Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

U.S. Helsinki Commission Urges Bush to Question Putin on Russia’s Authoritarian Domestic Policies

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and ranking members Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) and Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), sent the following letter to President Bush urging him to question President Putin on Russia’s authoritarian domestic policies during their meeting that begins Sunday in Kennebunkport, Maine. The letter cites that while President Putin has changed the stature of Russia globally, it has come at the expense of a “managed democracy” that is less accountable to its people. Furthermore, the letter raises serious concern with the Kremlin’s control over media freedom and its failure to protect the rights of journalists.

On June 22, Congressman Hastings and Senator Cardin sent a letter to President Putin questioning state efforts to limit media freedom, citing professional and legal dangers associated with Russia’s media industry and the failure of President Putin’s government to allow the news to be reported accurately. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 13 journalists have been killed in Russia since 2000 and only three individuals have faced charges in connection with these killings, where no convictions have been made. Please find a copy of the letter below:

June 29, 2007

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We hope that your upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin results in improvements in bilateral relations and decisions that prove mutually beneficial to citizens in both countries.

As he prepares to leave elected office, President Putin enjoys considerable popularity at home, following almost a decade of economic difficulties and political uncertainty. Indeed, many Russians have seen material improvements in their lives and welcome the domestic stability and renewed international stature under his leadership.

His legacy in terms of democratic pluralism and fundamental freedoms is accentuated by a creeping authoritarianism that has characterized the Kremlin’s policy of “managed democracy.” These troubling trends have included close control of political processes, key broadcast media and industries as well as the functioning of non-governmental organizations and other elements of civil society. Such developments are particularly disturbing as Russia prepares to hold important parliamentary and presidential elections.

Against this backdrop, we would especially emphasize the difficult situation regarding the free flow of information. The Kremlin directly or indirectly controls the nationwide TV networks, while Russian authorities at all levels routinely exert various forms of pressure on journalists, editors, and publishers in an effort to shape the news to their liking. Especially disturbing is the fact that at least 13 journalists are known to have been killed in Russia since 2000.

Notwithstanding President Putin’s pronouncements regarding the need to ensure protection of journalists in Russia and the need for objective investigation of the murders of slain journalists, only three persons have been taken to court in connection with these slayings and there have been no convictions.

Mr. President, the Congress is on record expressing concern over attempts to limit the free flow of information in Russia and the fate of journalists, including American Paul Klebnikov, killed as a result of their professional pursuits. Echoing these concerns, we urge you to make a concrete offer of U.S. law enforcement assistance to help identify and bring to justice those responsible for these murders and to encourage President Putin to put an end to the harassment and attempts at intimidation of independent journalists in Russia.

We are convinced that democratic governance and rule of law, development of genuinely competitive markets, and the free flow of information are essential to long-term stability and prosperity in Russia, a country with tremendous potential to be a reliable partner in areas of mutual interest to our countries.


ALCEE L. HASTINGS, M.C.                    BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, U.S.S.

Chairman                                               Co-Chairman


Ranking Member                                    Ranking Member

Media contact

Filter Topics Open Close

Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin’s Personal Prisoner

Sep 20, 2023

Stream here: HEARING: Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin’s Personal Prisoner – YouTube Vladimir Kara-Murza, a father, husband, and a freedom fighter, has been in detention for over five hundred days and is currently being transferred to a prison in Siberia. As he is being moved, his family has lost all contact with him and are faced with worry […]

Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Leadership Celebrate Pardon of N...

Jun 23, 2023

Washington—Today, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09), applauded Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili’s decision to issue a presidential pardon for journalist Nikoloz “Nika” Gvaramia. Mr. Gvaramia, an outspoken media figure and […]

Press Releases


Apr 28, 2023

WASHINGTON— The leadership of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), and Ranking Members Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Senator Roger Wicker (MS) sent a letter to Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili urging her to intervene to break […]

Press Releases

Congressmen Cohen and Wilson Introduce Resolution Re...

Oct 28, 2022

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, and the Commission’s Ranking Member, Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02), today introduced a resolution recognizing October 30 as International Day of Political Prisoners. Congressman Cohen was recently named the Special Representative on Political Prisoners […]

Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Slams Shutdown of Novaya Gazeta

Sep 08, 2022

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), and Ranking Member Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) today condemned the shutdown of Novaya Gazeta in Russia, following the decision of a Moscow court to strip the outlet of its print media registration. They issued the following joint […]

Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Calls for the Release of Political...

Aug 09, 2022

Washington – On the second anniversary of the sham presidential election in Belarus, the Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “Two years ago today, Belarus’s autocrat Aleksander Lukashenko put up a show of an election that he had hoped would legitimize his […]

Press Releases


Jul 21, 2022

WASHINGTON—Margareta Cederfelt, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA), has appointed Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) as the first-ever OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners. “I welcome the chance to serve as the voice of political prisoners across the OSCE region,” said Co-Chairman Cohen. “Every day, we witness more political arrests of […]



Jun 30, 2022

Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Slams Legislation in Belarus tha...

May 20, 2022

WASHINGTON—Following the approval of legislation in Belarus that would apply the death penalty to pro-democracy activists and those opposing Russia’s war in Ukraine, and ahead of the May 21 commemoration of the Day of Political Prisoners in Belarus, Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Co-Chairman Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Ranking Members Sen. Roger […]

Press Releases

Chairman Cardin, Colleagues Introduce Resolution Cal...

May 16, 2022

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and colleagues introduced a resolution Monday honoring Russian opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza and his work for “freedom, democracy and human rights for the people of the Russian Federation.” Kara-Murza was detained in Moscow outside of his home one month […]

Press Releases

Helsinki Commissioners Lead Bipartisan Ask for Biden...

May 12, 2022

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD), author of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and Chair of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), along with Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Senator Roger Wicker (MS) and Commissioners Senators Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) are urging President Joe Biden to publicly sanction […]


Arrest and Detention of Vladimir Kara-Murza

May 12, 2022

Mr. President, one month ago, Russian authorities arrested Vladimir Kara-Murza, a tireless advocate for a democratic Russia and longtime Putin critic, on the street near his apartment in Moscow. While he was in detention for a fabricated administrative violation, they charged him further with ‘‘spreading deliberately false information’’ about the armed forces of Russia, which […]