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US Department of State
On-The-Record Briefing on the State Department's 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry F. Lowenkron
Washington, DC
March 6, 2007

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I'm with RTVi. Could you elaborate on the situation of the trends in Russia regarding human rights and democracy, and also in Belarus? How concerned are you about those two countries?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LOWENKRON: Well, that's a pretty good follow-up to that question. I would say if I had to pick another country in which it's regressing, I would also pick Russia. I think if you look at a number of indicators, if you look at the difficulty in parties who are able to reregister -- 35 tried, 19 made it, the party of independent Duma member Ryzhkov was denied, former Prime Minister Kasyanov was also denied -- I think it's -- I think the notion that there was a level playing field in terms of electoral politics in Russia is increasingly suspect.

I think if you take a look at the media, I think if you take a look at the statements coming out of Russian officials that they have something called sovereign democracy or managed democracy -- I'm probably dating myself, but from my years in the State Department back in the 1980s I was never big on adjectives before democracy, like "people's democracy." And sovereign democracy and managed democracy is problematic.

QUESTION: Belarus?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY LOWENKRON: Belarus -- there is nothing good to say about Belarus except -- about the regime in Belarus except the fact that civil society is still trying. And we had a group from Belarus that came to Washington just last week. I had the privilege of meeting with them. I was interested in their plans. They're not going to give up. They're going to continue to press. The citizens of Belarus will find themselves that there is an alternative, there is an alternative to Yushchenko, there is an alternative to a regime that suppresses their human rights, and that alternative lies to its other neighbors.