Putin Sends Overtures With Release Of Prisoners, But Holds Firm On Syria

Ben Judah and Gerald Knaus of Reuters say the release of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is evidence that pressure imposed by the international community can influence the regime of Vladimir Putin.

“Pressure works. Which is why we need even more of it to roll back Putin’s authoritarianism and dissuade the Kremlin from a new round of arrests and show trials once the Olympic flame has left Russia.

This is why the EU needs to develop a forward-looking policy of denying entry and visa to Russian human rights violators. This would penalize criminal elements of the Russian elite, which seems to have parked everything it values in Western Europe. To make such a policy work in Europe’s jumble of institutions, member states could sponsor an independent commission of senior former judges, who would make annual recommendations to the European Council on who should be barred from entry. The council has the power to decide who may or may not enter its territory — so no new legislation is needed.”

Khodorkovsky has left Russia for Germany, according to BBC News.

Marie Jego writes in Worldcrunch that Putin’s decision to free a political rival may have more to do with easing tensions before the Sochi Olympics – and his own legacy – than anything else.

“The news Thursday that Putin would release from prison some of his best-known nemeses, including former billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky and members of the music protest group Pussy Riot, was widely seen as an attempt to remove any obstacles from the Games in Sochi becoming his crowning achievement,” she writes.

Russia Continues To Obstruct Strong Action Against Syria
The limits of international pressure surely will be tested on Friday when officials from Russia, the United States and the United Nations meet to discuss final preparations for talks on the Syrian crisis. The decision by Russia to block a US-drafted UN Security Council statement condemning the Syria’s recent attacks on the town of Aleppo are an early indication that the pressure is quite limited.

Earlier in the week, however, the U.N. General Assembly signed off on a resolution condemning “widespread and systematic gross violations” by Syrian authorities and expressing “grave concern at the spread of extremism and extremist groups” in Syria.

Doubts about the potential for success of the talks grew as leaders of Syria’s opposition party expressed concern over recent statements by US officials that the departure of President Bashir al-Assad cannot be guaranteed.

“The message we got was that there could be no guarantees. The U.S. said they want Assad out, but it’s really got to be in the hands of the Syrian people,” a unnamed coalition member told Reuters news.







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