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26 Mar, 2008 21:30

UK attacks Russia’s ‘shrinking’ democracy

Britain’s Foreign Office has criticised Russia for ‘shrinking the democratic space’ in the country. Russia was listed among 22 other countries of concern, including Iran, China and Afghanistan.

According to the report, there has been more restrictions on media freedom and xenophobia in the past 18 months.
Another major concern for the UK is the unresolved issue of the extradition of Andrey Lugovoy accused by the British authorities of being behind the poisoning in London of the former secret services officer Alexander Litvinenko.
Russia’s constitution forbids the extradition of its citizens but Moscow has offered several times to look at the evidence itself. But the British side insists.
“The UK is committed to pursuing the extradition of Andrey Lugovoy so that he might stand trial in the UK for Mr Ltivinenko’s murder,” report states.
The report was released on the day the Financial Times published the first ever foreign media interview with Russia’s newly elected president. Dmitry Medvedev made it clear that Russia was looking to improve its relations with the UK, which have been particularly poor in the past year.
But analysts say rather than coincidence it’s just unfortunate timing and the release of this report is not meant to aggravate the political climate between the two countries.

“It’s not an entirely objective report it is written by one organization and this organization has its own views just like anybody else. Certainly it has a level of selective judgment, but again, Russia is extremely important for the UK and it is understandable that it highlights Russia when it looks at the human rights abuses. It also highlights Russia when it looks at the trade and economics, so it’s yes, it’s angled in a certain way but it’s angled that it shows the importance of Russia as well as its deficiencies,” James Nixey, Chatham House Manager of Russia and Eurasia Programme, said. 

But other experts express their concerns that the FCO ignores human rights abuses in other countries where the British government has key interests.

“When it comes to areas of strategic importance like, for example, the Middle East or parts of Africa, we think that the foreign office has downplayed, failed to acknowledge some pretty crucial human rights abuses that are going on,” Tom Portious, London Director of Human Rights Watch said.
This is the 10th Foreign Office annual report on human rights, it consists 216 two pages. And according to experts, there are countries with serious human rights violations, for example, Somalia, Ethiopia, Libya and Egypt. That makes the report open to the accusation that it is simply a reflection of Britain’s current political agenda.