsk

Putin Holds Annual 'Direct Line' With Citizens

On Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held his annual television interview in which he fields vetted questions from Russian citizens. Renowned journalist Aleksandr Minkin tells RFE/RL that the program was a "staged show." He points to the fact that a group of 50 people was shown in the recently destroyed engine room of the Sayano-Shushensk hydroelectric plant, but when asked who had a question, only one person raised a hand. And in the television studio where Putin answered the questions, the co-presenter just happened to know the life story of an older woman who was selected to ask him a question. “Does she really know the life stories of several hundred people in the audience by heart?” Minkin asks.

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Former Yukos Lawyer Says Compensation Chances High

Earlier in the week, the Hague Arbitration Court ruled that the former owners of disbanded oil company Yukos have the right to sue the Russian government for compensation. Now the former head of Yukos' legal department, Dmitri Gololobov, tells RFE/RL that this ruling will make it far easier for representatives of Menatep to take their case to the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg. Menatep is the investment company established by Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky that acted as the holding firm of the oil company. While he believes Menatep now has a very good chance of eventually receiving some kind of compensation from the Russian government, Gololobov warns that practice has shown that the case will have unpleasant repercussions for those imprisoned in Russia because of their involvement with Yukos.

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Consequences of Railroad Bombings Discussed

Investigators of the November 27 bombing of the Nevsky Express train and the November 30 bombing of a train traveling from Tiumen to Baku were quick to announce that the bombings bore the hallmarks terrorist attacks carried out by Caucasian armed groups. But Aleksandr Gurov, a State Duma deputy, member of the Duma Security Committee and former head of the Interior Ministry's anti-organized crime department, says it is not possible to talk about the wider repercussions of the bombings before the investigation is complete. Nevertheless, he says they exposed technical shortcomings in the security of Russia's rail network and failure on the part of state security agencies.

Political scientist Ruslan Martagov says the quick announcement of a Chechen link was "inevitable." He says the perpetrators might have links to Chechen or other separatists, but adds that the organizers should be sought in central Moscow and not in the North Caucasus: "...because whatever the terrorist attack, however much blood is spilt, however many lives are lost, for some reason such events serve to strengthen the oligarchy of the leadership of bureaucrats. It all works like clockwork so that bureaucrats can live in clover."

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