January 19, 2006

Democracy record can sour Russia G8 chair: Rice

MOSCOW (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
has said Russia's poor record in democracy could put it in
awkward position when President Vladimir Putin hosts the summit
of G8 group of industrial nations this year.

"I think it's extremely important that Russia understand
that certain responsibilities come with ... being the chair of
an organization that is avowedly of industrialized
democracies," Rice said in Washington on Wednesday.

Critics in the West see Putin's course toward stronger
Kremlin control over Russia, which includes subduing the
political opposition, scrapping gubernatorial polls and
clipping the wings of Western-funded non-governmental
organizations, as a retreat from democracy.

However, U.S. President George Bush's administration has
ignored calls by Putin's critics in Washington to challenge
Russia's occupancy of the G8 rotating chair from the start of
this year.

Rice said in a question and answer session after her
speech, that Washington was opposed to penalizing Russia for
its democracy record, but predicted problems for Putin during
the G8 summit in July in St Petersburg unless the situation

"If you're going to be a part of the G8, you'd better be an
industrialized democracy or people are going to have a lot of
questions when they show up for the G8 sessions," she said.