06MOSCOW5377, VLADIMIR LUKIN, RUSSIA’S PRAGMATIC HUMAN RIGHTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW5377 2006-05-19 16:20 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO1129
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #5377/01 1391620
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 191620Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6189
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 005377 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/17/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR PREL RS
SUBJECT: VLADIMIR LUKIN, RUSSIA'S PRAGMATIC HUMAN RIGHTS 
OMBUDSMAN 
 
REF: A. 04 MOSCOW 1794 
     B. MOSCOW 797 
     C. 05 MOSCOW 1028 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reasons: 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir 
Lukin will visit the U.S. May 23-26.  A former diplomat (who 
was once Russia's Ambassador in Washington) and Duma member 
from the Yabloko Party, Lukin has had a mixed reputation in 
Russia's human rights community.  Many activists view him as 
doing a better job than expected and acknowledge that he 
remains among their few channels to Kremlin decisionmakers. 
His office's recently-released report on Russia's human 
rights situation in 2005 included strong criticism of the 
government in important areas such as violence against 
journalists and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, 
where Lukin believes his office can have some impact. 
Lukin's U.S. visit will provide a good opportunity for 
Washington officials to raise our human rights concerns and 
discuss ways in which we might work constructively on 
Russia's efforts to address them.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
A GOOD PEDIGREE 
--------------- 
 
2. (C) In February 2004 President Putin selected Vladimir 
Lukin as Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman.  Given his 
background as a prominent Yabloko party politician and Duma 
member, Lukin's appointment was welcomed by civil society 
activists (ref A).  Although some expressed concern about his 
limited background in human rights issues, he got good 
reviews for learning the issues quickly.  Many activists also 
saw improving the staff of the Ombudsman's office as an early 
challenge for Lukin.  He is seen as having made progress on 
that front; Tatyana Lokshina of the Demos Center, for 
instance, told us that Lukin and his immediate staff have 
become helpful, even if much of the rest of the Ombudsman's 
office remains relatively unresponsive. 
. 
LUKIN'S ROLE AS OMBUDSMAN 
------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) Lukin's approach is often contrasted to that of Ella 
Pamfilova, Chair of the Presidential Council on Promoting the 
Development of Institutions of Civil Society and Human 
Rights.  Pamfilova is viewed as more outspoken and as more 
actively helpful to many human rights activists, although 
she, like Lukin, tries to put a positive face on many Putin 
policies.  Lukin's approach is seen as more cautious and 
pragmatic.  Yet many activists acknowledge that the 
difference in approach also results at least in part from the 
division of labor between them.  Pamfilova and her Council 
focus on broader policy issues, while Lukin's chief 
responsibility is to address specific human rights 
complaints.  Lukin has told us that his office receives 
approximately 40,000 complaints annually, about half related 
to socio-economic problems and a third to law enforcement 
abuses.  Lukin's office also receives complaints regarding 
pressure on the media and violence against ethnic, religious, 
or racial minorities. 
 
4. (C) In responding to complaints, Lukin utilizes both 
private and public approaches.  In contrast to Oleg Mironov, 
his predecessor as ombudsman, Lukin regularly meets with 
Putin.  Lokshina told us Lukin tries to work behind the 
scenes on some of the more sensitive human rights issues, 
believing that will bring more results than high-profile 
public criticism.  Yet on occasion Lukin speaks out 
forcefully, as in recent public statements on hazing in the 
military and the recent upsurge in violent xenophobic 
attacks.   His remarks criticizing law enforcement organs for 
their handling of xenophobia, as well as information from his 
office's 2004 report, were cited by Amnesty International in 
its own report on the issue. 
 
5. (SBU) Lukin has used his annual report on human rights, 
the 2005 edition of which he presented to Putin on April 21 
(available online at 
http://ombudsman.gov.ru/doc/ezdoc/05.shtml), to direct public 
attention to some of his concerns.  The report did not go 
into depth on some issues, such as Chechnya, although even 
there he identified it, "despite some stabilization," as a 
continuing threat to people's lives both in and beyond 
Chechnya, adding that "The spread of destructive processes to 
the entire North Caucaus region brings special dangers with 
it."  His discussion of the implementation of socio-economic 
"rights" relating, e.g., to costs of housing and utilities, 
reflects an approach different from that of the U.S. but one 
that has political resonance here.  He also put clear 
emphasis on some serious problems in the area of civil and 
 
MOSCOW 00005377  002 OF 002 
 
 
political rights.  In the section on freedom of speech, for 
example, he stressed that the state controls some 90 percent 
of the mass media and the public has problems with access to 
objective information ("Unfortunately, the example of the 
'Ekho Moskvy' radio station is no more than an exception" in 
Russia's electronic media landscape).  He also discussed the 
problem of na
tionalism and xenophobia in Russia and 
criticized law enforcement's response to the issue and noted 
the public's lack of trust in the judiciary, underscoring 
concerns with the objectivity of the courts in cases against 
the authorities.  He also highlighted serious human rights 
problems in the military. 
 
6. (SBU)  We would call attention to several comments Lukin 
made in the report that provide a good sense both of his 
nuanced approach to his duties and some of his outspoken 
criticism: 
 
-  "Political judgments are beyond the competence of the 
Ombudsman.  Nonetheless one cannot avoid directing attention 
to the fact that the restructuring of the system of state 
power that continued in 2005, which was explained in terms of 
the growth of the extremist terrorist threat, did not meet 
with full understanding in Russian society and was evaluated 
by a part of the citizenry as entailing the destruction of 
their constituional rights and freedoms.  However, the 
Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation did not agree 
with those apprehensions." 
 
-  As a conclusion to the "General Assessment," Lukin said, 
"All this gives grounds for cautious optimism with regard to 
the mid- and long-term prospects for the establishment in 
Russia of a socially responsible democratic state and a 
mature civil society." 
 
-  "...representatives of political forces regarded as 
oppositionist systematically encounter substantial hardships 
in trying to communicate their point of view to the broad 
public in the programs of federal television.  Once again on 
those channels one point of view is being generally asserted 
with regard to what is happening in the country and the 
world, and active discussion of current issues in our lives 
is only weakly represented in live programming.  This is a 
harmful and dangerous tendency." 
 
7. (C) Many human rights activists see Lukin as being 
insufficiently critical of the Kremlin, but some of them, 
such as Aleksandr Petrov of Human Rights Watch, tell us he is 
doing a better job than expected.  In addition, they 
recognize that he remains among the few channels they have to 
the authorities.  Some note that his cautious approach 
sometimes gives them an indication of what can realistically 
be achieved on human rights issues. 
. 
EMBASSY TIES 
------------ 
 
8. (C) Lukin is a useful Embassy interlocutor on human rights 
issues.  In a January meeting with DRL A/S Lowenkron (ref B), 
he voiced his concerns about the first draft of the 
controversial NGO legislation and noted that his office had 
seen an increase in complaints of human rights violations. 
In a recent meeting, he urged USAID to work as much as 
possible with other governments and to consult with relevant 
GOR officials on USAID's more controversial projects.  He 
also suggested working on issues of concern to the GOR, such 
as discrimination against persons with disabilities.  He has 
been an important interlocutor on broader issues, including 
Russia's relations with its neighbors (ref C). 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
9. (C)  Lukin is not as outspokenly critical as many civil 
society activists would like, but he is no "Kremlin stooge." 
He has taken important stands -- both publicly and privately 
-- on key human rights issues.  He has good Kremlin access 
and a well-developed sense of what is realistic in light of 
Kremlin policies.  His upcoming U.S. visit will provide an 
excellent opportunity to exchange views with an official with 
some ability to influence developments, and to discuss ways 
in which we might work constructively on the human rights 
situation in Russia. 
BURNS

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