Vladimir Lukin: Firstly, I would like to tell you that our paralolympians are very happy with the meeting, and they asked me to convey their thanks. In addition, their rights were restored because they now have been rewarded just as if they were normal athlets. Incidentally, on Tuesday we will start the awards process so they asked me to transmit their thanks to you.
The main reason why I wanted to meet is the annual report on the human rights situation. With appendices it is quite thick, so I apologise in advance. It is the report for 2005. I completed it at the end of February and according to the law I must present it.
Vladimir Putin: Which problems would you emphasize, Vladimir Petrovich?
Vladimir Lukin: First, I would like to say that, of course, I tried to make this report as objective as possible. There are signs of progress in protecting human rights. But my mission is a sad one. It does not consist in being proud of what we have done but drawing attention to the grievances of our citizens. And of course, from this point of view, persistent social and economic problems still plague our citizens. About half of what I receive is connected to these issues.
There is no point in discussing here the usual problems – they are reflected in the text of the report — but the problems that worried us most in 2005 are, of course, first and foremost problems connected with changes in the sphere of municipal housing. And this is very worrying for people. And if I were to generalize from their complaints, then I would say that the problem consists in the fact that our executive authorities on all levels, first of all on the federal level, but even more at the regional level, are very concerned with technological problems of these reforms and less with their social and humanitarian aspects.
In particular, there are problems associated with the fact that, until recently, in certain regions tariffs were evidently higher than in others. Of course, our Minister promises us that they will decrease. But for the time being it is very important to keep them at a level that corresponds to the level of earnings that has been announced. The second thing is that it is hard to differentiate between malicious free riders and those who simply are experiencing very big difficulties. And this difference is important, because if it is not there, then this real problem turns into a problem of fairness and social tensions.
Also I think there is a problem linked to the allocations that the poorest strata of the population must receive. Here things are somewhat in disarray because there is a great deal of red tape connected with this — with documents, with searching for them, with lines. And now we absolutely need some momentum to put order here.
And certainly those who might lose the houses they now live in are very much afraid. Here, it seems to me, that there is a very important, very fine line and we must act very carefully, because otherwise we will be increasing the number of homeless people, even those with children, and of course this does not help in any way…
This problem exists. And I would like to draw your attention to problems linked with HIV-infections. Those are people between 18 and 24 years of age.
Vladimir Putin: We talked about this just today. At the State Council Presidium.
Vladimir Lukin: Very good. Because there are very serious problems here.
And of course, if we talk about the second important problem, which constitutes about a third of all complaints, it is the problem linked with the arbitrariness of law enforcement agencies, with some of their divisions. In this respect I would give one good piece of news and one bad piece. At the start of 2005 there was serious anxiety among the population with relation to large-scale violence in Bezhetsk, in Blagoveshchensk. This took place last year and is not being repeated this year. And we can make a conclusion, albeit a preliminary one, that some lessons have been learned. And the second item, and it is not even news, but rather old news, is linked to the fact that the population's grievances, in the more traditional, individual sense of the word are continuing. These grievances especially concern providing false evidence. These grievances are very serious.
And one issue which bears a direct relation with the affairs that the law has entrusted me with is the problem of journalists' security. As far as I remember, in the nine months of last year which I have data for, there were 37 cases of violence against journalists. I ask that you draw the attention of the law enforcement agencies to this issue, and that they pay special attention to this problem because this is just another aspect of providing conditions for journalists to conduct normal civilized work.
Well, of course, there are important problems linked with the fact that recently society is very disturbed by problems of xenophobia, nationalism – this is in the report – but I would like to point out two small things, or rather short things but that are not actually that small. Firstly, our law enforcement system is very slow to move in terms of giving a name to and really defining what happens, and trying to brush all of this aside as separate incidents of hooliganism and so on. And this also undoubtedly exists but Article 282, which contains provisions for punishment for criminal offences in this sphere, in the fields of xenophobia and nationalism, was applied slowly. It has now started to be applied more. And we must proceed punishing for this, because it is really happening.
Vladimir Putin: Of course.
Vladimir Lukin: And secondly, this is of course a serious and long-term problem closely linked, of course, with deep processes within society, with many causes. And one consequence is the necessity of seriously reworking, strengthening the education of people starting with right from birth, literally from kindergarten. Just like it is in some countries where, incidentally, it takes place within an atmosphere of respect for others, others who are fundamentally different in many ways. And it even seemed to me that maybe it would be a good idea to create something interdepartmental, together with the public, a commission to examine these issues and so that the Ministry of Education can somehow cast these things, these concrete affairs, in bronze.
Civing education, instilling respect for legal culture, for morality and humanism should go together. It seems to me that they should be interdependent.
Vladimir Putin: Can we ask the Public Chamber to examine this?
Vladimir Lukin: Why not? I think that we all should make suggestions, and both my staff and myself are ready to take active part in this. And of course the final word should lie with the Ministry. So my request is that an additional impulse be given here.
And I shall leave you some suggestions on this matter.
And the last thing I would like to say, if I may, is that I would very much like that the suggestions made by the Ombudsman – and it is not important that I am the Ombudsman today, tomorrow there will be a different one – be closely examined by all the agencies, the federal ones and especially the regional ones. Because it is not the fact that they rarely answer, but when they do answer they simply give a formal reply. Many ombudsmen in other countries have the legal administrative authority to deal with this disrespect and disregard for the opinion of the ombudsman. And this does not mean that one must agree with the ombudsman, it means that one must react and explain the situation clearly and in detail. And it seems to me that if we bring in this legal norm , than the country must know its antiheroes who do not respect the opinion of those whose job is to tell them what is necessary.
Vladimir Putin: Fine. I shall instruct our experts to work on your suggestion.