06MOSCOW3945, OPEN RUSSIA” ON THE ROPES, BUT IRINA YASINA HOPES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW3945 2006-04-14 06:21 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO3247
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #3945/01 1040621
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 140621Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4171
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 003945 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/13/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR RS
SUBJECT: "OPEN RUSSIA" ON THE ROPES, BUT IRINA YASINA HOPES 
TO PRESS ON 
 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  On April 12 a Moscow court upheld an earlier 
ruling freezing the assets of the Open Russia Foundation, 
which had been founded by and received the bulk of its 
funding from Mikhail Khodorkovskiy.  Open Russia head Irina 
Yasina told the Ambassador on April 13 that though she 
planned to appeal the decision to Russia's Constitutional 
Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), she saw 
virtually no chance of saving the foundation.  Projects 
indirectly funded by Open Russia were continuing, Yasina 
said, and she would seek alternate funding sources for them. 
The Ambassador underscored the contributions Open Russia had 
made to Russia's civil society development and the importance 
of continuing with Yasina's many projects.  Yasina seemed 
more downbeat than ever, although she remained determined to 
keep working on programs as long as possible.  END SUMMARY. 
 
COURT AGAIN RULES AGAINST OPEN RUSSIA 
------------------------------------- 
 
2. (U) The Moscow City Court rejected on April 12 an appeal 
of the Basmanniy District Court's March 16 ruling that froze 
the assets of Open Russia.  The initial ruling had been made 
on the grounds that the assets at issue had come from illegal 
activities of former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskiy.  Open 
Russia's lawyer immediately announced that he would appeal 
the decision to the Constitutional Court and, possibly, to 
the ECHR as well. 
 
3. (C) Open Russia head Irina Yasina told the Ambassador on 
April 13 that she saw almost no hope that the Constitutional 
Court would reverse the lower court's decision.  She had 
virtually resigned herself to dissolving the foundation, and 
would not seek new funding sources for it.  Yasina expressed 
particular concern that the Procuracy could go after two of 
Open Russia's employees who had been signing the foundation's 
financial documents.  Meanwhile, other Open Russia employees 
had been leaving for new jobs, Yasina said; keeping them in 
an organization with Open Russia's uncertain fate would be 
unfair to them. 
 
4. (C) In addition to challenging the Basmanniy Court's 
ruling in the higher court, Yasina said she had appealed for 
help to Ella Pamfilova, Chair of the Presidential Council for 
Assistance to Development of Institutions of Civil Society 
and Human Rights.  Pamfilova had genuinely tried to help, but 
the Procuracy had responded to her inquiry by insisting that 
it was acting fully within the law.  Yasina said that 
appealing to Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin would be 
fruitless, since he was under the Kremlin's control. 
. 
CONTINUING WITH INDIVIDUAL PROJECTS 
----------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) Although resigned to Open Russia's quick demise, 
Yasina stressed that she was continuing to work on projects 
paid for by organizations indirectly funded by the 
foundation.  Indeed, she met the Ambassador during a break 
from a journalist roundtable organized and paid for by an 
organization which had received its money from Open Russia. 
There were numerous such projects, Yasina stressed, 
particularly in the regions.  For now, the government had not 
sought to shut them down and sometimes even worked with them, 
Yasina said.  In many regions, for instance, officials 
continued to attend regional political training courses, 
although Yasina conceded that they might begin to distance 
themselves from such projects in light of the current attack 
on Open Russia.  Underscoring the importance of Open Russia's 
activities in promoting Russia's democratic development, the 
Ambassador stressed the value of the individual projects on 
which Yasina was working. 
 
6. (C) While such projects continued, Yasina continued, they 
needed new funding sources.  She had just received a small 
but symbolically important grant from the Dutch government. 
Yasina said she would be visiting the U.S. in late April in 
hopes of gaining support and finances, notably from the Soros 
Foundation. 
. 
NGO PLANS 
--------- 
 
7. (C) Yasina argued that the Putin administration had come 
to feel itself unstoppable in its efforts to roll back 
domestic independent forces.  The attack on Open Russia was a 
part of the Kremlin's anti-Khodorkovskiy drive, Yasina 
believed, rather than being aimed primarily at civil society. 
 Nonetheless, the NGO law was clearly aimed at independent 
civil society, and while it was not likely to be widely 
applied before the G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg, it would be 
 
MOSCOW 00003945  002 OF 002 
 
 
implemented more forcefully thereafter. 
 
8. (C) The plans of international human rights organizations 
to hold an alternate G-8 in Helsinki would not stop the 
Kremlin's efforts but might at least give it pause, Yasina 
continued.  Much depended on how much press the alternate 
event drew, and on whether G-7 officials would attend.  Her 
U.S. trip, in addition to seeking new fundi
ng sources, was 
also aimed at discussing plans for the Helsinki event with 
U.S. human rights groups. 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
9. (C) Yasina had long stressed to us that though Open Russia 
continued to function, the government could launch an attack 
on it at any moment.  She had noted that, although numerous 
inspections of Open Russia's books had found no 
irregularities, the foundation remained vulnerable given the 
government's ability to use the courts for its own purposes. 
The current attack did not come as a complete surprise to 
Yasina.  Although decidedly downbeat, Yasina intends to press 
on despite being resigned to an end to Open Russia.  She 
oversees numerous civil society projects in the regions, and 
remains guardedly hopeful that they can continue to function 
even without Open Russia's support. 
BURNS

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