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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08MOSCOW1828 2008-06-26 23:14 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow


DE RUEHMO #1828/01 1782314
R 262314Z JUN 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 001828 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/26/2018 
REF: 06 MOSCOW 13071 
Classified By: Political Officer Bob Patterson.  Reasons:  1.4 (b,d). 
1. (C) Summary: Conversations with members of the regional 
government, journalists, NGO representatives, party members, 
and academics during a June 23 - 24 visit to Nizhniy Novgorod 
suggested that the city's economic fortunes were generally 
improving under Governor Valeriy Shantsev.  Most observers 
acknowledged that Shantsev, a former Moscow Deputy Mayor, had 
succeeded in luring Moscow-based businessmen to Nizhniy 
Novgorod since his appointment in August 2005. The arrival of 
Muscovites had given the local economy a shot in the arm, but 
created resentment among those Nizhniy Novgorod businessmen 
who had been forced to relax their stranglehold on the city's 
economy.  High-profile incidents, such as a crackdown on 
Other Russia-related elements in the last year, have gone 
hand-in-hand with a growing willingness, on the part of some 
in power, to work with some of their harshest critics.  Local 
Yabloko representatives, freshly returned from the June 21 - 
22 Congress in Moscow region, ironically likened party 
Chairman Yavlinskiy's decision to cede office to "clone," 
Sergey Mitrokhin, to Putin's decision to step aside in favor 
of Medvedev. Some interlocutors worried that the increasingly 
close economic links between Moscow and Nizhniy Novgorod, and 
the ever-larger number of Nizhgorodians working in Moscow, 
would inevitably turn their city into a satellite of the 
national capital.  Promises by Shantsev to reduce the travel 
time between the cities from its current four to three hours 
and, eventually, to one and one-half, seemed to give 
substance to their fears.  End summary. 
Governor Brings Moscow 
Ways to Nizhniy Novgorod 
2. (C) Conversations during a June 23 - 24 visit to Nizhniy 
Novgorod suggested that Governor Valeriy Shantsev had used 
connections to Moscow, cultivated during his years as Deputy 
Mayor there, to lobby effectively for investment in Nizhniy 
Novgorod.  Regional Union of Journalists Deputy Chairwoman 
Irina Panchenko joined political scientist Andrey Makarychev 
and others in confirming that Shantsev's years in power had 
seen a construction boom in the city, and walks around the 
fringes of the city center revealed much new high-rise 
housing and many new malls.  The Moscow "invasion" had 
occurred at the expense of local businessmen who were, 
according to Makarychev, resentful of the big city 
interlopers. One by-product of the building boom, according 
to Stanislav Dmitrievskiy of the Tolerance Support 
Foundation, had been the disappearance of a significant 
number of "protected" buildings.  Others also worried that 
the character of the city was threatened by the unbridled 
3. (C) Shantsev's big city ways had reportedly pushed Mayor 
Vadim Bulavinov into the shadows.  Bulavinov, who was elected 
Mayor in September 2002 after a stint in the State Duma, then 
re-elected in October 2005 had, before Shantsev's appearance, 
succeeded in protecting the interests of home-grown 
businessmen.  Bulavinov's near total eclipse had only 
strengthened the impression that Nizhniy Novgorod was the 
object of a hostile takeover engineered in Moscow. 
Panchenko, while acknowledging that Shantsev had brought a 
number of Muscovites into his regional government and 
minimized the role of the Federal Assembly in regional 
politics, contended that the Governor was interested above 
all in recruiting capable people, regardless of provenance. 
She noted that Deputy Governor for Social-Economic Planning, 
Budgetary Relations and Investment Policy Vladimir Ivanov 
hailed from the regional city of Bor, which had been praised 
frequently for its excellent investment climate.  The Deputy 
Governor for Social Policy Gennadiy Suvorov, similarly, had 
been plucked from his job as Vice President of the Gorkiy 
Automobile Factory (GAZ).  Even local Yabloko Chairman 
Vyacheslav Tarakanov, after a glum recounting of the previous 
weekend's party congress, admitted that "Shantsov pries money 
(out of Moscow), and the city is improving." Tarakanov 
described Bulavinov as a "non-entity;" completely outclassed 
by Shantsev. 
SPS, Yabloko Sidelined 
4. (C) Shantsev's prominence and the city's improving 
economic fortunes had the city's other politic parties on the 
ropes. Tarakanov and others noted that the city had been an 
SPS stronghold, thanks to the relatively successful tenure of 
Governor Boris Nemtsov, who had opened the formerly closed 
city of Gorkiy to the outside world and had introduced 
innovations, such as open competition for government jobs. 
The most recent SPS Chairman, the charismatic Aleksey 
Likhachyov, had been inveigled into United Russia.  Former 
Nemtsov confederate Aleksandr Kotyusov had been rumored to be 
toying with the idea of becoming Chairman of the SPS regional 
organization, but his business interests: he is the owner of 
the company "Pir" which runs two restaurant chains in Nizhniy 
Novgorod, had made him too vulnerable.  According to 
Makarychev, Kotyusov had in th
e end decided to stay out of 
5. (C) Tarakanov thought that Yabloko was poorly positioned 
to replace SPS. With little access to the regional media, all 
of the regional membership in United Russia, and Yabloko's 
internal struggle on-going, he saw little future for his 
party.  Tarakanov laid part of the blame at the feet of 
Yavlinskiy who, he noted bitterly, had not visited Nizhniy 
Novgorod once in the last eight years.  Many of the regional 
Yabloko leaders had extracted a promise from Mitrokhin at the 
June 21 - 22 congress that he would do more grassroots work 
in the regions beginning in the fall.  "The problem," 
confessed Tarakanov, "is that Mitrokhin might be more active, 
but he lacks charisma, while Yavlinskiy is charismatic, but 
he has no energy." 
Incremental Improvement in 
Government Behavior 
6. (C) Against the background of the region's largely inert 
political parties, two local NGOs appeared to be having some 
success in their efforts to reform the behavior of the 
Russian government.  The "Committee Against Torture," in 
addition to two high-profile victories in the European Court 
of Human Rights had, according to Chairman Igor Kalyapan, 
also won an impressive 60 percent of the cases it had brought 
against Russian law enforcement in the local courts.  More 
importantly, there were signs that frequent reversals in the 
courts were forcing law enforcement to examine its behavior. 
Among the positive developments cited by Kalyapan was the 
assignment to Nizhniy Novgorod of a "very accomplished" 
regional court chairman, Boris Konevskiy.  Under Konevskiy's 
leadership, each of his judges had been supplied with a 
handbook that summarized the international conventions to 
which Russia was a signatory. Each judge had also been given 
a primer on the European Court of Human Rights.  Kalyapan 
noted with pride Konevskiy's habit of returning, unopened, 
letters from regional Ombudsman Vasiliy Olnev that included 
well-meaning commentary on cases within his court's 
jurisdiction. Olnev had complained in the press that 
Konevskiy had refused to read Olnev's letters because he saw 
them, rightly in the view of Kalyapan, as an attempt to 
influence the outcome of cases. 
7. (C) Kalyapan also argued that "in the last few years the 
local legal culture had improved."  Decisions, he said, now 
occasionally included reference to international conventions 
and opinions.  Judges were gradually becoming more 
sophisticated.  "How can we complain of the absence of an 
impartial judiciary if we win sixty percent of our cases?" 
Kalyapan asked.  He noted as well that his assistant, Olga 
Sadovskaya had been invited to teach classes on international 
law to employees of the Prosecutor's Office.   Sadovskaya 
herself predicted to us that the sheer number of cases now in 
the pipeline at the European Court of Human Rights would in a 
few years produce an avalanche of negative judgments that 
would force the GOR to re-examine its practices, as had 
Turkey before it. 
8. (C) Kalyapan and Sadovskaya noted that these positive 
developments had been partially offset by the refusal of the 
Ministry of Internal Affairs to convene its Public Chamber 
since its second meeting on March 3, 2007.  Kalyapan, who was 
a Chamber member, suspected that the Ministry was unhappy 
with criticism leveled during the previous meetings.  Also, 
after years of testy cooperation, the prison administration 
seemed to be avoiding meetings with representatives of the 
Committee Against Torture."  Kalyapan thought that might be 
traceable to his Committee's decision to observe the two 
"marches of dissent" staged earlier in the year by Garry 
Kasparov's Other Russia.  Kalyapan was pursuing legal action 
against special forces troops because of their behavior 
during the first of the two attempted marches.  He had also 
taken the cases of two members of the National Bolshevik 
Party under his wing.  He suspected that his affiliation, 
however tentative, with "Other Russia" and the March of 
Dissent," might have been perceived by the authorities as an 
endorsement of street politics after years of attempting to 
work constructively with the authorities. 
NGO Law Not As Burdensome 
As NGO Whining About Law 
9. (C) Sadovskaya dismissed the alleged additional burdens of 
the amended NGO law as "insignificant."  Many of the NGOs who 
claim the law imposes "inhumane reporting requirements" are 
simply disorganized, she said.  Sadovskaya claimed that 
compliance required that the Committee Against Torture spend 
only two workdays to assemble the necessary paperwork for the 
annual reports.  A recent, planned inspection of the 
"Committee's" offices had gone smoothly, and had resulted in 
only one minor administrative problem. 
10. (C) The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers Chairwoman Natalya 
Zhukova was also guardedly upbeat about prospects for change. 
 Although the "inertia is enormous," she thought that a 
genuine awareness of the need to improve the treatment of 
soldiers was beginning to appear, "but we have a long way to 
go."  As damaging as a general disregard for the lives of the 
young soldiers was endemic corruption in the Ministry of 
Defense, which drove continuing shortages in housing for 
officers and set the tone for too much that happened in the 
military.  As interesting as Zhukova's dogged determination 
to continue her efforts to reform the military's treatment of 
its recruits and its officers, was her lack of patience for 
street politics and its advocates.  The appearance of 
Stanislav Dmitrievskiy, formerly of the Russian - Chechen 
Friendship Society at the door of her office for a scheduled 
meeting with us prQced a heated exchange.  Zhukova accused 
Dmitrievskiy and "the Kasparovs of this world" of needlessly 
endangering naive Nizhgorodians by seeking confrontation 
with the authorities.  The correct path, Zhukova said, was to 
use the levers already present to induce change, 
step-by-step, and to set concrete goals. Slowing the process 
of change, she thought, was the continued unwillingness of 
Russians to get involved unless their interests were directly 
affected.  "Once their children no longer have to worry about 
the draft, the parents stop contacting us," she lamented. 
"Only sustained pressure brings change." 


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