In the LA Times today, Igor Yurgens opens up about his recent departure from the Presidential Council on Civic Society and Human rights. Several of Yurgens’ colleagues also left, citing manipulation from the Kremlin’s advisory board. His reasons include new and potentially less fair rules on the composition of the council, the Kremlin’s desire for ‘more obedient’ members, and the return of Vladimir Putin to the presidency, which went against the council’s hope of Russia being able to ‘continue its course of reforms under the leadership of Medvedev’.
He also says that the council had voted for the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky (who remains in prison), predicts a death knell for the divided opposition movement, and discusses the authorities’ ‘counterproductive‘ crackdown on opposition leaders with police investigations and seizure of property. His take on current relations with Syria, posted below, are also worth noting.
Here are a couple of highlights:
Q: Has Russia won or lost with Putin making a comeback?
A: The way Putin returned to the Kremlin raised many concerns and made thousands of people take to the streets and protest. All this could have been avoided if the country had continued its course of reforms under the leadership of Medvedev. Now Putin has significantly corrected the modernization paradigm we prescribed. Putin’s favorite word is “stability.”
Q: Is Russia losing its influence abroad by clinging to the last to the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria and to Tehran, which wants no compromise with the West?
A: My position on Russian foreign policy is more nuanced than that. In some aspects, Russia is not behaving so shortsightedly as some might think….
Our Western partners said to us that that it was all about the open sky over Libya. They didn’t tell us anything about the open ground over Libya then, which resulted in a direct military involvement in that country and the death of its leader, [Moammar] Kadafi, who might have deserved his death but certainly not in the way it came to him. Now we have every right to feel deceived when they ask us to vote for a similar resolution on Syria or Iran.
[Putin] may still end up as a real peacemaker for the region. But in the short term we should expect a certain distancing to prevail between us, Western Europe, NATO and the United States, mistakes made by all sides. And this distance will persist until at least the U.S. presidential election.