On August 14 President Dmitry Medvedev held a short meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in his Sochi residence, and its agenda was rather unusual in the long annals of Russo-German summits.
There is, however, another Russia-related issue that Merkel cannot ignore, and not only because of its high profile but also her personal commitment - human rights, and in particular the chain of murders of NGO activists in the North Caucasus.
August is an odd month in the Russian political calendar, littered with marker-dates that are a reminder about all sorts of past troubles, from the coup in 1991 to the financial meltdown in 1998, the Kursk tragedy in 2000 to the war with Georgia in 2008. Smiling for the photo-op in Sochi, Merkel was conscious of another date: it was on August 13, 1961 that the Berlin Wall was erected. This November, it will be 20 years since that ugly barrier was demolished by jubilant crowds, and Vladimir Putin remembers those days as a recurrent nightmare. Medvedev's feeble efforts at modernization look for his mentor and senior partner as experiments with reforms that could too easily get out of control, subsequently Russia is set to continue sinking into the crisis quagmire under his "manual steering."