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

whole year.

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

last.

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

time soon.

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

soon.

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

and citizens.”

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

reversed.

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

time change.

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

made soon.

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

accordingly.