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Medvedev Has Big Promises to Fulfill

The Financial Times has an opinion article up urging the West to seize the Medvedev moment and begin new discussions. They also call upon him to fulfill his promises to restore rule of law and release political prisoners such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky:

A lawyer, he has pledged to promote the rule of law. That promise should be welcome to the many Russians who suffer daily from abuses of power, including corruption and judicial malpractice. Not the least among them is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed oil baron, who was imprisoned on politically motivated fraud charges and now faces new allegations. Mr Medvedev must show that by upholding the rule of law he means to strengthen the rights of citizens and not simply to reinforce the rights of an over-mighty state, as Mr Putin has done.


From the FT:

Seize the moment, talk to MedvedevDmitry Medvedev was due on Wednesday to be inaugurated as Russia’s president in succession to Vladimir Putin, who will become prime minister. For the first time in Russia’s turbulent history, a leader in good health is peacefully handing over the keys of the Kremlin to a legally approved successor.The symbolism should not hide the political reality – Mr Putin will remain Russia’s real ruler for some time to come. And the ex-KGB men he promoted will stay close to the seat of power.However, if Mr Medvedev plays his cards well he may succeed in accumulating authority, given signs that Mr Putin may eventually wish to retire and that power in Russia gravitates around the Kremlin.While both men have put continuity high on the agenda, they have also cast the new presidency as an opportunity for a change of emphasis. The argument is not without foundation – Mr Medvedev is the first leader since 1917 to come from outside the Communist party.A lawyer, he has pledged to promote the rule of law. That promise should be welcome to the many Russians who suffer daily from abuses of power, including corruption and judicial malpractice. Not the least among them is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed oil baron, who was imprisoned on politically motivated fraud charges and now faces new allegations. Mr Medvedev must show that by upholding the rule of law he means to strengthen the rights of citizens and not simply to reinforce the rights of an over-mighty state, as Mr Putin has done.Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev also seem to want to ease tensions with the west. Mr Putin has made efforts to settle disputes, including with the US over missile defence and with the European Union over Poland’s meat trade. The west should make the most of the opportunity – co-operation with Russia is important on issues including energy, global terrorism, the Middle East and Iran.But western leaders should not be naive. What Russia does matters more than what Russia says. Even as it is making semi-friendly overtures to the west, it is protesting against Nato enlargement and raising pressure on Georgia, by increasing its troops in breakaway Abkhazia. The rhetoric in Moscow and Tbilisi is alarming. While both states claim they do not want war, the danger of blundering into one is growing.The west must be firm – the sovereignty of the ex-Soviet Union states must be upheld, like the sovereignty of countries elsewhere. Mr Medvedev must show that, as a lawyer, he has as much respect for international as for domestic law.