I’m in unfamiliar territory today with this one, but nonetheless, it has to be said: Vladimir Putin is right.  He’s entirely 100% right.  Not in finally giving the opposition some gain on the question of migalki (which is good news all the same, if the training can be carried out without people paying for their pass scores), but in calling out the hypocrisy of the Western press.  Speaking in France on the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the Prime Minister said:
Do you think the American diplomatic service is a crystal clear source of information? Do you think so?  If it is full democracy, then why have they hidden Mr. Assange in prison? That’s what, democracy?‘ (The Moscow Times has the quote). ‘So, you know, as they say in the countryside, some people’s cows can moo, but yours should keep quiet.

Russia deserves its reputation on free speech, of course.  But Putin’s point is that the US deserves that reputation too, at least to an extent.  Assange’s arrest is widely suspected to be based on charges trumped up for political reasons, given that the US government has been caught out recently by many of the diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks: the most embarrassing perhaps being the revelation that NATO had made secret pacts with Baltic states behind Russia’s back, which emerged just after some fervent mutual back-patting in Brussels (not because it reveals anything surprising about its view of Russia, but because it exposes NATO’s empty rhetoric).  But despite this, the US manages to avoid a bad reputation, at least in part thanks to the West’s preference for portraying other countries – Russia in particular – as one of the world’s Bad Guys.
The ingrained nature of this view was underscored again by something that Katia Zatuliveter’s father said this week (Zatuliveter is facing deportation charges, apparently for little more than being Russian and working for the UK government) when he called out the UK for behaving in a paranoid fashion: ‘This is 2010 not the 1960s. I was never in the Communist party as has been reported. All this is Russophobia.
Interesting to note, though, that Putin didn’t take the opportunity to mention Europe (the arrest was made in the UK at the request of the Swedish authorities).  Is the implication that these parties are obviously in cahoots with the US, or could Putin simply not resist the rare chance to take a valid swipe at his American friends?