Nearly half of Russians want PM Medvedev to quit, says poll

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev looks out from a car as he visits the Siberian city of Omsk on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 27 April 2017
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Nearly half of Russians want PM Medvedev to quit, says poll

MOSCOW: Nearly half of Russians want Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to quit, an opinion poll showed on Wednesday, suggesting corruption allegations levelled against him by political opponents have taken a toll.
Opposition politician Alexei Navalny released a video last month accusing Medvedev of owning a sprawling portfolio of luxury homes and of amassing a fortune that outstripped his salary. It has been watched more than 20 million times on YouTube and helped spark recent protests across Russia.
Medvedev, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has dismissed the allegations as politically motivated “nonsense,” suggesting they were designed to stir up trouble ahead of a presidential election next year which Putin is expected to contest.
On Wednesday, the Levada Center, a pollster which casts itself as independent, released the results of a survey showing that 52 percent of Russians did not trust Medvedev, up from 42 percent in March 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea.
The same survey showed that 45 percent of Russians favored him quitting and that 30 percent said they had a negative attitude toward him.
Natalia Timakova, Medvedev’s spokeswoman, told Reuters: “The prime minister does not attach special value to polls, especially when it comes to those that have been conducted by the Levada Center to political order.”
The survey was conducted across Russia and involved 1,600 people.
The Levada Center was designated a “foreign agent” in 2016, a term applied to Russian non-governmental groups that receive foreign funding.
Lev Gudkov, the head of the pollster, told online TV channel Fontanka Office he wanted an apology from Medvedev’s office.
“They’d better apologize to us for their false statement that this is a political put-up job,” he said.
Karina Pipiya, a Levada spokeswoman, told Reuters the pollster stood by its findings.
“The survey is not an ‘order’. There is no scoop here in that the peaks (of support for the authorities) that were observed after Crimea’s (annexation) are fading and the numbers are returning to normal.”


US imposes sanctions on Myanmar commander in chief over Rohingya abuses

This file photo taken on July 19, 2018, shows Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, saluting to pay his respects to Myanmar independence hero General Aung San and eight others assassinated in 1947, during a ceremony to mark the 71th anniversary of Martyrs' Day in Yangon. (AFP)
Updated 12 min 44 sec ago
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US imposes sanctions on Myanmar commander in chief over Rohingya abuses

WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday announced sanctions on the Myanmar military’s Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders it said were responsible for extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims, barring them from entry to the United States.
The steps, which also covered Min Aung Hlaing’s deputy, Soe Win, and two other senior commanders and their families, are the strongest the United States has taken in response to massacres of minority Rohingyas in Myanmar, also known as Burma. It named the two others as Brig. Generals Than Oo and Aung Aung.
“We remain concerned that the Burmese government has taken no actions to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and there are continued reports of the Burmese military committing human rights violations and abuses throughout the country,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
Pompeo said a recent disclosure that Min Aung Hlaing ordered the release of soldiers convicted of extrajudicial killings at the village of Inn Din during the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya in 2017 was “one egregious example of the continued and severe lack of accountability for the military and its senior leadership.”
“The Commander-in-Chief released these criminals after only months in prison, while the journalists who told the world about the killings in Inn Din were jailed for more than 500 days,” Pompeo said.
The Inn Din massacre was uncovered by two Reuters reporters, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who spent more than 16 months behind bars on charges of obtaining state secrets. The two were released in an amnesty on May 6.
The US announcement came on the first day of an international ministerial conference on religious freedom hosted by Pompeo at the State Department that was attended by Rohingya representatives.
“With this announcement, the United States is the first government to publicly take action with respect to the most senior leadership of the Burmese military,” said Pompeo, who has been a strong advocate of religious freedom.

“GROSS VIOLATIONS“
“We designated these individuals based on credible information of these commanders’ involvement in gross violations of human rights.”
A 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. UN investigators have said that Myanmar’s operation included mass killings, gang rapes and widespread arson and was executed with “genocidal intent.”
The State Department has so far stopped short of calling the abuses genocide, referring instead to ethic cleansing and a “well-planned and coordinated” campaign of mass killings, gang rapes and other atrocities.
“He (Pompeo) has not come to the point at which he has decided to make a further determination. Generally our policies are focused on changing behavior, promoting accountability, and we have taken today’s actions with those goals in mind,” a senior State Department official told reporters, asking not to be named.
The military in Myanmar, where Buddhism is the main religion, has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and says its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.
A declaration of genocide by the US government could require Washington to impose even stronger sanctions on Myanmar, a country with which it has competed for influence with regional rival China.
The senior State Department official said Washington hoped the latest steps would strengthen the hand of the civilian government in Myanmar in its effort to amend the constitution to reduce military influence in politics.
“Our hope is that these actions ... will help to further delegitimize the current military leadership, and can help the civilian government gain control of the military,” he said.
The Trump administration had thus far imposed sanctions on four military and police commanders and two army units involved in the abuses against the Rohingya and had been under pressure from US Congress to take tougher steps.
A United Nations investigator said this month that Myanmar security forces and insurgents were committing human rights violations against civilians that may amount to fresh war crimes.