Boris Nemtsov invited by Heidi Hautala on 16 February 2011 speaking at Greens’ press conference in the European Parliament. He outlined some of the issues he saw with Russia and how the EU engages with Russia.
“Very good afternoon and welcome to the press conference of the Greens/ EFA group on democracy and human rights in Russia and I’m very happy to be here with our guests: Boris Nemtsov, he’s the co-chair of the People’s Freedom Party in Russia and one of the leaders of the opposition movement Solidarity. And further to my left Andrei Nekrasov. He’s a board member of the opposition movement Solidarity. And then we’re here with Heidi Hautala, the chair of the sub-committee for human rights for the European Parliament and Werner Schulz who is member of the EU – Russian delegation.”
“Thank you very much for everybody. Heidi Hautala and Greens invited me to visit European Parliament. I’m for the first time here. Which is a great honour for me. I represent the Russian democratic opposition and I’m one of the co-chairmen of new party: People’s Freedom Party. The party was founded in the middle of December last year. We are looking for the upcoming parliamental elections which happen in December this year and we are looking for the presidential elections which will happen next year in spring.
Well, why I’m here? First of all, I’m very happy that the European deputies are very interested in the problem of human rights and rule of law in not only in European Union but in Russia. It’s a problem for everybody. And Russian like a member of Council of Europe, like a member of OSCE had an agreement that human rights and freedom of speech and elections have to be under protection, not only of Russian constitution but international law. But reality shows that unfortunately we have lot of problems with democracy in my country and we have a lot of problems with corruption in my country and a lot of problems with freedom of speech and elections. That’s why I strongly support an idea of European deputies to organise a long-term monitoring of upcoming elections. Because of four reasons: There are four fraud opportunities for existing power to cancel transparent election in my country.
First fraud is to not register oppositional-like party. According repressive legal situation there are lot more than 40 opportunities to reject opposition from registration as a party. During Putin’s presidency and his governance there are no cases when opposition party was registered. No. That’s why People’s Freedom Party will be ready to send documents to the Ministry of Justice at the beginning of April and it will be absolutely key and sensitive point what’s happened with registration. If the registration will not happen it means that there is no election in the country at all. Because election without opposition means absence of election.
The next point which needs to be observed is freedom of speech. First of all the censorship of federal TV. Unfortunately Russian constitutional rights for freedom of speech were cancelled many, many years ago. And now, for example I’m in the stop-list, so-called stop-list, where leaders of opposition are involved. That’s why observation of what’s happening with freedom of speech is important. And absence of freedom of speech and absence debate means that is not an election, this is fraud.
Third point is an opportunity for existing government to fire party from the list. Electorial list. We had a lot of experience when a lot of candidates were fired during their election campaign. That’s why observation is necessary.
And the last point is manipulation, falsification and fraud during the calculations of results. What I mean is: First of all so-called pre-elections where election pools open few weeks before the day of elections result any public control of what’s happening inside and secondly the calculations after the day of the election. That’s why I think if such kind of monitoring will be organised this spring it will be great.
Next point: I want to tell you that you did a great job as far as Magnitsky list is concerned. I know that there are lot of problems now to implement this list in life. But I think to protect the rules of law in my country means to do something. And I can tell you that the most sensitive are the sanctions not against the country – I am completely against the sanctions against the country – but the sanctions against persons who are responsible for violation over human rights, who are responsible for violation of constitutional rights, who are responsible for death of Magnitsky, who are responsible for example illegal decision concerning Khodorkovsky, concerning arrests of leaders of opposition not long ago etc. I think that Russian official always say that if you implement sanctions against corrupted bureaucrats you implement sanctions against Russia. This is not true. You must differ Russia and corruption. You must differ Russia and corrupted officials. This is absolutely different point. That’s why cancelling sanctions against country is important and sanctions against guys who are responsible for violations is absolutely effective idea. That’s why I believe that idea of Heidi Hautala and other deputies in the EP is very effective and very fruitful. I know that tomorrow there will be a vote concerning the rules of law in Russia. I read this resolution. It seems to me that generally this is good resolution and I believe that finally Russia will be a country not of dictator of law but rule of law. Thank you.”
“Boris basically pointed out the main things as the representative of Russian opposition. I’d just liked to mention that you as a media, I think that media who is interested in European – Russian affairs, has a special role, slightly different from politicians. There is a difference in the attitude towards Russia, even in this house, and different attitudes towards the way to deal with the absence of democracy, because that is beyond doubt in Russia. Politicians are under a lot of pressure, including economic pressure. Mr Putin comes in few days to Brussels and he will be met officially and solemnly and will be considered as a partner and as a leader of a normal country one can do business with. We may be of a different opinion and media hopefully doesn’t have the same pressures as politicians do and can study very closely and very analytically and very hands-on and look at issues like for example how different Mr Putin is from Mr Lukashenko who was – also in this house, in Brussels – banned from coming to the EU with a long list of his colleagues. The criteria for all these things, the criteria for all these lists of various politicians and officials from countries like Belarus and Russia have to be very analytical and calm and devoid of emotions and politicing. And I’m afraid that those considerations which are slightly beyond analysism and logic. And frankly double standards do take place. So that is my addition to my colleague’s, Nemtsov’s, address.”
“I also like to give a warm welcome to our friends from the Russian democratic opposition and Werner Schulz and me want to show with this visit that it is very normal for them to be here with us. Just as it is very normal for the representatives of the democratic opposition of Belarus to have very close contacts with European institutions. And that we should not shy away from the conclusion that at the moment European politicians avoid meeting our friends from democratic opposition because the Kremlin doesn’t accept it. And this is something that we should not follow at all. And indeed Boris Nemtsov has mentioned that several MEPs are now discussing how we can encourage a kind of a long-term electorial observation towards the Russian 2011 and 2012 elections. This would give a very good opportunity for Barroso and his colleagues to tell Putin next week in Brussels that the EU is going to closely follow how the preconditions of free and fair elections in Russia are going to be put in place. And here obviously we are speaking about freedom of assembly, freedom of association – including the registration of opposition parties such as the party of Mr Nemtsov and Mr Nekrasov – and freedom of expression which means media freedoms. So this is our aim and I am happy to see that the Joint Parliamentary Co-operation Committee between EP and duma is hosting an official meeting with Mr Nemtsov this afternoon at 16.15. chaired by the vice-president of the delegation Mr Schulz.”
Q (New Europe newspaper):
“You mentioned the Khodorkovsky case. Do you think the Khodorkovsky case still affects business in Russia or do you see a separation between business and politics?”
“I’m absolutely sure that the Khodorkovsky case is politically motivated. It’s trivial and it’s very clear for everybody in my country and it seems to me and abroad to.
Secondly I’m sure that the second case against Khodorkovsky was absolutely out of law. It looks like personal vendetta of Putin against Khodorkovsky.
Third: I want to tell you that prosecutor of Magnitsky court, Tatyana Vasilyeva who was very close to the judge Danilkin, said that decision about 14 years in prison was prepared not by judge. This is very serious crime. Very serious crime. Not only in Europe but in Russia. That’s why this is a story not about rule of law but this is a story of vendetta.
Next point, across a lot of Putin’s friends used Yukos to take this property and to take this cash, because Yukos was the biggest oil company in Russia. I think that an idea to sign an agreement with BP, one of the reasons why this contract was signed, based on a fact to have protection in the west against future investigation how Yukos property became a property of Putin’s government. They think that BP and owners of BP will protect this transaction, so-called transaction, when some owners of Yukos will come to the European Court for example or some other international court. On the other hand there are some business reasons why they sign such an agreement but political idea to protect from the West. Former property of Khodorkovsky is absolutely visible to me.”
“Did I understand correctly that you are complaining that European Union officials don’t meet you often enough, that you don’t have enough connections with Mr Barroso etc. Have you ever met them?”
“I want to tell you if we have in my country an independent court, if we have in my country freedom of speech, if we have in my country free and transparent elections, we will never come to European Parliament and to talk with Brussels’ officials etc. We will solve our problems ourselves. Because democracy in Russia is a Russian problem. It’s the first point.
Second point: We can tell you that Putin killed democratic state. He killed. He built corrupted mafia state but he killed democratic state. That’s absolutely visible and everybody knows that. On the other hand Russia is a member of Council of Europe and Russia is a member of OSCE and elections in Russia and freedom of speech in Russia and court system in Russia are not domestic problems. This is very important because membership in this organisation means that this is a problem of Russia plus international organisations and countries. This is not only about Russia but about every country that is a member of Council of Europe or a member of OSCE. For example if fraud will be in United States, Russian people will say: ”You break international law”. That’s why when somebody in my country said: ”Elections, human rights, put our opposition in prison, this is our problem”. This is not true. If Putin is ready to separate himself and our country from this organisation it will be true. But now this is not. That’s why this is not an influence from the west etc. This is our common problem. Like for example the problem of freedom of speech in Hungary. This is not a problem of Hungary only. We have absolutely the same. And we want to take part in elections, we are a real democratic opposition, we completely disagree with Putin, we believe that to build corrupted country is not in the interest of my country and Russian people. We suggest absolutely different program to build European Russia. That’s why we are here. Not to complain.”
“Maybe you didn’t understand my question. Are you complaining that you don’t have enough contacts with European Union officials? With the leaders of European institutions?”
“I know that a lot of people in Europe believe in realpolitik. They forget about values and believe in gas and cash. I know that. I know about solidarisation [toim. huom epäselvä] of Europe and a lot of people know in my country about solidarisation [toim. huom epäselvä] in Europe. What is good that not everybody thinks in such a way. For example the people who are here think in another way. And this is a real hope, real hope of real patriots of Russia and patriots of European countries, patriots of all of our countries.”
“I just wanted to say that we want to domesticate the European Parliament first to meet with the democratic opposition and then together the European Parliament can call together to the higher representative and Barroso and his colleagues, to also have dealings with them. Because obviously we all understand how important it is that there is a living opposition in the country who has the real opportunity to become government in the future, hopefully in the near future. So, I’m ashamed to see how the European top leaders shy away from contacts, while maintaining active relations with the Belarussian opposition.”
Q (Radio Radical):
“There is a sort of legend around Europe and USA that the President Medvedev is quite different from the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. I’d like to know your opinion on that. The second question about Mr Berlusconi who is a big friend of Putin. What is the reason of this friendship: business, personal business?”
“Medvedev is a president for more than two years but he is not a real president. This is a tragedy of Russia. This is a tragedy of Medvedev first of all. This is a huge problem for Russia. Because there is a historical tradition that the person who are at the Kremlin office is the boss. There is constitution according which the person who is the president in Kremlin he really has a lot of responsibility to proceed policy, is responsible to foreign policy, to friends’ policy and domestic policy etc. But if you look at the situation in my country Medvedev looks like a blogger. He is a famous Russian blogger. But he has to be the president. And this is serious problem. Unfortunately Putin policy didn’t change after Medvedev was selected as a president. He was not elected, he was selected. I think such kind of situation is a sad story. Of course Medvedev is younger, of course he doesn’t have KGB experience, of course he had experience in business. He worked in private sector but he has no power to proceed his policy. That’s why I didn’t mention his name.
And your second question about great friend of Putin, Berlusconi: First of all I believe that Berlusconi is Putin-like. What I’m talking about is, he ideals to control TV. I mean Italian TV, he ideals to be an oligarch and to be a Prime Minister at the same time and he ideals to be for a long time in the office. Putin has absolutely the same problem. He wants to be an oligarch and Prime Minister, he establishes censorship of the TV 100 per cent. For example I’m on the stop list. And not only me but all of our leaders from the Freedom People’s Party. And he wants to be in the office forever. And Mubarak example doesn’t matter for him. He looks like young Russian Mubarak but he believes that his future looks better than Mubarak’s future. I don’t think so. I don’t know an example of dictators who will be lucky up till the end. I don’t know such examples as far as business is concerned. Of course they had common interests first of all in South Stream Project and in gas supply. I think such kinds of rumours are quite realistic. But to investigate it carefully needs a special investigation group. Not only in Russia but in Italy too.”
“Part of the partnership with EU is going to be Russia’s modernization program and Russia has made it very clear that it needs modernisation and it needs European experience. EU has also tied it in the rule of law in Russia. Could you evaluate Russia’s modernisation program and if it’s visible and an opportunity for Russia and for EU to – like Medvedev said – to avoid the traditional nihilism that’s kind of going on right now?”
“Medvedev used a lot of right words but nothing happened. For example he said that we have to build an independent court. Few weeks before Danilkin decision Putin said that Khodorkovsky is criminal, openly on live show on TV which is strictly illegal, strictly illegal to say assumption before the decision of the court. Right? After that decision, you know what happened, 14 years in prison. Now we know that it was great pressure to Danilkin. But Medvedev in reverse said that we need an independent court. “We want to build an independent court.” This is just rhetorical blogger, not like a president. It’s the first point.
Second: I agree completely that Russia needs modernization and innovation because Russian economy is based on export of gas and oil mainly and if you look at high tech export this is less than 0.1 per cent. Economy based just on commodities and export of expensive oil and gas which is of course against Russian interests and it gives unpredictable future. But I’m absolutely sure that to build a modernized Russia without modernization of political institutions are completely impossible. That’s why these rhetorics look like blah-blah-blah. Because if you want to modernise Russian let we come back to constitutional human rights, let we come back to freedom of speech, let we come back to real elections, let we come back to federalism, let we come back to political competition, let we limit an amount of years for president and for governers in one office. Two terms, relax. Two terms, relax. They want to be like Mubarak, forever. How to modernize a country if you are Mubarak? They are completely against political modernisation. What we have as a result? African level of corruption, absence of rule of law, absence of real competition in economy and a lot of social problems. We have expensive oil but we have deficit Russian budget. This is a result of policy which was started by Mr Putin.”
Watch the press conference 16.2.2011