Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mr Nice Guy

Today Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, held a very lengthy press conference at which he presented himself as a friend to all the world, championing democracy, free markets, Chechens, Poland, Georgia - the list goes on and on. AFP's correspondent notes that
He heralded the "freedom" enjoyed by Russians since the end of the Soviet Union. He vowed to "guarantee the independence of the press." He also promised to support non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as a "control on the activities of the state."

He even told an anecdote that involved joking "with my Chechen friends."

All this from a president under increasing Western attack for what critics see as his campaign to crush civil society and manipulate energy supplies as a weapon against pro-Western ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine.

Not to mention his record in curtailing independent television reporting or what human rights groups say are mass war crimes in Chechnya.

In the latest expression of Western disillusionment with Putin, the influential British think tank the Foreign Policy Centre questioned Tuesday whether Russia should have been allowed chairmanship this year of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized democracies, given mounting "authoritarianism."

But Putin, a judo black belt, used his three hours-and-26-minutes meeting with the press to throw his critics.

He flatly denied there was opposition to Russia's G8 role and promised investors spooked by growing state control of Russia's energy sector that renationalization was not on the cards.
(via chechnya-sl)
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