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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs