Activists’ efforts have been awarded with the staggering news that President Dmitry Medvedev has temporarily halted and ordered a review into the construction of a highway through the Khimki forest. But The Economist’s ‘Eastern approaches’ blog warns that it is too early to claim victory. This is a similar approach to RFE/RL’s wary report last week on the initial permission that was granted by Moscow authorities for a rock concert in Pushkin Square on August 22, which ended up with police confiscating instruments and detaining protesters. In other words, in Russia, those in power tend to change their minds. Regularly.
Mr Medvedev said he was ordering a review of the project in light of serious public disquiet (and a rare appeal from the ruling United Russia party), but warned he could not prejudge the outcome.
If the review does halt the destruction of the forest, that would be the time to celebrate. But as things stand Mr Medvedev’s gesture, though welcome, amounts to a concession rather than a U-turn. Nor are the signals the Kremlin is sending of late consistent. A court on Wednesday sentenced 70-year old veteran human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov to three days in prison for helping carry Russia’s national flag on the country’s own Flag Day last Sunday, alleging, preposterously, that he had ignored police warnings to stop conducting what they considered an “unauthorised march.”