Lithuania Warns Russia Over Pressuring Its Neighbors

If found guilty, the 30 detained activists could face a maximum punishment of 15 years in jail. They will be charged according to Section 3 of the Criminal Codes Article 227 (piracy committed by an organised group, Interfax quoted a law enforcement source as saying on Tuesday. AFP reports that the protesters are in shock over being detained by a democratic state: All but four of the activists are non-Russians from countries including Britain, the United States, Finland and Argentina. Russia has jailed the activists from Greenpeaces Arctic Sunrise protest ship without charge pending an investigation into alleged piracy, after several scaled a state-owned oil rig on September 18. The activists have complained of cold cells and a lack of suitable clothing and food, said Irina Paikacheva, the head of a state-connected regional prisoners rights watchdog. Many of them are in a state close to shock, she told AFP after visiting the prisoners. They had never expected that they would face such consequences for their peaceful protest in a democratic state. I think I see the disconnect here. If Greenpeace expected the authoritarian Russian government to react in a similar manner as Western democracies, well, they simply havent done their homework. This is the same government that has imprisoned a female punk-rock band to a two-year sentence for criticizing Vladimir Putin. Their hunger strike ended today , by the way, with no concessions from the Kremlin: The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service says that an imprisoned member of the punk band Pussy Riot is ending her hunger strike nine days after it began. The service told the state news agency ITAR-Tass that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was in stable health after ending the hunger strike on Wednesday. An opposition leader who said he had spoken with Tolokonnikova also tweeted that she was ending the strike. Interfering with Gazproms operations is a more serious manner than insulting Putin. Greenpeace had better hope that their home countries can cut a deal with Russia to get them deported soon, or else it might be a very long protest. Perhaps theyll learn a lesson about the qualitative differences between Western democracies and the rest of the world, too.

Russia Enters New Era of Stagnation

At the Vilnius summit on November 28-29, the EU is expected to sign a free trade deal with Ukraine and take further steps towards free trade agreements with Moldova and Georgia. No substantial progress is expected with the other partnership states, which remain more closely aligned with Moscow. Russia, meanwhile, wants several of the countries to sign up to its own customs union, launched with Belarus and Kazakhstan in 2010. Armenia, which relies on Russia for support in a long-standing dispute with Azerbaijan, agreed in September to join the Russian-led trade bloc. The biggest bone of contention between the EU and Russia is Ukraine, a country of 46 million people that is bordered by four EU member states and is determined to move closer to Europe. If that happens, Russia has said it will have no choice but to defend its interests. “We would somehow have to stand by our market, introduce protectionist measures,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month when asked about Ukraine signing an EU trade deal. Asked how far he thought Russia might go in retaliation against Ukraine and others in the Eastern Partnership, Linkevicius said cutting off gas supplies was a possibility. “They are very concrete,” he said of Russia’s actions. “We are not confronting Russia or structures where Russia belongs. We would just like to see this free competition of ideas and arguments,” he added.

“Russia can continue going forward in slow motion, with economic growth close to zero, or it can take a serious step forward.” The second path “is fraught with risk,” while the first “leads to a precipice.” Few economists would argue with the diagnosis. “The head of the cabinet has largely learned to name the correct reasons for the country’s predicament,” Maxim Blant wrote on the opposition website Sergey Aleksashenko, director of macroeconomic studies at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, agreed : “It’s a good thing that this has at least been said.” The biggest flaw in Medvedev’s lengthy program, critics said, was the paucity of solutions. All he offered was a slowdown in tariff increases at Russia’s state-owned utilities and some small-business support in the form of tax breaks, loans and government contracts. He also expounded on the need to turn Moscow into an international financial center. “And that’s it,” Aleksashenko wrote. “What about safeguarding property rights and the quality of the judicial system, shrinking the state and using government resources effectively, what about privatization and infrastructure?” Medvedev’s article does not contain the word “corruption” or mention capital flight, expected to reach $70 billion this year. It offers no specific measures to foster competition, the focus of the latest World Bank report on Russia. “Every month the Russian Statistics Committee surveys 25,000 entrepreneurs, trying to find out what obstacles they face, and every time they give the same answers: taxes, bureaucratic pressure, corruption,” Igor Nikolaev, head of strategic analysis at the audit firm FBK, told the web site Expert Online. “How long will the government close its eyes to that, merely pretending that it’s doing something?” Some worry that Russia could be entering a new era of stagnation — a term most associated with the tenure of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. “A crisis is a situation you can enter and exit, but stagnation is a situation with unpredictable consequences,” said Economics Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, according to Vedomosti.