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Human Rights in the Eyes of the Russian Government

lukin042009.jpgThe Associated Press has a story running today about the release of a new human rights report by Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, which focuses on the 28,000 complaints filed for alleged misconduct by the police.  On the one hand, it is very interesting to see the Russian government attempt to walk the line between recognizing its own human rights issues while still claiming progress, while on the other hand, one can sense that the conclusions of the report appear to be directly targeted at addressing only the most pressing concerns of the widest public (corruption by the police) while ignoring the major cases of political prisoners.  Not to mention that it is difficult to treat the report with any sincerity given its avoidance of the Stanislav Markelov murder.

“The report is quite critical, but I disagree with the conclusions,” said prominent independent rights activist Lev Ponomarev, who was severely beaten in late March in an attack his colleagues described as politically motivated. “Russia is drifting away from democracy.”

Ponomarev said Lukin’s report failed to mention political prisoners, including oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. That case is seen by critics as part of a Kremlin push to punish Khodorkovsky for challenging then-President Vladimir Putin and to strengthen the state’s grip on energy resources.

Lukin lamented the “underestimation” of human rights abuses by the Russian public and officials, and praised President Dmitry Medvedev for his efforts to improve the situation.