SECURITY & COOPERATION IN EUROPE:
U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION
VIOLENCE AND IMPUNITY: LIFE IN A RUSSIAN NEWSROOM
THE CAUCASIAN KNOT
THE HEARING WAS HELD FROM 11:00 A.M. TO 12:32 P.M. IN 1539 LONGWORTH HOUSE
OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C., [KYLE PARKER, POLICY ADVISOR, CSCE],
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2009
RON MCNAMARA: Okay. The first – (audio break) – put the mike on – (audio
break) – works. Test. Okay. (Audio break.) Yes. Good morning. My name is
Ron McNamara. On behalf of our chairman, Sen. Cardin, and our cochairmen,
Congressman Alcee Hastings, I welcome you to today’s briefing of the Commission
on Security and Cooperation in Europe regarding developments in the state of
media in the Russian Federation.
I’m joined by my colleague Kyle Parker, who’s serving as our analyst for
developments in the Russian Federation. I’ll share a few brief opening remarks
and then certainly recognize any members of the commission or members of
Congress who might appear this morning, and then Kyle will do an introduction
of our special guests today.
As with all commission briefings, there will be a full transcription of today’s
proceedings posted on the commission’s Web site, which is www.csce.gov. In
addition, should time permit, we will entertain questions from the audience.
We ask that you do keep your question succinct, provide your name for the
transcription purposes, and any affiliation that you might have. So we’ll see
if time permits.
Ask Prime Minister Putin about the state of media in the Russian Federation,
and he is likely to launch into a barrage of statistics that would make an
apparatchik from the Soviet Planning Agency proud. But the numbers – this
numbers game is merely a diversionary tactic aimed at overwhelming the
bothersome questioner and masking the truth about the gradual yet steady
erosion of independent journalism in Russia since his assumption of power a
This is not to suggest that there were not challenges during the tumultuous
1990s, a period which witnessed upheaval, as well as conflict that raged for
much of the decade in the North Caucasus. Putin’s pursuit of what he and his
Kremlin colleagues termed “managed democracy” has taken its toll on Russia’s
democratic development and key elements of civil society, especially
human-rights defenders and independent journalists.
On one of its growing lists of victims, Anna Politkovskaya, once quipped, “my
job is simple: to look around and write what I see.” Like her, scores of her
colleagues, including Paul Klebnikov, have paid for their journalist pursuits
with their lives. The harsh reality is that those who venture into sensitive
subjects such as human-rights abuses or corruption run the risk of sharing that
Investigations are opened, rarely leading to arrest and even rarer, to
prosecutions. At least a handful of Russian journalists have been killed in
the past year alone, among them journalist and human-rights activist Natalia
Estemirova. Meanwhile, Russia’s information space for independent media
outlets – newspapers, radio and television – continues to shrink, with Russians
increasingly migrating to blogs and other technologies to fill the void.
We are fortunate to welcome to the Helsinki Commission today several of
Russia’s remaining independent journalists, committed to pursuit of their
professional activities in an often hostile and potentially dangerous
environment. Before turning to my colleague, Kyle Parker, I did want to make a
special note of appreciation to Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty for their
assistance with the witnesses in today’s program.
Just going back a little bit in my own involvement in the Helsinki process,
when I was detailed to Vienna in the late 1980s, it was a rather strange
dynamic. One of the issues I was dealing with was a free flow of information.
Most of the western broadcasts, including RFE/RL’s broadcast, were jammed at
the time, and there was an erstwhile RFE/RL correspondent, Roland Eggleston,
who dutifully covered the proceedings.
But my Soviet colleagues refused to even sit down and to speak with him, so
after each of our negotiating sessions I’d go over and speak to them, to the
RFE/RL correspondent, when the Soviet colleagues would walk by. And I’d
occasionally say, well, wouldn’t you like to give your own take on today’s
discussions, or what have you? And they utterly refused and swore that there
would never be a secession of jamming of foreign broadcasts.
Well, we thankfully have moved significantly past that step, or phase, in
development. However, there are troublesome aspects of the media environment
today, and we look forward to the presentations of our expert panelists. So
I’ll turn to Kyle Parker now for any additional comments and the introduction
of our expert – (audio break).
KYLE PARKER: Thank you, Ron. I would also add that the proceedings are being
televised on the House TV system and will later be posted on YouTube for anyone
who wants to review them or someone who might not be able to be here. We will
start off with Dmitry Muratov, and the bios should be outside and also on our
Web site, but just a few words. Mr. Muratov is the editor-in-chief of Novaya
Gazeta, which is an independent Russian newspaper widely acclaimed for its
critical and investigative reporting. Mr. Muratov helped found the newspaper in
1993 before taking its helm in 1995.
In the mid-1980s, he was an editor for Komsomolskaya Pravda. Mr. Muratov and
his colleagues at Novaya Gazeta have been awarded numerous journalistic and
human-rights prizes. In 2007 he was recognized by the New York-based Committee
to Protect Journalists for his “courageous fight for press freedom”. Since
2000, Novaya Gazeta journalists Igor Domnikov, Yuri Shchekhochikhin, Anna
Politkovskaya and Anastasiya Baburova were killed in response to their work.
It’s certainly a great privilege and an honor to have you here today. I might
note that Yuri Shchekhochikhin was well-known here in Congress and had taken
part in a number of exchanges to the Open World Program in ’99 and, I think,
2000, and had a lot of friends among our commissioners and throughout the halls
of Congress here. So we certainly are very happy to have you here and would
welcome any remarks you have for us today, Mr. Muratov.
(Note: Mr. Muratov’s comments are delivered via translator.)
DMITRY MURATOV: Right, thank you, well then, maybe let me say a few words
about my perished friends and colleagues, and then I will say a few words about
how we see the current situation in Russia from the vantage point of our
newspaper. Yuri Shchekhochikhin was a member of the Russian Parliament, the
state Duma, and was head of the Duma Committee on Combating Corruption. He was
my best friend. He died in seven days and he had no skin on him left. His
hair was gone; in one week he aged 30 or 40 years.
The criminal investigation into Yuri’s death was launched only six years after
the fact, after personal interference by President Dmitry Medvedev. Yuri was
investigating a major smuggling affair that was involved in contraband and
smuggling of weapons and furniture, and people who were able to stop this
investigation are now in high places. They are senators and members of the
Parliament, and their names are Bierkov (sp) and Kolesnikov.
And in part, this investigation revealed a theft or loss of over 50 charges of
highly toxic substances from the stockpiles of the KGB. This is what I learned
from an investigator who was assigned to this case and who was hastily retired.
And the medical charts and the medical records and history of Yuri
Shchekhochikhin somehow also got misplaced or lost, and can you imagine this is
a medical chart of a member of a national parliament who was diagnosed with a
very rare disease, layoa (ph) disease, and somehow they can’t find these
The body was exhumed and analyzed, and unfortunately, the results were
inconclusive after all this time in labs, and again, this only became possible
due to personal involvement and interference by the Russian president. The
investigation of another crime, the murder of our beloved colleague Anna
Politkovskaya, is slowly dragging. Somebody – and of course, nobody knows who
that somebody is – issued a travel document, a passport, to the person who was
suspected in the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, and he was able to leave the
country after this person’s name was placed on most-wanted lists both in the
country and by the INTERPOL.
I sincerely hope that the current political leadership will have enough
willpower and courage to pursue with the investigation to get some results,
unlike the previous administration. And I would like to ask you a huge favor.
In every meeting, in any encounter with representatives of Russian political
establishment and government, please, bring up this meeting. Please ask these
uncomfortable questions. Please try not to be too polite. You don’t have to
be friends with murderers in order to be successful in trading oil and gas.
MR. PARKER: Thank you very much, Mr. Muratov. We will certainly carry your
suggestion back to our bosses, to our commissioners in their meetings with
senior officials of the Russian government. And now, we will turn to Maxim
Trudolyubov, who is commentary editor for Vedomosti, an independent business
daily published jointly by the Wall street Journal and the Financial Times. He
also co-hosts a weekly talk show on Russia’s Ekho Moskvy radio. Trudolyubov
was awarded the 2007 Paul Klebnikov Integrity in Journalism Fellowship and is
currently at Yale University, where he was selected to participate in the 2009
Yale World Fellows program. Mr. Trudolyubov is on the Russian panel of the
World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council. Mr. Trudolyubov, your remarks.
MAXIM TRUDOLYUBOV: A few words about the newspaper. It’s a national business
daily, just like the Wall Street Journal here or the Financial Times. So we’re
catering to a business audience and top politicians and younger people who are
involved in pursuing careers in business. But we have an opinion page which is
one of the very few in Russia. This whole concept of an editorial and opinion
page is relatively new in Russia. We had to actually, in a way, present it,
because Russia’s tradition of journalism doesn’t really divide between fact and
opinion, and we had to, with time and effort, to explain and to show to our
audience, even the educated and enfranchised audience that we have, that it’s
an important concept of distinguishing between news and commentary on that – on
And I guess we’ve been relatively successful, although the whole concept is not
really developing very well, simply because most media are under heavy control
in all kinds of ways. But I think that an encouraging sign is that opinion and
discussion is – has become really important, much more important than it used
to be. We – our opinion page has got more visibility for the past year or two,
which probably means that people start to think more and start to get – are
getting more serious about crucial issues, because we are about crucial issues
of policy, economic policy, freedom or speech, human rights. That’s what we
I strongly agree with Dmitry Muratov, and I just want to put my own voice
behind this as well, because it’s not much that foreign, external forces may do
for Russia’s situation. The freedom of speech is our internal – most of the
things we’re dealing with are internal things. We have to deal with them
ourselves. But when we are talking about people who’ve been killed on their
duty, being journalists, investigators, that’s important that Russian
authorities do not forget that people – that there are other people abroad who
care about it, and they don’t forget that there is a system of coordinates, a
system – a moral compass, as it were, in the world, that good and evil are
still considered good and evil. And that, I think, is very important for us
who work in Russia and for people who are in journalistic profession in Russia
to feel that this moral compass does exist. And we still have – we still live
in the world where good is good and evil is evil.
And one last thing is, that something that we noticed, the attitude is changing
in – obviously, the current administration in the U.S. is doing a lot new
things, and many of the policies of the past administration are, of course,
rejected. But when we see things like an editor of an American magazine
advising – it’s probably – somebody heard there was a story, a magazine
published in the United States by Condé Nast, they had a – they carried the
story on Vladimir Putin, and their internal law department, legal department,
advised them not to carry that story in Russia. That’s GQ, that’s a magazine
published by Condé Nast.
And so they asked, and they basically asked their Russian edition not to run
that story on Putin in Russia, which is a case of an American company caring
about their business in Russian and at the same time forsaking values of
freedom of speech, which is one little example. It happens a lot with China,
as you all know, because business is business. But this is something that’s
troublesome and worrying for us who work in Russia, who deal with – who have to
deal with a very hostile environment where people don’t – many people don’t
understand what freedom of speech is for, simply because they are not allowed
to try and test the effect of media on – of media as a check on government.
That’s the important cause that we are pursuing, and we need some support, sort
of some moral support from the outside world. Thank you.
MR. PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Trudolyubov. And finally here we’ll turn to
Grigory Shvedov, who’s director of Caucasian Knot, www.kavkaz.memor.ru – yeah?
MR.: Caucasian – (inaudible) – that will be easier, I think. That’s an old –
(inaudible) – unfortunately.
MR. PARKER: Oh, that’s the whole URL, okay – an independent media service
providing news and information on the Northern and Southern Caucasus. Mr.
Shvedov is also director of the Memo.Ru Information Agency, which focuses on
new strategies of mobilizing public opinion and has directed numerous projects
on social-marketing techniques. Since 1999 he’s held several posts with
human-rights organizations, with Memorial, and is currently serving as a board
member of the International Memorial and a representative in Memorial’s Moscow
office. In 2002 through 2006 he supervised the organization’s regional network
of 70 branches in Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union. He is
also a previous witness at a hearing on Ingushetia we did a couple years ago.
Mr. Shvedov is really probably the best there is inside or outside a government
on current, reliable information on the turbulent North Caucasus, someone who
is able to travel throughout these regions, which certainly is fairly
complicated logistically and takes no small amount of courage these days, with
the violence that takes place there. Someone who’s given – I think he had a
recent five-hour sit-down with the president of Dagestan, so a person with
great access, and during the question-and-answer period, please, our topic is
free media, but we have a world-renowned expert on the Caucasus, which is of
great interest to this commission. Please feel free to pose him some questions
on that topic. Mr. Shvedov.
GRIGORY SHVEDOV: Thank you very much. That was presented too complimentary.
Thank you. While I will try to address the two main points now, I would like
to share what’s going on in the Caucasus, most of all in the Northern Caucasus,
and then I would come up with some specific ideas of what might be done on,
first of all, on what’s going on right now.
Unfortunately, we do see that from a time that we’ve been talking here in the
hearings in June of 2008, the situation in the Northern Caucasus became no less
a challenge. It’s still the region which is very important to recognize not
just a part of Russian Federation. It is a part of Russian Federation, but as
a reason where human-rights violations are mass and cruel. It is a part of the
world which really requests attention from the people in this room, in many
auditoriums, because unfortunately, this region is a region where the rights of
freedom to religion, the rights of the freedom of be free from torture, the
rights – even such rights as a freedom to leave are violated.
Our colleagues and friends have been killed. That was mentioned already
Natalia Estemirova, the person who worked a lot in Memorial and provided
enormous materials to Human Rights Watch for their reports. After that, two
other activists of NGO have been killed in Chechnya. Just recently this month,
a colleague of ours in Ingushetia, Maksharip Aushev, was killed, and we do see
that this wave of killings is not something new happening in the region. We do
see that – at least we in civil society in Russia – my colleagues publicly said
that we share responsibility for their killings, because before those people in
the NGOs had been killed, it was an enormous number of killings among just
regular people who have been announced to be a terrorist, who have been
announced to be a rebel.
In some cases, definitely they do unfortunately have terrorism rebels in the
region, and in some cases terrorists and rebels have been killed, but even by
the Russian laws, it’s not allowed to kill a person, even if he is seen as a
terrorist or rebel. It should be decision of the court, the person should be
taken to prison. In many cases, before the killings increased that much this
summer, we’ve seen dozens and dozens of people kidnapped and killed, and our
responsibility, I believe in that, in being not that much heard, not that much
understood how important is it has now led to a situation that not even
unknown, innocent people are tortured and killed, but also very well-known
human-rights defenders, journalists, are targeted.
And by saying this, I also want to put some sort of responsibility to our
colleagues abroad. I was sharing this with our European colleagues. Right
now, Sweden is chairing now and talking to the officials in the European
community on their level of responsibility. I believe we share towards those
people in the region who are brave enough to do their daily work, and I
strongly believe that it is complicated not to see that they very much depend
on how you react, if it is any public interest in your country, in Europe,
towards what they do, because in our country, unfortunately, we have, as it was
described by Dmitry, our approach towards journalists as it was described by
Maxim, we do have a very specific approach towards those people.
It would be unfair to describe the situation in the Northern Caucasus just from
a point of view over human-rights violations, which are essential and very
important. Unfortunately, from the spring 2009, we have a raise of terrorism.
There are terrorist units which have been not active for a long period of time
have been reorganized. More than 14 suicide bomber’s attacks have been
implemented in different parts of the northern Caucasus, and we need to admit
that these types of activities are growing.
We need to admit that it is not the same situation in Chechnya and in other
parts of Russia, although it is publicly announced as an equal by the local
leaders. We need to admit that the real terrorism, not just a threat but
reality, exists. Civilians are targeted not only officials. We need to admit
that from the statistics we have and also from statistics which is provided by
the initiatives of the CSIS here in Washington, it’s quite clear that the
number of attacks, the number of operations is only increasing from both sides,
from the sides of rebels and terrorists and from the side of law-enforcement
This all is showing another picture for us, the picture which is quite clear.
There is a fight going on within the society. More and more people are
involved in that. I could be finishing this main part of the picture of the
region, it would be unfair to say that we don’t see any difference from what is
going on right now towards what was going on during so many years.
I do believe that there are new leaders and new policies implemented in the
Northern Caucasus. There are leaders who are trying to fight with corruption,
as the president of Ingushetia, and that’s the main reason he was attacked and
almost killed. There are people who are trying to build up the trust, develop
a dialect in the region, as the leaders of Kabardino-Balkaria and Dagestan.
There are such new approaches on the ground.
The thing is, they are unfortunately not that successful so far. Although
there are new type of officials who are trying to think in a different way, it
would be optimism to say a Medvedev-type of way. And let me share this
optimism. Still, these new policies are not dominating in the region, and let
me share very shortly these five main recommendations which actually have been
published in an op-ed of Washington Post before the meeting of Medvedev and
Obama, and I know our colleagues shared this recommendation with Mr. Obama.
I strongly agree that perezagruzka (ph), which was announced within the
relationships between Russia and the United States, United States and Russia,
should really include the civil-society sector. It is not just the
governmental officials who are in relationships. It’s not okay that the
governmental talks and relationships are monopolizing relationships between our
I strongly believe that this perezagruzka should include much more look of
grassroots initiatives, and we have very interesting results of the
Obama-Medvedev civil forum, which was happening in July this year in Moscow.
And unfortunately, Mr. Medvedev was not able to join it, but I strongly believe
that if American NGOs as well as Russian ones would be interested in the real
cooperation, new type of cooperation, not training from one side to another
side, but a real partnership, that would be strongly developing our societies.
The second is to really focus on the region which faces crises. You know all
what was going on August – in the August between Russia and Georgia. We know
all that there are mistakes which have been clearly done by the Russian
officials, by the Georgian officials, but I want to address the issue of the
frozen conflict regions. For many years, these situations have been seen as a
frozen conflict. The international community almost gave up on it, and then
finally, we got what we got that August. If it would be more active role and
if it might be more active role now in the Northern Caucasus, in the South
Caucasus, more active role might prevent the serious crisis which we saw in the
The third is to recognize the importance of media and new type of participatory
media. I strongly believe that old-fashioned strategies based on 20th-century
approach – (inaudible) – support to the existing media, are not going to work.
I strongly believe that in the countries like Iran, countries like Russia, even
in China, the participatory media might really involve the society in
discussing and dealing with problems.
And the fourth recommendation comes through forming new strategies which would
be facing these new types of developments of the 21st century. And we see the
essential role of Internet, and we see the essential role of a public
engagement which might be so differently developing the situation in the
region. Right now, I’m not talking about the political developments, I’m
talking about social and public developments which we saw are coming up from
people nowadays, in many cases, including the campaign we saw organized during
elections in the United States.
And the last one would be to focus on these approaches targeting people instead
of targeting the decision-makers, instead of targeting those who are really in
charge of so many issues, in charge of so many issues. We have a chance always
to work with people through social-marketing activities, through any other
public initiatives, through different participatory media-Internet additions,
through those additions which are really popular and read by the Russianers
(ph) by certain target groups of Russianers (ph). I strongly believe that idea
of working with values of a people.
This word, value, was recently mentioned in the visit of Hillary Clinton to
Moscow. Working with values of people is so essential. We are losing the
battle for the public consciousness, at least in Russia. I strongly believe it
is possible through op-eds, through independent coverage of the newspapers,
through Internet, through public-awareness campaigns to work with the people on
the ground, not only with intelligentsia, not only with opinion-makers. There
are those people who right now, unfortunately, are not so much pro-liberal or
I strongly believe that these points are important ones to the direction of a
new approach, new strategy that we are lacking. I strongly believe in Russia,
in many of the poor Soviet countries, I strongly believe, and in South Caucasus
as well. And these new approaches, this is a challenge. Would we see any
change, or are the changes just supposed to happen here in the United States?
I strongly believe we need change as well over foreign policies of our
colleagues here. Thank you.
MR. MCNAMARA: Great, thank you very much, and certainly appreciate the variety
of issues and concerns that the panelists have raised. I did have one or two
sort of general questions. There were mentions of President Medvedev, and I
wonder if the panelists could point to any substantive changes in approach to
the media under President Medvedev, compared with his predecessor, current
Prime Minister Putin.
And just picking up on this last point regarding new technologies and media and
so forth, I wonder if you could also talk about the challenges that – sort of
the typical Russian citizen who’s interested in expressing his or her opinion
in utilizing these, and then also the adeptness of the authorities in utilizing
these new technologies as well. I guess one of the thoughts that comes to mind
is, we might see somebody with an iPod or some outward manifestation of a
buy-in into some of these technologies, but I would suggest that those types of
technologies can also be utilized to reinforce certain messages that some of
the Russian leadership through organizations such as Nashi, which I see is
pursuing lawsuits against foreign journalists in addition to domestic lawsuits
that have been brought by a number of individuals.
So mainly, the differences in approach between President Medvedev and his
predecessor and now prime minister and these new technologies. The commission
did – Kyle organized a briefing about a week ago or so on the use of these new
technologies, so if you could address that question in the context of the
Russian Federation, that would be great. Thank you.
MR. MURATOV: Well, I knew, I anticipated this question about Putin and
Medvedev. Is it true that they are really different? And I sort of knew that
we were going to go back to this old cliché from Hollywood movies about a good
cop and a bad cop. I would say that one of them is a cop; the other one is
MR. MCNAMARA: The other is a lawyer.
MR. MURATOV: And there’s been a visible change in public opinion recently,
primarily reflected in the condemnation of Stalin and also in the personal
statements made by President Medvedev that was addressed to the more advanced
members of the society, to the small minority. That’s actually the big
difference between them; whereas Medvedev has the courage and musters some
courage to address the minority, traditionally, Prime Minister Putin appealed
to the vast majority of Russians.
But of course, the minority that President Medvedev is appealing to is
defenseless. And regardless of the fact that none of the representatives of
this minority was represented, registered or even victorious at the recent
elections of October the 11th. But when we uncover facts of falsification of
votes at the election, it is a good testament to the fear experienced by the
majority. This is Ms. Merkel calling, I suppose. (Laughter.)
Now, I’d like to say a few words about the new technologies. We were just
sitting here and a few minutes ago, you could hear the sound of police sirens.
I suppose that the German chancellor was passing by this building. You heard
them, right? And just recently, we uncovered – in fact, there were actually
hearings on the allegations that someone named Yusufov (?), I very well-known
corrupt official, in Russia who unlawfully gained about 300 million euros, and
he was trying to use this money to purchase old unused shipyards in Ms.
And he’s a very typical Russian corrupt individual. He has got a vast
collection of cell phones, about 4,000 of them. They are very expensive and
very exclusive cell phones, and when he has a birthday party, Sir Elton John
performs for three million, if I’m not mistaken – dollars. I investigated the
activities of this gentleman jointly with Der Spiegel magazine, because leaders
of Russia and Germany were compelled to discuss this issue of these murky
dealings. And this is my message to Mr. McNamara and Mr. Parker: I think that
within this framework of a Commission of Cooperation and Security in Europe, we
have to establish a panel, a standing committee on fighting corruption in
I suppose jointly, with our non-government organizations, other players such as
Transparency International this committee or commission has to build upon the
best work of independent journalists in the United States and in Europe.
There’s got to be a white paper or white book on corruption, because I believe
that corruption is just one of the varieties of a party. This is stealing the
future. And I love this saying that I like to quote. It was published in my
newspaper. The elites in Russia want to rule like Stalin and to enjoy
Abramovich’s lifestyle. But in order to prevent them from ruling like Stalin,
we have to pursue them and persecute them so they wouldn’t enjoy the lifestyle
of Abramovich. Thank you.
MR. TRUDOLYUBOV: Yeah, I think we don’t have much time, but yeah, it’s a very
good way of putting it. I totally agree that corruption is – actually is one
single, huge, problem that prevents Russia from developing as an economy and as
a society. And I totally subscribe to an idea of an international cooperation
in pursuing stories of Russian corrupt officials and well-connected businessmen
who are trying to legalize their gain abroad in countries like the United
States and in Western European countries. And I think that’s also – I wanted
just to touch an idea of Russia having a minority of people who understand the
country’s situation and who would be able to contribute to country’s
development if they had a chance.
Many of these people are my audience of my newspaper. We have a fruitful
exchange of ideas all the time, and I feel their response and I see that that
we have a lot of people, not just in universities of non-government
organizations, but in government, people who work for all kinds of ministries,
and presidential administrations who actually understand very well the
limitations of the current system of government. They just need coordination.
They just need this feeling that change can be brought about.
Russia currently is a society which doesn’t believe that change is possible.
It’s a moral problem, in a way. It’s a social and moral failure to believe
that a joint effort, collective action may be useful, may work. So we very
much need, probably little, tiny successes on things like civil society
achieving its success, press publishing something and achieving a result,
however limited and local. That’s what we are working on and we need the moral
support that foreigners can provide. Thank you.
MR. SHVEDOV: Well, while I am trying to briefly answer to questions you
addressed, I believe the differences you’ve been pointing on within the new
media approaches, I think, see maybe not so many examples. We don’t see
substantial change towards media in Russia. We don’t see how independent TV
stations, radio stations are flourishing in Russia. We don’t see it. But we
do see Mr. Medvedev talking to Novaya Gazeta, which is important, which is not
only about material but also a very important message.
We do see Mr. Medvedev publishing an article and opening a discussion about
this article on “Gazeta.ru, Internet edition.” We do see other steps which do
exist. They maybe are not about change of a strategy, but on the tactical
level, we do see the differences. On the second issue you raised, the new
technologies and if they might be utilized by what we call the dark part of a
civil society, or it might be also not presented as a civil society at all, and
that’s the issue of debate of academia.
Yes, for sure, it exists. I need to admit, it’s much more effectively used by
neo-fascists than by liberals. The 2.0 platforms, sure it is so. That’s why
it is essential to put attention. That’s why it is essential to look towards
these new approaches because those who want distribute hatred, those who want
to distribute any kind of radical ideas, those who are terrorists, by the way,
are very effective.
Check out the YouTube. It’s not about some forgotten Russian Web sites. How
much you have on YouTube with terrorist statements. How effective are
terrorists’ leaders? They are using it a lot. That’s why it’s challenging for
us. For sure they are effective. What about our ideas? What about our
messages? First of all, do we have messages? I think we have lack of
messages, truly speaking, in Russia, towards the society.
What actually we want to say? We can criticize officials. Yes, for sure, they
are doing a lot of mistakes, but what’s the role of society? What do we have
to say? This part of society, which, as was described maybe minority, what do
we have to say? Not too much of a message as I personally see. Not too many
good and effective leaders I see in YouTube and other Web sites and the social
networks. That’s why it is a challenge. And you are right. But being right,
you are giving another point for me, for us to focus on these new approaches,
for us to really think how to work within society. They are the people. Thank
MR. MCNAMARA: Thank you very much. We’ll now entertain any questions that you
may have from the audience. There is a microphone set up in the room here. We
do ask that you keep your question fairly to the point, and if you could start
out with your name and any affiliation that you have. Thank you.
MR.: Please press the button.
Q: Can you hear me now? Okay. My name is Alex Van Oss. I teach at the
Foreign Service Institute, the Caucasus area studies, and I was actually
interviewed in June by Caucasus Knot when I was in Moscow. They got me by
surprise. I have a bookshelf about twice as long as this desk, books about
Chechnya, and they’re all grim reading. There’s only so much I can read. And
therefore, I’m fascinated by Mr. Shvedov’s suggestion that there need to be new
kinds of NGO projects that are perhaps different from this old style of
journalism, which is very important to documents what happens. What kinds,
specifically, of new projects might there be?
MR. SHVEDOV: Thank you very much for addressing this. I strongly believe that
we an old frame in Russia specifically, but I think in many of our post-Soviet
countries, as well. But (further than ?) the human rights groups are trying to
send as many messages, as many materials they produce towards our Western
colleagues, here in Washington, in Strasbourg, in Brussels and many other
European and other capitals. Within this framework, it was expected that
politicians here in the West would influence Russian politicians, and they
would make our life better.
It’s not working at all. It’s not working not only in 21st century, it was not
working already in the end of 20th century. I strongly believe in new
strategies which are focused on the Russianers are essential, which are focused
on dealing with the people who live in their particular region are important.
So that might be the social marketing strategies. That might be any kind of
strategic communication strategies. We do have experience of this kind of
projects, and we have data which shows they are effective; they are making
difference, they are changing things.
And for sure, that’s not about political change. Personally, I don’t believe
in any Orange Revolution in Russia. I don’t think that’s a good scenario for
the country. I don’t think the political issues are the most important one for
the country right now. I think the most important one are these issues when we
are working with a social apathy. Then they are targeting people in order not
only to criticize officials, but to act. Then they can act, then they can
change things on the ground. And there are hundreds of cases like that.
Be active, don’t slip. Just rise up and be active, because in many cases, it’s
just a lack of information. In many cases, in the Caucasus as well, by
engaging in solving the problem, by talking to officials, you can really do the
change. (Audio interference.) Am I saying something bad? (Laughter.)
Sorry. So I strongly believe that yes, we have very different point of views
in many cases. But the apathy is a major threat, and a lot of different
specific stories, and even the stories which are very unfortunate, with the
people kidnapped and tortured, might be addressed. Then the society react
properly. That’s only a protests which are needed. That’s not only the
meetings and the demonstrations that are needed.
I strongly believe that – for example, in the Caucasus, we do lack very much
that public discussion, debate. There are so many discussions and so many
debate coming back to the question you raised on the hatred-based Web sites and
discussions how bad are Ossetians in Ingushetia, how bad are Ingushetians in
Ossetia. And so many of the discussions are not taking place, if we are
talking about the future. What really can people do in order to change things
in their region? So these specific scenarios, these specific projects, I
think, might come up from the people on the ground, and we do have such people.
So we do need just a little more of work here.
In the people consciousness area. In the area of specific projects which might
make a difference, even if it is a little difference. Thank you.
MR. MCNAMARA: Perhaps we will hold off until the bells. (Audio interference.)
MR. MCNAMARA: I think you’re good to go.
Q: All right. Good afternoon. My name is Karen Fisher (sp). I’m from APCO
Worldwide here in D.C. I’m wondering, given that the state owns or controls
all of the media outlets in Russia, when you have a situation with a highly
publicized case, such as that of Yukos Oil CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to what
extent does the press become part of the Kremlin’s strategy to fulfill its
political agenda on top of the manipulations of the legal and judicial system
against those like Khodorkovsky?
TRANSLATOR: Could you repeat the question, please? I’m sorry.
Q: Oh, I’m sorry. Given that the state owns or controls most of the media
outlets in Russia, when you have a situation with a high publicized case, such
as that of Yukos Oil CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to what extent does the press
become part of the Kremlin’s strategy to fulfill its political agenda on top of
the manipulations of the legal and judicial system? So utilizing the press and
media as part of their means to –
MR. MCNAMARA: Perhaps we’ll take another question.
Q: Okay, no problem. Thank you.
TRANSLATOR (?): (In Russian.)
Q: Good afternoon. My name is Valery Zutsev (ph). I’m freelance writer
covering the Caucasus region. I have a question for Dmitry Muratov and Grigory
Shvedov. The one for Mr. Muratov – you’ve mentioned that Medvedev and Putin
are not exactly the same, there are a lot of differences. You’ve mentioned
Medvedev’s recent statements. But what about actions? Don’t you think that it
is possible that these statements are just signs that do not lead to any
action, any real practical thing? What do you think about this?
And a couple of questions for Grigory Shvedov. There has been a speculation
that the killings in the Caucasus will stop after the fight in the Kremlin will
stop. What do you think about this speculation? Do you think it is true or
not? I particularly referring to, for instance, the opinion that President
Yevkurov was appointed by President Medvedev – sorry about two presidents – in
spite of Putin’s skepticism, to say about this.
And another question is about rise of violence in North Caucasus following the
war in Georgia in August 2008. Do you think there is a connection between the
war in August last year and the rise of violence in North Caucasus? Thank you.
MR. MURATOV: (In Russian.) I will be able to answer these questions only in
part, not in full. Sorry. In a very short time I will have a personal
interview with Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. The court gave
permission for such an interview. And right now, preliminary through the
defense attorneys who are discussing possible approaches to that interview. In
these negotiations, Khodorkovsky is referencing his own article that was
published in Maxim’s paper where he is saying, well, we shouldn’t really wade
or interpret the situation. We need to see this majority that is willing to
modernize. He calls it a modernizing majority of innovating majority. These
are, by few million people – three or more million people who would be able to
embark on this huge task to modernize and reform the society in Russia.
And this article, I think quite justly, resonated with a lot of readers. I
think that eventually the Russian society should take full ownership of its
future. It should take charge in the forming and shaping the agenda and the
plans. And it might seem bizarre, but looks like Khodorkovsky and Medvedev
were reading from the same page. It’s a very interesting story.
MR. SHVEDOV: Thank you for questions. On first (run ?), if media is part of
Kremlin agenda, I’m just not able, actually, to answer. I don’t know where
Kremlin agenda, but I strongly believe that there is need in the information,
for example, from the Caucasus. So there is need to know what’s going on.
Then you have so many channels which are transmitting the pictures which are
not showing the essence of what is going on. You really don’t know what’s
going on in the region.
So I think in many cases, those independent pages and papers which exist are
showing that there is an understanding that there is a need in facts, which
would be provided not by PR companies, which are collecting, monitoring,
sending and actually, in many cases, not what is really going on, but (a real
On the questions of Valery Zutsev, definitely Yevkurev, president of
Ingushetia, I think very much implements the different task from what was done
prior to his job in this region. Definitely he implements different policies,
not Putin’s that much. But at least we see these in his actions. But if the
killings would stop by the decision of the Kremlin, that is really a very open
question. I strongly believe that there is a role which is essential of
Kremlin in what is going on in the Northern Caucasus. But it’s already too
late to expect to any other bureaucrats to make a decisions, sign a piece of
paper in any other tables, and then overnight everything would change.
You probably remember, just recently have been talks between Kadirov and
Zakayev. And Zakayev filed a statement that from now on, no more violence in
Chechnya. Guess what? Nothing changed. Zakayev is certainly not that
influential than Russian officials in Kremlin, but unfortunately, my feeling,
and the information I’m gathering in the meetings which are off the record –
just last Monday I was in Dagestan, and many of the remote places of this huge
republic – is giving me a feeling that there are so many people who are ready
to fight, who are ready to organize terrorist attacks, who believe in things
which is not so easy to understand, but strongly believe in these things.
And none of the decision makers would influence that. But that’s already the
good thing, that there is a recognition, in couple of region of the Northern
Caucasus, excluding Chechnya, that there is need to talk, maybe not to those
people who commit terror attacks, but to huge number of their supporters. So
the second – and you also mentioned on Yevkurov, that he was – I would really
say that I strongly think that he was attacked not because of the developing
terrorism in the region. He was attacked because of his fight with corruption,
which shows on what Maxim described here earlier, to what extent it is a real
problem, that the president of a regional republic might be attacked just due
to such a reason.
And the second issue of the rise of the violence, which is linked to the crisis
which we had in August – we had the war. Yes, I think then we have in the
region, like the Caucasus, military strategy implemented that certainly leads
to the further crisis and further increasable violence. I won’t answer to make
a point or that further developments in the Northern Caucasus, or the whole
approach of separatism. For many years separatism was not any more an issue.
Chechnya was leaving, and leading from this discussion because of lack of
leadership and lack of real examples, and many other reasons of responsibility
of a separate state.
But recognizing there South Ossetia, recognizing the Abkhazian people – not a
region, but people – as those who has right for the independent state, Russian
state gave a huge credit to literally dozens of those people in the small
nations which are, as South Ossetia of 30 or 40,000s of people, to talk about
possible independence from Russia or independence from the region they live in.
And that’s really very much developing the whole idea of a violence, and
that’s very much the solution which leads to the dead end, unfortunately.
So I think you, Valery, also wrote one of the articles about Ossetians, as
well, in the Northern Ossetia, to what extent this is an issue even for North
Ossetia to talk about the Ossetian state. So very much I believe today South
Caucasus and Northern Caucasus are linked to each other, and the whole
approach, including the approach I see here, United States and in Europe, in
dealing separately – these are one country, these are another country –
approach we know from ancient Rome.
This approach is not going to be successful, because unfortunately today, the
terrorists, the rebels, those who promote hatred, they are very much in
context, they are very much communicating with each other. Those who promote
different scenarios to actually develop a community which called now Imarat
Kavkaz – they certainly, in context, and they certainly work together and they
are popular among the population in those regions.
So by forgetting that this whole region needs some different messages, and
different policies and different steps than the military tanks, and the
soldiers marching, we are going to the direction which is not going to be
peaceful. Thank you.
MR. MCNAMARA: If you could identify your –
Q: Yes, my name is Jaroslaw Martyniuk, and I work for Intermedia Research
Institute, and my question to the panel is twofold: First of all, Intermedia’s
and other surveys have shown that the majority of Russian are quite happy with
the media that they have. In fact, about two-thirds to 70 percent say they are
content with what they have. How does one explain this attitude?
The second part of my question concerns also some survey results. Surveys show
there is a very high level of anti-Ukrainian sentiment in Russia. For example,
only one-third of Russians have a favorable attitude of Ukrainians, while in
Ukraine the opposite is true: 90 percent have a favorable attitude towards
Russians. And as you aware, President Medvedev wrote a letter to Yushchenko
accusing him anti-Russian policies, which include the desire to join NATO,
discussion of the 1933 famine-genocide, et cetera. This undoubtedly has
fueled, contributed to the anti-Ukrainian attitudes. So my question is this:
to what extent does this represent genuine attitudes of Russians? Or is this
largely or mostly a product of Russian media? Thank you.
MR. MCNAMARA: If we could have another questioner, given our limited time –
Q: Nadia McConnell, U.S.-Ukraine Foundation. I apologize if this was covered
in the hearing, but I was attending a meeting on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
We and several other organizations operating here, like the Moldova
Foundation, the Baltic and Georgians, believe that we need to address some of
these issues on a regional basis. And by region, we mean the Baltic, Black and
Caspian Sea region. And to that end, we’re also interested in creating a
network of information and media sources in this region. My question is, do
you have cooperations with media organizations in this region, and if so, to
what extent, or what would you like it to be in the future?
MR. MCNAMARA: I think we have time for one additional question, which will be
the final question, and then we can have about seven or so minutes for our
panelists to respond. If there are any other questions?
Q: Thanks. My name is Alex Maffest (sp). I’m an intern for Sen. Cardin.
This is not really a question about conventional media, but it’s a question
about, do Russians have access to social networking sites such as Twitter or
Facebook? That these were quite influential in the Iranian elections – they
give access to the public for a source of identity.
MR. MURATOV: (In Russian.) I will answer only one of the questions that were
posed. That was Mr. Martyniuk’s question about the sentiment toward Ukraine.
I wasn’t aware of this survey. If they ran this survey, I suppose they polled
the owners of the TV channels. And I can confidently state that the majority
of Russians don’t watch official Russian TV channels. If they do watch them,
they do it just for one simple reason: They want to understand what the
officials want them to think. What I know for sure is, it was actually proved
by one of our reporters that during the commercials breaks, you get a better
throughout put of Moscow sewage system for wastewater. That way our TV
industry saves our water sewage sector. And therefore I’m very thankful to our
TV for that.
MR. TRUDOLYUBOV: As for the Russians being content with the kind of media they
have, well, the question is – I think – well, yes, our audience is limited.
Even Novaya Gazeta, which is a much larger publication than us, we are about –
let’s say 100,000, 150 (thousand). That’s our readership. But we are, again,
a business newspaper and our op-ed page is widely read, but read mostly by
people who are among the minority that’s been mentioned here already, people
who are already enfranchised, people who understand what’s going on. So we are
not converting them, in a way.
I think that there is a certain problem of people who don’t know that they
don’t know. That’s the problem. They may become a lot more active if they
would become aware of the scale of corruption, the scale of mismanagement and
inefficiency that is represented by the current government. And it’s our
challenge. It’s the challenge that we are facing. The publications that are
free and that are quality newspapers – they are, of course, limited in scope.
But whenever possible – and new media are a great help at that sense – whenever
possible, our message is being carried further down the line for people who
don’t read quality newspapers, who don’t live in Moscow, who are not involved
with businesses. But in the end, the message gets through, and I think that
new media will be a great help more and more in distributing.
And also about the social networks – yeah, social networking is a growing area.
Lots of people are more and more connected, and that’s where – again, quality
press has a role to play, because as anywhere in the world, networking is
developing but quality journalism is not. Quality journalism is suffering
because of the market situation, because of the business model that’s failing,
because of the advertising-based model for financing. Quality journalism is in
crisis everywhere in the world, and it will be in crisis in Russia very soon.
We are lagging behind in that sense, but we will reach that stage where we will
have to face this.\
So networking is developing, but the message that they are carrying is the
message that we are responsible for. So we just have to continue doing what we
are doing, and I think that’s a tipping point with – somewhere would be
reached, when people just wake up to the scale of corruption and inefficiency
that is prevailing currently in Russia.
MR. SHVEDOV: Well, I can’t address the Ukrainian question, but on the first
comment, I would say that from the data I know, the level of mistrust, the
level of belief to the Russian press – that was surveys which have been done by
Levada Analytic Center, in cooperation with Sarah Mendelson – are showing that
Russian media is not something which satisfied Russianers. It’s also very much
a debate to what do we call the media. You know, in the United States, a lot
about infotainment. I mean, in the United States it’s as well an issue. In
many other countries.
If we are talking about the Russian TV stations, if we are talking about
broader access of the Russianers to the media, I think we are facing the
mistrust, misbelief, the Internet, certainly and the high quality few
newspapers is a different case. Maybe a couple a magazines. So overall I
don’t think the Russian population is happy, although that’s quite clear that
infotainment is very popular. And with this the population is much more happy
than we think.
On the issue you raised about networking and the cooperation with local
sources, certainly, that’s something in our work we do very much use and I
think that that’s something which is very much needed. The question is, to
what extent this is a long-term approach, to what extent it is developing and
supporting those who exist there, and independent from any groups of interest,
because in the Caucasus, including Karabakh and many other South Caucasian
regions, we do have very strange terms, what is independent media.
If media – specific newspaper or Web site – is dependent on opposition, is
dependent on some political figures which are in opposition right now, oh,
that’s independent. I would call independent media those which are
professional, those which are not linked to any other political or business
frames, and those, I think, are very much lacking the cooperation, and
cooperation, in general, is very much needed. But what kind of cooperation? I
strongly believe in support and development of media. Not only support, but
also professional development, which is addressing the standards which were
just right now eliminated.
And the last one, yes, certainly, we have access to the social networks. The
question is, to what extent it makes a difference, to what extent it is used as
a social engagement tool, or it is used just for spending time, just for
communication without any meanings, without any leverage for the society. I
strongly think that in Russia, it is not used enough to influence.
I just were in another meeting, giving an example of some of an article we
published, which came fully from a social network, exchanges and debates which
are going on, and then people stopped to sit in this computer-friendly
communication but just got off to the streets to say what they wanted to say in
(Lidi Kavkaz ?). We have many examples of this kind of things happening, then
the social networks are playing the essential role. I think much more should
be done by the civil society in Russia and in many other countries in the
Southern Caucasus, because that’s a challenge to us. Not too many things are
done by the civil society to lead in these social networks. That’s why other
people are leading there. Thank you.
MR. MCNAMARA: Thank you very much. This concludes this briefing of the
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. We definitely appreciate the
presence of the experts today, and certainly wish you all the best as you
return to the Russian Federation. As I have indicated, a full transcription
and other materials related to today’s hearing will be posted on our
commission’s Web site: www.csce.gov tomorrow within 24 hours. Thank you very