News / Europe

Ahead of Huge Moscow Protest, Medvedev Offers Reform

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev makes his annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin in Moscow December 22, 2011.
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev makes his annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin in Moscow December 22, 2011.
James Brooke

Russia’s biggest protest yet is expected this weekend in Moscow. With an ear to Russia’s discontent on the street, President Dmitry Medvedev has unveiled changes to widen democracy in Russia.

In his last state-of-the-nation speech as president, Medvedev promised direct elections for governors, a politically independent state-run TV channel, and drastically eased rules for the registration of new political parties and presidential candidates.

No new genuine opposition party has been allowed in Russia since now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was elected president in 2000.

An aide said legislation would be submitted within days to Russia’s Kremlin-controlled parliament, the Duma. He predicted it would be passed into law within the six months remaining in President Medvedev’s term.

Speaking as Prime Minister Putin sat impassively in the front row of a red carpet and gold-leaf hall in the Kremlin, Russia’s president extended an olive branch to Russia’s restive middle class.

Medvedev said he hears those who talk about the need for change and understands them.

The new Duma speaker of parliament, Sergei Naryshkin, said later the measures were not being taken in response to the street protests. But twice in the last year, Russia’s president told reporters that direct elections for governor were more than a decade away.

Opposition leaders responded that the reform package was a last-minute attempt to curtail public protest by a president whose term is coming to an end.

Almost 50,000 people have indicated on a Facebook page that they will attend a mass rally scheduled Saturday in Moscow.

An independent journalist who spoke two weeks ago at the last major rally, Oleg Kashin, responded Thursday by tweeting on the Internet, "Medvedev's address is like an injection in an artificial limb."

In response to the speech, the Party of People’s Freedom, a major protest organizer, updated its demands.

They ask for the firing of Vladimir Churov, head of the Central Election Commission. Opposition figures say widespread fraud in the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections raised the ruling party’s return from one-third of the vote to one-half.

The new parliament had its first session on Wednesday, but protest leaders say it should be seen as a transitional Duma and new parliamentary elections should be held next year.

The key new demand is to postpone presidential elections for two months to allow a real opposition candidate to run against Vladimir Putin.

Driving Russia’s protest movement is the knowledge there is a narrow window to prevent Putin’s election to a six-year presidential term. Presidential elections are to be held March 4.

In this political chess game, Putin also made a key move.

He named Sergei Ivanov, a close ally and longtime friend from their days together as KGB officers, to be the new presidential chief of staff. Political analysts see this as Putin’s move to take early and direct control of the Kremlin apparatus prior to the presidential elections.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid