TODAY: Amnesty International appeals to Medvedev for a “sea-change”; NGO head smuggling case overturned, Prosecutor General promises to remedy the thousands of wrongful charges made each year; McCain vows to work more closely with Russia; Moscow continues to deny involvement with Georgia. Putin appointed prime minister of Russia-Belarus alliance. Amnesty International is calling on governments worldwide to recommit themselves to observing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their new report highlights a rise in race-hate attacks in Russia, the authorities’ increasing intolerance of dissent, and ongoing human rights violations in the North Caucasus. And a special memorandum to Dmitry Medvedev said “Amnesty International looks to you as the president of Russia to initiate a sea-change in direction in terms of freedom of expression”. The head of a US-funded NGO charged with smuggling in Russia has had her case overturned because “the anti-smuggling law under which she had been charged was so vaguely worded as to be unconstitutional.” The Prosecutor General said that thousands of people are wrongly charged every year, due in part to an overreliance on witness testimony rather than hard evidence, and has “promised measures to remedy the situation”.
“Up until now, Russia’s leaders have been blinded by a naive euphoria regarding their self-proclaimed economic miracle […] But WTO membership in the near future will only exacerbate Russia’s existing problems.”Senator John McCain has vowed to work more closely with Russia on nuclear disarmament and to move toward the elimination of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. “Russia and the United States are no longer mortal enemies,” he said. A change of tune…?Georgia’s Foreign Ministry demanded that Russia apologize after a UN report said a Russian Air Force jet had shot down a Georgian spy plane last month, but Moscow continues to deny involvement. The Russian military intends to take “asymmetrical” countermeasures in response to the planned US missile-defense shield.“The former KGB thugs who now control the country are stomping Russia’s last historical chance into the dirt. They are doing everything to show the world that Russia is led not by civilized, respected leaders, but by a street gang”.The Guardian’s Moscow diary today includes Boris Gryzlov, birth rates and Belarus. The US is concerned about a new sign of deepening ties between Belarus and Russia – Vladimir Putin has just been appointed prime minister of the Russia-Belarus alliance.PHOTO: A man looks at art works at the Moscow Fine Art Fair May 27, 2008. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA)