What time is it? Russia’s Medvedev resists change
When will the sun come up today? In Russia, it’s a matter of
fierce debate, and one that may reflect the sinking stature of
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Medvedev declared Thursday that he has no immediate intention of
reversing his decision to leave Russia’s clocks on summer time the
The move he made in 2011 when he was president has been widely
unpopular as it has plunged the sprawling nation into darkness
until late morning throughout the winter.
And now it’s not clear how long that decree will actually
Medvedev’s mentor, Vladimir Putin, who returned to the
presidency in May after spending four years in the premier’s seat
due to term limits, has indicated that Russia could switch back the
Putin said in December that sticking permanently to summer time
would make it difficult for TV audiences in Europe to watch the
2014 Winter Olympics in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.
The games – on track to be the most expensive Olympics ever,
even more than the Summer Games in London and Beijing – are known
to be close to Putin’s heart.
On Thursday, the daily Izvestia newspaper that kowtows to Putin
said the Cabinet already had made the decision to switch Russia
permanently to winter time and that a decree will be issued
The government quickly denied the report, and then Medvedev
himself told a Cabinet session that he sees no point in switching
the clock now.
”The government considers it unfeasible to again switch time at
the current moment,” Medvedev said, adding that public opinion has
been divided. ”Let’s not make sharp movements and live in those
conditions without making extra fuss. Let’s keep monitoring the
situation and once again analyze the opinion of experts, doctors
The switch to summer time is one of the few of Medvedev’s
reforms that has survived Putin’s return to the presidency.
Since Putin came back, most of Medvedev’s initiatives – from
decriminalizing slander to ousting government officials from the
boards of state-controlled companies – have been methodically
Putin’s harsh course has contrasted sharply with Medvedev’s
modernization platform. The president has backed a series of
repressive bills that introduced heavy fines for those joining
unsanctioned protests and imposed new tough restrictions on groups
promoting democratic rights.
Opposition activists have faced searches, interrogations and
arrests and three members of the Pussy Riot punk band have been
sentenced to two years in prison for an anti-Putin protest in
Moscow’s main cathedral.
Medvedev has avoided confronting Putin and defended his patron’s
new tough course, but is appearing increasingly cornered and
powerless despite his show of loyalty.
State-controlled television stations have reduced their coverage
of his activities, and a newspaper report recently claimed that the
networks had received orders from the Kremlin to cast him in a
negative light and focus on his unpopular decisions, such as the
The Izvestia newspaper has recently published leaks from
official documents critical of the performance of Medvedev’s
Cabinet, prompting an angry rebuke from his office.
On Thursday, it posted a December’s letter by Jean-Claude Killy,
head of the International Olympic Committee’s coordination panel
for Sochi, suggesting that the IOC would welcome Russia’s switching
back to the winter time but warning that such a decision need to be
But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who was in Sochi
for Thursday’s one-year countdown to the games, told reporters the
government has made the decision to stick to summer time and a
schedule for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi has been made