Page last updated at 15:46 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 16:46 UK

Medvedev speaks to critical press

By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Moscow

Dmitry Medvedev (14 April 2009)
Mr Medvedev had been affected by "the horrific crimes" against the paper

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has given an interview to one of the last media outlets in the country which is frequently critical of the government.

The interview in Novaya Gazeta is being dissected by analysts for signs that Mr Medvedev may pursue a different course from his predecessor, Vladimir Putin.

Mr Medvedev said democracy need not be compromised for the sake of prosperity.

"Stability and a prosperous life cannot be set off against a set of political rights and freedoms," he said.

Later, he told civil society groups that rules on NGOs were "not ideal".

"It is clear that your work is not easy," he told a meeting of the Presidential Council on Human Rights.

"There are numerous instances when the activities of non-governmental organisations are restricted without sufficient grounds."

Mr Medvedev said "the protection of rights should be practised by the state itself" and trust built up between it and civil society groups.

'Moral support'

The interview is his first with a Russian newspaper since being sworn in as president in May 2008.

Novaya Gazeta has paid a high price for editorial independence - four of its reporters have been killed or died in suspicious circumstances.

A Kremlin spokeswoman said Mr Medvedev had given the interview to Novaya Gazeta to "lend moral support" to its journalists, after the attacks on their colleagues.

Anna Politkovskaya (file image)
Anna Politkovskaya's murder highlighted the risks run by journalists

Mr Medvedev had been affected by "the horrific crimes" against the newspaper in recent years, she added.

Amongst those killed in recent years was the investigative journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who had exposed gross abuses committed by the Russian army in Chechnya and been highly critical of Mr Putin when he was president.

Journalists, human rights workers and lawyers have continued to die or come under attack since Mr Medvedev became president almost a year ago.

And there is little sign those responsible will ever be held to account.

But unlike Mr Putin, who never spoke to Novaya Gazeta during his eight years as president, Mr Medvedev is at least trying to show his concern for the safety of journalists.

The key question is whether that will ever translate into serious attempts to find and punish those who have ordered and carried out attacks on reporters.

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