Human Rights Activists Quit Ahead of Putin’s Inauguration

Several of Russia’s leading human rights advocates plan to quit the presidential Human Rights Council after President-elect Vladimir Putin takes up his post on May 7, Russian media reported on Wednesday.

According to Vedomosti business daily, among those planning to leave the human rights body are the head of Transparency International Russia, Yelena Panfilova, a political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin and the head of the non-government organization of working refugees, Civil Cooperation, Svetlana Gannushkina.

Panfilova, who delivered a report on corruption at the last council meeting on Saturday, said that she remained in the council only because of the pledge she gave to the mother of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in pre-trial detention in 2009, to investigate his death.

“I think I’ll do much more with my civil activity within my current job,” Panfilova said in an interview with Kommersant daily on Wednesday.

Another council member, political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin, made the decision to leave the body after his report on electoral violations which was rejected under the pretext of the president’s tight schedule.

Oreshkin told Vedomosti that he was going to deliver the facts showing up to 14 percent of ballot stuffing in Putin’s results during the March presidential elections where he secured a landslide victory which critics said was achieved through numerous violations.

“I regard Putin as an illegitimate president. I won’t be able to work in his council,” Vedomosti quoted Oreshkin as saying.

Gannushkina of human rights group Civil Assistance will also quit the council, Vedomosti said.

Veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseeva however said that the human rights advocates should closely cooperate with the state authorities and not ignore them.

In December last year, amid mass street protest against alleged fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections, a prominent human rights activist Irina Yasina and journalist Svetlana Sorokina left the Kremlin council on human rights over what they described as “falsifications” during the December 4 vote and “brutal reprisal” against pro-democracy protesters.

The presidential human rights council is known for its independent stance but it has no legal authority and had its recommendations ignored in the past.

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