On a recent visit to Estonia, Lev Ponomaryov, currently the most prominent oppposition figure in Russia, gave his personal observations on the situation and develpoments in his home country.
In spite of the fact that indicators from Russia seem to point to possible genuine changes in the way Russia is governed, Ponomaryov is very skeptical about their actuality. He says that Dmitri Medvedev may possibly have a western orientation, however it’s more likely that he’s motivated by the geopolitical aspects of Russia’s policies. Picture this, Ponomaryov states, that every night Vladmiri Putin discusses current affairs with Medvedev. From this, evolves the next “good cop-bad cop” scenario and how they’ll stage their respective roles.
Invariably it’s been Medvedev that has adopted a positive stance (at least from a Western perspective) on issues that lack governmental consensus. Witness Medvedev’s recent order to reveal all documents pertaing to the NKVD massacre of Poles in the Katyn forst, the housecleaning of Moscow’s corrupt mayor, Yury Lushkov, and his administration, the push to make the state investigative committee fully independent of other agencies and the government. These and other initiatives, wide publicized by Russian and the Western press have been touted as authentic signs that Russia is changing its course towards democratization, administrative openess and respect for human rights.
Not so fast states Ponomaryov! The chief impetus for those at the top of the power structure is TO STAY IN POWER! Within this context, Medvedev is quietly building his own political platform, hiring people who have the same political orientation, people who have made a defnite ideological choice to align with Medvedev. But the situation is not this simple.
An increasing number of Medevedev’s political elite are urging him to run for the presidency once again (contrary to the predicted scenario in which Putin had to vacate the presidential throne for one constitutionally mandated year and leave it to Medevedev as only a temporay caretaker). The “good cop-bad cop” is thus spoiled and the possibility of a liberal democratic prototype forming is apparent. There is some visible movement in the area, but it’s very slow. A realistic multi-party system could be a sure step in the right direction, but in the current atmosphere impossible.
Holding on to power at any cost is the force behind resistance to fundamnetal change. Ponomaryov stresses that ultimate power is fully corrupting and is corrupt. Those holding power fear prosecution, and immunity from this cannot be guaranteed. Power also provides privileges and a lifestyle that nobody wants to lose.
Ponomaryov says that the state is in essence under the control of the FSB, the special services. Upon the arrival of Putin, ex-KGB and FSB personnel were placed in vital positions of control, federally and locally. Individual freedoms and rights were systematically eroded.
When Medvedev became president. It was expected that a definite liberalization would take place. In fact it became worse. Only the rhetoric was liberal. Let’s be reminded, Ponomaryov said, that just recently new legislation was adopted which allows the FSB to harass anyone, anywhere at will without being held accountable. This law was undersigned by Medvedev.
(Lev Ponomaryov, a physicist by training, is a Russian politician and human rights activist, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, head of the organization For Human Rights, former member of the State Duma. He has been arrested numerous times for his outspokeness and for organizing pro-human rights demonstrations.)
Ponomaryov: Medevedev and Putin are “good cop-bad cop” stereotypes