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A long silence by the head of the state
The President notices neither EuropeТs criticism of Moscow, nor tough methods of the police at the rapplies

Nezavisimaya Gazeta
June 3, 2010

By Alexandra Samarina

Yesterday the European Union publicly expressed its concern over the situation with human
rights in Russia. Such a statement was made by deputy head of the EU delegation in Russia Michael Webb. On the threashold of the Rostov-Don summit Moscow police brutally supressed an opposition rally. The head of state in the meantime did not respond to both of the developments. NG experts comment that Dmitry Medvedev is deliberately disassociating himself from the urgent problems. They note that Premier Vladimir Putin does not avoid the human rights topic.

Michael Webb of the EU mission said at the news conference in Rostov-on-Don that the European Union was particularly upset by the Уsituation with human rights activists and murders of journalists in RussiaФ. УWe have also expressed our concern with the fact that the crimes committed by the law enforcement go unpunished,Ф Webb added.

The reaction of the head of the state is unknown. At the press-conference in Rostov-Don Medvedev did not say a word on the matter despite the fact that the question was worded in the comments of his partners in the summit and by the press. Right after the speech by the Russian leader one of journalists asked, УYou have said that you discussed the situation with human rights. I would like to know in a bit more detail what you discussed Ц the situation in general or some definite problems: the Caucasus or something else?Ф Medvedev did not answer. This was made by his colleague in negotiations, in a very laconic manner. A more detailed and sharp answer was given to the press by Webb.

Neither did the head of state react to the brutal dispersal of a rally in central Moscow in defence of Article 31 of the Constitution. Putin in the meantime had discussed human rights at the meeting with intelligentsia in St.Petersburg. His words were taken as the intention on the part of the authorities to ease the pressure on the opposition.

As for the opposition itself, it is in no hurry to appeal to the President like ex-head of YUKOS Mikhail Khodorkovsky did. Why? Lyudmila Alekseyeva of the Moscow Helsinki Group said, "Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin will make a report to the President. Why should the President need two reports or what? No, I'm not going to address Medvedev."

Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Moscow Center commented that the President's political instincts must be blunted. He said, however, that the Premier had made a mistake too. "I'd say that the Premier lost a point at the meeting in St.Petersburg organized on his own initiative. Later on, he clearly succumbed to the temptation to take vengeance. I mean when the rally was broken on May 31," said Petrov. "The way I see it, Medvedev's political instincts should have told him to do something. He could have done a lot after the scandal with the rally - just by sending a message indicating his position. He could have demanded a report from the Moscow police, for example..."

According to Petrov, decisions such as this ought to be made immediately. "One has to play by ear. This is what Medvedev seems to have problems with," said Petrov.

The expert said, however, that it would be wrong to attach too much importance to appeals to the president. "Appeals are appeals. They do not mean that the authorities will do something." The overall impression was that Medvedev was ducking pressing issues. "Report to the Parliamentary Assembly on the state of affairs in the Caucasus was published. The Russian delegation did not object to it even though the report included some harsh criticism."

Petrov said that Medvedev would be held responsible for everything regardless of whether or not he spoke up.

"Medvedev is afraid of destabilization even more than Putin does," said Dmitry Furman of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "There is another factor as well. Medvedev has just over a year left before his term of office expires. Any careless gesture at this point and his chances to be reelected will plummet. I think that he will run for another term of office."


See also:

Human Rights

Freedom of Assembly




June 3, 2010