06MOSCOW922, A RANGE OF EXPECTATIONS ABOUT THE PUBLIC CHAMBER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW922 2006-01-30 13:11 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO6170
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0922/01 0301311
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 301311Z JAN 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0006
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 000922 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/26/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR RS
SUBJECT: A RANGE OF EXPECTATIONS ABOUT THE PUBLIC CHAMBER 
 
REF: MOSCOW 585 
 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Kirk Augustine. 
  Reasons: 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  As the Public Chamber gets down to work 
following its inaugural plenary on January 22, its members 
have differing expectations about what it will accomplish. 
Publicly, many members expressed at least guarded optimism 
about the Chamber.  Privately, views differ appreciably.  One 
Chamber member told us that though he holds modest 
expectations, he aims to use the body to encourage religious 
freedom and still hopes Chamber members will propose 
amendments to the controversial NGO legislation.  Valeriy 
Fadeyev, a Chamber member who was instrumental in the body's 
creation, now voices little enthusiasm, and others told us 
privately that he lost interest when he realized how much the 
Kremlin would control the body.  It appears from members' 
comments that Presidential Administration Deputy Head 
Vladislav Surkov will play a pivotal role in the Chamber's 
activities.  The Kremlin will apply its guiding hand over the 
Chamber's predominantly malleable members, but on some issues 
the body -- or at least some of its members -- may display an 
element of independence which we should encourage to the 
extent possible.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
HOPEFULNESS IN PUBLIC STATEMENTS 
-------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) In the aftermath of the Public Chamber's inaugural 
plenary (reftel), many of its members have given interviews 
about their expectations.  Most have been predictably -- if 
sometimes guardedly -- upbeat, although they have differed 
somewhat in their identification of the Chamber's primary 
purposes.  In a radio interview, Chamber Secretary Yevgeniy 
Velikhov said he was hopeful the body would mobilize civil 
society, fight corruption and encourage better moral values 
in society.  However, he implicitly conceded that he was not 
entirely sure about the Chamber's functions, beginning his 
reply to the question of what the body would do by saying: 
"As far as I understand the law...and what the President said 
at the first meeting."  Chamber member and First Channel 
television producer Aleksandr Shkolnik acknowledged in an 
interview that the Chamber still needed to gain the public's 
acceptance.  Suggesting that he was hopeful this would take 
place, Shkolnik said that the Chamber's main goals were to 
develop a public dialogue on issues and to encourage citizen 
activism.  Chamber member and journalist Aleksey Chadayev 
argued in an interview that the body could at minimum provoke 
the Duma to become more active. 
 
3. (SBU) Meanwhile, plans are under discussion for the work 
of Chamber committees.  In another interview, Velikhov said 
that two committees dealing with foreign policy might produce 
resolutions on Iran and the UK spy scandal.  Pavel Gusev, 
chair of the Chamber committee on media, said his committee 
will work on media freedom, with a particular focus on the 
regions, including through press monitoring.  Gusev said that 
his committee, having already received inquiries about 
regional government harassment of media in two regions, would 
investigate them and send inquiries to regional officials if 
necessary.  The committee also could send its representatives 
to a region to check out a complaint -- and, he seemed to 
imply, thus pressure officials there into changing their 
ways.  Gusev took a swipe at the Duma, complaining that it 
had totally disregarded his committee, and the Chamber more 
broadly, as it considered new draft legislation that would 
limit the number of commercials on television.  Gusev also 
complained that with just one staffer, his committee was 
limited in what it could accomplish.  Other members of 
Gusev's committee also weighed in, with Yelena Zielinskaya, 
for instance, saying that the committee might develop plans 
for the establishment of a public television station. 
. 
INFLUENCING RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, NGO LEGISLATION 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
4. (C) In private conversations, we have heard other views 
about the Chamber.  Bishop Sergey Ryakhovskiy, a Chamber 
member who heads a network of Protestant organizations in 
Russia, told us January 24 that the success of the body was 
very much an open question.  The Kremlin had formed the 
Chamber to strengthen its relations with, and gain better 
control of, civil society with an eye to the 2007-08 
elections, Ryakhovskiy argued.  Because most of its members 
were Kremlin-friendly and the Kremlin oversaw its activities, 
the Chamber could easily prove a rubber stamp.  This would 
become apparent within half a year, Ryakhovskiy posited, and 
if it proved true, its more independent-minded members would 
begin to drift away.  Whether the Kremlin itself would remain 
interested in the Chamber over the longer term was also an 
open question, Ryakhovskiy said; one small indicator was how 
 
MOSCOW 00000922  002 OF 003 
 
 
well the building destined for the Chamber's use would be 
renovated. 
 
5. (C) Nonetheless, Ryakhovskiy argued, his inclusion on the 
Chamber offered him the opportunit
y to try to use it to push 
his core goals, and he intended to do so.  One goal is to 
promote religious freedom, notably for denominations not 
favored by the government, like Protestants and Catholics, 
Ryakhovskiy continued.  He had already begun using the 
Chamber to work closely with two other members, Rabbi Berl 
Lazar and Mufti Ravil Gaynutdin, and he intended to use his 
prerogatives as a member to investigate accusations of 
religious discrimination in the provinces and to inform the 
public about them.  Ryakhovskiy added that he had reached out 
to the Chamber's members representing the Russian Orthodox 
Church, but had yet to receive a positive response. 
 
6. (C) Noting that he was on the Chamber's committee on civil 
society, Ryakhovskiy said he also planned to use it to work 
on the recently passed NGO legislation.  As a Chamber member, 
he could mobilize NGOs throughout the country to investigate 
implementation of the legislation, Ryakhovskiy related. 
Beyond that, he had already received the agreement of his 
committee's chairperson, Mariya Slobodskaya, to begin working 
on amending the legislation.  Ryakhovskiy acknowledged that 
such an effort might not get far.  The Kremlin might well put 
a quick stop to it, and even his committee's deputy 
chairperson, Aleksandr Ignatenko, had reacted very 
non-committally to the proposal.  Still, the Chamber had 
expressed its desire to weigh in on the legislation while it 
was being drafted, and Ryakhovskiy hoped he could build on 
those sentiments even now, after Putin signed the bill. 
. 
DISILLUSIONMENT FROM A FOUNDER? 
------------------------------- 
 
7. (C) As we have noted previously, Ekspert magazine chief 
editor Valeriy Fadeyev had been among the key players in the 
Chamber's formation.  In a January 23 meeting, however, he 
struck us as surprisingly unenthusiastic about it.  Asked 
about his plans as a Chamber member, Fadeyev replied that he 
would prefer to work on other projects.  Had Chamber member 
and businessman Vladimir Potanin agreed to head the committee 
charged with economic issues, Fadeyev might have joined that 
committee, he commented, since that might have offered the 
chance to have at least some serious impact.  Because Potanin 
had opted to head the Chamber's committee on charitable work 
and voluntarism, Fadeyev had opted to join a committee on 
globalization and regional development, which had an unclear 
role and was unlikely to require him to do much work. 
(Indeed, that committee's Chairman, Andranik Migranyan, told 
us January 23 that he had developed the idea for such a 
committee and now had to figure out what it would actually 
do.) 
 
8. (C) Nezavisimaya Gazeta owner Konstantin Remchukov, who is 
not a Chamber member but works closely with Fadeyev on the 
"November 4 Club" of rightist political leaders, told us 
January 25 that Fadeyev had become disillusioned with the 
Chamber.  Fadeyev had been a leading figure in defining an 
ideology for the United Russia party, but when that effort 
was squashed at the United Russia congress in December, 
Fadeyev had become unhappy with the Kremlin, according to 
Remchukov.  Since then, Remchukov recounted, Fadeyev had come 
to realize the full extent to which the Kremlin would control 
the Chamber, and his enthusiasm for working in that body had 
also declined. 
. 
SURKOV'S PROMINENT ROLE 
----------------------- 
 
9. (C) Ryakhovskiy highlighted to us the pivotal role Surkov 
played in the Chamber.  A moving force in its creation, 
Surkov had then been directly involved in establishing its 
membership and activities.  Surkov would continue to play an 
active role, relying on one of his advisors, PA Domestic 
Politics Administration deputy head Mikhail Ostrovskiy, to 
attend meetings and deal with key details, Ryakhovskiy said. 
Indeed, Ryakhovskiy reported, he would soon be meeting 
Ostrovskiy and Aleksandr Kudryavtsev, head of the PA's office 
in charge of religious affairs, to discuss Chamber business. 
 
10. (C) Remchukov agreed that Surkov had a predominant role 
in the Chamber's activities.  He reported that, having been 
politically outmaneuvered by PA Deputy Head Igor Sechin, 
Surkov had been instructed by Putin to become less engaged on 
foreign policy issues.  According to Remchukov, Sechin rather 
than Surkov had also been tasked with weakening former PM 
Mikhail Kasyanov's political efforts.  As a result, Remchukov 
said, Surkov now had more time to devote to the Chamber. 
. 
COMMENT 
 
MOSCOW 00000922  003 OF 003 
 
 
------- 
 
11. (C) The Public Chamber was designed to strengthen the 
Kremlin's grip over NGOs and to help realize Putin's vision 
of a civil society that is compliant rather than independent. 
 The Kremlin populated the Chamber predominantly with 
pro-Putin figures, and Surkov will no doubt do his best to 
ensure that they do not stray from the Kremlin line. 
Already, the Chamber is being portrayed as helping implement 
Putin's national projects and as fighting the excesses of 
bureaucracy, which the Kremlin blames for many of the 
country's problems.  That the media committee will focus on 
media freedom in the provinces suggests that it will be used 
to bludgeon regional officials rather than to encourage 
broader media independence. 
 
12. (C) As noted previously (reftel), however, even Putin's 
creations have sometimes spun out of the control of the 
Kremlin, and we cannot rule out that the Chamber could do so, 
at least on some occasions.  Chamber members sought to slow 
the passage of the controversial NGO legislation; while they 
may have done so primarily to boost the Chamber's reputation 
rather than to fight for a more independent civil society, 
they did complicate matters for the Kremlin.  Some analysts 
have explained that episode as related to intra-Kremlin 
infighting that spilled over to the Public Chamber because of 
Surkov's close association with that body, suggesting that 
the Chamber may potentially serve as a barometer reflecting 
internal Kremlin tensions. 
 
13. (C) We do not expect Ryakhovskiy to have much success in 
amending the NGO legislation, particularly in the current 
atmosphere, but he could have greater success in encouraging 
better treatment of religious minorities.  While we do not 
have high hopes for the Chamber, its members may sometimes 
display an independence that we should encourage to the 
extent possible. 
BURNS

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