The dark side of the EU-Russia mutual relations

The influence of a single party known as “United Russia” is great and overwhelming in Russia. It is seriously criticized for week and fragmented opposition. However, seems that the opposition on the 13th of December, 2010 got united under its new name “People’s freedom party”. Its main goal is to struggle against corruption. Four opposition leaders – V.Ryzhkov, B.Nemtsov, M.Kasianov, V.Milov soon will decide upon the candidate who will participate in presidential elections in Russia in 2012.  The fact of opposition strengthening is a good fact, however, there was an incident with Nemtsov coalition called “Solidarnost” that received money from the USA. Nemtsov sent the money back in order not to be compromised. Professor of American University in Washington, A.Lihtman outlines that such transfers are equal to political death. That is the way to make someone be criminal, to discredit him. But as we can see from this history with Nemtsov, it is clear that he is wanted to cross up, giving him this foreign money (A.Lihtman’s interview, 2010). It is absolutely evident that it is difficult for opposition to survive. As a result, tradition of a strong party seems is in DNA of Russia. However, there were several dissenters marches in Moscow, St.Petersburg, Samara and Chelyabinsk in 2006-2007. For 3 years no marches had been organized anymore, this could be linked to the fact that Medvedev became a new president and citizens became more relaxed. Anyway, the authorities can still put down pretty much any demonstration if they choose.

Russian TV channels, mostly state owned, is another acute problem of Russian society. Indeed, Russian elite which is very small and narrow is trying to control information and TV in  Russia. Speech by a prominent journalist Leonid Parfenov on the ceremony of Vladislav Listyev prize in November, 2010 proves that: “It is clear that Russia is using internet mostly where it is possible to sort out information, while TV is fully pro-governmental. What is made by journalists  – summits of the president and the prime-minister, but it reminds us of the USSR. Nothing has changed” (Parfenov speech, 2010). Afterwards, Parfenov, a journalist №1 in Russia, was seriously blamed by other Russian journalists, they even laughed at his arms shaking etc. I’d like to turn also to the recent events happened with O.Kashin, a famous journalist of the “Kommersant” magazine who was seriously beaten in the yard of his house in Moscow. Kashin was writing a lot on the reform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (its upcoming rename into Police), on opponents’ meetings on the Triumphal square, authorities shift in Kaliningrad, death rate plummet in Moscow in summer 2010.  Being too “talkative” he was severely beaten with a rod. How did authorities react? For example, Russian high official, Chair of ROSmolodezh (Russian youth organization) and co-chair of “Transneft”  Vasily Yakimenko wrote in his blog: “Kashin is a zombie, an invisible man, lizard and yogi”. Kashin’s finger was almost torn off, in hospital medicals made everything they could in order to get it back to normal, and V.Yakimenko claimed Kashin to be a lizard?  Such high official blaming of a seriously beaten person is absolutely inhuman and unethical. This provoked a burst of indignation in Russian internet. The next week Yakimenko was reporting to Putin – Russian prime-minister didn’t say a word what also provoked certain disputes (Vlast, 2010; Internazionale, 2010). Meanwhile, Russian President Medvedev was blogging that the criminals will be found and convicted (Medvedev’s blog, 2010). Other eminent Russian officials also condemned case with Kashin –  N.Svanidze, a journalist, member of the Public Chamber; M.Gaidar, deputy prime-minister in Kirovskaya oblast; M.Fedotov, chair of the Council on civil society institutions and human rights development; V.Ryazanskyi, first deputy leader of the “United Russia”; M.Boyarsky, prominent Russia actor.

Another prominent example of a freedom of speech controlled by authorities happened with a governor of Tverskaya oblast, Mikhail Zelenin who wrote in his blog in Twitter: “Such happens in the Aleksandrovsky hall. Together with beef they served salad with a rainworm alive!”. In several hours the post disappeared, and President’s assistant in international relations Sergey Prihodko reprimanded a serious warning and called for Zelenin’s resignation. Such things can’t happen in the Kremlin Prihodko argued. (Vlast, 2010) But Medvedev greeted Zelenin with his upcoming birthday and joked  on the rainworm again in his blog (Medvedev’s blog, 2010).

Conclusion

In my opinion, the EU-Russia common goals such as economics, energy, sustainability buy a certain amount of goodwill, but to focus on economics and forget about security makes no sense at all. It is important to continue not to treat each other as a threat. Moreover, the EU wants Russia to become active, responsible, sustainable power in world affairs. The hope is that in years to come Russia will grow to be more democratic and the “Untied Russia” would stop using censor and force. But as R.Armitage, deputy secretary of state under George Bush claimed: “The hope is not a policy”.

Good solution will be also to try to do as much business as they can through multinational forums like G20 and the UN. Bilateral dealings are easier and less time-consuming but they are opaque and leave the rest of the world wondering what is going on.

The future, like the story, what we make it.

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