12/23/2013, 00.00
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Pussy Riot amnesty just Kremlin propaganda

by Nina Achmatova
Once out of prison, Mary Aliokhina attacks Putin's granting of clemency. Even Khodorkovsky pardon for analysts, is not a "humanitarian act". The Kremlin seeks to divert attention from human rights in Russia on the eve of Sochi.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Vladimir Putin "is getting old": this was the ironic comment posted on Twitter by his former political advisor and ideologue, Vladislav Surkov , greeting the latest news that the Russian president had unexpectedly pardoned the former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and (although with only three months of their sentence to go) Pussy Riot . If you add these to the earlier episode this year that involved opponent Alexei Navalny, who was sentenced to five years probation for fraud and embezzlement but avoided jail, it would seem that has really taken a new course of unusual openness.
 
One of the two freed Pussy Riot members, Maria Aliokhina, also rejected the idea that this pardon is a real "humanitarian act". As soon as she was released she termed the President's act of clemency a "publicity stunt". "If I had of been allowed to reject this act of clemency, I would have refused it" she told the independent TV Dozhd . Even analysts in Russia were far from enthusiastic and expressed cautious optimism.

According to Brian Whitmore , author of the blog 'vertical of power ' on Radio Free Europe said there were many reasons why Putin has decided to pardon Khodorkovsky and simultaneously release Pussy Riot "The first is to distract the attention of the international public opinion on the situation of human rights in Russia , on the eve of the Olympics in Sochi ", an event in which he has personally invested in terms of his image and which is already threatened by an international boycott, because of the law against the" gay propaganda".
Another possibility is that the Kremlin "is trying to further divide the opposition". The analyst Evgheny Minchenko , writing in Kommersant , said that even if the former owner of Yukos gave up his political ambitions, his intention to engage in "social activities " automatically places him on the same platform and electorate as Navalny and former oligarch Mikhail Prokohorov , who has recently appointed his sister to the helm of his political movement , the Civic Platform .
The director of the Levada polling center, Lev Gudkov , is convinced that Khodorkovsky is no longer a threat for the Kremlin, his release will strengthen the position of Putin. Whitmore agrees and sees the pardon granted to former arch-enemy as a "show of force". "On the one hand, Putin says he does not feel any threat to his power - said the journalist - and on the other hand, he plays the role coveted by every Russian leader: that of the good tsar".

The amnesty to Pussy Riot and activists of Greenpeace, as well as the act of clemency to the once richest man in Russia who had dared to challenge Putin in the early 2000s, confirms that the Kremlin remains the supreme arbiter of the system. A confirmation , perhaps, necessary to reassure both the circles of power, domestic public opinion, struggling for months with less than encouraging economic forecasts , which call into question the duration of the Putin model. 
In early December, the Ministry of Economic Development lowered its growth forecasts not only for 2013 but also for 2014-2015. The downward revision of GDP at year-end, from 1.8% to 1.4% was expected.  But the figures for the next two years were not: in 2014 only +2.5 % (it had been 3% ) and 2.8 % for 2015 (from 3.1%) . This is the third year in a row that Russia's gross domestic product has declined, as it passes through a phase of "stagnation", as repeatedly stressed by the Minister Aleksey Uliukaev.

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