Journalists assess Putin's conversation with human rights activists

posted 17 Oct 2014, 13:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Oct 2014, 13:29 ]
15 October 2014

Source: (info
The press is discussing the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the Human Rights Council (HRC) which took place at the Kremlin on 14 October 2014. notes that a whole series of topics that traditionally belong to the sphere of interests of the human rights community were not addressed at the meeting. For example, there was no time to discuss the fate of the missing paratroopers, nor were the issues of the media rights and freedom of expression raised.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes that the President called the HRC the most important human rights instrument in the country.

Head of the HRC Mikhail Fedotov called on the President to use the high approval rating of the authorities to put a halt to the information war with Ukraine and to demilitarise public awareness, writes Novye Izvestiya.

Sergei Karaganov talked of how difficult it was proving to implement the programme to commemorate the victims of repression. He mentioned the Perm-36 Gulag Museum and thanked the President for helping to save it.

The Russian President expressed surprise that in Moscow there was still no memorial to the victims of repression, writes the BBC. The President found the situation surrounding the federal targeted programme to commemorate the victims of repression rather comical. As president, Medvedev supported the programme but when he became Prime Minister his cabinet mothballed the proposal. "This is a manifestation of the omnipotence of bureaucracy. It's not all Medvedev's fault," Putin explained to members of the HRC.

"The goal is to not forget this subject, not sweep it under the carpet. As to how best to organise this work, there are competing points of view. But that in no way means that the idea of the federal programme to commemorate the victims of repression itself is completely dead. Let's come back to this subject and think it through together. <...> I will put together an instruction to the Administration and the Government so that together you can come up with the best solution to this problem, so that we can move forward and not argue endlessly about how it should be done, because it's time to start acting," the President stressed in his speech.

Journalists from RBC decided to ask why the meeting participants had sidestepped so many thorny issues in their conversation with the President.

Member of the Human Rights Council Elena Masyuk explained that the question of the missing and dead paratroopers rested with her colleagues, which is why she did not ask the question herself.

The conversation about the situation regarding freedom of expression was supposed to have been initiated by Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists Leonid Nikitinsky, but he was not given the opportunity to speak.

And retired judge of the Constitutional Court Tamara Morshchakova complained that there was hardly any time left to discuss her proposal to control the investigative authorities.

In his column on the Novaya gazeta website, Nikitinsky explained that the problem lay in the fact that the President only met with the HRC once a year and it was simply not possible to discuss all the pressing issues in the space of two and a half hours. Furthermore, the meeting was held in a hall in the Kremlin where the acoustics were so bad that a lot of what people were saying could not be made out.

Nikitinsky among other things mentioned one important point: members of the HRC had succeeded in drawing President Putin's attention to the need to clarify the concept of "political activity" in relation to the "foreign agent law." No objections were raised to this.

Kirill Kabanov delivered a report on corruption. He put forward a strange proposal, which would have made more sense coming from the Investigative Committee rather than the Human Rights Council, to increase sentences for corruption from 10 to 20 years and make it more difficult to get parole. Irina Khakamada, however, literally speaking up just as Putin was getting ready to leave, said that this was not the opinion of the Council but of Kabanov personally.

"In addition, some time ago these people were different. Passionate you could say. And now they've cooled. They've probably realised that you either have to leave the HRC or stay so that you can do something, because at every one of these meetings you feel the monstrous administrative resource that suddenly appears in their hands and eyes for a couple of hours thanks to direct contact with the President. Later it turns out there wasn't any resource but just a chance to have their say, but that's not clear straight away," writes special correspondent for Kommersant Andrei Kolesnikov.

The Pravoslavie i Mir (Orthodox Christianity and the World) website focuses on the President's promise to provide high-tech healthcare for citizens of other countries who do not have refugee status. "I didn't even realise such a problem existed," Putin said in reply to a request by the head of the Spravedlivaya Pomoshch (Fair Aid) organisation Elizaveta Glinka, and promised to look into the matter.

On the whole, thinks Nezavisimaya gazeta, despite the fact the President reacted positively to most of the human rights campaigners' requests, it was clear that he was putting particular emphasis on the activities of the HRC in southeastern Ukraine. It was for drawing the attention of the Russian and global communities to the victims of the military conflict that he thanked the human rights activists and even advised them to take more care over their own safety.

A review of publications about the recent meeting can be found on the Zagolovki website.

Translated by Natascha Kearsey