Latest activities of group Vladimir Putin Opens Its Doors to Russia2011-12-15T10:16:45Z<p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="float: left; margin: 5px 13px;" title="Russia enters WTO" src="" alt="Russia enters WTO" width="300" height="170" />After 18 years of negotiations, the initial bid by Boris Yeltsin for Russia&rsquo;s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1993 has finally paid off. The long-lasting negotiations hold the current organization&rsquo;s record for the longest negotiation period, even after China&rsquo;s record of its 15 year-long accession talks came to an end in 2001.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">During his years in power both as President and Prime Minister, Vladmir Putin displayed continuous scepticism and forced the country to adopt a nonchalant approach with regards to the country's potential adhesion to WTO. In 2008, a different approach was initiated by Dmitri Medvedev, the current President of the Russian Federation. Medvedev took a step forward by considering Russia&rsquo;s accession to WTO as a political priority in the government&rsquo;s foreign policy agenda, despite Putin's continuous skepticism towards Russia's accession to WTO.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The negotiations have encountered many hurdles along the way. In Russia, the automobile industry opposed the adhesion of the country to the organization. The dissent from the assembly industry is due to the fear of increased foreign competition and increase in assembly costs due to the rise in the cost of labour. Negotiations stalled as Georgia threatened to use its veto to oppose Russia's accession following disagreements on borders and border checkpoints.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Russia&rsquo;s accession is an important symbolic step for the country. In terms of economic dimensions, for some, Russian&rsquo;s accession to WTO will define a more transparent and predictable environment for trade with foreign partners. For Russia, this can also be seen as an opportunity to build a more diversified economy away from its current dependency on natural gas resources. However, Russia's accession to the WTO is unlikely &nbsp;to solve the current political problems and corruption undermining the country's domestic political arena.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">The protocol of Russia&rsquo;s accession to the WTO is expected to signed on December 16th in Geneva during the Ministerial Conference of the WTO (December 15th-17th).&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Important questions remain following the country's accession to WTO, notably, on how Russia will use its position with the organization for political purposes? How it wants to be perceived within the WTO? How will Russia's accession change the country's political and economic relations with the United States?</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">(Photo &copy; DR)</p>Russia's Snow Revolution2011-12-12T13:47:39Z<p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="vertical-align: top; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; margin-left: 40px; margin-right: 40px;" title="russia protests" src="" alt="russia protests" width="600" height="337" />After 40,000 Russians faced freezing temperatures and snow to protest on Saturday, President Dmitry Medvedev called for a probe into election fraud, which demonstrators allege took place during December's parliamentary elections.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Despite Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin&rsquo;s <a rel="nofollow" href="../view/414/">hostile language</a> and veiled threats in reference to the protests on Thursday, state television ran footage of the rally and police didn&rsquo;t make any arrests - a marked change from just a few days before when Putin seemed set on crushing the opposition. &ldquo;We are required to protect our sovereignty,&rdquo; he said earlier in the week, according to the Associated Press (AP). &ldquo;We need to think about strengthening the law and holding more responsible those who carry out the aims of a foreign government by influencing our internal political process.&rdquo;</p> <p>One protestor who has received international attention for his work is, a 35-year-old lawyer who had, until his arrest on December 5th, been blogging about corruption at&nbsp;the Kremlin. While protestors chanted, &ldquo;Putin must go,&rdquo; they cheered loudly for Navalny, who although he was in jail, wrote a statement that was shared on Saturday and posted on his blog at <a rel="nofollow" href=""></a>. &ldquo;You cannot beat up and arrest hundreds of thousands or millions,&rdquo; Navalny said. &ldquo;We are not cattle or slaves. We have a voice and we have the strength to defend it.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;"><img style="float: left; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="Alexei Navalny" src="" alt="Alexei Navalny" width="320" height="221" />During an interview with Reuters in May, Navalny said he&rsquo;d like to be president, "But there are no elections in Russia."</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Even Hillary Clinton mentioned Navalny in a speech at a conference on internet freedom at The Hague (December 8). &ldquo;This is an urgent task,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It is most urgent, of course, for those around the world whose words are now censored, who are imprisoned because of what they or others have written online, who are blocked from accessing entire categories of internet content, or who are being tracked by governments seeking to keep them from connecting with one another&hellip; Perhaps the most well known blogger in Russia, Alexei Navalny, was sentenced (December 8) to 15 days in jail after he took part in protests over the Russian elections.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">Putin has already <a rel="nofollow" href="../view/414/">blamed Clinton</a> for stoking the opposition, saying she &ldquo;set the tone for some opposition activists,&rdquo; and &ldquo;gave them a signal,&rdquo; according to AP. He also warned that anyone working for foreign governments to influence Russian politics would be held to account.</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">In a U.S. State Department briefing, Deputy Spokesperson Mark C. Toner made it clear that the U.S. did not &ldquo;give a signal,&rdquo; as Putin said, to the Russian people to rise up against the government. &ldquo;Nothing could be further from the truth,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;In terms of signalling, we&rsquo;ve stood up, as we have elsewhere in the world, and continue to stand for the right of people to peacefully express their views and their democratic aspirations, and we&rsquo;re going to continue to do so.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: justify;">(Photo &copy; &nbsp;AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko and Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters)</p>Putin's Power Play2011-12-12T10:11:34Z<p><img style="vertical-align: top;" src="/s3/photos%2F2011%2F12%2Fecd89f7a26073224.jpg" alt="Vladimir Putin" width="595" height="334" /></p> <p>Russian protestors took to the streets in Moscow over the past three days in Arab Spring-like protests alleging election fraud in Russia&rsquo;s parliamentary elections, which took place on Sunday. But instead of Russia&rsquo;s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin listening to his people's concerns over vote-rigging, Putin is blaming US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for stoking the opposition.</p> <p>Putin said Clinton &ldquo;set the tone for some opposition activists,&rdquo; and &ldquo;gave them a signal,&rdquo; according to the Associated Press (AP). He also warned that anyone working for foreign governments to influence Russian politics would be held to account.</p> <p>Russia's independent election monitoring group, Golos, which is funded by the US and the EU, has received 5,300 allegations of electoral violations. Subsequently, its website was hacked and the head of the organization was detained for several hours. Prosecutors fined Golos 30,000 roubles, or $958, for violations of the electoral law.</p> <p>Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) also said there had been &ldquo;severe problems with the counting process&rdquo; after the vote, citing the stuffing of ballot boxes.</p> <p>Putin even referenced the government overthrows in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, in what seemed like a veiled threat to crack down on the protests.</p> <p>Putin&rsquo;s remarks come one day after he officially registered his candidacy for the presidential elections in March, which has led observers to wonder whether defying the US is his way of winning over some voters.</p> <p>Clinton responded to Putin&rsquo;s remarks after talks between NATO allies and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brussels, saying her concerns were &ldquo;well-founded&rdquo;.</p> <p>Voter fraud or no voter fraud, it seems clear that Putin&rsquo;s United Russia party is losing its luster with the Russian people. Official election results show that Putin&rsquo;s party received 50% of the vote, down from 64% four years ago.</p> <p>Putin seems to be set on crushing the opposition. &ldquo;We are required to protect our sovereignty,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We need to think about strengthening the law and holding more responsible those who carry out the aims of a foreign government by influencing our internal political process,&rdquo; he continued, according to AP.</p> <p>Putin has already sent 50,000 police and troops with water cannons onto the streets and has made it clear he opposes the protests in the Arab world. Some officials have even alleged that the protests have been backed by the West.</p> <p>Opposition groups have called for a mass protest in Moscow&rsquo;s Revolutionary Square on Saturday and over 27,000 people have so far signed up on Facebook to take part.</p> <p>(Photo &copy; Alexsey Druginyn/Reuters)</p>