Mr Fedotov briefed the President on the Council's work since May 7, 2012, and also spoke about its current activities.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Fedotov, you wanted to talk about your recent work and its results. Please, go ahead.
chairman of Presidential Council For Civil Society and Human Rights Mikhail Fedotov: Mr President, I want to start by giving you a report on the Council’s work over the two years since you assumed Presidency on May 7, 2012. This brochure talks about what the Council has done in these last two years. We have two Council-related events on May 7, because on the morning of May 7, your predecessor and colleague Dmitry Medvedev signed instructions concerning the work of the Council, and several hours after your inauguration, you signed your May executive orders, which included more instructions to the Council. And today, I can tell you what we have done in this respect.
To be honest, not much has been accomplished because we were unable to do many things. And in this brochure, we give a kind of mini-summary of our work. In our work, we are trying not to fall behind our civil society and its development – we do not want to fall behind so that we are on time to provide help. And that is why we face a large number of very serious and very diverse issues.
I will tell you about the issues we have been dealing with in the last month alone. They include affordable housing – we have worked on this in Vladimir, in Vladimir Region. Preserving historical memory – we worked on this in Yamal. Resocialising convicts – we have been doing this in Mordovia. Domestic violence – we have prepared a special project on this topic, because our law enforcement statistics show that our children are becoming victims of crimes that are mainly committed at home. Not on the street, not in schools, but at home. And this means it is the home where we must create an entirely different environment, an environment of intolerance to violence. Ruffians must get what’s coming to them; then they will behave much better. Incidentally, Kazakhstan’s experience with this demonstrates that passing such a law reduces domestic violence by 40%. Forty percent is a very good level.
Vladimir Putin: It is very good. What kind of law is this?
Mikhail Fedotov: It is a law to prevent domestic violence. There is such a draft, it’s ready.
Vladimir Putin: Here in Russia?
Mikhail Fedotov: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: Based on Kazakhstan’s experience?
Mikhail Fedotov: Yes, based on Kazakhstan’s experience.
Vladimir Putin: Very good.
Mikhail Fedotov: And we very much count on your support. This is truly a very important topic because later, the violence spills over.
Vladimir Putin: We understand that this is a very sensitive matter, so it needs to be thoroughly analysed and discussed with the public.
Mikhail Fedotov: Yes, certainly. We have already worked on this.
Also, we worked on issues of Ukrainian refugees. Two days ago, we made a special appeal. Ella Pamfilova, Elizaveta Glinka and our Council – we made an appeal concerning sick children and children in need of immediate medical assistance in southeast Ukraine. Unfortunately, nobody is responding to our appeal; it’s complete silence. There is full understanding on the part of our authorities, but nothing from the Ukrainian side. It’s just astounding; how can this be? We’re talking about children! We’re talking about an entirely humanitarian operation – move the children out of there.
Vladimir Putin: It’s clear that the situation there is complex and the level of tension and antagonism is very high, but naturally, this is a very important humanitarian issue, and I would like to ask you to use your knowhow as a human rights activist to get an answer from your Ukrainian colleagues in an entirely non-confrontational, friendly manner, and to think through, together, how to arrange things to help those children. After all, we are helping the wounded soldiers of the Ukrainian army, we are accepting them in our territory and treating them, sending them back – and overall, doing this with consent from the Ukrainian authorities. I do not understand why, in this case, we cannot come to an agreement even about joint work.
Mikhail Fedotov: I also do not understand why we cannot come to an agreement; we are talking about children. All civilized nations save their children first in case of danger. And isn’t bombing a form of danger? This seems obvious.
Vladimir Putin: I understand, and you know my opinion on everything happening there: government power was taken by force, and now force is used against those who do not agree with this. I feel this situation is totally wrong; it should have been resolved in an entirely different manner. But you may have different opinions, different approaches, much softer and more humane, so to speak, and I very much count on you to succeed in reaching an agreement with your colleagues: Ukrainian human rights activists and the official authorities.
Mikhail Fedotov: So far, we have not had much success, although we are able to have contact with Ukrainian human rights activists – but unfortunately, not with the authorities, and surprisingly, we have been unable to establish contacts with the OSCE.
Vladimir Putin: We will try to help.
Mikhail Fedotov: Thank you, Mr President. That is very important.
And more on the topic of Ukrainian refugees. I was talking with the heads of many regions, and they are working on these problems. Here is what happens. At the Government level, there is a working group headed by [Deputy Prime Minister] Dmitry Kozak. He is dealing with all refugee-related issues. But he is not dealing with issues that are being resolved by volunteers, and volunteers are resolving a large amount of issues; they are very actively involved in this area. The volunteers are coordinating their own work, as much as they can, but they cannot coordinate the work of state authorities.
Vladimir Putin: So they need help?
Mikhail Fedotov: Yes. My suggestion is very simple: include representatives from our Council (perhaps two or three people) in Mr Kozak’s working group.
Vladimir Putin: Very well. The problem of refugees is becoming very massive; we now have more than half a million refugees in Russia. This requires attention and serious resources. For now, it’s still summer, it’s warm.
Mikhail Fedotov: That’s the thing.
Vladimir Putin: But in two or three months, the situation will be different. People cannot be left in tents in that state.
Mikhail Fedotov: Members of our Council have visited many temporary accommodation centres. We have concrete suggestions, we have prepared them, and we are ready to give them to Mr Kozak’s commission.
Vladimir Putin: Very well, I will tell him.
Mikhail Fedotov: That is what we are prepared to continue working on.
Now, an issue that I wanted to discuss with you separately: the problem related to the programme to preserve the memory of political repression victims. Your visit to the Butovo training range in October 2007 served as basis for this programme. Since then, the Council has been working on and developed this programme. But unfortunately, we are seeing some genuine sabotage; we have talked about this with several respected people in the Cabinet as well. They themselves say: we see that there is outright sabotage here, there are people who simply do not want to work on this.
Although I feel that in this case, there is simply a misunderstanding of this programme. After all, this programme does not contemplate removing monuments, renaming streets or closing museums. On the contrary, it means opening museums, building memorials and immortalising the memory of innocent victims – and that includes millions of people.
We were just in Yamal. Incidentally, I was very pleased that a governor ranking was published today, and the governor we just met with, Dmitry Kobylkin, turned out to be in first place. I liked it. I agree that he is truly great, he is very energetic.
Vladimir Putin: He works efficiently.
Mikhail Fedotov: He works efficiently, I really liked it. We came to an agreement about building a memorial museum complex there, at the base they have near the Salekhard airport. But here, we need federal assistance, and for that, we need a programme.
I have brought you a draft federal law on amendments to the law on rehabilitation of victims of political repressions, which dates back to 1991. The idea is as follows. We propose renaming the law – in other words, amending even the name, broadening the subject of legal regulation. So according to our idea, it should be called On Rehabilitation and Commemoration of Victims of Political Repressions. It proposes a special article that will set forth forms of commemoration, but at the same time, it is done in such a way so as not to cause any financial problems. In other words, it says that state authorities and local authorities can get involved and help with preserving the memory of political repression victims. Then it lists the methods. The authorities provide this kind of assistance within their competence, within their budgets. This has been done following requests, including from heads of regions, because they say, “We want to build a memorial and we have the funding to do this. But then the Accounts Chamber comes over and asks on what basis we spent that money.”
Vladimir Putin: I see. They do not have the right.
Mikhail Fedotov: Correct. And the law creates the legal foundation for this work.
Vladimir Putin: Very well.
Mikhail Fedotov: And I really want to ask you, Mr President, to somehow nudge the Cabinet forward in this process. Earlier, you guided them in the right direction on this matter.
Vladimir Putin: They do not need this. But I will talk with my colleagues, with those who are working on it.
Mikhail Fedotov: We propose that the Regional Development Ministry work on this issue.
Vladimir Putin: What is it currently? The Culture Ministry?
Mikhail Fedotov: Yes. But the Culture Ministry does not want to work on it.
Vladimir Putin: You are suggesting transferring it from the Culture Ministry to the Regional Development Ministry?
Mikhail Fedotov: Yes, to the Regional Development Ministry.
Vladimir Putin: But one way or another, it still needs to be discussed with the Cabinet. Such delegation of responsibility needs to be discussed with them. I do not have anything against it, but it needs to be analysed, okay?
Had you ever visited Salekhard in Soviet times?
Mikhail Fedotov: No.
Vladimir Putin: It was a city of barracks.
Mikhail Fedotov: And now, it is entirely different.
Vladimir Putin: It is a northern city, so naturally, it has its own special features, but it is an entirely modern city. If you go to any northern nation, take a look: I think that if it different, then only for the better.
Mikhail Fedotov: It is a very beautiful city. And you know what impressed me there was that it’s very bright and colourful.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, this is important for the North.
Mikhail Fedotov: It is important for the North. Of course, it has polar nights and when you see those beautiful buildings – modern, colourful ones – it is really cool.
Mr President, in this respect, I would like to give two examples. Not just Salekhard, but also Ramenskoye, in Moscow Region, which also painted its old prefab apartment houses in different colours – and it looks completely different. And another example, an entirely negative one, is Chelyabinsk, which I also visited fairly recently, where everything is grey. Perhaps I was in a bad mood, or the weather was bad. But is it so hard to paint grey buildings in different colours?
Vladimir Putin: That also costs money.
Mikhail Fedotov: A person always needs little moments of joy and pleasure. Such bright, multi-coloured buildings bring small pleasure.
Vladimir Putin: Mr Fedotov, I want to return to your suggestion on the law intended to prevent domestic violence. It is very important, and we must carefully look to ensure that it does not give cause to various government structures to meddle in family life. This is a sensitive issue; it must be analysed very carefully.
Mikhail Fedotov: Mr President, this is precisely why the Council for Civil Society and Human Rights is working on this, because we are familiar with this kind of thorough, highly delicate approach.
Vladimir Putin: In addition, I have a question: you said you discussed several important problems – for example, relocating people from unfit housing and so on. How are you dealing with this in the regions?
Mikhail Fedotov: In the regions, we are dealing with this by holding offsite Council meetings and inviting representatives. Usually, these are either top executives or their deputies from the federal executive authorities.
On our trip to Vladimir, Deputy Minister for Housing and Construction and Head of the Federal Housing and Utilities Fund went with us. And Sergei Stepashin came to make a speech. So all this is very serious.
Vladimir Putin: I have a purpose in asking.
Mikhail Fedotov: What is the result of such meetings?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, first – what is the result.
Mikhail Fedotov: Recommendations are the result.
Vladimir Putin: My main question is, how do representatives from the regional and federal authorities react? My understanding is that everything is fine.
Mikhail Fedotov: Very good. Everything is absolutely fine, entirely constructive. And I think our meeting in Vladimir was very successful.
Vladimir Putin: That’s good.