Dmitry Medvedev secures new mandate as Russian prime minister

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and acting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev attend a session of the State Duma in Moscow on May 8, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2018
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Dmitry Medvedev secures new mandate as Russian prime minister

MOSCOW: Dmitry Medvedev secured a fresh term as Russian prime minister on Tuesday, as the lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly for President Vladimir Putin’s long-term ally to retain his post.
“I am ready to do everything for the development of our country,” Medvedev said ahead of the vote in the State Duma, which Putin also attended.
A total of 374 MPs backed his candidacy while 56 voted against.
The ruling United Russia party and the ultra-nationalist LDPR party backed Medvedev, while the Communist and Just Russia parties opposed him.
The 52-year-old served a term as president from 2008 to 2012 before standing aside to become prime minister while Putin returned to the Kremlin.
Putin praised Medvedev in a speech ahead of the vote, saying that the prime minister “hardly needs any special introduction” after leading the government for the past six years.
“All that has been accomplished in recent years creates a solid basis for moving forward,” Putin said, adding that he worked “thoroughly, professionally and honestly” during a “difficult” period for Russia.
“Despite all these difficulties, the government managed not just to solve extraordinary, emergency tasks” but also develop plans aimed at the “mid-term and long-term,” Putin said.
“I think it’s extremely important to preserve continuity.”
Medvedev in turn thanked Putin for his support and said his government would work toward fulfilling new national targets announced by Putin following his inauguration for a fourth Kremlin term this week.
“We are able to be victorious both in war and peaceful times,” he told the Duma, a day before Russia celebrates World War II victory over the Nazis with a military parade on Red Square.
Despite having played a relatively marginal role in the post in recent years, Medvedev won popular notoriety with an ill-judged throwaway phrase to an elderly woman complaining about her low pension in 2016 that “there’s no money, but you hang in there.”
Last year, he was accused of massive corruption by opposition politician Alexei Navalny in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 27 million times.
Navalny’s supporters, many of them teenagers, responded to the claims that Medvedev controls a luxury property empire by holding large-scale opposition protests across Russia.
Medvedev served as president from 2008 to 2012 when Putin had served the maximum two consecutive terms permitted by the Russian constitution.
Putin then returned as president in 2012 while Medvedev became prime minister in a deal that the men said they had long agreed, disappointing those who had seen Medvedev as a more liberal figure and prompting mass street protests.
The pair first met in their native city of Saint Petersburg where they were colleagues in the mayor’s office in the 1990s.
Putin, 65, is now set to serve until 2024 and is on course to become the longest-serving Russian leader since Joseph Stalin. He won March polls with more than 76 percent of the vote.
Medvedev had been expected to retain his post despite rumors regularly surfacing that he is on the way out.
“Dmitry Medvedev has held on,” Vedomosti business daily headlined its front page on Tuesday, while saying that “Putin’s new promises will mainly be carried out by an old government.”
RBK daily called him a “premier for stability,” quoting sources in the Kremlin and the government as saying that he is the only person whom Putin trusts.
oc-am/ecl


Hong Kong police begin to clear streets of protesters

An ambulance is pictured surrounded by thousands of protesters dressed in black during a new rally against a controversial extradition law proposal in Hong Kong on June 16, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 17 June 2019
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Hong Kong police begin to clear streets of protesters

  • Nearly 2 million of the city’s 7 million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest organizers

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police and protesters faced off Monday as authorities began trying to clear the streets of a few hundred who remained near the city government headquarters after massive demonstrations that stretched deep into the night before.
The police asked for cooperation in clearing the road. Protesters, many in masks and other gear to guard against possible use of tear gas, responded with chants, some kneeling in front of the officers. The move came after activists rejected an apology from the city’s top leader for her handling of legislation that has stoked fears of expanding control from Beijing in this former British colony.
Hundreds of protesters sat on and along a main road through downtown, but they were scattered over a relatively wide area.
Activists called on Hong Kong residents to boycott classes and work, though it was unclear how many might heed that call.
Nearly 2 million of the city’s 7 million people turned out on Sunday, according to estimates by protest organizers. Police said 338,000 were counted on the designated protest route in the “peak period” of the march. A week earlier as many as 1 million people demonstrated to voice their concern over Hong Kong’s relations with mainland China in one of the toughest tests of the territory’s special status since Beijing took control in a 1997 handover.
After daybreak Monday, police announced that they want to clear the streets. Soon after, police lined up several officers deep and faced off against several hundred demonstrators on a street in central Hong Kong.
The night before, as protesters reached the march’s end thousands gathered outside the city government headquarters and the office of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who on Saturday suspended her effort to force passage of the bill.
Hong Kong residents worry that allowing some suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China would be another of many steps chipping away at Hong Kong’s freedoms and legal autonomy. One concern is that the law might be used to send criminal suspects to China to potentially face vague political charges, possible torture and unfair trials.
The protesters are demanding that Lam scrap the proposal for good and that she step down.
Protesters are also angered over the forceful tactics by police use of tear gas, rubber bullets and other forceful measures as demonstrators broke through barricades outside the city government’s headquarters to quell unrest during demonstrations on Wednesday, and over Lam’s decision to call the clashes a riot. That worsens the potential legal consequences for those involved.
In a statement issued late Sunday, Lam noted the demonstrations and said the government “understands that these views have been made out of love and care for Hong Kong.”
“The chief executive apologizes to the people of Hong Kong for this and pledges to adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements in serving the public,” it said.
Not enough, said the pro-democracy activists.
“This is a total insult to and fooling the people who took to the street!” the Civil Human Rights Front said in a statement.
Protesters have mainly focused their anger on Lam, who had little choice but to carry through dictates issued by Beijing, where President Xi Jinping has enforced increasingly authoritarian rule. But some were skeptical that having Lam step down would help.
“It doesn’t really matter because the next one would be just as evil,” said Kayley Fung, 27.
Many here believe Hong Kong’s legal autonomy has been significantly diminished despite Beijing’s insistence that it is still honoring its promise, dubbed “one country, two systems,” that the territory can retain its own social, legal and political system for 50 years after the handover in 1997.
After Lam announced she was suspending the legislation to avoid more violence and allow additional debate, Chinese government officials issued multiple statements backing that decision. Lam, however, made clear she was not withdrawing it.
She has sidestepped questions over whether she should quit and also defended how the police dealt with last week’s clashes with demonstrators.
Lam insists the extradition legislation is needed if Hong Kong is to uphold justice, meet its international obligations and not become a magnet for fugitives. The proposed bill would expand the scope of criminal suspect transfers to include Taiwan, Macau and mainland China.
So far, China has been excluded from Hong Kong’s extradition agreements because of concerns over its judicial independence and human rights record.
Prosecutions of activists, detentions without trial of five Hong Kong book publishers and the illegal seizure in Hong Kong by mainland agents of at least one mainland businessman are among moves in recent years that have unnerved many in the city of 7 million.