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Russia Will Become Truly Democratic No Earlier Than in 5-10 Years — Alexeyeva
Natalya Krainova - Moscow Times - themoscowtimes.com - RFE/RL - 7.23.12 - JRL 2012-133

MOSCOW. July 20 (Interfax) - Civil activists have found it more difficult to work in Russia in the past few years, and the country's main problem lies in the dominance of civil servants, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of Russia's oldest independent human rights organization, Moscow Helsinki Group, told Interfax.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva file photo
file photo
"The situation with human rights is better in our country today than it was in the Soviet Union, but it is far worse than in the West," said Alexeyeva, who turns 85 on Friday.

"It was more difficult for us to work in Soviet times than today, but we find it incomparably more difficult to work today than in the 1990s, during (Boris) Yeltsin's presidency," she said.

"Our main problem is that officials in Russia do not understand that they are society's hired servants, not its bosses. They need to start to respect the rights of their citizens, their human dignity, and serve them instead of suppressing them," she said.

Kremlin and St. Basil's
file photo
"Alexei Tolstoy wrote back then: "Our land is rich, but there is no order there". Many years have passed but I have to say the same: we have a rich country and people educated at Europe's level, but there is a huge gap between the authorities and society. Civil servants refuse to see themselves as society's elected servants, but think that they are its bosses who can do whatever they please without paying any attention to laws," Alexeyeva said.

"I hope that we will gradually defeat this evil in our country has and will become a democratic country. But it is unlikely to happen earlier than in 5-10 years," she said.

The recently adopted bills that raise fines for violations at rallies, assign "foreign agent" status to non-governmental organizations (NGO), deal with slander and introduce "blacklists" of website will complicate the situation further, Alexeyeva said.

"These bills are outside the legal framework and fail to take the presumption of innocence into consideration. As far as the NGO bill is concerned, everyone receives money from abroad - ministries, the Russian Orthodox Church. Now that all amendments have been introduced, they want to assign "foreign agent" status only to human rights activists, environmentalists and awareness raising campaigners. It is totally unacceptable. If it weren't so sad one could laugh at it," she said.

Alexeyeva is one of Russia's most famous Soviet-era dissidents. She was declared an anti-Soviet agent in 1977, which prompted her to emigrate to the United States, where she lived until 1993.

Alexeyeva has Russian citizenship and permanently lives in Moscow. She is a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council.

Keywords: Russia, Human Rights - Russia, Government, Politics - Russian News - Russia - Johnson's Russia List

 

MOSCOW. July 20 (Interfax) - Civil activists have found it more difficult to work in Russia in the past few years, and the country's main problem lies in the dominance of civil servants, Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of Russia's oldest independent human rights organization, Moscow Helsinki Group, told Interfax.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva file photo
file photo
"The situation with human rights is better in our country today than it was in the Soviet Union, but it is far worse than in the West," said Alexeyeva, who turns 85 on Friday.

"It was more difficult for us to work in Soviet times than today, but we find it incomparably more difficult to work today than in the 1990s, during (Boris) Yeltsin's presidency," she said.

"Our main problem is that officials in Russia do not understand that they are society's hired servants, not its bosses. They need to start to respect the rights of their citizens, their human dignity, and serve them instead of suppressing them," she said.

"Alexei Tolstoy wrote back then: "Our land is rich, but there is no order there". Many years have passed but I have to say the same: we have a rich country and people educated at Europe's level, but there is a huge gap between the authorities and society. Civil servants refuse to see themselves as society's elected servants, but think that they are its bosses who can do whatever they please without paying any attention to laws," Alexeyeva said.

"I hope that we will gradually defeat this evil in our country has and will become a democratic country. But it is unlikely to happen earlier than in 5-10 years," she said.

The recently adopted bills that raise fines for violations at rallies, assign "foreign agent" status to non-governmental organizations (NGO), deal with slander and introduce "blacklists" of website will complicate the situation further, Alexeyeva said.

"These bills are outside the legal framework and fail to take the presumption of innocence into consideration. As far as the NGO bill is concerned, everyone receives money from abroad - ministries, the Russian Orthodox Church. Now that all amendments have been introduced, they want to assign "foreign agent" status only to human rights activists, environmentalists and awareness raising campaigners. It is totally unacceptable. If it weren't so sad one could laugh at it," she said.

Alexeyeva is one of Russia's most famous Soviet-era dissidents. She was declared an anti-Soviet agent in 1977, which prompted her to emigrate to the United States, where she lived until 1993.

Alexeyeva has Russian citizenship and permanently lives in Moscow. She is a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council.


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