Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has instructed his administration to re-work a controversial bill broadening the definition of treason and espionage to assure that it doesn't violate human rights.
The legislation, which human rights activists and legal experts say would effectively criminalize dissent, was originally drafted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's government.
And it appears that some in the Russian media saw this one coming. Here's a little nugget from a recent report by Vladimir Ukhov in the weekly "Novaya vremya."
And sure enough, it was Surkov who announced the Kremlin's intention to revise the bill, saying Medvedev was swayed by fierce criticism it received:
Medvedev had earlier criticized Putin's government for not moving fast enough to enact measures to combat the economic crisis.
On the same day the Kremlin torpedoed the espionage legislation, the prime minister's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov downplayed speculation about a rift in an interview with Golos Rossii. In response to a question about whether Medvedev's criticism of Putin's government for its handling of the economic crisis signaled a split in the ruling diarchy, Peskov had this to say:
As I have written here, Russia's de jure head of state Medvedev and its de facto ruler Putin appear to have significant differences about how to handle the economic crisis. It is probably much too soon to tell whether Medvedev's move on the espionage legislation points to a significant split over civil liberties issues as well.
Robert Amsterdam's blog, I believe, asks the pertinent question: "Are these disagreements that indicate some stronger clash of policy, or PR moves that look like disagreements?"
-- Brian Whitmore