07MOSCOW3168, AMBASSADOR’S ROUNDTABLE WITH HUMAN RIGHTS NGOS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW3168 2007-06-28 15:38 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8585
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #3168/01 1791538
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 281538Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1698
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 003168 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/28/2017 
TAGS: PHUM KDEM PGOV SOCI RS
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S ROUNDTABLE WITH HUMAN RIGHTS NGOS 
 
Classified By: Ambassador William J. Burns.  Reason:  1.4 (d). 
 
------- 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (C) In a June 27 discussion, five human rights NGO 
activists offered the Ambassador their advice for coping with 
an increasingly assertive President Putin.  They suggested 
that like-minded countries speak with one voice, that the 
"tools" of international organizations and agreements be used 
as appropriate, and that the West treat Putin's expressions 
of concern about developments in other countries with the 
same seriousness that they expect for their concerns about 
unsettling developments in Russia.  The participants also 
suggested that efforts be made to demonstrate the link 
between an increasingly prosperous Russia and respect for 
human rights; as, for example, in the fight against 
corruption.  End summary. 
 
------------ 
Participants 
------------ 
 
2. (SBU) The Ambassador on June 27 discussed with 
representatives of five of Russia's leading human rights 
organizations the current state of human rights in Russia, 
projected developments during the 2007 - 08 election cycle, 
and the role of the opposition in Russia's political 
calculus.  Attending the discussion were: 
 
-- Lyudmila Alekseyeva, Chairwoman, Moscow Helsinki Group 
-- Tatyana Lokshina, International Programs Coordinator, 
Demos Center 
-- Yuriy Dzhibladze, President, Center for Development of 
Democracy and Human Rights 
-- Tatyana Kasatkina, Executive Director, Memorial 
-- Aleksandr Petrov, Deputy Chairman, Human Rights Watch 
 
--------------------- 
Putin's Assertiveness 
--------------------- 
 
3. (C) All of the participants endorsed Dzhibladze's 
description of Russia as increasingly centralized and less 
democratic than it was when President Putin took office. 
Economic improvements and increased stability since the 
tumultuous Yeltsin years had not stimulated greater GOR 
self-confidence.  Instead, restrictions on the freedom of the 
media had increased, and an "external enemy," the United 
States, had been created to unify Russians and rationalize 
some of the steps taken. 
 
4. (C) Putin's increasing self-assertiveness presented a 
challenge both to the West, Dzhibladze said, and to human 
rights advocates in Russia.  It had strained U.S.-Russian 
relations, although Dzhibladze doubted that Putin wanted to 
revive the Cold War.  Domestically, Putin's assertive defense 
of Russian "sovereign democracy" had placed GOR critics in a 
difficult position, as democracy had not been rejected out of 
hand.  Dzhibladze and the other participants agreed that the 
President's assertiveness required a carefully considered 
response.  Like-minded countries should express their 
concerns about Russia with one voice, in order to avoid 
charges of partisanship, and the "tools of international 
organizations" should be used, where possible.  Putin's 
concerns about the human rights performance of other 
countries should receive a serious hearing, in order to 
legitimate expressions of concern about human rights 
developments in Russia. 
 
5. (C) The participants thought that human rights presented 
special difficulties for Putin, because he and many of his 
advisors believed that Russia could be modernized without 
undue concern for them.  Putin's belief was belied by the 
continuing inability of the GOR to address problems like 
corruption in the absence of an impartial judiciary, and the 
continuing erosion of the legitimacy of the electoral system. 
 Putin, the participants thought, did not understand that 
genuine democracy was as important to Russia's future as 
security and a booming economy. 
 
 
---------------------- 
Worrisome Developments 
in the Caucasus 
---------------------- 
 
6. (C) Alekseyeva and Lokshina worried about developments in 
Chechnya and the North Caucasus.  While kidnappings may have 
decreased in Chechnya, they were increasing in the North 
Caucasus and Dagestan, they alleged.  The new-found 
 
MOSCOW 00003168  002 OF 002 
 
 
"stability" in Chechnya was a by-product of Chechen President 
Kadyrov's willingness to terrorize whole families in order to 
blunt resistance to his rule.  It had resulted, Alekseyeva 
maintained, in the flight of younger males into the mountains 
in order to avoid being caught up in one of the government's 
frequent sweeps. 
 
------------------ 
Changes to NGO Law 
Under Discussion 
------------------ 
 
7. (C) President Putin's increasingly frequent comments about 
the allegedly negative role of foreign-funded NGOs worried 
the participants. They thought it important that the USG 
assure the GOR that it had no intention to subvert the 
regime, and to note that cross-border aid to NGOs was widely 
practiced, including by Russia, whose Ministry of Foreign 
Affairs had aid programs in the Baltic States. 
 
8. (C) The participants noted they h
ad taken up Putin's 
invitation to offer amendments to the 2006 NGO law.  Their 
proposals were currently under discussion.  There were signs 
that some of them were meeting resistance in the Ministry of 
Justice, but the proposals had found support elsewhere in the 
Russian bureaucracy.  It was difficult for the participants 
to predict when they would received a final verdict. 
Alekseyeva thought that an increasingly active Public Chamber 
was usurping the NGOs traditional territory.  Her concern did 
not seem to be shared by the others present. 
 
------- 
Comment 
------- 
 
9. (C) The participants were clearly worried about negative 
human rights trend lines.  However, the advice they offered 
for dealing with Putin, and their own discussions with the 
GOR on the NGO law, indicated that they still believed it 
possible to modify the behavior of the government, even as 
the GOR enters a period when it will be preoccupied above all 
by its own survival through the Duma and presidential 
elections. 
BURNS

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