06MOSCOW585, PUBLIC CHAMBER BEGINS ITS WORK

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW585 2006-01-23 16:04 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO9124
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0585/01 0231604
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231604Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9543
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 000585 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/23/2015 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL PINR RS
SUBJECT: PUBLIC CHAMBER BEGINS ITS WORK 
 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine. 
  Reasons: 1.4(B/D). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY. The Public Chamber began its work on January 
22, choosing Academician Yevgeniy Velikhov as its head and 
picking chairpersons of the seventeen commissions that are 
expected to do the bulk of its work.  President Putin, 
presiding at the opening plenary, laid out priorities for the 
Chamber, including fighting extremism, promoting objective 
media, helping with the implementation of his national 
priorities agenda, and most notably, working on 
implementation of the controversial NGO legislation.  While 
the Chamber clearly appears to be a project the Kremlin 
intends to use to manage civil society, we do not believe it 
should be entirely written off in advance or ignored.  END 
SUMMARY. 
. 
PUBLIC CHAMBER CONVENES, ELECTS A CHAIRMAN 
------------------------------------------ 
 
2. (U) The Public Chamber officially began its work on 
January 22, holding its inaugural plenary session at the 
Kremlin with President Putin as host and active participant. 
The Chamber unanimously elected Kurchatov Institute President 
Yevgeniy Velikhov as its Secretary, the body's top leadership 
position.  Sergey Katryrin, Vice President of the Russian 
Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was elected Deputy 
Secretary.  The members also elected chairmen for the 
 
SIPDIS 
Chamber's seventeen commissions.  In addition, the Chamber 
formed a Council consisting of the Secretary, the Deputy 
Secretary, and the commission chairmen.  Given that the 
 
SIPDIS 
Chamber will meet in plenary session, according to a public 
chamber member, only four times a year, the commissions and 
Council are to play a pivotal role in the body's activities. 
 
3. (C) The choice of Velikhov to chair the body had been 
widely expected.  The seventy year old Velikhov is the winner 
of numerous scientific awards for his work as a physicist. 
By all indications, the Kremlin decided on him at least 
several weeks ago, when the names of other potential 
candidates to head the body began to disappear.  Already in 
late December, Chamber member (and political analyst) 
Andranik Migranyan told us that Velikhov would surely become 
chairman, commenting that he is widely respected as a 
scientist and seen as an apolitical figure.  The Embassy has 
dealt with Velikhov on a number of occasions, including when 
he has met with Department of Energy delegations.  At those 
sessions, he has always been positive about bilateral 
cooperation.  Velikhov is not directly involved in the 
nuclear security programs that DOE conducts at the Kurchatov 
Institute. 
. 
PUTIN LAYS OUT AN AGENDA 
------------------------ 
 
4. (U) Putin enjoyed center stage at the January 22 plenary. 
With Presidential Administration (PA) Deputy Head Vladyslav 
Surkov sitting to his right, Putin said that while he 
strongly supported the new body, it would meet much 
resistance, notably from Russia's bureaucracy.  The Chamber 
would have to prove itself to the public, Putin argued. 
 
5. (U) Putin then outlined key issues for the new body to 
examine.  Condemning public figures who promoted extremism, 
Putin said that combating ethnic and religious hatred would 
be one priority for the Chamber.  He identified promoting 
objective and independent media and implementing the national 
priorities agenda he unveiled late last year as other 
important priorities.  Of particular note, Putin said that 
the Chamber should work on the new NGO legislation, including 
on resolving disputes that could arise in its implementation. 
 Putin added that the Chamber could make recommendations for 
which organizations should receive the five hundred million 
rubles the state had set aside for funding NGOs. 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
6. (C) As it took shape over the past months, the Chamber has 
always faced suspicion that it would serve as a rubber stamp 
and a mechanism to coopt key figures in Russian civil 
society.  By hosting its inaugural session and laying out an 
apparently significant agenda, Putin sought to strengthen the 
body's image and cast it as promoting democracy and civil 
society development in Russia.  The fact that he hosted it 
and gave it its broad marching orders, however, highlights 
the extent to which the Kremlin in fact sees the Chamber as 
an instrument to control civil society from the top down. 
When Chamber members in December advocated a role in 
preparing the controversial NGO legislation, Putin swept that 
suggestion aside by signing the bill ahead of the body's 
inauguration, and he made clear at the opening session that 
 
MOSCOW 00000585  002 OF 002 
 
 
the Chamber should only see to its effective implementation. 
 
7. (C) The Chamber is almost exclusively populated by 
pro-Kremlin figures, and its few relatively independent 
figures will have a difficult time pushing their own agendas 
unless the Kremlin approves them.  Nonetheless, the Kremlin's &#x000
A;manipulative creations are not always matched by its ability 
to control its creations (e.g., Rodina), and there has always 
been some indication in the case of the NGO law that Chamber 
members may at least on some occasions slip their leash. 
While skepticism about its role is abundantly justified, we 
do not believe it should be entirely written off in advance 
or ignored. 
BURNS

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