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Patience Runs Thin for Medvedev’s Rule of Law

Shaun Walker of the Independent is not impressed by President Dmitry Medvedev’s statements about rule of law and the murder of Natalia Estemirova.  From Russia Profile:

Indeed, all that has changed, it would seem, since Medvedev has come into power, is the surface rhetoric. Instead of being told that the victim was inconsequential, we’re now told that she was very important and that the president sends his condolences. But this doesn’t stop the president from ruling out one of the most likely culprits before the investigation has even started, and we can be pretty certain that whoever really ordered the murder of Estemirova will never be brought to justice.

As a footnote to all of this, it also came out last week that Shalva Chigirinsky, the businessman whose empire has dissolved around him since the financial crisis hit, has filed a statement saying that a 50-percent stake was secretly held in his company by Elena Baturina, development magnate and wife of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Chigirinsky said he had gone into partnership with Baturina to get ahead in construction projects because “no major projects can proceed in the city without her backing.” Baturina, of course, denies all the claims, but what is interesting is the forum in which they are being aired – London’s High Court. As so often, it is the London courts where juicy details about the backroom deals between Russian oligarchs come out – the idea of anyone being able to file similar claims in a Moscow courtroom is simply unthinkable.

This kind of case, plus the Mikhail Khodorkovsky trial, plus the general fragility of the court system and supreme vulnerability of judges to administrative pressure from above, suggests that Medvedev has a lot of work to do to improve the legal situation here. But his comments in response to the murder of Estemirova hint at the fact that he is not genuine in his desire to do so.