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EXCLUSIVE: Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev says acts portrayed in Syria torture photos are ‘crimes’

January 22nd, 2014
03:27 PM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Medvedev on Sochi, Syria

EXCLUSIVE: Medvedev on Russia's economy

EXCLUSIVE: Medvedev on gay rights

The transcript of Christiane Amanpour's full interview with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev can be found here.

By Mick Krever, CNN

The killings portrayed in photos allegedly proving torture of prisoners by the Assad regime are “crimes,” but it is not clear who is responsible and the claims must be proven in court, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday.

“These are crimes, of course,” Medvedev told Amanpour at his office outside Moscow, but the case “should have firm proof legally.”

“I know there are a lot of victims, and that's very sad, but that does not mean that the existence of victims or victims in a particular place is the proof that those are the victims of the regime and not the bandits who were doing something or any other force.”

The investigation alleging that the Syrian regime is murdering prisoners on a mass scale, first reported by Amanpour on Monday, was authored by a team of international legal and forensic experts and based on thousands of photographs provided by a Syrian defector.

The defector claimed to have worked as a photographer at a military hospital that received dead bodies from detention centers.

Amanpour showed Medvedev gruesome pictures of emaciated corpses and torsos covered from neck to groin in bludgeon wounds.

“You know, in my university where I was studying law, I was taught that until the fact of guilt is proved in court, a person cannot be claimed guilty,” he said.

“We cannot say that Assad is a criminal without investigation,” he told Amanpour. “So probably this other trial should be held on the territory of Syria after the conflict subsides. It's the right of the Syrian people.”

Syria peace talks

Medvedev echoed the sentiments of most international stakeholders in calling for a negotiated resolution to Syria’s civil war.

Talks striving to reach those ends got underway Wednesday in Switzerland; in notable absence was Iran, whose attendance was the subject of considerable controversy in days leading up to the conference.

The U.N. invited Iran to the talks, but the U.S. immediately criticized the move, saying that Iran had not agreed to the framework laid out in a previous conference.

On Monday, the U.N. rescinded Iran’s invitation.

That decision, Medvedev told Amanpour, was “unacceptable.”

“Can someone think that [the] Syrian problem may be seriously discussed without the Iranian factor?”

“When the international community or the U.N. first extends an invitation, then withdraws an invitation – that is not consistent and that does not contribute to positive result.”

Medvedev emphasized that neither he nor President Vladimir Putin believes that Assad is a “strategic partner,” but that as the current Syrian president, Assad “cannot be ignored or disregarded.”

Of the many challenges facing negotiators in Switzerland is the fact that the Syrian opposition is extremely fractured.

There are some in Syria who “do not like the regime,” Medvedev said, and “that’s understandable – but there are also bandits.”

“These are bandits, the terrorists, this Al Qaeda; which negotiations or talks can we have with them?”

“Who is to blame? I believe everyone is to blame.”

Russia faces own security concerns at Sochi

Russia is facing its own security concerns, less than three weeks away from the opening of its Winter Olympics, to be held in Sochi.

A video surfaced just days ago on a well-known jihadi forum threatening the Olympics, and Russian authorities are hunting two women they believe could carry out an attack on the Sochi Games.

“This is a major event for our country, for the whole of the world,” Medvedev said. “With respect to the threats: on public events, there are always some threats. That's not only in this country but also in others.”

Russia is aware of the threats, he told Amanpour, and will take them into account as it mobilizes its security efforts.

“A huge number of policemen will watch the process of the games,” he said. “Some other forces will [also] be involved, and we will control … the facilities and venues.”

The threat to the Sochi games, he said, is no greater than to any other.

“It's a globalized world, and we know about other deplorable developments in other countries, including the United States during sports events,” Medvedev said, in what seemed like a reference to a bombing at the Boston marathon last year.

American Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that in an interview with CNN this weekend that U.S. authorities were not getting sufficient cooperation from Russia.

"Their level of concern is great,” Rogers said, “but we don't seem to be getting all of the information we need to protect our athletes in the Games. I think this needs to change, and it should change soon.”

“We are confident that we'll be able to protect all the athletes that will arrive and we will hold the Winter Games,” Medvedev said

The Olympics will also be the most expensive in history – $50 billion and rising – but Medvedev said that that figure reflected more than just spending on the Olympics infrastructure.

There were “difficult infrastructural problems” in Sochi, he said, that built up over decades. “There was no water supplies, proper water supplies. There was bad power supply.”

So it was serendipitous, he seemed to suggest, that the Games were happening in the region, so that the infrastructure in general could be brought up to date.

Medvedev: Anti-gay law not implemented in practice

Russia’s increasing visibility on the world stage has not been entirely positive; it has come under intense criticism for a law passed last year aimed at suppressing so-called gay propaganda.

The legislation makes it illegal to tell children about gay equality.

“I haven't … heard that this law was applied in practice,” Medvedev said. “There are many talks, but no application of the law, practical application.”

Most of the criticism of the law, he said, has come from outside the country.

“So I believe that this has nothing in common with the real situation in our country.”


Filed under:  Best Interviews • Christiane Amanpour • Iran • Latest Episode • Russia • Syria
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. TomNPitt

    "Most of the criticism of the law, he said, has come from outside the country."

    What a surprise. No body in Russia is going to complain about a new law.

    January 22, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Reply
    • ussir

      And Medvedev would be correct, overwhelming majority in Russia is against gay agenda. Ask anyone from that part of the world, if you doubt it.

      January 23, 2014 at 1:03 am | Reply
  2. Read

    Assad is killing tangos..
    Just as we are.
    Its GWOT baby.. Its GWOT

    January 22, 2014 at 7:11 pm | Reply
  3. EoC

    Well, there's a HUGE surprise. One butcher defending another butcher. These guys remind me of lawyers. Yes, he murdered the victim but he didn't mean to. Tyrant defending Tyrant. What a novel concept.

    January 22, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Reply
    • Wow.

      Really? Are you seriously comparing lawyers to people like these? Obviously you don't understand much about that job. Being a lawyer is a JOB in which they are sworn to protect who ever they are appointed to. Will that lawyer enjoy defending a murder when there is no question of their guilt? Of course not, but this is their JOB and unless they wish to continue this career they will continue to do their JOB. "Yes, he murdered the victim but he didn't mean to" if that lawyer does not try to DEFEND their client, then they have already failed in their profession. Educate yourself before you compare these "Tyrant " to normal people trying to make a living.

      January 22, 2014 at 8:37 pm | Reply
      • esaggese

        Well, he IS a lawyer.

        January 23, 2014 at 12:22 am |
    • cheeseroll

      What tyrant?

      Medvedev saved South Ossetians from NATO-backed Georgian ethnic cleansing.

      The tyrants are the US politicians who have illegally invaded nation after nation, leaving millions of corpses in their wake! All for profit. All for capital.

      January 23, 2014 at 12:03 am | Reply
      • esaggese

        First, anyone that says that the US invasions were made for money is absolutely clueless. Just look at the numbers: almost one trillion USD spent per year, almost nothing in return (you may say "oil" but see who is exploiting oil in those regions, it is mostly Europe, and they don't make even 1% of the cost of the wars). Invasions are made for politics, not for money.
        On the other hand, of all the reasons that can be used to justify a war, money would be the most decent one. Religion, race, nationalism, power... they are all worse reasons than money. But unfortunately, it's not money. That, I could understand.

        January 23, 2014 at 12:26 am |
    • Ngoc Tran

      Well I think those pictures are absolutely horrifying and such actions of torture are by no means acceptable. However, we do need to take into considerations the nature of war, the culture and the war tactics of different countries. It might be a bit biased to only show the pictures of torturing carried out by the regime without taking about fair look at what the opposition have used and done in order to win this war, forcing President Assad to step down. I believe most people who take a fair and honest look at this bloody civil war would comment that war crimes have been committed by both sides and there is not a simple solution to say who is right or wrong in this conflict to determine the outcome but rather a fair and honest talk and negation which is based on mutual respect and understanding from both sides as well as other parties involved for the good of their own people, the ordinary Syrian people. Regarding the legitimacy of President Assad in running Syria, I think Syrian land, Syrian laws and Syrian people decide, I don't think it is down to any other outsiders to make such decision even Russia or The US. Syrian people should make up their mind, make a decisive step, speaking up who they would like to help them run the whole country for their own good and the result will be down to the majority. There is indeed no point of setting up a President or a government that the majority of the people do not agree as soon or later, the people would stand up to overthrow this government and once again, the whole country would be in turmoil, stuck in a cycle of civil war after civil war without no way out.

      January 23, 2014 at 8:34 am | Reply
  4. chrissy

    Of course Putin will say its not proof! Russia and China are supplying the weapons to Al Assad!

    January 22, 2014 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  5. Alpha umaru Jalloh

    Russia please don't walk on the same path with countries that have enacted this aborminable law to Allah

    January 22, 2014 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  6. kelly

    morons

    January 22, 2014 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  7. scottca

    Assad is a war crime and Russia is complicit in his crimes.

    January 22, 2014 at 7:42 pm | Reply
  8. scottca

    Assad is a war criminal and Russia is complicit in his crimes.

    January 22, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Reply
    • Adam

      Agreed, Russia is complicit in crimes by Assad regime in Syria. Also America is complicit in killings and mayhem caused by Rebels in Syria. America supplied them arms and intelligence support to kill people.

      January 22, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Reply
  9. tm1946

    I am betting Pres. O is a big supporter of this view. What a guy, what a international policy or lack of same.

    January 22, 2014 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  10. Jobu

    Whereas Medvede has a point, every civilian in Syria will be dead before this can be accomplished.

    January 22, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  11. Mark

    As bad as Assad is, are the rebels any better? It is well established that most of the rebels are Al Qaida loyalists. So...lets see, we are promoting the removal of Assad and replace him with Al Qaida. This makes no sense.

    January 22, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  12. picknchickn

    im not sure 'mark' is correct with his stament of loyalists being al-queda.perhaps some, but not all.following this since began, i believed they were ppl sick of the goverment's deciet & began action.

    January 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  13. chrissy

    Lmao @ Wow, seriously?? Lol that justifies everything? What you wanta bet the Russians use that SAME arguement...we were just trying to make money! We didnt mean for people to die!

    January 22, 2014 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  14. Bob from Accounting

    If you look real close you can see Saddam's WMDs in the background

    January 22, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Reply
  15. Rednip

    Once again the Russians are doing their best Sgt Schultz impression when it comes to Syrian matters. What does Assad have on Putin?

    January 23, 2014 at 12:41 am | Reply
  16. Francisco

    I Russia's PM should focus on the Olympics and the terrorists threats, instead of focusing on making Syria look good. They said the same thing about the chemical weapons used and they were wrong. And now nthis? Pathetic. Go focus on keeping the tourists safe please, that's much more important right now.

    January 23, 2014 at 12:46 am | Reply
  17. Anas

    So if the crimes are proven to be committed by ASSad will that not make Russia and Iran just as responsible for supporting criminals?!

    January 23, 2014 at 1:00 am | Reply
  18. Ngoc Tran

    Well I think those pictures are absolutely horrifying and such actions of torture are by no means acceptable. However, we do need to take into considerations the nature of war, the culture and the war tactics of different countries. It might be a bit biased to only show the pictures of torturing carried out by the regime without taking about fair look at what the opposition have used and done in order to win this war, forcing President Assad to step down. I believe most people who take a fair and honest look at this bloody civil war would comment that war crimes have been committed by both sides and there is not a simple solution to say who is right or wrong in this conflict to determine the outcome but rather a fair and honest talk and negation which is based on mutual respect and understanding from both sides as well as other parties involved for the good of their own people, the ordinary Syrian people. Regarding the legitimacy of President Assad in running Syria, I think Syrian land, Syrian laws and Syrian people decide, I don't think it is down to any other outsiders to make such decision even Russia or The US. Syrian people should make up their mind, make a decisive step, speaking up who they would like to help them run the whole country for their own good and the result will be down to the majority. There is indeed no point of setting up a President or a government that the majority of the people do not agree as soon or later, the people would stand up to overthrow this government and once again, the whole country would be in turmoil, stuck in a cycle of civil war after civil war without no way out.

    January 23, 2014 at 8:34 am | Reply
  19. Matt

    It is what it is. Complete your missions, Iskanders for Syria to Hizbullah, backing up for Iran in relation to a strike against a small nation. Complete your mission. I will.

    January 24, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Reply

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