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Amnesty: Medvedev's promises of reform rarely materialize in Russia

A new report from Amnesty International shows little improvement in Russia's human and civil rights record, despite promises from President Dmitry Medvedev.

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Another Medvedev pledge was to investigate a string of murders and beatings of independent journalists and human rights monitors including the 2006 assassination of investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, the brutal 2009 slaying of Chechen human rights activist Natalya Estemirova, and last year's vicious beating of Oleg Kashin, a journalist with the Moscow daily Kommersant.

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Amnesty said journalists, ecological activists, members of the political opposition, and human rights defenders all faced harassment, intimidation, and attacks over the past year. "The authorities continued to send out mixed messages on freedom of expression. They promised greater respect and protection for journalists and civil society activists, while at the same time launching, or failing to curb, smear campaigns against prominent government critics."

Last summer, as public protests peaked over plans sponsored by Mr. Putin to build a highway through the Khimki Forest, an old-growth woodland that's part of the green belt around Moscow, Medvedev intervened personally to suspend the project and order a full environmental review.

At the time it seemed as though local ecological activists, who had suffered scores of arrests and beatings at the hands of police, might have won their three-year fight to save the forest from destruction. But after a few month's hiatus, the road-building project resumed.

Yevgenia Chirikova, head of the Defenders of the Khimki Forest, says that arrests and police violence against protesters are routinely deployed against protesters whenever they attempt to rally peacefully near the construction site.

"No, I don't see any changes for the better," Ms. Chirikova said by phone Friday. "Our rights are being trampled, and Dmitry Anatoyevich [Medvedev] remains silent about it."

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