Radio Free Europe has interviewed Ella Pamfilova, who spoke candidly about the shame presidency of Dima Medvedev:
Ella Pamfilova is one of Russia’s most distinguished liberal figures. She is the head of two NGOs — Civil Society For Russia’s Children and Civic Dignity. She is a former Duma deputy and a former social affairs minister. In 2000, she became the first woman to run for the office of president of Russia.
In 2002, then-President Vladimir Putin named her to head the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, which was later transformed into the Presidential Council on Human Rights. In July 2010, she resigned from that post after coming under strong pressure from the pro-Kremlin Nashi youth group. Since then, she has generally shunned the limelight.
RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Maria Morozova caught up with in Moscow and asked her about her tenure on the human rights council and her views on the political environment in Russia now.
RFE/RL: What were your thoughts when in 2002, being a critic of the authorities, you agreed to head the Presidential Council on Human Rights, which under you later grew into the Council on Cooperation With Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights?
Ella Pamfilova: In 1999, when Vladimir Putin was confirmed as prime minister, I was one of the few Duma deputies who spoke against him and voted no. This annoyed a lot of liberals who back then were already working hard to elevate him to the presidency.
But in 2001, I and a group of rights activists and regional nongovernmental organizations — with the clear support of the presidential administration — organized the first Civic Forum with the participation of Putin. This provoked a certain enthusiasm. It seemed to us that it might be possible to pull the country out of chaos. And I believed that finally a dialogue between the state and civic organizations was being established.
So when I was asked to head the semi-dormant Presidential Council on Human Rights, I already understood exactly what I wanted. As a politician, I believed that in order to turn the heavy Russian political machine in the direction of democracy, it was very important to create a permanent, functioning forum in which the liberal, rights-oriented minority — de facto in opposition to the government — had the opportunity to bring directly to the authorities their views, arguments, information, and proposals.
At that time, I had complete freedom of action, so I invited into the council independent experts and human rights advocates who were not afraid to harshly criticize the government and defend their positions. To a considerable extent, I considered myself an intermediary between rights activists and the Kremlin.