The judo diplomacy: Putin backs down on Pussy Riot

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Hard man: The Russian president cultivates a tough image in Russia.
Har man: The Russian president cultivates a tough image in Russia.d

David Cameron appeared to score a minor victory in his talks with Vladimir Putin yesterday, after the Russian president urged the courts to treat punk group Pussy Riot leniently.

The all-girl group are currently facing prison sentences of up to seven years after a protest at the Orthodox Church's support for Putin.

"There is nothing good in this," Putin said of the protest after watching judo with Cameron.

"Nonetheless, I don't think that they should be judged so harshly.


"I hope the court will come out with the right decision, a well-founded one."

The comments raise obvious questions about the independence of the judiciary in the face of the president's interference, but it will come as a welcome sigh to the band's supporters that the three women may not face severe jail terms if they are found guilty.

But the Olympic-based diplomacy was less successful when it addressed Syria.

Despite a rising death toll and the resignation of peace envoy Kofi Annan, Putin would not budge from his position on the conflict.
Interfax news agency reported three Russian warships with marines and amphibious vehicles on board plan to dock in Tartus in Syria in the next few days, raising concerns about

Russia handing more military hardware to the Assad regime while it holds off action at the international level.

Cameron and Putin still seemed frosty towards each other yesterday, despite the prime minister's efforts to use the president's love of judo as an excuse to establish stronger relations.

After talks in Downing Street – for which Putin was uncharacteristically prompt – the two men travelled to the ExCel centre in separate cars before watching the finals. They were joined by foreign secretary William Hague, who is also a judo fan.

Cameron was forced to refer to the Russian president for the rules of the games as he watched British athlete Gemma Gibson lose the final to American Kayla Harrison. Russian Tagir Khaibulaev won the men's 100kg final with an 'ippon' – judo's equivalent to a knockout.

Afterwards, Cameron left the stadium while a clearly-delighted Putin embraced the Russian athletes for a photo opportunity.

 


 

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