Daily Archives: June 8, 2007

CFR on the Russia Rift

The always insightful Lionel Beehner at the Council on Foriegn Relations offers the following insights in to what he calls the “deepening rift” between Russia and the world’s most powerful country:

President Bush mentioned “freedom” no fewer than forty times in a speech delivered in Prague this week. His words took aim at coalescing despotism around the world in places like Iran and Venezuela, but also jabbed at the ruler of Russia, President Vladimir Putin. Over a span of seven years, as this Backgrounder explains, relations between the two leaders have gone from chummy to chilly, mainly because of disputes over regional security and the rollback of Russian democracy. Freedom, President Bush is now well aware, has been “derailed” (RFE/RL) in today’s Russia.

Where did things go wrong? As this February 2006 CFR Task Force report accurately prophesied, relations almost seemed bound to deteriorate as Russia edged closer to authoritarian rule and away from democratic norms. Its alleged use of energy as a foreign policy tool to intimidate neighbors like Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia raised alarm bells across Western Europe, which relies on Russian natural gas. The unsolved murders of a string of anti-Kremlin dissidents, including the muckraking journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the ex-KGB officer-turned-whistle blower Alexander Litvinenko, sent relations with several European countries, particularly Britain, into a downward spiral. And the plan to stage a missile-defense radar system in former Warsaw Pact states like Poland and the Czech Republic, following on the earlier U.S. withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, has Putin fulminating in a Cold War vein (Reuters).

Putin’s complaints are not entirely unfounded. He says Russia’s unilateral moves to draw down its weaponry from Eastern Europe and reduce its regional forces only spurred the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to strengthen its presence. Reflecting a widely held Russian analysis, Putin denies the missile shield is aimed at Iran, whose ability or interest in striking Europe remains in doubt. “We are being told that this missile defense system is there to defend against something that doesn’t exist,” he told reporters. He promises a new nuclear arms race if plans for the missile shield go forward.

The Christian Science Monitor writes that recent tensions may be explained by Russian politics, “in which the strategy is to demonize internal and external enemies to legitimize the leadership (just as in Soviet days).” CFR’s Stephen Sestanovich thinks the presummit polemics are just a way to air grievances and defuse tensions before Presidents Bush and Putin meet face to face. “Where there is tough rhetoric in the run-up to G8 meetings,” Sestanovich said at a recent CFR meeting, “it’s often to make it easier for the leaders to be polite to each other in person.”

Nor is that to say all is bleak in U.S.-Russia relations. Both sides agreed to step up nuclear monitoring (WSJ) at 350 Russian border crossings. And there may be greater areas of agreement on the Iran front as the UN Security Council enters into its third round of negotiations, given that neither Washington nor Moscow favors a nuclear-capable Iran.

No Justice for Race Victims in Russia

Radio Free Europe reports on the absence of racial justice in neo-Soviet Russia:

MOSCOW, June 6, 2007 (RFE/RL) — Eduard Sardaryan will never forget the day last year when he was told his teenage son had been murdered by a group of youths on a suburban train. He touches a photograph, now edged with black ribbon, of a smiling Artur. He was 19 years old when he died.

“My son was sitting on the train. [He] was just sitting on the train, minding his own business. And this man comes up behind him and starts hitting him, deliberately. He attacks him with a knife. He stabs him five times, and three of the stab wounds are fatal,” Sardaryan says.

On June 1, Roman Polusmyak was acquitted of the murder although he is still serving time in prison for attacks on Daghestani nationals living in Russia. The identity of the second suspect has not been established.

According to the victim’s lawyer, during the attack a group of young men were chanting “Glory to Russia” and “Long live Russia” before pulling the emergency cord and jumping off the train.

A June 6 report by a U.S. rights watchdog, Human Rights First, says that hate crimes are on the rise in many parts of Europe, including Russia.

Hate Crimes Rising

Rights groups say violence against ethnic minorities living in Russia, in particular those from the Caucasus and Central Asia, are becoming more frequent. A report released by the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights this week showed that there were 120 attacks “of a xenophobic nature” committed in Russia in the first half of this year, in which 31 people were killed. In 2004, the report says, there were seven fatal attacks during the same period; in 2005, there were 10; and in 2006, 17.

The report notes that the majority of attacks are aimed at people from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, and countries in Africa.

Galina Kozhevnikova, an expert at the SOVA Center, which monitors racism and xenophobia in Russia, says there are many different reasons for the attacks.

“They used to cite social problems as the primary cause, but now those are already becoming secondary. The main reason now is the almost complete impunity for radical forces, and those people who carry out these violent attacks,” Kozhevnikova says.

“And then there are those who advocate hate crimes, propagandists. There are hundreds of these types of crimes carried out — last year about 500 people suffered these attacks, and there have only been a few sentences. [Last year] there were 33 sentences handed down.”

Role Of Authorities

In his annual address to the nation last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to tackle the growing number of attacks on ethnic groups living in Russia.

But Kozhevnikova says the authorities in fact play a key role in the country’s increasingly xenophobic attitude.

“More and more this is becoming a problem that is reaching the level of government. That’s to say that last autumn, for the first time, the government openly supported discriminatory measures against ethnic Georgians living in Russia,” Kozhevnikova says.

“A whole series of discriminatory measures were taken, including banning [non-Russians] from working in markets. This is politics of an openly discriminating nature, and it sanctions [the actions of] radical forces.”

Last year, Russia was heavily criticized for deporting thousands of ethnic Georgians living in Russia and canceling flights between the two countries. The move came after Georgian authorities detained four Russian diplomats on spying charges.

A month later, the town of Kondopoga in northwestern Russia was the scene of violent riots between local Russian and ethnic Chechens working in the area.

On the dingy seventh floor of Moscow’s Olympic complex — once the centerpiece of the 1980 Olympic Games, but now a huge warehouse selling Chinese goods — a tiny organization offers advice and legal assistance to migrants from Central Asia.

On the wall, there is a poster, which reads: “Tajiks in Russia: Today, in 90 percent of cases, the laws of the Russian Federation do not protect migrant workers.”

Manzura Karimova, a lawyer at the Migration and Law Center, says the office receives about 100 calls a month, mostly from Tajiks and Uzbeks, who have been beaten up or had their documents confiscated.

Local Support

They also get calls about racist attacks and murders. In April, a Tajik street cleaner died after he was stabbed 35 times on a Moscow street. Video footage from a surveillance camera showed two young men with shaven heads and laced-up, army-style boots carrying out the murder.

“I get phone calls to say: ‘I’ve been beaten up by a police officer, I want to make a complaint.’ And when I see this and hear this and compare it [to my own situation], of course I am concerned. I’m concerned because I have two children, two sons, they aren’t Russian nationals, they have dark skin and I get scared every time my [elder] son comes home late. Because when you are always reading that skinheads have killed someone else — well, it makes me really afraid for my son,” Karimova says.

Earlier this year, a jury in St. Petersburg cleared a young man of murder charges in the fatal stabbing of a nine-year-old Tajik girl, finding him guilty instead of “hooliganism.”

Kovezhenikova says the situation can only change if authorities start to accept that racist crimes exist.

“If the police start arresting [the perpetrators of these crimes] and putting them in prison, then the wave of crimes will start to fall. But it goes without saying that society takes a dim view of these sentences because they still deny the existence of racist crimes. Little by little, our law-enforcement agencies are beginning to consider crimes of this nature,” Kovezhenikova says.

Many of the attacks are carried out by skinheads, many of whom advocate the expulsion of non-Russian nationals. The Moscow Human Rights Group estimates that there are some 70,000 skinheads in Russia.

Tregubova’s Letter to the G-8

The Independent publishes an open letter from Yelena Tregubova (pictured) to the G-8 leaders as they sit down in Germany. The paper reminds us she is “a former member of the Kremlin press corps. Her book, Tales of a Kremlin Digger, published in 2003, accused Vladimir Putin of stifling political and press freedoms in Russia. As a result, she lost her job and was blacklisted from the Russian media. In February 2004, a bomb exploded outside her apartment, moments before she opened the door. Tregubova, 34, has now applied for asylum in Britain.”

I have personal experience of Vladimir Putin’s regime and the way the Russian President operates. I have been forced to seek asylum in Britain for criticising the Kremlin as an independent journalist. I have come to realise that to return to my homeland would be suicidal for me.

But this letter is not about me. I am writing to you because I fear that a tragedy is befalling Russia, with the restrictions on political and personal freedoms worsening every day. Having done away with the domestic opposition, Putin, on the eve of the G8 summit, has now decided to deal with the external “enemies”.

He has threatened to aim Russian missiles at targets in Europe once again, just like in the Cold War, and has warned of a nuclear arms race. It is now clear that the escalation of aggression by Kremlin is the direct result of the policy of appeasement pursued by Western leaders who, during the seven years of Putin’s rule, have turned a blind eye to his lynching of the opposition, the press, NGOs and all democratic institutions in Russia.

There has been no single example in history of a dictator who, sooner or later, did not become a danger to both his close and distant neighbours.

The goal is not the “revival of Russia” or the “revival of the national pride of the Russians”, as Putin and the Kremlin’s propaganda are trying to present it. It is a full-scale revenge by the secret services and the authoritarian regime with all their old methods and tricks.

Putin has shut all independent TV channels, introduced harsh censorship, blocked access to the press for the democratic opposition, accused Russian human rights activists and NGOs of being Western spies, and split up the country’s biggest oil company, Yukos, among his friends from the special services.

Encouraged by your non-resistance, Putin’s regime has become so strong and impudent that is now directly threatening its close neighbours, Poland and the Czech Republic, former colonies of the Soviet Union, trying to speak to them as if they were its vassals. In recent months, three ambassadors – Estonian, Swedish, and British – have been affected by the actions of extremist organisations controlled by the Kremlin.

And now events have taken a logical new turn: the Kremlin is threatening the West, by missile-rattling. The critical difference between this and the Soviet era lies in the fact that then you knew exactly which side of the barricades you stood on, when you provided moral support to the opponents of dictatorship. But nowadays due to the favourable situation in oil and gas markets, Putin has the resources to buy your indulgence and silence.

You even kept silent even when Putin signed a law authorising the murder of all Russia’s enemies abroad last summer. Anyone who dares to criticise Putin is put on the enemies’ list.

You have started to protest now that you have suddenly realised that it will not be too easy to get off the oil and gas hook Putin forced you to swallow. The Kremlin doesn’t give a damn about your words. The only thing it does give a damn about is your money.

The Kremlin, as it has already openly shown, will use brute force against peaceful demonstrators with the sole goal of preventing next year’s election from being held on a free and fair basis. Putin and his close supporters are planning to restore in Russia a clan-like dictatorship resembling the former Soviet Politburo. We are reaching the point of no return.

If, following the Heiligendamm summit, you continue to shake hands with Putin as if nothing has happened, you will further strengthen Putin’s feeling of complete impunity. Putin should be faced with a stark choice: either the Kremlin restores democratic freedoms, or Russia will be expelled from the G8 and other international clubs.

All free-thinking Russians are ashamed by what Putin is doing.

You must decide whether you want to sacrifice freedom in Russia on the altar of gas and oil.

Tregubova’s Letter to the G-8

The Independent publishes an open letter from Yelena Tregubova (pictured) to the G-8 leaders as they sit down in Germany. The paper reminds us she is “a former member of the Kremlin press corps. Her book, Tales of a Kremlin Digger, published in 2003, accused Vladimir Putin of stifling political and press freedoms in Russia. As a result, she lost her job and was blacklisted from the Russian media. In February 2004, a bomb exploded outside her apartment, moments before she opened the door. Tregubova, 34, has now applied for asylum in Britain.”

I have personal experience of Vladimir Putin’s regime and the way the Russian President operates. I have been forced to seek asylum in Britain for criticising the Kremlin as an independent journalist. I have come to realise that to return to my homeland would be suicidal for me.

But this letter is not about me. I am writing to you because I fear that a tragedy is befalling Russia, with the restrictions on political and personal freedoms worsening every day. Having done away with the domestic opposition, Putin, on the eve of the G8 summit, has now decided to deal with the external “enemies”.

He has threatened to aim Russian missiles at targets in Europe once again, just like in the Cold War, and has warned of a nuclear arms race. It is now clear that the escalation of aggression by Kremlin is the direct result of the policy of appeasement pursued by Western leaders who, during the seven years of Putin’s rule, have turned a blind eye to his lynching of the opposition, the press, NGOs and all democratic institutions in Russia.

There has been no single example in history of a dictator who, sooner or later, did not become a danger to both his close and distant neighbours.

The goal is not the “revival of Russia” or the “revival of the national pride of the Russians”, as Putin and the Kremlin’s propaganda are trying to present it. It is a full-scale revenge by the secret services and the authoritarian regime with all their old methods and tricks.

Putin has shut all independent TV channels, introduced harsh censorship, blocked access to the press for the democratic opposition, accused Russian human rights activists and NGOs of being Western spies, and split up the country’s biggest oil company, Yukos, among his friends from the special services.

Encouraged by your non-resistance, Putin’s regime has become so strong and impudent that is now directly threatening its close neighbours, Poland and the Czech Republic, former colonies of the Soviet Union, trying to speak to them as if they were its vassals. In recent months, three ambassadors – Estonian, Swedish, and British – have been affected by the actions of extremist organisations controlled by the Kremlin.

And now events have taken a logical new turn: the Kremlin is threatening the West, by missile-rattling. The critical difference between this and the Soviet era lies in the fact that then you knew exactly which side of the barricades you stood on, when you provided moral support to the opponents of dictatorship. But nowadays due to the favourable situation in oil and gas markets, Putin has the resources to buy your indulgence and silence.

You even kept silent even when Putin signed a law authorising the murder of all Russia’s enemies abroad last summer. Anyone who dares to criticise Putin is put on the enemies’ list.

You have started to protest now that you have suddenly realised that it will not be too easy to get off the oil and gas hook Putin forced you to swallow. The Kremlin doesn’t give a damn about your words. The only thing it does give a damn about is your money.

The Kremlin, as it has already openly shown, will use brute force against peaceful demonstrators with the sole goal of preventing next year’s election from being held on a free and fair basis. Putin and his close supporters are planning to restore in Russia a clan-like dictatorship resembling the former Soviet Politburo. We are reaching the point of no return.

If, following the Heiligendamm summit, you continue to shake hands with Putin as if nothing has happened, you will further strengthen Putin’s feeling of complete impunity. Putin should be faced with a stark choice: either the Kremlin restores democratic freedoms, or Russia will be expelled from the G8 and other international clubs.

All free-thinking Russians are ashamed by what Putin is doing.

You must decide whether you want to sacrifice freedom in Russia on the altar of gas and oil.

Tregubova’s Letter to the G-8

The Independent publishes an open letter from Yelena Tregubova (pictured) to the G-8 leaders as they sit down in Germany. The paper reminds us she is “a former member of the Kremlin press corps. Her book, Tales of a Kremlin Digger, published in 2003, accused Vladimir Putin of stifling political and press freedoms in Russia. As a result, she lost her job and was blacklisted from the Russian media. In February 2004, a bomb exploded outside her apartment, moments before she opened the door. Tregubova, 34, has now applied for asylum in Britain.”

I have personal experience of Vladimir Putin’s regime and the way the Russian President operates. I have been forced to seek asylum in Britain for criticising the Kremlin as an independent journalist. I have come to realise that to return to my homeland would be suicidal for me.

But this letter is not about me. I am writing to you because I fear that a tragedy is befalling Russia, with the restrictions on political and personal freedoms worsening every day. Having done away with the domestic opposition, Putin, on the eve of the G8 summit, has now decided to deal with the external “enemies”.

He has threatened to aim Russian missiles at targets in Europe once again, just like in the Cold War, and has warned of a nuclear arms race. It is now clear that the escalation of aggression by Kremlin is the direct result of the policy of appeasement pursued by Western leaders who, during the seven years of Putin’s rule, have turned a blind eye to his lynching of the opposition, the press, NGOs and all democratic institutions in Russia.

There has been no single example in history of a dictator who, sooner or later, did not become a danger to both his close and distant neighbours.

The goal is not the “revival of Russia” or the “revival of the national pride of the Russians”, as Putin and the Kremlin’s propaganda are trying to present it. It is a full-scale revenge by the secret services and the authoritarian regime with all their old methods and tricks.

Putin has shut all independent TV channels, introduced harsh censorship, blocked access to the press for the democratic opposition, accused Russian human rights activists and NGOs of being Western spies, and split up the country’s biggest oil company, Yukos, among his friends from the special services.

Encouraged by your non-resistance, Putin’s regime has become so strong and impudent that is now directly threatening its close neighbours, Poland and the Czech Republic, former colonies of the Soviet Union, trying to speak to them as if they were its vassals. In recent months, three ambassadors – Estonian, Swedish, and British – have been affected by the actions of extremist organisations controlled by the Kremlin.

And now events have taken a logical new turn: the Kremlin is threatening the West, by missile-rattling. The critical difference between this and the Soviet era lies in the fact that then you knew exactly which side of the barricades you stood on, when you provided moral support to the opponents of dictatorship. But nowadays due to the favourable situation in oil and gas markets, Putin has the resources to buy your indulgence and silence.

You even kept silent even when Putin signed a law authorising the murder of all Russia’s enemies abroad last summer. Anyone who dares to criticise Putin is put on the enemies’ list.

You have started to protest now that you have suddenly realised that it will not be too easy to get off the oil and gas hook Putin forced you to swallow. The Kremlin doesn’t give a damn about your words. The only thing it does give a damn about is your money.

The Kremlin, as it has already openly shown, will use brute force against peaceful demonstrators with the sole goal of preventing next year’s election from being held on a free and fair basis. Putin and his close supporters are planning to restore in Russia a clan-like dictatorship resembling the former Soviet Politburo. We are reaching the point of no return.

If, following the Heiligendamm summit, you continue to shake hands with Putin as if nothing has happened, you will further strengthen Putin’s feeling of complete impunity. Putin should be faced with a stark choice: either the Kremlin restores democratic freedoms, or Russia will be expelled from the G8 and other international clubs.

All free-thinking Russians are ashamed by what Putin is doing.

You must decide whether you want to sacrifice freedom in Russia on the altar of gas and oil.

Tregubova’s Letter to the G-8

The Independent publishes an open letter from Yelena Tregubova (pictured) to the G-8 leaders as they sit down in Germany. The paper reminds us she is “a former member of the Kremlin press corps. Her book, Tales of a Kremlin Digger, published in 2003, accused Vladimir Putin of stifling political and press freedoms in Russia. As a result, she lost her job and was blacklisted from the Russian media. In February 2004, a bomb exploded outside her apartment, moments before she opened the door. Tregubova, 34, has now applied for asylum in Britain.”

I have personal experience of Vladimir Putin’s regime and the way the Russian President operates. I have been forced to seek asylum in Britain for criticising the Kremlin as an independent journalist. I have come to realise that to return to my homeland would be suicidal for me.

But this letter is not about me. I am writing to you because I fear that a tragedy is befalling Russia, with the restrictions on political and personal freedoms worsening every day. Having done away with the domestic opposition, Putin, on the eve of the G8 summit, has now decided to deal with the external “enemies”.

He has threatened to aim Russian missiles at targets in Europe once again, just like in the Cold War, and has warned of a nuclear arms race. It is now clear that the escalation of aggression by Kremlin is the direct result of the policy of appeasement pursued by Western leaders who, during the seven years of Putin’s rule, have turned a blind eye to his lynching of the opposition, the press, NGOs and all democratic institutions in Russia.

There has been no single example in history of a dictator who, sooner or later, did not become a danger to both his close and distant neighbours.

The goal is not the “revival of Russia” or the “revival of the national pride of the Russians”, as Putin and the Kremlin’s propaganda are trying to present it. It is a full-scale revenge by the secret services and the authoritarian regime with all their old methods and tricks.

Putin has shut all independent TV channels, introduced harsh censorship, blocked access to the press for the democratic opposition, accused Russian human rights activists and NGOs of being Western spies, and split up the country’s biggest oil company, Yukos, among his friends from the special services.

Encouraged by your non-resistance, Putin’s regime has become so strong and impudent that is now directly threatening its close neighbours, Poland and the Czech Republic, former colonies of the Soviet Union, trying to speak to them as if they were its vassals. In recent months, three ambassadors – Estonian, Swedish, and British – have been affected by the actions of extremist organisations controlled by the Kremlin.

And now events have taken a logical new turn: the Kremlin is threatening the West, by missile-rattling. The critical difference between this and the Soviet era lies in the fact that then you knew exactly which side of the barricades you stood on, when you provided moral support to the opponents of dictatorship. But nowadays due to the favourable situation in oil and gas markets, Putin has the resources to buy your indulgence and silence.

You even kept silent even when Putin signed a law authorising the murder of all Russia’s enemies abroad last summer. Anyone who dares to criticise Putin is put on the enemies’ list.

You have started to protest now that you have suddenly realised that it will not be too easy to get off the oil and gas hook Putin forced you to swallow. The Kremlin doesn’t give a damn about your words. The only thing it does give a damn about is your money.

The Kremlin, as it has already openly shown, will use brute force against peaceful demonstrators with the sole goal of preventing next year’s election from being held on a free and fair basis. Putin and his close supporters are planning to restore in Russia a clan-like dictatorship resembling the former Soviet Politburo. We are reaching the point of no return.

If, following the Heiligendamm summit, you continue to shake hands with Putin as if nothing has happened, you will further strengthen Putin’s feeling of complete impunity. Putin should be faced with a stark choice: either the Kremlin restores democratic freedoms, or Russia will be expelled from the G8 and other international clubs.

All free-thinking Russians are ashamed by what Putin is doing.

You must decide whether you want to sacrifice freedom in Russia on the altar of gas and oil.

Tregubova’s Letter to the G-8

The Independent publishes an open letter from Yelena Tregubova (pictured) to the G-8 leaders as they sit down in Germany. The paper reminds us she is “a former member of the Kremlin press corps. Her book, Tales of a Kremlin Digger, published in 2003, accused Vladimir Putin of stifling political and press freedoms in Russia. As a result, she lost her job and was blacklisted from the Russian media. In February 2004, a bomb exploded outside her apartment, moments before she opened the door. Tregubova, 34, has now applied for asylum in Britain.”

I have personal experience of Vladimir Putin’s regime and the way the Russian President operates. I have been forced to seek asylum in Britain for criticising the Kremlin as an independent journalist. I have come to realise that to return to my homeland would be suicidal for me.

But this letter is not about me. I am writing to you because I fear that a tragedy is befalling Russia, with the restrictions on political and personal freedoms worsening every day. Having done away with the domestic opposition, Putin, on the eve of the G8 summit, has now decided to deal with the external “enemies”.

He has threatened to aim Russian missiles at targets in Europe once again, just like in the Cold War, and has warned of a nuclear arms race. It is now clear that the escalation of aggression by Kremlin is the direct result of the policy of appeasement pursued by Western leaders who, during the seven years of Putin’s rule, have turned a blind eye to his lynching of the opposition, the press, NGOs and all democratic institutions in Russia.

There has been no single example in history of a dictator who, sooner or later, did not become a danger to both his close and distant neighbours.

The goal is not the “revival of Russia” or the “revival of the national pride of the Russians”, as Putin and the Kremlin’s propaganda are trying to present it. It is a full-scale revenge by the secret services and the authoritarian regime with all their old methods and tricks.

Putin has shut all independent TV channels, introduced harsh censorship, blocked access to the press for the democratic opposition, accused Russian human rights activists and NGOs of being Western spies, and split up the country’s biggest oil company, Yukos, among his friends from the special services.

Encouraged by your non-resistance, Putin’s regime has become so strong and impudent that is now directly threatening its close neighbours, Poland and the Czech Republic, former colonies of the Soviet Union, trying to speak to them as if they were its vassals. In recent months, three ambassadors – Estonian, Swedish, and British – have been affected by the actions of extremist organisations controlled by the Kremlin.

And now events have taken a logical new turn: the Kremlin is threatening the West, by missile-rattling. The critical difference between this and the Soviet era lies in the fact that then you knew exactly which side of the barricades you stood on, when you provided moral support to the opponents of dictatorship. But nowadays due to the favourable situation in oil and gas markets, Putin has the resources to buy your indulgence and silence.

You even kept silent even when Putin signed a law authorising the murder of all Russia’s enemies abroad last summer. Anyone who dares to criticise Putin is put on the enemies’ list.

You have started to protest now that you have suddenly realised that it will not be too easy to get off the oil and gas hook Putin forced you to swallow. The Kremlin doesn’t give a damn about your words. The only thing it does give a damn about is your money.

The Kremlin, as it has already openly shown, will use brute force against peaceful demonstrators with the sole goal of preventing next year’s election from being held on a free and fair basis. Putin and his close supporters are planning to restore in Russia a clan-like dictatorship resembling the former Soviet Politburo. We are reaching the point of no return.

If, following the Heiligendamm summit, you continue to shake hands with Putin as if nothing has happened, you will further strengthen Putin’s feeling of complete impunity. Putin should be faced with a stark choice: either the Kremlin restores democratic freedoms, or Russia will be expelled from the G8 and other international clubs.

All free-thinking Russians are ashamed by what Putin is doing.

You must decide whether you want to sacrifice freedom in Russia on the altar of gas and oil.