Russia's Medvedev plays 'good cop' on Pussy Riot
Russia's Dmitri Medvedev called for the release of three Pussy Riot members sentenced to two years in prison. Is he trying to distance himself from the decreasingly popular president?
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During his four year presidency Medvedev frequently expressed liberal positions, while taking care not to offend Putin. For example, he urged Russian law enforcement to reopen the cases of Anna Politkovskaya and other journalists who had been murdered in the line of work and he took the side of his human rights advisers in the controversial case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky by admitting that some official crimes had taken place leading to his still unsolved prison death.Skip to next paragraph
Fred Weir has been the Monitor's Moscow correspondent, covering Russia and the former Soviet Union, since 1998.
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Last month the two openly quarreled over which of them took the critical decisions after Georgia attacked the Russian protectorate of South Ossetia in August 2008, triggering a brief war that was won by Russia.
But most experts believe Medvedev is just trying to continue the "good cop, bad cop" routine he practiced with Putin during the four years of "tandem" leadership in which Medvedev was nominally president.
Most experts seem to agree that, despite talking a liberal game, Medvedev changed nothing of significance during his four years in the Kremlin and never once challenged Putin in any significant way.
"The tandem is destroyed now, and Medvedev is trying to find his new place in Putin's hierarchy of power," says Andrei Kolesnikov, opinion editor at the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
"He wants to play a role, but as prime minister he is showing himself to be completely helpless. As when he was president, he appears incapable of taking any key decision without a nod from Putin," he says.
"As for his views on Pussy Riot, it's too little, too late. No one can imagine that the Moscow appeals court will take Medvedev's view into account. It's just a statement entirely without consequences."
IN PICTURES: Russians vs. Putin