Medvedev is not Gorbachev Yet

From the Financial Times article on the parole granted to former Yukos lawyer and political prisoner Svetlana Bakhmina:

But analysts and opposition politicians cautioned that the steps looked like little more than gestures and said they were likely agreed first with Mr Putin, who has retained power as prime minister. “It is too early to speak of a change in policy,” said Vladimir Ryzhkov, a former independent MP.

“The release of Ms Bakhmina does not make Medvedev a new Gorbachev,” said Lilia Shevtsova, a senior associate at Moscow’s Carnegie Centre, adding that the Soviet Union’s last leader had already freed the media under glasnost and released political prisoner Andrei Sakharov by the end of his first year in power. “What we have are just gestures are an attempt by the regime to find a softer more flexible form of preserving power.”

“The regime is like a chameleon. It sheds its skin or changes its hat. But we have not seen a thaw.”

Ms Shevtsova said the economic crisis looked to be forcing the Russian elite to soften the hardline it had taken towards the west and to the opposition under Mr Putin’s rule when soaring oil prices had helped fill Russian coffers. But she added key tests for real change would come in the new trial against Mr Khodorkovsky, which is currently being heard in Moscow, that could keep the fallen oligarch in jail for another 22 years, or whether Mr Medvedev allowed opposition politicians on state-controlled television.