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CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and leader of the global campaign for justice for Sergei Magnitsky
Prime Minister of Russia, 2000-2004
Leading Russian opposition figure
Leader of the Khimki protest movement
Member of the European Parliament, 2009-2014
Campaigner for a European Magnitsky law
Foreign correspondent for Radio France International
Author of ‘Why Europe Needs a Magnitsky Law’
Dr Andrew Foxall
Director, Russia Studies Centre
The Henry Jackson Society
Chaired by Chris Bryant MP
Tuesday November 18th 2014
House of Commons, London
Chris Bryant MP
Chris Bryant MP
That’s the end of our Russian I’m afraid… apart from various naughty words that I know – which [will] maybe come up later in the evening.
But, it is very good to welcome you here this evening. This is I think, the fullest I have ever seen this room and I think that’s for a reason.
I just at the beginning wanted to say, first of all, who I am. My name is Chris Bryant; I’m a Labour Member of Parliament. We have a Conservative Member of Parliament here as well, who is chair of the All-Party Ukraine group; John Whittingdale, who is over there [points]. He’s also chair of the All-Party Moldova group and the Georgia group and I think he had territorial ambitions. And Armenia… yes, he definitely has territorial ambitions. But we’re trying to stop that, aren’t we John?
I just wanted to start; I think it’s important on the day when we are commemorating the death of Sergei Magnitsky, the brutal murder of Sergei Magnitsky, by the Russian state… And not only that, but then, the cover-up of the corruption and the murder that he unveiled and the deliberate attempt to use virtually every illegal trick in the book to try and make sure that there is never justice for Sergei Magnitsky. On the day that we remember that [murder] today and we think of his friends and his family and his work colleagues, some of whom of course are here today. I think it’s also important that we remember that human rights are, if you like, a seamless garment. You can’t divide human rights up. You can’t say that we want to protect one kind of human right, the right to freedom of expression, but not protect the freedom to be able to associate or to have a family life or to live your life without the fear of oppression, to be able to vote and determine your own future, the rights of women, the rights of [the] LGBT community and the rights of the whole of society are equally important.
I would also say that as a British person, sometimes people think that Britain is the Mother of Parliaments – that we’re the greatest democracy in the world. We’re the people who normally say this. But actually we need to be humble sometimes, because often we need to learn of the plight that many other people have had to fight for the very simple things that we take for granted in this country. And, so, those of us who argue for human rights in other countries, in this country, do so because we know it’s a seamless garment.
And that brings me to ask you to stand in a moment to remember Sergei, very briefly. But also, I hope that you’ll bear in mind, the tragic event today in Jerusalem; a barbaric event to happen in a synagogue where four people were murdered in cold blood whilst at worship. Their human rights are our human rights. So I hope that you will stand with me now very briefly.
[Pause for standing]
Right, we have a very full panel. There are going to be lots of questions I’m sure.
Without any further a due, I am going to hand over to Bill Browder. He is very formally here as William Browder, but I think of him as Bill and I’m sure that many of you here in this room know Bill very well. Bill has fought with such tenacity and dignity against a Russian state that has barbarous intent. So, I hope you will give Bill a round of applause
Five year ago, in a dank cell in Moscow, Sergei Magnitsky was beaten by eight riot guards with rubber batons, until he died. He was imprisoned in Russia. Not because he committed a crime, but because he discovered police officers who committed a crime. And he decided to do what any good citizen should do, which was reporting it. Instead of being rewarded for recording a big crime and a big crime against his country, he was taken into this terrible hell-hole. Tortured for 358 days and killed five years ago.
I got the news of Sergei’s death one day after he died, in the morning. And it was by far the worst news I had ever received in my life. It was [like] a knife going into my heart. And I made a vow, then, five years ago, that the people who killed Sergei Magnitsky would face justice.
I would have thought that it was a feasible goal, because Sergei did something which was unusual; which was he wrote everything down that happened to him. He wrote down 450 complaints in his 358 days in detention. Documenting, who did what to him: when, where, how and why. So his murder was not a matter of speculation, we had his testimony from grave. And furthermore, we had documents from the Russians own judicial system to support what he said. The people in the prison service and the investigation department of the police where more worried about what their bosses would think about not following orders than they were about the evidence they created to point to their complicity in his torture and murder.
As a result, we have the most well documented human rights abuse case to come out of Russia in the last 35 years. And we would have thought that whatever corruption and criminality there is in Russia, even in a country as corrupt as Russia, we would have thought that the people who did this to him would have faced justice.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, the Russian government and Vladimir Putin covered up the crime, exonerated everybody involved, promoted some of them and even gave some of the most complicit people state honours. And there have only been two people ever prosecuted in this whole Magnitsky affair; Sergei Magnitsky himself, three years after he died in the first ever trial against a dead man in the history of Russia; and me, as his co-defendant, in [inaudible], sentenced to nine years.
And as lobbyists that couldn’t get justice inside of Russia, we had to get justice outside of Russia. That’s when we came up with the idea; that the people who did this crime against Sergei, and the people who do this kind of crime elsewhere, do it for money. They don’t feel comfortable having their money inside Russia. They like to take their money to the West: to London, to New York, to Geneva. And so we came up with this idea of not letting them travel and not letting them keep their money in the west.
It’s been a long hard fight and [in] some places more successful than others. But the United States in 2012 passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act. Which imposes Visa sanctions and asset freezes on the people who killed Sergei and the people who commit other gross human rights abuses in Russia.
We’re trying to do the same thing here, in Britain. Chris [Bryant] has been a great supporter of this and we have a few other members of parliament who have worked with us from other All-Across parties. And we’re trying to do this in the European Parliament, in Germany, France etc.
And my colleagues at this table have also been an integral part of this effort. Elena Servettaz has written a book about this called “why Europe needs a Magnitsky act”. Kristiina Ojuland was a member of the European Parliament who initiated the Magnitsky sanctions resolution in which thirty-two members of the Russian police have been sanctioned by the European parliament in the first ever sanctions [inaudible] passed by the European Parliament in the history of the Parliament. Mikhail Kasyanov, the former Prime Minister of Russia has been an extremely strong voice in Washington [and] in Brussels, saying that this is not an anti-Russian piece of legislation, it is an anti-crook piece of legislation. And Evgenia Chirikova, who’s a brave environmental activist, anti-corruption activist has brought another extremely credible voice to the whole process.
I am pleased to be joined here at this table with Pussy Riot who [are] also going to speak after we finish who also came to Washington to get more people added to the Magnitsky list. And we have many other friends in the audience and there are probably too many people to even name. So I’m very pleased that we’re all gathering here, on this very sombre moment. Five years since the death Sergei to discuss his death and what we can do about it. Because, his death is just a symbol of what’s going on in Russia.
I will now leave it to my colleagues to say a few words.
Chris Bryant MP
Thank you very much Bill. I should say that if you’re tweeting about this, because obviously its great take have events here but it’s great to make events open to the rest of the world, we’re using as our hashtag as #Magnitsky. And I see quite a few people have already started tweeting, including Pussy Riot.
So, we’re going to go to Mikhail first and as I said there will be plenty of opportunities for questions. I first met Mikhail when I was Europe minister and I was very impressed with him then. It’s a different business being an opposition leader in Russian politics. It’s difficult enough in this country I tell you – then again I’m not a leader. I take my hat off to you Sir. Mikhail, it’s very good to welcome you here.
It’s very difficult to be in a different capacity. That’s absolutely right.
Good evening, ladies and gentleman.
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be here in London together with you and to participate in this event. Just five years ago, Sergei Magnitsky died in police custody. Some people say and would gather from that, [that] he was killed.
That period of time, as a matter of fact, was a period when Mr. Putin tried and started to strengthen his regime [and] his personal authority. After the war in Georgia in 2008 and the European Union and other Western countries came back to business as usual, Mr. Putin made a conclusion: that a special ticket has been issued to him to do whatever he wanted. Corruption and lawlessness, those were the instruments that helped him to strengthen his personal regime. Sergei Magnitsky in custody was one of the results and one of the victims of these activities.
Since that time, lots of things happened; Russia lost all features of [a] democratic state. Mr Putin destroyed all features of a democratic state: We don’t have independent judiciary, we don’t have free media, and we don’t have accountability of laws through elections. Today, Russia is not [a] democratic state any more at all and we are facing big problems.
What is going on now in my country? That is absolutely clear, the only goal of Mr. Putin’s regime right now is to keep his power, personal power and power of his team. And therefore, external policy is as a result of the personal intention of keeping power. Some people say Mr. Putin is supposed to think about [the] future of the country. How come he doesn’t understand that he is doing something wrong for the future of the country? That’s not [a] right evaluation; Mr. Putin does not think about future of Russia, he thinks about his personal power.
In the circumstances we have now — when not through elections but through imitations of elections, this regime [is] losing the strength of its economic health — it is important to undertake special efforts. Special efforts mean to find the external enemy. All authoritarian regimes in the history, always found that way to find an external enemy and to impose a mobilisation script on the society. And it has happened so; because of intensive propaganda, which is in the total hands of Mr. Putin. Right now the Russian people are foolish because of all this propaganda. Now, the west, United States, Great Britain and other European countries are just simply enemies of Mr. Putin, of Russia because of what propaganda [dictates].
In fact, what happened earlier this year, with the [Russian] aggression against Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, is another sign that Mr. Putin [has] started to taste his words, to see what another reaction would be. He expected, of course, the same reaction that occurred after [the] Georgian war. The West will turn back to business as usual. But, unfortunately for Mr. Putin, it turns [out] a different direction was taken, as Chris just mentioned. Universal values are values for everyone and people in this country and other countries remember that they were elected only because of those reasons. They were standing on those values.
And now time to demonstrate the principled position. Mr Putin should not have a special ticket to undertake whatever he wants. Therefore, I think that it was a big surprise for him when, in spring, he noticed that there was no division between the United States and Great Britain and other European countries. The Transatlantic unity – that is the basis of strengthening and protecting those values, those universal values. Similarly, Russia agrees to these values in accordance to our constitution and International Laws, Russia ratified and admitted that [this is] absolutely the case. Russia is part of this big family, of democratic states. Mr. Putin doesn’t want to be a part of this [family]. That’s why today, it’s important to continue to have this principled position and defend those values.
Russia [is] coming into a difficult period of time in its economic position. The policy of Mr. Putin of the last eight to ten years, of course, led to an inevitable dissolution of this model Mr. Putin built up. I call it ‘Capitalism for friends’ [laughter]. Now it’s time already to reconsider. As soon as the oil price falls it shows that economy and even the financial system is not [in] a strong position; In fact, my evaluation and that of an analyst in Russia says that Mr. Putin has 2 years. If oil price stands as it is now, 80 dollars per barrel, or even going further down. That will be quite a weak position on the balance of payments – I wouldn’t load you with the economic features.
It is important to understand that despite the fact that Russia has huge international reserves, they are not enough for such a big country, especially with such a great role regarding imports. The whole country consumes every day. Right now, the reserves could cover six months of imports, but the critical is three months. But, with the oil price falling down, that will be reduced every day. That is already quite clear and [the] last statements of Mr. Putin already demonstrate his weakness when he said just “I cannot understand why [the] West have no adequate reaction of adopting Crimea into Russia”. That is already something, he [is] already convening that to hush from his point of view [is a] just reaction- and of course he didn’t expect that some European countries would take such a strong position.
I myself was pleasantly surprised when I watched on live TV from Washington, in the beginning of May, that Chancellor Merkel warned Mr. Putin about sanctions and not President Obama. Mrs Merkel said that and Mrs. Merkel continues strongly to stand on this position. That gives all of us hope, that this time, the principles will be defended and all values [inaudible] would be untouchable. And that he [Mr. Putin] will treat Russia, not as a strange country, but as a democratic country. It means to demand from this regime implementation of all values and all those features we hold that a democratic state and government should and could have.
Chris Bryant MP
Thank you very much Mikhail.
Many of you may not know of Evgenia’s campaign, which was against the development that Mr. Medvedev was advancing. She ended up standing for mayor of Moscow in 2009, and came third. When you understand the kind of corruption and phenomenal difficulties that there are in the Russian political system, this was an extraordinary result. But she’s had a tough time [of late]
So Evgenia, it’s very good to welcome you, and over to you.
Good evening ladies and gentleman, I want to start my speech which is paying tribute to Sergei Magnitsky. Today [is the] five year anniversary of killing of Sergei Magnitsky. I think [that] he is a true hero of Russia. I’m sure [that] future generations will admire him as [a] national symbol.
It’s a great honour for me to speak in the British Parliament. They set an example of parliamentarianism for the whole world. Sadly, today, Russia is far removed from the areas of parliament and one of the main reasons of this is [that] Russian economy depends on its natural resources.
In the modern world, it is impossible to separate Russia’s economy from the economies of other countries, especially the Western countries, [who are] the main buyers of Russian fossil fuel. The money Russia makes from those deals, the Russian government spends on: aggressive military operations; annexations of its neighbour’s territories, Georgia and Ukraine; and increasing the repressive mechanisms against the oppositions within the conflict
As shocking as it may be, it is the fossil fuel mine that pays for the propaganda machine in Russia which teaches Russian people to hate the West and its values. Along with oil, gas and coal; Russia [is] also [an] expert in corruption, which is an inevitable part of dealings with Russian fossil fuel companies. This is why buying Russian natural resources is not beneficial for either Russia or the West today. In the time of an economic crisis, when natural resources drop in price; dependence on those resources, becomes a curse. Fossil fuel companies become prioritised over education and healthcare. In today’s Russia, educations budget is getting cut and hospitals are getting closed down.
Instead of supporting the country in the difficult times, fossil fuel companies become a heavy law. [The] Russian government is currently deciding whether to give Rosneft [a substantial hand out]. Rosneft is the biggest Russian oil company. The government is deciding [whether or not] to give Rosneft $2 billion to help them man their business. And the National Wealth Fund was created as a resource for pension payments. Natural resources companies in Russia, has a benefit from cut taxes or are exempt from them altogether. There, the main treasures are oil, gas and coal – people, have no value. Those who come in the way of fossil fuel companies, pays very [inaudible] measures from the government.
[The] Russian judicial system and police all work – not in the interest of the Russian people, but in the interests of the owners of all [the] fossil fuel companies. To illustrate this, all you have to do is remember the errors and absent judges against the team who agreed this [inaudible], who were protesting against the drilling on the [inaudible].
In Russia, drilling for oil has always been connected with ecological problems. For example, Rosneft has up to 4000 leaks a year. This means that oil contaminates kilometres of ground daily. But, a fossil fuel extraction is also [has] a cost of violation of human rights; especially the rights of the ethnic groups, on whose territory these natural resources happen to be. For example, in the [inaudible] region, [inaudible period] for coal extractions take place very close to the area inhabited by Trotse. Trotse, is a small Siberian [inaudible]. Coal companies are attempting to push Trotse to abandon the area. Driving them and setting their houses on fire; if they still don’t leave, coal companies begin mining near their villages. [This] makes a list of those people very dangerous.
In the process of coal mining, harmful elements can get into the water. So in the end, local communities breathe bad air and drink contaminated water. Also, as it happens, local communities don’t benefit from the natural resources on their territory. And all the profit goes to the oligarchs – almost all of those [fossil fuel] companies.
Another major problem is the use of oil, gas and coal which are very [inaudible]. In the western countries, it is known very well that climate change is taking place and will have very unpleasant consequences for humanity. The use of hydrocarbon fumes has a very negative effect on the climate change. For a long time Russia did not consider this as a serious problem. However, climate change in Russia is happening two and a half times faster than anywhere else on the planet. Unfortunately, those in power in Russia do not learn from this and do not change their policies.
Climate change is of course a global problem that affects all countries. Naturally, it affects Russia as well. Climate change in Russia is not suddenly having one metre without snow; it also manifests itself in forest fires. After 2010, the birth rate has gone up; it is also these fires that are happening right now in Bryansk region, as the air of Chernobyl dries. Resources cannot put out [the fire] and the consequences of which can become bad for [inaudible], which is also the major plots that are happening here- last year in [inaudible] and this year in Yalta. These attempts, of which Russian authorities are incapable of dealing [with].
Buying and selling of Russian natural resources results in ecological problems, both in Russia and globally. It pains me to say that Great Britain, even with the sanctions in place, continues to buy Russian coal. The worst and ecologically the dodgiest kind of fuel there is. Mining on [inaudible] is [a] major violation of rights of ethnic groups that lie in the area. I hope Great Britain will have the strength to stop buying this ecologically dangerous and human rights violating natural resource for Russia
Chris Bryant MP
Thank you very much Evgenia. These are going to be microphones for asking questions in a moment. I’m sorry, but because we had to start a little bit late because of the security – I may need to be inclining you towards asking slightly shorter [questions]. Sorry to be difficult, but you’re both still smiling at me [laughter], so that’s okay.
Kristiina, is a former MEP, former foreign minister from Estonia. She’s campaigned so much for a Magnitsky law across Europe. It still pains me and I think it pains the Prime Minister as well that I ask him every time I have an opportunity to ask him a question about anything, I ask him why he’s not just getting on and doing a Magnitsky law. He’s on his sixth set of replies of letters about this issue now and it’s getting down to his excuses getting thinner and thinner and thinner. And I just hope that one day, he will break and say ‘oh alright, just go on and do it’.
But anyway, Kristiina, you have campaigned very vigorously so it’s good to have you.
Dear friends, ladies and gentleman, I am very pleased to be here and thank you so much for such a warm welcome from everybody. In principle I can just say one sentence and [this talk will] be very short, if you want to. And this is the most important question for me; the question is or, actually the point is, that if we do not stop Putin today in Ukraine then the question is, who is the next? Basically, this is the main important question.
But I can just follow up, if you allow, in a few minutes. I believe that we all made a great mistake in 2008, when we did not take the invasion of Russia to Georgia in 2008 seriously. Because Georgia is a small country: far away from Europe, south of the Caucasus, it is a very tiny little region. So it is [inaudible] they are not well known and in a way, we forgot these frozen conflicts which are existing in Europe since 2008. And I think that this really gave to President Putin some sort of [inaudible] to move further. So what he did in Crimea, was like [snaps fingers], like that. And now it is set, and nobody questions if it was right [or] if it was wrong? So in a way, it’s like we accepted it.
But since G20 meetings a couple of days ago there is [a] very serious situation. Even if the conflict started in Ukraine, it was stated that we haven’t seen [a] more serious conflict in the world since the Cuban [missile] crisis. But I think that now we are really facing the real crisis in Europe. If you would think [of] yourself being President of Ukraine or Prime Minister of Ukraine what you would do if your country is attacked and if your country is surrounded from the East by the troops from another country? How long can you keep this? How long can you listen to the European leaders and say ‘please don’t do it, we don’t want a war in Europe’?
Of course nobody wants. But what can be done? If we don’t stop Putin in Ukraine today, then exactly the question is; who’s next? We all know that Putin has put the troops; the [inaudible] rocket systems nearby Kaliningrad have the flight distance almost to Berlin. Is Berlin the next?
I am supposed to speak about the Baltic States – of course. We are very concerned now, Putin is testing, not [only] the Baltic States, but that is very interesting that he is testing the non-NATO countries in the Baltic region. He’s testing Finland, he’s testing Sweden, [and] you [have] probably all seen what happened in Swedish waters nearby. Almost two weeks ago, just a few miles from Stockholm, a Russian submarine was in the waters of Sweden. Is that normal what we are living in? It’s a very serious situation and therefore once again we should ask. What we are facing looking for tomorrow, what should be done? Already that the Russian, the new doctrine, the military doctrine was mentioned, that would be adopted by the end of this year. I think that this is absolutely the basis and the message for the West, for Europe, for NATO, for US and partners in the world. If it will be adopted like it is in the talk now, the US and NATO are the enemies of Russia.
What does it mean? We used to be partners; we used to be a strategic partner with the Russian federation. And we have come now, by the end of 2014 to the fact that we are enemies now. What does it mean really?
Very shortly I must conclude, just pragmatically what we are doing in the Baltic States? Of course, we feel very much threatened. It’s on the human level that people are afraid of what’s going to happen, because we are very small. We are members of NATO like Latvia and Lithuania are. We have had the high level visits; Madam Merkel was in Latvia, Mr. Obama was in Estonia, Mr. Solberg is coming to Estonia this week, then Secretary General of NATO. The message to Putin is very clear but if that is sufficient. So we must be prepared for some very serious steps.
We say in Estonia and probably here or worldwide, “you should help yourself and then God will help you”. So that means that we must be prepared very seriously and stand very seriously against this kind of aggression- what we see in Ukraine today. We must be together, we must help each other and then we must also help the people of Ukraine today.
Chris Bryant MP
I thought one of the interesting things that was actually said the other day by the Prime Minister – our Prime Minister here – was, and it was hardly even commented on the fact, but he did say there are Russian troops in Ukraine, which of course is contested by Russia, in theory. But nobody even seemed to think that was surprising, and that in the end is quite shocking.
My mother had a phrase, she taught me many things. But, the most important thing she taught me was, ‘if it’s free, take two’. But, unfortunately I think that’s Putin’s policy; having got Georgia for free, he’s now hoping to take Ukraine.
I remember when I was Minister, [Russia’s Deputy Prime] Minister [Grigory] Karasin came to see me. He was one of the foreign ministers at the time and we were talking about Georgia and he said “well, when the stupid soldier shot at our tank which was our pretext for going to war”. And I said, “I know you speak perfect English Mr. Karrasin, you used the word ‘pretext’, I think you should have said ‘reason’”. But I think, really, ‘pretext’ was the right word. It’s depressing that the Sarkozy agreement that was reached at the time, has still not been honoured in Georgia.
So Elena…. You all have Elena’s book which is everywhere. I very much hope that people have an opportunity to read it. It is really good; it really lays out very clearly why we, in this country, as well as everywhere else in Europe need to be doing far more to make sure that we move forward with a Magnitsky law. In short she’s going to say what she’s going to say [in her book].
Elena, over to you
Thank you, Chris, for hosting us today; if you were to give me much more time I would make [a] huge thanks.
I’m working in Radio France International in Paris for several years already. My colleagues and I were covering the Magnitsky case and nothing has changed. It has been five years and I would just like to express my huge support for [the] Magnitsky family and [their] colleagues. I’m really thinking about you. Not only today – everyday there is something [new] about the Magnitsky case happening.
The presentation I’m about to give doesn’t represent the view of the French Government and [that of] the Radio France International. It is just based on my observation and my experience.
I was asked to speak about freedom of speech in Russia, if I should be just short and quick I would just say there is not freedom of speech in Russia and we can finish the discussion. But, seriously, according to [inaudible] in Russia, around 94 percent of Russian citizens get their information from TV, federal state channels. In this case, maybe ‘information’ is not the right word. In today’s Russia we should maybe use [the word] ‘propaganda’. My colleague, [inaudible] who worked before in [inaudible] daily, she studied media in Russia and she figured out that Russian people, they watch news. The most popular program in Russia is the 8pm news. After that is Eurovision and then there is the World cup, Russia will never win it- but people still watch it.
Chris Bryant MP
A bit like Eurovision here
And there is a victory day parade on the 9th of May. Because Russians, they are still, we are [still] very concentrated on the Great Patriotic War it’s understandable, it’s normal. But I finish my school in Russia and we never speak about lice, we never speak about United States, we never speak about Great Britain and we try not to speak about the [inaudible] and D-Day. So there is Russian who won this war and they fight the Nazi, why is this important today?
Why is it important to speak about Nazi? Putin’s administration knows exactly how Russians feel about it, about this particular day. This allowed a very controversial Russian journalist, Dmitri Kisyelov, to invent a new term whilst he was covering Ukraine and the developments. That’s how we say here ‘Fascist Junta’ on Russian TV, or we say ‘they speak about Nazi in Kiev’. And so, if the TV is your only source of information, you start to believe that it’s not the Syrian revolt, it’s not Majdanek, but it’s really a Fascist junta. And you feel strong about it because it’s in your mind, the Russian people, about the World War.
And the world is people on Russian TV; there is Putin from one side and there is the West from the other side. More often, we speak about the united side which affects Russia and which Putin usually takes personally. So when you criticise Russia, he [Putin] takes it personally.
And that’s why it’s very important, I would like to mention it today and we try to speak about it very often and — Mikhail Kasyanov, I think he supports me — we should not speak about sanctions against Russia, because as soon as you say ‘sanctions against Russia’ because all the Russian people they are not sanctioned. There is a regime, there is Kremlin and they were separated from Russia following [the] annexation of Crimea. So we should speak about sanctions for Putin’s regime, for his inner circle. And as soon as you change your speech it will also help us and Russia; because people still support Putin because he [too] was oppressed.
And, as you know, Putin also can [inaudible] a strong response. And it’s [a] very asymmetric response and with the latest sanctions it was this threat and ban that Russian people were suffering from. For him, it allows to tell us Russian citizens, that its sanctions against Russia again, that is why we are suffering. And, it’s very interesting, I don’t know if you heard about it here, in Great Britain – but in Russia, on the state channel there is a journalist, [inaudible] he explained Russian people why these sanctions exist. And his ideas [are] really crazy; he explained to us that the United States wanted to push Europe to impose these sanctions. That’s why the idea of shooting down the Malaysia aeroplane was chosen. And so, he showed us the picture, the photo-shopped picture and said ‘Ukrainians shot this plane, that’s how [The] United States make Europeans vote this sanction’. And by the way, Mikhail, you wanted to know, he is a PR officer for Rosneft which Evgenia mentioned it already.
All are [inaudible] Russian channels; have like brainstorming with someone from Kremlin, the administration. They can get a phone call and that how they change the agenda. You know that RT (Russia Today) is very successful in the West and now they are preparing their French version as well. Russia today is a real propaganda machine, a very strong one. I also checked how the view of Russia has changed already, with the Ukrainian crisis. Because, we used to speak about Americanism – but as soon as you speak about sanctions, I notice that now there is 74% of Russian people who do not like this. And it’s about 68% of Russians [who] responded [that they] do not like Europeans, it’s because you are speaking about sanctions against Russia one more time.
Two days ago, they broadcasted a movie to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s death. And it’s called ‘Litra M’, they speak about [inaudible] who will explain as the most mysterious case which ruined the relations between United Kingdom and Russia in this space. Litra M is Magnitsky case. So now I know that it’s you [Magnitsky] who stole the money from the International Monetary Fund and they assume that you killed Laura Palmer and JFK [laughter]. But, in this movie, [the] memory of Sergei Magnitsky was thundering. And it’s all the time – each time there is case, there is such a movie and it will allow the judges, the Russian judges to open a new case about how many members of Russian opposition were arrested.
And the last thing I wanted to mention, there is very few free media in Russia. Its Echo Moscow, I work for them from Paris. It’s Novaya Gazeta and I guess the opposition magazine The New Times. So [inaudible] because [there is] no more opportunity to work us with their satellites. Echo Moscow, is now under Putin’s leadership, under Mikhail Sereda, who is a chief of Gazprom media. So in the end of the week we will see if they will continue to broadcast or not. And at all, that the journalist who is working on Echo Moscow, sent [a] tweet that could offend the members of Putin’s chief of administrations. He was fired and now there is a court case.
So you cannot raise these questions in Russia; you cannot speak about Putin’s money. You cannot speak about Putin’s inner circle. So that is how we think about freedom of speech in Russia.
And we were taught to hate the Ukrainians, our closest neighbours.
Chris Bryant MP
I’m just very cautious of stopping your speech then, because that might have been ending free speech.
Thank you very much.
Look, we absolutely have to be out of this room by 8.30pm, so we’re in a bit of a hurry now. I do want to take some questions; and then we’re going to have Pussy Riot and we’re all going to rotate with Pussy Riot – if that makes any kind of sense [laughter].
We will have a concert?
Chris Bryant MP
I don’t know about a concert.
But if I could just get some hands up and there are some microphones going round. So there’s a gentleman over there [points] – there’s a microphone coming there. There’s a lady over there, so I’ll take her next and then I’ll take some more. I’ll take three of four [questions] I think.
Okay, the theme today was ‘Prospects for Russia after Putin’, so after Putin what are we going to get?
Chris Bryant MP
So after Putin what are going to get? And the lady over there [points]?
[Inaudible period] to stop Russia and Ukraine otherwise we’re next. And I wondered whether actually [inaudible period] attack militarily
Chris Bryant MP
So that is, is there a realistic possibility that Russia would attack a NATO state?
And the gentleman there [points]
Do you see any way Mr. Putin can leave power peacefully?
Chris Bryant MP
Or, indeed – without going to prison [laughter]
And there’s John Whittingdale, in fact ‘the John Whittingdale’
Question Four: John Whittingdale MP
I chair the All-Party Ukraine group in parliament. Ukraine has not just been invaded, because of the last few days of the petty reinforcements by Russian [inaudible] troops and armour [inaudible period] to these in Ukraine. The names refer to the relentless propaganda that is spewed out in [the] Russian population. There are an army of Russian soldiers there – the regime in Kiev is a fascist, anti-Semitic one. And effectively, the country has been taken over by gangsters. Yet, the army we know Russian Baltic’s came back to mothers in Russia who had been killed fighting.
To what extent is the real situation in Ukraine – realised by Russian people? Or is the propaganda just so overwhelming in itself, that people have no idea?
Chris Bryant MP
Kristiina, do you want to start answering that? I’ll go along the group.
And Geoffrey, I think you might want to say something in a moment or two.
Just on propaganda, I must say that while living in Estonia, in the border between west and east, that the propaganda was coming from both sides. We must admit it. But, I think that there was a question more or less [addressed] to me – that what can be done?
I don’t have the recipe, nobody probably has the recipe. What I would like to say is the Justice. I am a lawyer; I would like to see is that the International Law would be put into force. Putin must go to be taken to the Hague court to face the court case on what he’s doing. [He is] breaking the international law. Not [only] because [of] violating the borders – but for being behind the murder of his own citizens. It’s not that we all know about the Sergei Magnitsky case. But how many other similar cases are there in Russia?
The regime is a criminal regime. I actually wrote an article this spring, in May about ‘why and how Mr. Putin should be taken to the Hague court’. Mr. Milosevic also experienced that; nobody believed it [would happen] before it happened. But it may happen, and if it happens then we will see justice.
Chris Bryant MP
Just what happens after Putin or just whether Putin can leave peacefully?
I think just now, as I started explaining to you. The situation is going through a very important period. As a result of Putin’s policy and destruction of [the] whole economy in terms of competition, support of private businesses, administrative bureau and big distribution of property. [We have] people questioning property rights every day. We have a capital flight this year of just more than $130 billion dollars. That is a great pressure on [the] balance of payments.
And we have a two year period. A two year period of all those results that have been accumulated during the last years as a result of [inaudible], established by my government by the way. Putin [has] accumulated a lot of money and these resources would last for two years. But this oil price as it is now, it is lower [and this] will be some kind of acceleration of this process. Sanctions also accelerate this process; it is not a result of problems Russia faces with [inaudible]. The Result is just Putin’s policy for the last ten years. Not launching [or] pursuing any single reform which Russia badly needs. And he will stop those reforms launched by my government and he will put them [inaudible].
Right now just, eventually we will come today towards the model. The model is already destroyed. This model does not produce any economic growth – it produces decline. Next year, [Russia] will have between just two and four percent of GDP decline and we will have a reduction of oil price and production because of the sanctions. To increase production of oil, you need new resources. For new resources, you need new technology which Russia doesn’t have at the moment. And also, even to keep the level of production the same level on the old resource in Siberia – you need special equipment, to keep resources for exploration at profit level. That’s also part of the sanctions. It means, just next year that there will be a physical reduction in the production of oil plus a reduction of oil price. That gives an effect of squeezing the whole ability of the regime, just to keep even those promises to tension years and public wars.
It means that next year, it will be a difficult one. That’s why I’m saying – these two years will help for Putin to make a decision, quietly; whether to build up an extra strategy and follow recommendations of demands of those manifestations we [inaudible] arranged in December 2011 and winter of 2012: Just to have a free and fair elections, under control of civil society, but not under FSB’s control. Or just to continue to believe that he is right, continue to have blushing and just to try and to establish this vision that he is crazy.
Chris Bryant MP
A Russian friend said to me, ‘ it’s okay because he’s not mad yet’.
That is exactly the case; Mr. Putin wants to be viewed like mad. Because what [mad] people usually do with these people [is], come to the agreement. Mr. Putin is just waiting for the proposal for trading, what price he is ready to pay for that. But, and you behave unexpectedly, just withstanding awareness. Mr Putin believes [that] everything in this world is tradable: The only question is price? And he is looking for this price. He doesn’t believe that there are some values which people never compromise on – that is the problem! That’s why in these two year we should demonstrate with him, there is no way out rather than to come to the compromise. And just to implement international law and constitution of our country.
Chris Bryant MP
Actually, I still believe that he’s ready to go peacefully. But Russians, they are not Ukrainian. We have not had such an experience of this civil revolt. There is something [that’s] going to happen in 2018 I guess with the parliamentary elections and we will see how people will react.
I remember there was one story on Russian State TV about one guy, he collected money and he went to Ukraine to fight this Fascist Junta and they admired him as a hero and three channels made a story about him. And, three days later, this same person was presented as a schizophrenic. That he never went there, so he created this story. Now he will be treated by Russian doctors who are very capable. This [is the] kind of story people see in Russia
I agree that after Putin we will have many years of huge economic crisis. There was a solution proposed by Mikhail [inaudible], not so long when he was in presidency that we will use money from oil companies to fulfil the fund for retired people and that is how maybe we will [inaudible] the situation. So we will see what’s going to happen.
Chris Bryant MP
Okay, thank you.
Evgenia has decided to speak Russian and I will help her [translate to English].
[Evgenia Chirikova] Because I am living in Russia, I always think about my future and especially the future of my children. Even several years ago, when there was no war in Ukraine I wrote a post, a blog which was named ‘Putin is a war’. And he is that type of person, who, in order to keep his own authority and power- would like to blast the whole world. You shouldn’t forget that our military budget is growing year by year. While the budgets for healthcare, for education or even ecology is going down and down. So the direction of his thirst is very [inaudible].
But, Vladimir Putin does not equal to Russia. We should not forget about his surroundings with oligarchs. And, there was probably a moment when the UK could help the whole world.
Because, [it is] probably the most breathable place for those oligarchs; the place where they prefer to live, buy property, study and to keep their children. And it’s in your authority and your power to make their life here miserable [laughter].And then, they could stop Mr. Putin.
And it’s not even funny, because those people, they are stealing money from our country and from our people. They make them fools, and actually after that, their money has been spent here.
Then reply to me please, why do you think they feel so safe with their stolen money here? Do you like the war in Ukraine?
All my friends who help me to fight [inaudible], to stand shoulder to shoulder with me – they either [got] killed or died or left the country or [are] in prison. So for me, this issue is very personal. You have to forgive my emotions. But I really believe that you have [inaudible].
Chris Bryant MP
I don’t think there’s any need to forgive your emotion – we applaud your emotion. My biggest fear, as a British person, as a British politician, is that the roads to Poland in the 1930’s went through Prague and the Sudetenland. And there were many British politicians in the early 1930’s who said ‘yes, it’s alright for Germany to take the Sudetenland because most of them are German, and they think of themselves as German.’
And then the argument is, so maybe in Crimea its okay? But we, in Britain, we signed an agreement with Russia about the territorial integrity of the Ukraine. And we have not honoured that. We haven’t honoured it, let alone the Russians honouring it. So, I do sometimes despair when we cannot even sign up to a Magnitsky law. That’s not the top of the list, that the first thing on the list. To say that the people who were involved in his murder and the corruption that he unveiled, [They] are not welcome in this country. I don’t see why that’s so complicated or difficult.
You know, I think the Prime Minister at first he just wanted to do just more business with Putin and with Russia. Because, in the end, we in Britain love Russia; we’ve done trade with Russia for centuries. We’re passionate about Russia; Russian literature, Russian music, I still think one of the funniest things I’ve seen in my life is that Putin at the [2014 Sochi] Winter Olympics was so pleased to find out that Tchaikovsky was not homosexual. Well that’s an interesting argument to make; I don’t think [that if] you’re so obsessed with this issue you should wander around with your shirt off the whole time [laughter]. [He] might be thought be promoting homosexuality.
But, I went to an event sponsored by the Russian Embassy in London at the Royal Festival Hall. I think a couple of others [in the audience] were there as well. The first two pieces were by Tchaikovsky and it said in the Russian embassy programme, signed by the Ambassador himself, it said “[inaudible] Tchaikovsky who was a prominent homosexual”. So here you have it straight out the mouth of the Russian ambassador and he doesn’t always… tell the truth [laughter]
So there we are. I’ve said that now. Anyway, look, I want to bring in, because we’re going to swap around now and I’m sure we’re very grateful to our panel, we’ll say that in a moment. But Geoffrey Robertson’s here. Geoffrey’s been doing a great deal of work with us. Because we do need to make sure that the Magnitsky law happens and Geoffrey [Robertson] is going to just inform us about this.
Geoffrey Robertson MP
[Inaudible period] but we would all like to see Mr. Putin in that dock in The Hague. We’re not going to see him in the dock in The Hague because he’s got impunity, ‘imputiny’ one might say [laughter], because of a defect in international law. We’ve worked so hard to implement international justice to end impunity. But, unfortunately, the Security Council is part of that [inaudible] it puts people on trial or it veto’s trials. And as one of the big five, we’re not going to get a Russian being called, or an American or a Chinese person [being called]. That is a problem in international justice at the moment. We know the philosophy because we get [inaudible period]. Russia doesn’t sign the ICC treaty, of course. So any crime that is committed; a crime of war, war crime and crime against humanity in Russia will not be punished. The International Criminal Court will not have jurisdiction. I certainly think that every neighbour of Russia should sign up to it. And so that at least, theoretically, Putin can be indicted. But it’s not going to follow; it was in Russia’s power in the Security Council.
And that’s one of the reasons why the Magnitsky law is so important and should be taken up in Europe, and should particularly be taken up in Britain for the reasons that you gave. Because, it is a way of punishing, not the [inaudible] which aren’t written down, not the diplomats who have immunity in international law. It is a way of punishing, in a sense, ‘the train drivers to Auschwitz’. Those who do the bidding of the higher ups, those and in Magnitsky’s case itself – it was the corrupt police who arrested him and kept him in prison for a year: it was the [inaudible] little judges, several of them on the US Magnitsky list, who turned a blind eye when the man was dying and was being beaten up at the same time. So it’s those people who commit human rights abuses and may be under orders. And who sold their money away and their children and their grandparents [are] using the medical services that this country provides.
You talk to human rights violators who made money after selling arms to [inaudible period]. You ask “why did you do it?” And they say “for the family” and that is why you should try to avoid giving rights to children. But these people, made their money so they can send their children to private schools in England, so they can send their parents for operations in England and that’s why a Magnitsky law here, [inaudible period]. But I think a proper Magnitsky law would go the extent of refusing not only the immediate [inaudible] we showed you to be complicit in human rights and gang abusers. But would also cover their children, their parents and so it would be a real deterrent and a real punishment to them.
Now, how do we introduce it? We actually have a bill going through the British parliament at the moment. It’s called ‘the serious crimes’ bill, and it has ways of seizing property of those who are [inaudible], so we could calmly rest an amendment to that as a way of introducing Magnitsky. I think there is one [inaudible period]. I think we have got to decide, who and on what test is against Magnitsky listed. I would rather have it done by a judge then by a parliamentary committee. But, I think it should be open to Amnesty International, to the Henry Jackson Society; who come to identify an individual as not beyond reasonable doubt, but as more likely than not to be guilty of a crime: A serious crime, an international crime, a genocide crime against humanity or war crime, that’s where a number of Russians are culpable in connection to Ukraine. And have them put on the [Magnitsky] list. It would mean very badly [inaudible], if they have any money here, their bank accounts would be seized [inaudible period]. But they would have to have the right to approach the [inaudible period] to take them off the list. That’s the take, one that is important from what we’ve heard tonight. In memory of a brave whistle-blower, who was killed for that whistle-blowing in the cells of the Moscow prison; that we get underway [and] get support for a Magnitsky law here. Because, as you pointed out, it is present, Britain as well as the South of France. Let there be comfort and aid to these people.
Chris Bryant MP
Right, you got certainly one vote in favour of that already – from me. And I’m sure there will be many others in the room who will want to sign up to that as well, other MP’s and members of the House of Lords too.
We’re going to switch around now, so can I just say an enormous thank you to this panel and Nadya and Masha [of Pussy Riot] are going to come up here and sit on the top table or at the top table.
So thank you very much to our panel.