Pamfilova: Kremlin Enables ‘Endemic Corruption’ in North Caucasus

Ella Pamfilova. Source: RIA Novosti. Archive Photo.Ella Pamfilova, the chair of Russia’s Presidential Civil Society Institution and Human Rights Council, held a press conference on Friday in Moscow to announce that a meeting will be held late in May between the Council and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The last such meeting was held in November 2009, when Pamfilova proposed that the Spring 2010 meeting focus on rights issues in the North Caucasus. Last month’s suicide bombings on the Moscow metro brought the volatile region’s problems particularly to the fore, and Pamfilova wants to use the meeting to discuss “the exacerbation of a whole array of problems with the activities” of rights organizations working in the area. The main goal of the meeting, she said, would be “to set up a dialogue between the public and the authorities, to create conditions where they were taken into account, and not seen as enemies of the people.”

In light of the revelations that last month’s suicide bombers were both natives of the North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan and young widows of deceased militants, Pamfilova spoke about what she saw as the reasons why such young Caucasians would turn to violence. Noting that she had just returned from a trip to the region, the rights activist said that young people in the Caucasus were confused and lacked direction as a result of unemployment, nonsensical social policy, and a lack of public control in the region. She also blamed Russian special forces for failing to consider the consequences of some of their tactical operations, which can often tear entire families apart and leave the survivors without a place to live.

“This is an intellectual war, and therefore there should be a stress in the region not of a nonsensical nature, but of an intellectual one. This is precisely the way that the intelligence agencies must win the war against terrorist ideologues,” Pamfilova said.

She also stressed that the main source of the region’s social ills was widespread, endemic corruption, which would not be possible, she said, without the support of the federal authorities. “We will never eliminate corruption in the North Caucasus if large amounts of money sent there are being ‘skimmed’ by officials in Moscow,” Pamfilova said at the press conference.

The Civil Society Institution and Human Rights Council was created in 2004 by then-President Vladimir Putin, with the ostensible goals of informing the president of the state of human rights and freedoms in the country and to create proposals to further the development of those same rights. It currently consists of thirty-six representatives from a variety of public organizations, including former Soviet dissident and prominent rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva. The last meeting in November focused on fighting corruption, specifically within Russia’s law enforcement agencies.