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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW9436 2006-08-29 12:32 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow


DE RUEHMO #9436/01 2411232
R 291232Z AUG 06

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 009436 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/29/2016 
REF: A. MOSCOW 0921 
     B. MOSCOW 3945 
     C. MOSCOW 6389 
     D. MOSCOW 7670 
     E. MOSCOW 7956 
     F. MOSCOW 8148 
Classified By: Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs Alice Wells. 
Reasons: 1.4(B/D). 
1. (C) SUMMARY. A/S Barry Lowenkron visited Moscow in July 
attending "The Other Russia" conference sponsored by 
opposition political parties on the eve of the G8 summit.  He 
also had consultations with a number of Russian officials, 
politicians, and NGO leaders.  These included: Chairperson of 
the Presidential Civil Society and Human Rights Council Ella 
Pamfilova, Public Chamber Head Yevgeniy Velikhov, Open Russia 
Head Irina Yasina, Deputy Human Rights Ombudsman Georgiy 
Kunadze, People's Democratic Union Head Mikhail Kasyanov, and 
Republican Party leader Vladimir Ryzhkov.  A/S Lowenkron also 
granted a number of interviews to both domestic and foreign 
media outlets. END SUMMARY. 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
2. (C) In his meeting with Chairperson of the Presidential 
Civil Society and Human Rights Council Ella Pamfilova, A/S 
Lowenkron recalled their discussion in January when Pamfilova 
expressed her dissatisfaction with the new NGO law despite 
her efforts and the efforts of others to improve the law's 
requirements (ref A).  A/S Lowenkron asked for Pamfilova's 
assessment of the law, and Pamfilova detailed her efforts to 
ensure transparency, adding that she would not hesitate to 
raise problems with the law as she and other NGO leaders did 
in their official meeting with Putin. 
3. (C) In his meeting with A/S Lowenkron, Public Chamber Head 
Yevgeniy Velikhov explained the operations of the Public 
Chamber (PC) and described its relations with the Duma and 
Kremlin.  He said it was premature to predict whether the PC 
would become an accepted, permanent fixture within the GOR or 
whether it was an efficient process, but he was enjoying the 
experience.  Velikhov mentioned that one of the Chamber's 
priorities for the year was to study philanthropy in Russia. 
He added that Russians needed to change their views toward 
philanthropy and start supporting NGOs, thus reducing the 
need for external support.  Lowenkron agreed, saying, 
however, that before Russian philanthropy could really be 
developed, a clear legal framework needed to be set in place. 
 Velikhov noted that the Chairman of the Philanthropy 
Commission, Vladimir Potanin, was scheduled to meet with 
representatives of the Ford and MacArthur Foundations in the 
autumn.  Velikhov also highlighted the problem of religious 
intolerance.  He said there was currently a big push by the 
Russian Orthodox Church to become the state religion. 
Lowenkron stated that was an area of concern that the State 
Department was keeping an eye on.  However, Velikhov said 
Putin would oppose such an effort because he believed that no 
religion should have special privileges. 
4. (C) Velikhov maintained that implementation of the 
Municipalities Law, which had been passed in 2003 to 
eliminate corruption at the local level, had been a 
catastrophe.  Revenue is now taken from municipal authorities 
and sent to the Federal Tax Service to be redistributed as 
thought fit by regional governments.  As a result, of 
approximately 25,000 municipalities in the country, only 500 
have been able to balance their budgets, most of which are 
oil and gas company towns, Velikhov said.  The other 24,500 
are now too dependent on central authorities for income.  At 
the end of September, the Federation Council will devote an 
entire plenary session to the municipalities issue. 
5. (C) Open Russia Head Irina Yasina's meeting with A/S 
Lowenkron occurred in a somewhat downbeat context since Open 
Russia's website had been shut down that same morning due to 
lack of funds.  This year, George Soros, Matra (a Dutch 
foundation), and Anatoliy Chubais had donated money to keep 
some seminars going, and Yasina hoped to receive a USAID 
grant next year.  She told A/S Lowenkron about the 
organization's desperate straits but said she and her 
colleagues would soldier on as long as possible (ref B). 
Many people privately supported Open Russia's goals and 
ideals but would not contribute money for fear of 
retribution, since the NGO is linked to the imprisoned 
oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovskiy.  Yasina explained there were 
50 partner affiliates in the regions, but only about 
one-third would survive because there was insufficient 
domestic support.  She said their survival would depend on 
the mood of local authorities, who in turn were at the mercy 
of the Kremlin. Lowenkron added that Putin and his circle are 
deciding what NGOs are acceptable and what constitutes civil 
iety, but civil society cannot be created from the top 
6. (C) Yasina continued that civil society's main challenge 
was to make it through the next two years.  She believes the 
situation will improve after the 2008 presidential elections. 
 Yasina noted that one of the biggest problems for Open 
Russia and other independent NGOs was access to the general 
public.  There was too much anti-democratic propaganda on 
official TV channels, which promoted the idea that "you had 
freedom in the 1990s, but it was chaos; now there might be 
less freedom but greater opportunities for wealth and 
stability."  NGOs had few opportunities to counter this kind 
of misinformation because they have been denied the ability 
to reach a broader audience via TV for the past six years, 
she said.  Lowenkron agreed that NGOs, ability to affect 
public opinion was particularly difficult in Russia because 
of the high energy prices, tight government control of the 
media, and Russian officials selling the idea that stability 
and security should trump civic freedoms. 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
7. (C) Deputy Human Rights Ombudsman Georgiy Kunadze began 
the meeting with A/S Lowenkron with a discussion of the 
U.S.-Russian Roundtable on Democracy and Human Rights 
proposal (ref C).  Kunadze said that since it was Lukin's 
idea, Lukin does not mind being the Russian organizer. 
However, since the Ombudsman's Office is a government agency, 
President Putin would ultimately make the decision on whether 
Lukin would represent Russia.  Lowenkron said that he hoped 
Lukin would take the lead on the Russian side and that the 
Carnegie Center had been suggested for taking the lead on the 
American side.  Possible topics for roundtable sessions could 
include combating corruption, terrorist financing, human 
rights violations, and religious intolerance, Kunadze said. 
8. (C) In the second half of the meeting, Kunadze described 
both positive and negative achievements for the Ombudsman's 
Office so far this year.  On the positive side, he mentioned 
that the Office's 2005 annual report had received good 
feedback, particularly from Putin.  Kunadze was also proud of 
two special reports on disabled children's rights and 
educational rights that the Office had published.  On the 
negative side, he was disappointed that the Ombudsman's 
Office had not yet drafted a report on growing ethnic 
violence in Russia.  But, he reasoned, it was such a diverse 
and difficult issue to summarize that it might be worth doing 
a series of reports rather than a single large report.  In 
addition, Kunadze considered the Ombudsman's Office's 
inability to prevail on the NGO law a major failure.  He was 
pleased, however, that Putin mentioned that it might be 
possible to amend the NGO law by the end of this year, 
although he admitted it might have just been a pre-G8 gesture 
to appease critics.  Kunadze said that in order for Putin to 
seriously consider amending the law, somebody first had to 
prove that the law was not effective, as well as to propose 
specific amendments.  He said the Ombudsman's Office would be 
looking into this and that there would be an Experts Council 
meeting later in the summer, which he hoped would compile 
negative and positive examples of implementation since the 
law came into force in April.  Lowenkron suggested that 
in-depth discussions of the NGO law and its implementing 
guidelines, as well as how to deal with xenophobia and 
extremism, could be possible topics for the roundtable. 
9. (C) Former Prime Minister Kasyanov recounted for A/S 
Lowenkron some of the difficulties his supporters had 
encountered in their efforts to participate in "The Other 
Russia" conference (ref D, E).  Speaking more broadly, 
Kasyanov asserted that Russia's image at the G8 summit would 
be a "turning point" and that many NGOs feared an increase in 
government repression afterwards.  This would be particularly 
relevant for politically sensitive organizations involved in 
democracy promotion and political institution-building.  At 
the same time, Kasyanov said some NGO representatives had 
become increasingly angry about the current state of affairs 
in the country and were beginning to realize that nobody 
would be able to defend them effectively in the wake of an 
official crackdown on their activities. 
10. (C) With respect to the People's Democratic Union, 
Kasyanov described it as a movement and therefore not subject 
to the same registration requirements as political parties. 
In time, he hoped to transform it into a party.  Kasyanov 
acknowledged that the Union was struggling to increase its 
popularity.  He said many in the business community had 
quietly expressed support, but official pressure on 
businessmen was so intense that they could not be perceived 
as openly endorsing opposition parties or candidates. 
Kasyanov claimed, however, that his experience in government 
had allowed him to forge numerous ties with influential 
figures, as well as to hone his managerial skills. 
11. (C) Assistant Secretaries Lowenkron and Fried were among 
the foreign guests, hundreds of opposition figures (from 
liberal democrats to National Bolsheviks), and NGO activists 
who met in Moscow July 11-12 for "The Other Russia" 
conference organized by United Civil Front leader Garri 
Kasparov (ref D, E).  During the conference, A/S Lowenkron 
and Fried had the opportunity to meet many of the speakers 
and guests, including conference organizer Kasparov and 
Moscow Carnegie Center analyst Liliya Shevtsova, and gave 
interviews to several foreign and domestic media outlets -- 
Kommersant, BBC, NY Times, AP, The Times of London, The Daily 
Telegraph, Reuters, The Toronto Star, and ARD German TV 
Channel 1. 
12. (C) During dinner with A/S Lowenkron and Fried, 
Republican Party leader and independent Duma Deputy Vladimir 
Ryzhkov spoke about difficulties he was having in getting his 
party registered.  He mentioned that new legislation had 
increased from 25 to 35 the number of possible reasons for 
excluding candidates from electoral lists and said that even 
Central Elections Commission Head Aleksandr Veshnyakov had 
agreed that the new legislation was too restrictive.  He 
argued that if only a few parties were allowed to register 
and only three or four of the top ten most popular candidates 
were able to run, the elections would not be considered 
credible or legitimate.  He said unofficial presidential 
contenders Dmitriy
Medvedev and Sergey Ivanov both had about 
7-9 percent in popularity polls, but they were shown dozens 
of times on TV in June, while Ryzhkov, who claimed to rank 
similarly in the polls, had appeared only three times. 
13. (C) Another issue that concerned Ryzhkov was control of 
the Internet.  He said the Public Chamber had recently raised 
the issue and was drafting an initiative that would provide 
for regulation of the Internet.  There were over 22 million 
Internet users in Russia, most of whom were young and urban 
-- just the kind of voters the Kremlin was most worried about 
since this age cohort had been actively involved in recent 
"colored" revolutions.  Ryzhkov pointed to Minister of 
Information Technology and Communication Leonid Raiman's 
recent remarks that Russia was studying China's experience 
with the Internet.  While it might be too late to introduce 
such tight control in Russia, Ryzhkov predicted the Kremlin 
was nevertheless likely to try to do so prior to elections, 
perhaps using anti-extremism (ref F) or anti-terrorism themes 
as a justification for imposing controls. 
14. (U) A/S Lowenkron has cleared this cable. 


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