20. Jan. 2011

Nezavisimaya Gazeta
(The Independent Daily)

I am concerned by the violence some of the institutions exercise against engaged citizens

By Andrey Terekhov

Why is Russia not mentioned in the draft agenda of the PACE winter plenary session?

We do not discuss the situation in every country in every part-session. But you can be sure, that Russia will be mentioned when we discuss for instance the manipulative elections in Belorussia which Russian officials did not want to criticize.

What is your assessment of Russia’s honoring its obligations and commitments as a member state of the Council of Europe?

This cannot be said in two small sentence. We will make a report on this question - that’s why we are here in Moscow for the third time in one year.

Have things changed much since the time of the last PACE report was made public back in 2005?

Some things changed to the better, some things did not change enough, some regressions also have to be thought about. The Report which we prepare will be based on the obligations Russia signed when it joined the CoE and we will try to define the priorities still to be realized in order to match these obligations.

What developments in today’s Russia – political, social - are you most concerned about?

This is a question above the mandate of the monitoring process. Nevertheless I am ready to answer it as a critical European citizen and dedicated democrat: Politically my biggest concern is that every country’s democratic progress depends from a capable government and a equally capable opposition, which is able to challenge the majority in the Parliament and the Public Sphere. This strong opposition and this deliberative challenge Russia still needs to realize. Socially I am very much concerned by the fact, that in Russia as well as in Switzerland the rich become always richer, the poor even poorer and the integrative strength of the society is undermined. The difference is, that you have much more poor people in Russia and that the rich there do not pay enough taxes.

Are you satisfied with Russian officials’ cooperation you have been receiving so far?

Our parliamentary colleagues and the activists as well as the intellectuals of the Civil Society like to work with us and do this in a frank and open way. From the governmental side we too often are confronted with Vice ministers instead of the really responsible ministers; and we still do not seem to be wise enough to be allowed to discuss also with the President and the Prime Minister although we would have a lot to discuss with them and I talked to PM Putin already 11 years ago for three hours - but at that time he was still on the move up to the top.

Could you say a few words about the meetings you already had during this stay in Russia?

We had a very good meeting with the President of the Supreme Court, and the president of the Justice Committee in the Duma, afterwards we discussed two hours with the Russian Delegation to the Council of Europe about the Road map we would like to make for Russia in order to meet the obligations and the standards of a member of the Council of Europe. In the late afternoon we had a meeting with the responsible deputy foreign minister before we had great discussions with the respected writer Viktor Jerofejew, the Helsinki Committee of Moscow and Boris Nemsov; afterwards I discussed with a critical journalist and friend until nearly midnight. Today we had a conference with the responsible people for the Russian prisons in the Justice Department and visited the prison in which Michael Khodorkovsky is imprisoned and could also talk to him which was a very impressive encounter which I will never forget.

The December sentence to Mr. Khodorkovsky, the Manezh riots as well as the beating of the Kommersant daily journalist Mr. Kashin made quite a big buzz in Russia and in Europe. What is your perspective on these events? Will you mention them in your report?

Of course; and we discussed them also with many of the people I just mentioned. I am concerned of the violence which exists in the Russian society, the extremely dangerous tendencies you can observe in the Russian society as well as the violence some of the institutions exercise against some engaged citizens.

How do you assess the treatment of the opposition by the authorities in Russia?

It s for me the matter of greatest concern and I am often very disappointed.

Have you raised the issue of Mr. Boris Nemtsov’s detention in your talks?

Of course.

What are the odds for Russia to held free and fair elections (parliamentary later this year and presidential – in 2012) as things stand now?

I discussed this already during my last visit with the president of the Central Electoral Commission and expressed to him my great concerns. Russia needs more pluralism, more critical debates and reflection in every part of the society, the state, they’re institutions and of course also in the Duma.

When are going to make your report public?

We cannot say this yet. Either in October or in the first part of 2012 most probably.

Kontakt mit Andreas Gross

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