Human Rights Activists Criticise Upcoming Public Chamber

Well-known human rights campaigners have spoken out against the idea of creating a Russian Public Chamber, an initiative introduced by President Putin following last year’s terrorist act in Beslan. Activists, including Lyudmila Alekseyeva, Lev Ponomarev and Sergey Kovalev, are calling the President’s initiative an attempt to control civil society, as they believe the chamber is being created to back the Kremlin’s policies. Critics say the state is building a semblance of a vertical chain of command in society and that only people directly or indirectly appointed by the Kremlin will get into the chamber. In a public statement signed by most major human rights activists, they declared that they refuse to take part in the new institution. In December the State Duma passed the bill on the Public Chamber in the first reading. The bill is likely to be given final approval after the second reading on 21 January (Ekho Moskvy; Novyye Izvestiya).