Cablegate: Lukin Looks Forward to the End of His Tenure As Russian

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1. (SBU) Summary: Russian Federation Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin told
visiting HFAC Chairman Berman that his term as Ombudsman for the
Russian Federation has been a "difficult job of compromises." Lukin
said that during his almost five years as Ombudsman, it has been
most important for him not to spoil relations with members of the
government and representatives of the opposition and civil society.
Lukin, a founding member of the liberal, pro-Western Yabloko
political party, told Berman that moving NATO to Russia's boundaries
was a mistake, because it increased nationalistic feelings here.
Lukin agreed that television media has become increasingly
centralized and controlled by the government, but said there were
other outlets for news available to Russian citizens and that there
was neither "full freedom of the press" nor a "strict Iron Curtain"
in Russia. End Summary.

"A Difficult Job of Compromising"

2. (SBU) In a candid October 15 meeting with visiting HFAC Chairman
Howard Berman (D-Cal) and HFA;QQJQQ, noting that he had served as the chairman
of the Duma's
Committee on International Relations. Lukin was the second person
to be appointed Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman. Prior to the
enactment in 1995 of legislation authorizing the creation of the
ombudsman's office, human rights activist Sergey Kovalyev served as
Russia's unofficial ombudsman. In 1996, constitutional lawyer Oleg
Mironov, described by Lukin as "a Communist," became Russia's first
Ombudsman. After Yabloko failed to win seats in the Fourth Duma in
December 2003, then Russian President Vladimir Putin nominated Lukin
to become Russia's second Ombudsman. He was confirmed by the State
Duma in February 2004 and his initial term expires in March 2009.

3. (SBU) Lukin described his work as Ombudsman as a "difficult job
of compromises," that was more challenging than his two years
(1992-93) in Washington as Russia's first post-Soviet ambassador.
He said his office can receive as many as 200 complaints each day;
Assistant Ombudsman Georgiy Kunadze confirmed to us that the office
receives 30,000 complaints per year. Lukin noted that it was most
important for him as Ombudsman not to spoil relations with members
of the government and representatives of the opposition and civil
society. He joked to the Congressman that in response to a
complaint by a leading Russian human rights activist that he should
be more proactive as Ombudsman, he had responded "better to be 'not
so active' for a long time than 'active' for a short time." Lukin
admitted that he was looking forward to leaving his job as Ombudsman
when his term expires in March.

4. (SBU) Lukin told Berman that as Ombudsman, he can propose Duma
investigations and the office has the power to decide on its own
when there has been an abuse of human rights without referring to
the Russian State Duma or to a Russian court. He discussed the
power of the Ombudsman's office to entertain appeals from the
military and provided Berman with copies of not only his Annual
Report for 2007, but also special reports on military conscription
and hazing. He pointed out that his office can visit all types of
prisons, both military and civilian and that it had a special team
that visits prisons unannounced. (Note: Lukin visited prisons in
the Samara region of south-central Russia on October 21. End

Lukin Sympathetic Towards Jailed Lawyers

5. (SBU) Berman asked Lukin his views on the case of former YUKOS
Oil lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina, who has appealed for clemency and
early release from detention. Lukin answered that he supports an
early release for Bakhima, who has two children and is eight months
pregnant. Lukin added that as Ombudsman, he cannot interfere with
an investigation, but that he has appealed to the prosecutor in the
case of former YUKOS Vice-President and head lawyer Vasiliy
Aleksanyan and had succeeded in getting the terms of his confinement
changed. (6:AQnA7qd

6. (SBU) Lukin said that the murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist and
Kremlin-critic Anna Politovskaya was "clearly a contract murder."
He said that the killer is on the run, but the accomplices are
currently on trial. He added that the identity of the person who
ordered Politovskaya's murder may be made known at the trial. He
has gone on record as saying that until the killer is brought to
justice, this case cannot be considered closed.

MOSCOW 00003148 002 OF 002

"Mistakes Were Made" in Bilateral Relations

7. (SBU) Concerning U.S.-Russian relations, Lukin said that both
countries have made mistakes. In particular, he thought that moving
NATO close to Russia's borders was a mistake, because it increased
nationalistic feelings here. He agreed with Berman that U.S. policy
toward Russia was having a negative influence on Russian domestic
politics and undermining the efforts of liberal forces here. He
said the 1990 Paris Declaration was a "distraction" and that there
should have been more honesty from the start about NATO's
enlargement plans. He added that he was against Russia's
recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia until Georgia had become a
member of NATO. Lukin called for a new beginning in U.S-Russian
relations after the inauguration of a new U.S. president in January
2009 and chastised the current U.S. administration for simply
pocketing Putin's concession of closing its naval bases in Cuba and
Vietnam and his strong support for the U.S. in the immediate
aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

8. (SBU) Lukin agreed that the government has increased its control
over television media in Russia, but said there were other outlets
for news available to Russian citizens. He cited the "mostly"
independent REN-TV as presenting an independent voice on Russian
television and noted that Euronews is broadcast in Russian without
censoring. He concluded that Russia needed an equivalent of the
U.S. Public Broadcasting System, and added that there was neither
"full freedom of the press" nor a "strict Iron Curtain" in Russia.

9. (SBU) Lukin said that he will be in the U.S. after the elections
as part of the dialogue between his office and the Carnegie
Foundation and offered to meet with Chairman Berman if both are in
Washington at the same time.

10. (SBU) HFAC Staff cleared this message.

© Scoop Media

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