The Inaction of Mr. Medvedev

An editorial in The New York Times focuses on President Dmitry Medvedev’s increasingly visible silence on human rights issues such as the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky:

Nor has he reacted to the farcical new charges against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, the former top officers of the dismembered Yukos oil company who were arrested in 2003.

The charges then were tax evasion; now they have been expanded to the theft of Yukos’s entire oil production. If the first trials at least could have been explained as a political reckoning for a powerful and ambitious oligarch, the new ones are show, intended only to keep Mr. Khodorkovsky and his colleague in prison forever. “Power: carry out your laws,” Mr. Khodorkovsky demanded at the start of the trial.

If Mr. Medvedev really abhors “legal nihilism,” he must see thatthis is a fateful moment. The oil boom that greased Mr. Putin’spopularity and power — and blunted domestic criticism to his tramplingof the law — is over. Things are likely to get far worse, and Russianswho are testy now will get angry. That will create even more fertileconditions for the strong men around Mr. Putin to further tighten thescrews.

It is tough and dangerous for the young president to buck his mentorand take on this bunch. But he is the democratically elected president.A stand for the rule of law would not only give Mr. Medvedevcredibility in the West, but it could reinvigorate the demoralizedranks of Russians who still yearn for democracy.