The Putin Crackdown continues despite “Reset”

An editorial in the Washington Post:

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Dmitry Medvedev tried again on Friday to portray Russia as a “modernizing” country seeking better relations and more investment from the West. “The changes will take time but it will happen,” he declared in the annual economic forum his government puts on in St. Petersburg. “Russia understands the tasks ahead and is changing for itself and for the rest of the world.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Medvedev, that was not the only message out of St. Petersburg. Friday also brought the news that police had waylaid a truck on its way into the city and seized 100,000 copies of a new book written by two senior opposition figures about Vladimir Putin’s first 10 years in power. “Putin, The Results: 10 Years” by Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov, argues that the decade’s most notable legacy is a massive tide of corruption and lawlessness — a judgment seemingly confirmed by the truck’s hijacking.

To be sure, Mr. Medvedev appears committed to an economic strategy of moving Russia away from its dependence on exports of oil and minerals by attracting Western capital and technology. He will begin his visit to the United States next week in Silicon Valley, and he is trying to foster a Russian counterpart to it outside Moscow. In his speech Friday, he promised to reduce taxes and ease visa regulations for foreign investors, and to cut down on the number of Russian companies required to have state ownership. This would be a significant change of direction from much of the Putin era, during which the regime actively discouraged or even persecuted Western companies.

Still, Mr. Medvedev’s plans don’t appear to include any domestic political liberalization. The trend is toward less rather than more democracy; for example, large Russian cities have begun abolishing the direct election of mayors. Mayor has been the highest executive post for which there are still competitive elections. Russia’s ruling duo appears to have calculated that relations with the West can be improved, and the necessary economic inputs attracted, without any concessions to Western principles of freedom and human rights. Disabusing Mr. Medvedev of that notion ought to be a priority of the Obama administration when he arrives in Washington.

2 responses to “The Putin Crackdown continues despite “Reset”

  1. Actually I suggest that Putin’s crackdown continues because of the reset…..

    Russian Prosecutors Seek Jail Terms For ‘Forbidden Art’ Organizers

    June 22, 2010
    MOSCOW — Russian state prosecutors have asked for a three-year jail sentence for the organizers of a controversial art exhibition three years ago, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reports.

    The organizers of the 2007 “Forbidden Art” exhibit — former Sakharov Museum Director Yuri Samodurov and art historian Andrei Yerofeyev — are on trial on charges of “debasing the religious beliefs of citizens and inciting religious hatred.”

    Prosecutors made the request on June 21.

    The exhibition was comprised of art that had not been authorized for exhibition in Russia. Many of the works are a Soviet realist style and combined Soviet and religious iconography. A painting by American artist Vagrich Bakhchanyan shows a Soviet-era medal of Vladimir Lenin superimposed on a cross so as to give the impression that the Bolshevik leader was being crucified.

    Because the art being shown was considered to be shocking, the curators warned that the exhibition was not suitable for children under 16.

    Former world chess champion and opposition leader Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Ryzhkov, an economics professor in Moscow and former Duma deputy, testified in defense of the exhibition.

    “In this country, people are basically censored from saying their own opinion, in this case though art,” Kasparov told RFE/RL last month.

    “You can agree or disagree with artistic expression, but it is glaringly apparent that this discussion is not about antireligious propaganda or the agitation of religious followers.”

    “Forbidden Art” was to be part of a yearly cycle of shows organized by the Sakharov Museum and focused on analyzing and debating censorship of culture and art. But they were discontinued after the controversy triggered by the 2007 exhibit.

  2. This is how they want to “modernize” russia:

    BBC News: Russia Federal Security Service bill sparks opposition
    Today at 09:48 Richard Galpin writes: The Russian government is pushing a bill through parliament that critics say would give the country’s main intelligence agency, the FSB, powers similar to those once held by its Soviet predecessor, the KGB. Read the story here.

    Read more:

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