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
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."