President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,
Ms Pamfilova, have you started your work already?
Russia’S Human rights commissioner Ella Pamfilova: I have actually come here with a large block of proposals on three groups of issues.
The first has to do with Crimea. I spent four days there and had numerous meetings with residents. On some days, I saw up to a hundred people a day, especially in Sevastopol.
The second group of issues pertains to our penitentiary system, the prevention of torture and humiliation and everything that has to do with the corresponding reform in this area.
The third group has to do with our human rights movements and with the overall civil society development.
I would like to begin with the first group that deals with Crimea. The Federal Migration Service is working very intensively there, specifically in terms of issuing passports to those who have already received Russian citizenship. However, according to expert assessments (I tend to trust this figure), and the petitions I am receiving, there are some 50 thousand people who have been permanently residing in Sevastopol and Crimea, but who for some reason have no registration and are now having problems obtaining citizenship. Therefore, yes, we have quite a few problems.
Vladimir Putin: What do you mean they had no registration? Citizens who lived there permanently?
Ella Pamfilova: Yes, for instance children could be registered somewhere in Kiev, their grandparents or other family would come over, buy a summer home and live there permanently while the children were at school, but they did not register there.
Vladimir Putin: Do they want to receive Russian citizenship?
Ella Pamfilova: Yes, they do. They had problems with the authorities in Kiev before that. So now, this is a complicated issue involving several agencies. One problem is that our migration service is dealing with local passport offices (I would not say these are Crimean migration service offices) that are about 20–25 years behind in their operation. This is one thing.
The second is that people have to go to court to prove that they permanently reside in Crimea. The courts are not operating very well either.
The third issue concerns the banks. I have heard that now the banks are becoming more active there, but there is an issue with paying fees and charges. People find themselves in a sort of vicious circle: they wait for three days to submit their applications to the Federal Migration Service only to hear they are not eligible, so they go to court but cannot pay the court fee, and so on. Having analysed the situation, I am suggesting ways out of the situation, because most of our potential citizens are young able-bodied people.
Vladimir Putin: Do they all want to receive Russian citizenship?
Ella Pamfilova: Yes, they all do.
In addition, there is now another overlapping issue, Mr President. I have already noticed that there is a number of people – not too many yet, but quite a few – coming from the east of Ukraine. They would like to move to Crimea, but they are afraid. They have families here, connections, but they fear to even get their documents. This is especially true of young men; I have seen quite a few of them.
The other thing I have drafted proposals on has to do with the increasing number of people who, according to my information, are coming in from the east [of Ukraine] to all areas, not only border regions, but as far as Yekaterinburg. In some places, the authorities act rather quickly, but in others, they remain completely indifferent. People try to help, but there is no systemic approach. I believe we need to develop a program to help accommodate these people.
I am certain that there has to be a humanitarian corridor. My colleagues, some of the people I work with are trying to provide humanitarian aid to the disaster area. I am amazed that all the influential international organisations and the enlightened population in the west have suddenly become deaf, dumb and blind to the terrible tragedy there, to what is happening to children and the people who are trying to get away from the shooting. One thing is getting them out of there, another is accommodating them. There are many good people ready to help, but this is not enough.
Vladimir Putin: Ms Pamfilova, I will give instructions to the Presidential Executive Office to assist you in implementing your proposals. We will manage together.
Ella Pamfilova: I have them ready. Unfortunately, I meet with indifference and with formal replies. I will show you some of the replies I received from some very high-profile institutions that do not go anywhere, do not talk to anyone and have no idea of the problem. It is so easy to find some abstract solution when you are sitting in your comfortable office in some high-rise. This is the most complicated thing. I hope that with your assistance we will manage to make progress.
Vladimir Putin: Agreed.