It was humanly impossible to sustain for a long time the high intensity that characterized the Washington Post's coverage of Russia in December, the coverage that was dominated by the U.S. Senate ratification of the New START treaty. Besides, by going on long holidays that spanned a good third of January, Russians have deprived foreign reporters of any worthy news.
Facing the adversity, Kathy Lally did what any typical American journalist would do when having nothing to cover: she began writing about human rights. Lally's first piece of the sequel, on Jan. 5, profiled a Marina Rosumovskaya, who protested the guilty verdict in the second Khodorkovsky–Lebedev trial and also the arrest, at the end of January, of Boris Nemtsov, "an opposition leader who had been a deputy prime minister in the Yeltsin era", in Lally's words. She proceededon Jan. 9 with a completely incomprehensible (a post-holiday hangover?) piece featuring producer and director Cathryn Collins and her new documentary "Vlast." Being apparently unable to get over Nemtsov's arrest, Lally returned to the topic on Jan. 11, comparing his 15-day sentence to the brutal assault on the opposition by the Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko. Lally was not done yet with Nemtsov on Jan. 17, when she celebrated his release from prison. In fact, she could not part with him until Jan. 28, when she wrote a piece titled "Where Medvedev sees democracy, Nemtsov sees Russian repression" in which she called Nemtsov "a luminous political star in the early post-Soviet days." (Lally changed the subject only once, on Jan. 18, when she wrote an expert article about alcohol consumption in Russia.)
Anne Applebaum has provided a theoretical justification of Lally's concerns about human rights in Russia. Using a sophisticated — and apparently designed by Applebaum herself – software, she plotted oil prices against "the rise and fall of Soviet and Russian foreign and domestic reforms" and came up with a fascinating conclusion that Russia's "bad behavior" is a consequence of rising oil prices:
"…Khodorkovsky has just been sentenced by a kangaroo court. As I write these words, oil is at $92.25 a barrel."
Applebaum easily admits that her analysis is "too simplistic." Well, it might still be too complicated for the jerks from Freedom House who produce their "ratings" even without consulting oil prices.
Will Englund and Walter Pincus managed to interrupt Lally's monologue on a couple of occasions. The former described the continued tug of war between Russia and Poland over the investigation of the air crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 top Polish officials last spring. The latter discussed stumbling blocks that lie ahead of the future U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control negotiations. Pincus had another piece on Jan. 31 covering the presentation, at the Nixon Center in Washington, by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
And then on Jan 24., an explosion at the Domodedovo airport killed 35 people and injured more than 200, and Lally and Englund began doing what the Post's reporters in Moscow do best: covering Russia's "disasters." Lally was the first to break the news and to seek the "expert" opinion of Carnegie Moscow Center's Lilia Shevtsova. Ever perceptive and almost always wrong, Shevtsova immediately blamed "a Russian nationalist" for the crime. The next day, Englund and Lally provided more specifics, including some eyewitness stories. Englund added another piece describing the early reaction of Russian officials, including President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Later the same day, having apparently collected all the facts on the ground, Englund and Lally were attentively listening to interpretations provided by the members of the so-called democratic opposition. On Jan. 26, Lally pointed to the clouds of the Domodedovo blast hovering over President Medvedev's speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Lally's short piece on Jan. 27, saying basically nothing new, has wrapped up the series.
A Jan. 27 editorial finally decided to go to the heart of the matter: it put the blame of the terrorist act on "Mr. Putin's autocratic form of rule and imperialist policy toward non-Russian nations." The case closed.
At the end of January, street protests erupted in Cairo, Egypt. Russia was forgotten.