Postcard from... Moscow


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The Independent Online

If there's one principle that guides Russian foreign policymaking, it is reciprocity. If you allow Russians to come to your country without visas, the Russians will most likely reciprocate. Likewise, the Kremlin does not believe in lecturing countries on human rights issues – it sees this as “interfering” in another state's affairs. But those countries that themselves lecture Moscow can expect a furious, symmetrical response.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has even appointed a commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law, who has apparently been given the specific task of highlighting rights violations in the US and the EU, in response to the frequent complaints from those countries about human rights in Russia.

We have seen the same thing at play with the US elections. Although Russian election monitors have in the past been happy to give the green light to farcical elections in dictatorships such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the Russian Central Election Committee has had strong words about the US elections.

Its head, Vladimir Churov, described the US voting system as "among the worst in the world", before the ballots were cast. "The elections for the President of the USA are not direct, not universal, not equal and do not preserve voting secrecy," wrote Mr Churov, pictured, in an article published last month. "It's a stretch of the imagination to talk about the right of American citizens to choose their President." There is little doubt that the words are a direct response to US criticism of the election that returned Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin earlier this year.