Komersant, Russia

«The Council of Europe has no instruments to influence Russia»

PACE reporter about the relations with Moscow.

The author of the recently published report «Refusing impunity for the killers of Sergei Magnitsky» Andreas Gross visited Russia to start working on his next monitoring report about the democracy and human rights in our country. On his conclusions depends whether Russian Federation will be able to move into the post monitoring level at the Council of Europe as Russian authorities want. Mr. Gross told about his impressions to the Kommersant daily correspondent Maria Efimova.

Here in Russia your report was seen by many people as based on the total trust to the Mr. Browder’s point of view. Is it true?

It is false impression. I always conducted double check of all facts for my report. Every word said by Mr. Browder received confirmation from at least one independent source. My report is not based on the trust to Mr. Browder.

Did Russian officials give you help and support in your work?

I am not sure. No one responsible from the prisons and the hospitals did agree to talk to me. High level officials did not want as well. Those who agreed were quite closed and I am not sure that very helpful. That is why many arguments that they gave me are not convincing. They tried to use the facts that they thought I don’t know so much. While checking the information I understood that they tried to mislead me.

What is the sense of your work as we don’t see any signs of intention to investigate the case of Mr. Magnitsky by the russian authorities?

The point is that this report could serve in many ways. It is in the interests of the Russian people because the Russian society and the Russian economy are interested in foreign investments that they loose because of such cases. Making cleaning up and finding the truth that is the one of elements. Russian people have the right to know the truth and develop society.

You speak about the ‘clever sanctions’ towards Russian Federation. Why don’t you like the idea of the ‘Magnitsky list’?

Sanctions are primitive and counterproductive measures. This is more a kind of revenge and those who supported the idea of ‘Magnitsky list’ in the United States has their own political goals. This cannot change the situation in Russia. There are no Americans who have to change it but the Russian society itself.

Does the Council of Europe have any instruments to influence Russia and to change the behaviour of our authorities?

The Council of Europe has no instruments to influence Russia but the power of truth. It is a very powerful instrument to make people think, but it is not an immediately quick fix. The political changes have to be done by the Russians by themselves.

You came to Russia to start working on your next monitoring report about the democracy and human rights in our country. At the same time Sergei Naryshkin plan to stop the procedures of monitoring for Russia as he is sure that our country implemented all it’s obligations to the Council of Europe. What do you think on this idea?

Mr. Naryshkin has no authority to make such decisions. There are definite procedures of monitoring and post monitoring, all decisions are made by the majority and approved by the Bureau of Assembly. I am very glad that he plan to visit Strassbourg and hope that we will have interesting discussions there. I know that many of my colleagues want to ask him questions and I am not so sure that they will be as nice with him as I am. We are not so sure that Russia has already implemented all it’s obligations and the question about monitoring is all about next three years.

There are more and more people here in Russia say that our country may leave the Council of Europe soon. Do you consider this possible?

I don’t think that it will happen. Russian elite is not monolith. I know many think that it was a mistake and a sign of weakness to join the Council of Europe in 90s. This conservative discourse means that Russia is trying to reinvent it’s identity which was failed in recent years. But two thirds of the Russian people live still in Europe. Even Mr. Putin stresses all the time that he see himself as a European politician. When I met him January 2000 he told me that he respect the key European principles and values and I don’t think he has changed his mind. Generally nor in Chechnya, nor in 26 or 27 Russian regions I visited I have never heard that someone doesn’t want to have human rights and to see his rights protected in Strasbourg too.

Kontakt mit Andreas Gross

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