07MOSCOW476, RUSSIA: VIEWS OF TWO GOR HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIALS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW476 2007-02-05 13:22 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO7926
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #0476/01 0361322
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 051322Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7166
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 000476 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2017 
TAGS: PHUM PINR RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA: VIEWS OF TWO GOR HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIALS 
 
Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Alice G. Wells: 1.4 (b, d). 
 
 
1.  (C)  Summary:  The Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights 
Council and the Deputy Chief of Staff to the GOR Human Rights 
Ombudsman described a year of democratic retrenchment, with 
"definite improvement, amidst profound violations," but a 
more positive long-term prognosis based on changes within 
Russian society.  Putin's attitude towards civil society is 
described as love-hate, with presidential actions taken to 
reinforce human rights ombudsmen in the provinces. End Summary 
 
------------------------------------- 
Democracy Shrinks, but Horizon Widens 
------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (C)  The Deputy Chairman of Civil Society Institutions 
and Human Rights Council to the Russian President, William 
Smirnov, told us that democratic institutions had been 
constricted over the last year.  The key threat to the Putin 
government and to the functioning of Russia's democracy, he 
argued, were the restrictions in the mass media, brought 
about by government ownership, or by control of 
state-friendly corporations, over television stations and the 
popular mainstream press.  As a result, the GOR was losing 
channels of communication with the Russian population, which 
was "self-destructive." Other problem areas listed by his 
boss, Chairwoman Ella Pamfilova, in the civil society forum 
meeting with Putin on January 11 included: implementation of 
the NGO law, amendments to the electoral legislation, the 
vulnerability of journalists, and NGO access to the prison 
system. 
 
3.  (C)  Pointing to Putin's two-hour participation in the 
forum meeting, Smirnov said that, while difficult to classify 
the Russian president, he placed him within the liberal wing 
of the ruling elite.  "While I would not call him a 
democrat," he noted, "like any intelligence agent, he likes 
independent information, and appreciates what civil society 
can bring to the table."  At these sessions, he noted, Putin 
made a point of accepting documents directly from NGO 
activists, with GOR remedies later providing proof that the 
President had ensured corrective action was taken.  However, 
even before the outbreak of color revolutions and the 
heightened sense of anxiety within the GOR over the political 
potential of civil society, an inherent suspicion of NGOs 
prevailed.  Without specifying, Smirnov reiterated that, 
drawing on his personal experiences in the Council, Putin was 
a brake against much darker forces within the Kremlin, who 
sought to "liberate" themselves entirely from the overview of 
civil society. 
 
4.  (C)  Smirnov attributed Putin's recent comments on the 
need to establish a committee to monitor the implementation 
of the NGO registration bill as indicative of his love-hate 
relationship toward civil society.  While adamant that NGO 
activities be fully transparent and under the supervision of 
the GOR, Putin accepted the role that NGOs (or press) could 
play in uncovering inefficiencies and exposing low-level 
corruption (a point Putin made in his February 1 press 
conference). Smirnov maintained that over the course of the 
last year, Ella Pamfilova had played an important role in 
modifying the worst elements of the NGO law -- a role she 
could only play with the support of Putin.  As a result, 
Smirnov added, she picked her battles carefully. 
 
5.  (C)  Despite short-term pessimism, Smirnov argued that 
long-term trends were sound. As economic growth translated 
into higher living standards, fewer Russians had to fight for 
their day-to-day survival and more were selectively 
protesting against infringements on their civil rights. 
While most Russians remained preoccupied with questions of 
social justice and economic welfare, real grassroots 
movements had gained momentum, which were not dependent upon 
Western financing and, thus, enjoyed greater legitimacy in 
the eyes of Russian citizens.  These NGOs have increased 
their fundraising and are benefiting from Russia's growing 
corporate philanthropy.  As Russian mobility increased, 
Smirnov argued, an important by-product was increasing 
tolerance of diversity (which received less attention than 
its flip-side, inflamed nationalism) and the destruction of 
rigid rules of behavior.  Citizens who came of age in the 
late 1980's and 1990's knew how to say "no" and could be 
expected to do so again in the future. 
 
6.  (C)  On the bitter divide between traditional human 
rights NGOs and the official human rights watchdogs, Smirnov 
was philosophical.  "There should always be a Lev Ponomaryov 
(who rejects cooperation with the GOR)," but "it would be a 
terrible mistake if all refused to engage."  He described 
engagement as "mutually beneficial and mutually restricting," 
but said that dialogue destroyed the excuse of those GOR 
 
MOSCOW 00000476  002 OF 002 
 
 
officials, who did not want to work with civil society.  "Of 
course, there are compromises," but Smirnov concluded that 
"we're doing something good, which would not be done without 
us." 
 
------------------------------------ 
Human Rights Becomes Black a
nd White 
------------------------------------ 
 
7.  (C)  Deputy Chief of Staff to Russia's Human Rights 
Ombudsman, former Russian Ambassador to South Korea Georgiy 
Kunadze, provided a similar analysis.  Without tipping his 
hand on the details of the Ombudsman's end-of-year human 
rights report, which had yet to be sent to Putin and then 
onward to the Duma, Kunadze noted that last year was a period 
of "definite improvement, amidst profound deterioration." 
One feature of this year's document, he noted, would be a 
sharper analysis, less ambivalent about trendlines, with more 
pronounced judgments on both the good and bad news in Russian 
human rights. 
 
8.  (C)  Where Putin has been helpful, Kunadze clarified, was 
in reinforcing to regional governors the desirability of 
establishing provincial human rights ombudsmen, who now 
number 34.  This was significantly less than the total of 
Russia's 88 regions, which he attributed to entrenched local 
resistance to the establishment of quasi-independent monitors 
outside the immediate purview of the governor.  As an aside, 
Kunadze noted that the area of greatest resistance was Moscow 
city, where Mayor Luzhkov rejected the establishment of an 
ombudsman, with federal authorities unwilling (or unable) to 
intervene. 
 
9.  (C)  Reviewing the NGO registration law, Kunadze noted 
that the NGO community had not responded to Lukin's 
solicitation, requesting evidence of the difficulties of the 
process.  "Nobody" volunteered any details.  The Ombudsman is 
convinced that any NGO that "takes the pains" to jump through 
the bureaucratic hoops will be registered.  Nevertheless, the 
Ombudsman's office would take up the law in the annual 
report, focusing on the costs of the bureaucratic procedure, 
in lost efficiency and professional activity.  It was time to 
consider amendments to the legislation, Kunadze commented, 
although it was more likely that an "informal understanding" 
based on indirect guidance from the Presidential 
Administration would filter down to the Federal Registration 
Service. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
10.  (C)  Smirnov and Kunadze are representative of those 
figures who have chosen to work with the GOR.  They do not 
hesitate to criticize the government, but believe they can be 
a force for incremental change.  They are regarded 
skeptically by both elements within the GOR hostile to civil 
society and representatives of civil society implacably 
opposed to "co-optation" by the GOR. 
BURNS

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