Medvedev reaches out to UK as Pussy Riot trial begins

By
Dmitry Medvedev is in UK for Olympic Games
Dmitry Medvedev is in UK for Olympic Games

Britain and Russia have "overcome" their differences, Dmitry Medvedev has claimed, amid growing tensions over the fate of Syria - and a Russian punk group.

Pussy Riot's three female band members, two of them young mothers, are on trial from today after singing dissenting lyrics on the altar of Moscow's Christ The Saviour cathedral in March.

Their call for the Virgin Mary to intervene against president Vladimir Putin has resulted in them locked up ever since. Observers are viewing the case as a test of Putin's tolerance for dissent in his third term in the Kremlin.

Russian prime minister Medvedev told the Times newspaper that using sacred places for demonstrations would result in harsher treatment in other countries, but acknowledged that the women and their families had faced an ordeal behind bars.


He used the interview to argue that the UK's relations with Russia have improved since the final years of the New Labour government, when the suspected murder of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko soured diplomacy in 2006.

"We have had periods of tension," Medvedev, who is in London for the Olympic Games, said.

"But this has happened before and we've found a way to overcome them. A lot in the world depends on Anglo-Russian relations."

Britain and other western countries are frustrated by Moscow's refusal to put more pressure on Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria, however.

As the fight between rebel and regime forces for the Syria's second city of Aleppo intensifies, Medvedev sought to dispel the impression that Russia's close alliance with Syria is behind its attempts to protect Assad.

"Despite differences in emphasis, the positions of Russia, the US and Britain are not as sharply different as sometimes suggested," Medvedev added.

"We all start from the position that the worst outcome would be a full civil war in Syria."

Russian diplomats argue that western nations lose all credibility by backing one side so openly. This has backed Damascus into a corner, they claim. Better results could be achieved if Britain and other countries are prepared to talk to Damascus and rebels evenly.

The Foreign Office is waging diplomatic war against Assad, however, as reports of massacres, torture atrocities conducted by Syrian government forces continue to emerge.

Medevev added: "Our partners are urging us to support more decisive action. But then the question arises: where do resolutions end and military actions begin?"

Moscow is thought to be deeply suspicious that western diplomatic pressure could be quickly converted into calls for direct military intervention, as occurred in Libya.

Comments

Load in comments