07MOSCOW4345, RUSSIA: STAFFDEL ANAND EXPLORES POLITICAL SITUATION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW4345 2007-09-05 13:33 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8629
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #4345/01 2481333
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051333Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3537
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2388
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2676
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 4459

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 004345 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA: STAFFDEL ANAND EXPLORES POLITICAL SITUATION 
 
MOSCOW 00004345  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
Summary 
------- 
 
1. (U) A four-person staff delegation from the House Committee on 
Foreign Affairs visited Moscow August 25-29 to explore political 
developments in the run-up to parliamentary elections in December 
and the presidential election next year. During their visit they met 
with a range of Russian officials, NGOs, political opposition 
leaders and a member of the media. They discussed prospects for 
opposition parties in the Duma elections, the work of NGOs, and 
bilateral issues. In a meeting with a member of the Duma, they also 
discussed the Duma-House exchange and the next committee meeting in 
Moscow. End summary. 
 
Background 
---------- 
 
2. (U) Staffdel Anand visited Moscow August 25-29 as part of a 
multi-country trip to Central Asia, Russia and Georgia. The 
delegation was comprised of professional staff of the House 
Committee on Foreign Affairs and included Mr. Manpreet Singh Anand 
(majority), Mr. Gene Gurevich (minority), Ms. Melissa Adamson 
(majority) and Dr. Amanda Sloat (majority), who led the Russia 
portion of their trip. 
 
Prospects for the Duma elections 
-------------------------------- 
 
3. (SBU) In meetings with leaders of two opposition political 
parties - Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces (SPS) - the staffdel 
heard about the difficulties opposition parties will have in meeting 
the seven percent threshold to enter the Duma. Representatives of 
both parties commented on discussions that have taken place about 
merging their parties. Despite the fact that joining forces would 
improve prospects for representation in the Duma, the two parties 
have been unable to reach agreement. Now, under the law, it is too 
late to create a new party and coalitions are illegal. 
 
4. (SBU) SPS Chairman Nikita Belykh believed that if SPS and Yabloko 
combined lists, the merged party would have little problem achieving 
seven percent. Belykh said different ideas and ideologies prevented 
an SPS-Yabloko merger. Sergey Ivanenko, Deputy Chair of Yabloko, 
attributed the stalemate to a lack of agreement over the "brand" of 
the merged party. Ivanenko went on to say that "creating something 
new in Russia right now is risky," citing the Republican Party of 
Russia as an example.  (Recently, the Republican Party was denied 
registration leaving its leader, Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov, 
without a party list to run on.) 
 
5. (SBU) Opposition party officials as well as NGOs complained about 
lack of access to the central media. While there is still some 
opportunity for independent points of view to be expressed in some 
newspapers, TV access is limited, they said. "The problem in Russia 
is that you need TV in order to promote a leader," noted Ivanenko. 
Radio station "Ekho Moskvy" Editor Aleksey Venediktov commented that 
although his radio station continues to operate freely, the trend in 
Russia is toward "controlled information space." 
 
6. (SBU) Aleksey Adrov, Chief of Staff at the Central Election 
Commission, told the staffdel that there have been no complaints 
about media access. With regard to the last Duma election "no 
irregularities come to mind," he stated. Adrov expected 10-15 
parties to take part in the Duma elections. In answer to a question 
about the recent increase in the threshold needed to gain seats in 
the Duma from five percent to seven percent, he said that on a 
practical level the increase will not make a difference, as 
"opposition parties usually get three percent or nine percent." 
Adrov noted that all participating parties would be able to field 
election observers, and that he expected the OSCE's Office of 
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to send long and 
short-term observers, as well. 
 
NGOs Struggle under New NGO Law 
------------------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) Every NGO that the staffdel met with complained about the 
staff time required to comply with all the reporting requirements 
mandated by the 2006 NGO law. Rose Gottemoeller, director of the 
Carnegie Moscow Center, added that in addition to the burdensome 
requirements, NGOs are now less willing to take risks. While all the 
NGOs the staffdel met with, including the National Democratic 
Institute, the International Republican Institute, Memorial, and 
Transparency International reported that they continued to work 
unhindered, they were well aware that the complex law meant that 
they could potentially be accused of being in noncompliance at any 
time. 
 
8. (SBU) On a positive note, Gottemoeller said there is excitement 
 
MOSCOW 00004345  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
surrounding the upcoming meeting of the unofficial Carnegie-GOR 
Ombudsman democracy and human rights working group scheduled to 
convene in Washington in September. She told the delegation that 
participants in the working group are interested in having meetings 
on Capitol Hill. 
 
9. (SBU) Deputy Ombudsman Georgiy Kunadze told the staffdel that his 
office handles about 3,000 cases a year. The majority are "routine" 
complaints on economic and social rights. The Ombudsman's annual 
report was "not very different" from the State Department human 
rights report. (Note: in fact, the Ombudsman's annual report focuses 
more heavily on social and economic rights, and generally reports 
violations that have been brought to its attention, instead of 
actively seeking information on human rights problems.) He told the 
delegation that the biggest human rights problem in Russia today is 
"bureaucratic indifference and neglect." 
 
The Bilateral Relationship 
-------------------------- 
 
10. (SBU) The delegation met with Duma Deputy Aleksey Likhachev, a 
member of the United Russia faction and deputy chairman of the 
Committee on Political Economics, Entrepreneurship and Tourism. 
Likhachev visited Washington in June as part of the Duma-House 
exchange. He told the delegation he would like to see economics 
placed ahead of politics in the relationship between the U.S. and 
Russia. He invited the delegation to observe the December Duma 
elections in his home district of Nizhny Novgorod. He said efforts 
are needed to bring the current period in our relationship, which he 
described as "mutual criticism" to an end. A "cooling period" is 
needed, he said. 
 
11. (SBU) In a meeting with Oleg Burmistrov, Deputy Director of 
North American Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, many 
issues were discussed, most notably CFE and missile defense. 
Burmistrov stated that these two areas are the only ones where 
problems exist in our relationship. In other areas there is 
cooperation, he told the delegation. He restated the Russian 
position on CFE, missile defense, and discussed the recent 
overflights in Georgia. 
 
12. (SBU) Several interlocutors raised Jackson-Vanik as a continued 
sticking point in the relationship. Ekho Moskvy's Venediktov noted 
that the elite in Russia did not understand why the amendment is 
still in place. He commented that while the amendment has no 
practical effect, it is a symbol. "It is an artificial irritant 
which annoys people who make decisions. This small barrier creates a 
huge psychological barrier," he said. 
 
13. (U) Staffdel Anand cleared this cable.

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