TODAY: May 31st freedom to assemble rally broken up; Putin’s apparent support for right to protest scrutinized; as is recent exchange with anti-Kremlinite musician Yury Shevchuk. EU-Russia summit begins; Russia recruits human rights lawyers via internet; military prosecutors won’t re-open Katyn. Election monitors have mixed analysis of Georgia’s first post-war poll. Duma’s worst truants are billionaires; architectural struggles; new TV channel
200 people have been detained at a freedom of assembly protest rally which attracted more than 1,000 protesters. ‘People were thrown to the ground, beaten and shoved into police buses’. The violent quashing of the protest comes just days after Prime Mister Putin told musician and Kremlin-critic Yury Shevchuk that protests should be allowed to take place in the right conditions and protesters even thanked. The exchange between Putin and his democracy-advocating adversary ‘left observers intrigued as to why it was allowed to take place and then heavily publicised’. The New York Times is also inquisitive about the public nature of the verbal altercation, noting that the video has been published with transcripts in Russian and English on Mr Putin’s website. Putin’s press secretary, Dmitri Peskov, has apparently been quick to assert that Putin’s comments did not amount to allowing protests, for ‘he cannot allow anything, the local authorities do that. Putin said that everything should be in the framework of the law’. Yury Shevchuk, who is interviewed here on RFE/RL, has apparently said that Putin concurred with his assertion that public discontent is growing. Washington has also taken notice, sending a disapproving message condemning the detention of peaceful protesters.
Meanwhile President Medvedev has welcomed European Union leaders at an EU-Russia summit which, according to the Moscow Times, is unlikely to yield any significant policy results, but shows a nascent solidarity between the two parties particularly regarding plans to escape the financial crisis. Given that Russia is rarely out of the European Court of Human Rights these days, the country has reportedly resorted to seeking lawyers through an on-line tender to help them fend off a flood of complaints. Rights activists are apparently increasingly concerned about the treatment of conscripts in the army. Russia has condemned the use of force against civilians and Israel’s detention of the Freedom Flotilla. Chris Philips in the Guardian rebuffs the idea of a new cold war due to Russia’s strong ties with Syria, but argues that Russia and Turkey are simply asserting themselves where US presence has dissipated. Russia’s chief military prosecutor, Sergei Fridinsky, said he sees no legal reason to reopen an investigation into the Katyn massacre in 1940.
OSCE electoral monitors have noted ‘evident progress’ as well as ‘significant shortcomings’ in Georgia’s first election since the war with Russia. Georgia has apparently taken issue with Russia’s decision to start direct flights between Moscow and Sukhumi, the captial of Abkhazia, which Georgia views as occupied territory. The Kaliningrad conundrum: too much for the power vertical to hold down, wonders a Moscow Times op-ed.
Of the ‘parliamentary slackers’ whose absence from the Duma was captured on a youtube video, apparently the worst offenders are billionaires Sergei Pugachyov and Lyudmila Narusova, both of whom represent the republic of Tuva, and Suleiman Kerimov of Dagestan. The Public Chamber is the most recent body to lament Mayor Yury Luzhkov’s General Plan for building development in Moscow. The litigation-riddled fate of one of the capital’s architectural gems is discussed in the Moscow Times. ‘TV is dying, those Kremlin dudes have killed it‘ – why a new channel, Rain, believes it can change the face of Russian TV.
PHOTO: Police officers removing a man with a camera during a banned protest in Moscow on Monday, May 31, 2010. (Ivan Sekretarev / AP)