The EU stays on the message that the emphasis on the rule of law is exactly a practical matter and not a continuation of sterile debates on values.
Public protests in various locations from Kaliningrad to Irkutsk typically gather only a few thousand participants, but the authorities dare not to suppress these rallies, and their nervous readiness to make concessions encourages new action.
Replacing governors and firing generals, Medvedev cannot recast himself as a tough leader, and his performance as ‘technical innovator’ or ‘people’s protector’ is also far from convincing. The only matter that really engages his interest, if not ardor, is reforming the legal system, so the emphasis placed by the European Union on cultivating partnership in the rule of law area connects with this personal priority. The problem is that Putin’s system of bureaucratic control is not compatible with independent courts or prosecution of corruption, but Medvedev would never go as far as dismantling this system seeking merely its ‘modernization’. Even Gorbachev is disappointed and admonishes that ‘fear is a poor counsel in politics’.