“The Magnitsky Legacy: International Implications of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act”

By

14th November 2012

Portcullis House, London SW1A 2LW 

To attend please RSVP to: simon.williams@henryjacksonsociety.org 

The Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society and Hermitage Capital CEO William Browder are delighted to invite you to participate in two roundtable discussions, entitled: “The Magnitsky Legacy: International Implications of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act,” to be held on the 14th of November 2012 in the UK Parliament (Portcullis House).

This event is being held to commemorate the anniversary of the death of the whistleblower-attorney Sergei Magnitsky, with the purpose of highlighting the international implications of the eponymous American legislation, expected to be passed by the US Congress before 2013.

These sessions will explore ways in which the UK, EU and Russian opposition can use the Magnitsky act as a template to fight against corruption in Russia and abroad, as well as an aid in the struggle for democratic reform in the Russian Federation.

We would be most grateful if you would consider attending either (or both) of the roundtable sessions.

The day’s programme will proceed as follows:

Roundtable 1: 10.00-11.30, Thatcher Room, Portcullis House

Closing the impunity gap: Magnitsky as a model for improved anti-corruption legislation and financial regulations in the UK and Europe

  • Closing gaps and continuing improvements in UK and EU enforcement of money laundering protocols
  • Tax revenue versus corruption: strategies to convince politicians to take a more stringent approach to foreign capital tied to corruption
  • European cooperation with anti-corruption efforts in Russia: strategies going forward

Roundtable 2: 14.30-16.00, Grimond Room, Portcullis House

The Magnitsky Act and the Russian Opposition: A tool for the pro-democracy movement

  • The Magnitsky Act and the Russian opposition: prospects for success?
  • Legislative strategies for assistance to Russia’s pro-democracy movement
  • Translating anti-corruption work into political platforms: the Magnitsky Act as a springboard for political organisation

About the Russia Studies Centre

The Russia Studies Centre is a research and advocacy unit operating within the Henry Jackson Society. It is dedicated to analysing contemporary Russian political developments and promoting human rights and political liberty in the Russian Federation. The Centre is headed by Research Fellow Julia Pettengill.

 

Transcript

Roundtable Discussion 1

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Russia Studies Centre, Henry Jackson Society meeting on the Magnitsky legacy. This is, of course, a very current debate, a current issue. My name is Jonathan Djanogly, I am the MP for Huntingdon, I was previously a justice minister, and indeed a corporate attorney for over twenty years, which gave me a certain degree of affinity with the particular circumstances of this case. And we are delighted, I am delighted, today to introduce a fine panel with a lot of experience in this area.

The idea is going to be that our panellists speak for about five minutes each and then I will open the floor to questions and answers to hopefully encourage some good debate. So if I could firstly, and I’ll introduce them one at a time before they speak, so firstly, Sir Anthony Brenton is the former UK Ambassador to the Russian Federation, serving from 2004 to 2008. He has worked for over thirty years for the British Foreign Office, he is a fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and is currently writing a book on Russian history.

Sir Anthony Brenton

Thank you Jonathan, it’s a pleasure to be here, on the third anniversary, of course, of the death of Sergei Magnitsky. And that death was a tragedy and a crime, but as it’s been illustrated it is a tragedy and a crime from which we hope that some good can emerge. The striking thing about, as it were, the follow-up to the death. I mean we all knew that Russia was corrupt, but I think that with the good work that Bill Browder has done, we have discovered as a result of the Magnitsky death, really how corrupt Russia is, how much impunity there is around for the people at the top who are involved in this corruption, and how it is intimately bound up, and this is not just money we’re talking about, but how it is intimately bound up with the way Russia works politically. And that ought to play back into how we, the UK, and how other western countries relate to Russia.

I was ambassador there up until 2008, I was as I say, aware in general terms, of the level of corruption, and I used to quite regularly talk to the British business community, and to enquire gently, because if I heard stories of corruption involving British companies, I had to report back in detail to the British authorities, to enquire about their awareness of corruption, and received a set of rather bland responses. Of course, these are respectable companies, well-known companies, they didn’t engage in corruption, they were aware of it as well, but somehow it was possible to do business in Russia without getting yourself involved in that sort of thing, and I took that at face value at the time, you know, respectable men like me.

Since then, because at the time this didn’t operate, we had the Corruption Act here, the US has introduced the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as well, and the heat has begun to be turned up in Western countries on our interactions with corrupt structures in places like Russia. My impression, I go back quite regularly, I help British business there, is that, well, two things to be said about it. First of all, these pieces of legislation did generate immense hope amongst Russian liberals, the people who want to reform Russia that the active follow-up to this sort of legislation would have an affect not only in the practice for our companies, but also would have an effect on the general atmosphere of corruption in Russia. I think those hopes so far have been disappointed, because I think the implementation of this type of legislation has so far been pretty feeble, which brings me back to the Magnitsky legacy, which by pointing a very, very intense spotlight at this problem, both as I say as an economic problem, in the way Russia functions, but also the political problem of how Russia functions and how it relates with other places, I detect a growing willingness determination to see this legislation properly implemented with regard to Russia and other places where corruption is at the core of the way the country works.

And I’d like to just end with two observations. One is that it seems to me that it is immensely important that this process of implementation is intensified and focused, and there is a job here for the British authorities and authorities in other western countries concerned with making sure that our anti-corruption legislation, which is very strong, is properly implemented with regard to Russia, quite independently of the noise which will come out of Russia, is coming out of Russia, about the damage this will do to relations and so on.  And secondly, Bill Browder has arranged all sorts of ways of remembering Sergei Magnitsky, but if we can make this stuff really bite, that will be amongst the strongest memorials that we can give to him.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Thank you very much, and next is Luke Harding, the award-winning foreign correspondent with the Guardian, who served as the newspaper’s Moscow correspondent from 2007-2011, and he was expelled by the Russian government for his critical coverage of the government. He’s reported from Delhi, and Moscow, and has covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya. He is the author of Mafia State.

Luke Harding

Thank you very much. Yes, I’d just like to step back and look at the big picture. One of the reasons I was kicked out of Russia last year was for reporting on the Wikileaks cables, which had an extraordinary release in 2010, pushing through millions of secret communiqués, between the US State Department and its embassies and consulates around the world, and I had a pretty pessimistic view about corruption in Russia, but it was quite astonishing to read these documents that describe Russia as a kind of mafia state, which gave me the title to my book. And basically, set out a thesis which I think most people have at least recognised to be true.

Essentially, what’s happening in Russia is that the activities of the government and of the security services, the Federal Security Service, and organised crime have kind of merged into a single entity, if you like, so what we’re dealing with is by its very nature quasi-criminal, but at the same time the Russian elite, they, well, they are not poor, let’s put it like that, and their aspirations are not those that, say, the kind of Soviet apparatus who ran Russia twenty-five years ago, who could perhaps kind of aspire for a flat with a slightly higher ceiling, a holiday on the Black Sea coast or maybe a couple of weeks in a nice sanatorium down in Sochi or Abkhazia. Now this is an entirely different pattern than then, I’m of the view, which is very hard to prove, but we are talking about really the richest people on the planet now, at the top of the Russian regime. They see themselves in those terms.

As we all know, many of them have kids in school and university in the UK, they ski and holiday the south of France, they have Swiss passports, or Finnish passports, and so on. And at the same time the often very thuggish and often xenophobic regime, and I really think that in terms of what they are doing, Sergei Magnitsky is completely correct, because I’m not the first person to say this, but the concern of this elite is basically that their assets, their property in the West , it is all hidden in the West, and this is their overrunning concern. There are no substantive ideological differences inside the Russian government. Before I got thrown out I spent much time tying to decode the nuances of Dmitry Medvedev’s speeches to see if he really was a liberal rather than a fake, as many of us saw from the very beginning, and with his progressive-seeming rhetoric and whether he was as the US diplomats say he was playing “Robin” to Vladimir Putin’s sort of “Batman,” rather than a more substantial figure in his own right, and of course he wasn’t.

If we just look at what’s been happening over the last, since May, since Putin returned to Kremlin as President for the third time, it is a demoralising picture, we have a new law on high treason, we have Pussy Riot, we have opposition activists being jailed for four and a half years for nothing whatsoever, and there’s kind of a new chill, if you like, going through Moscow. At the same time, as we talk about the Magnitsky legislation and then take what happened to me as a kind of reverse-Magnitsky, I flew back at the beginning of last year with a valid visa, having suffered all sorts of harassment from the FSB while I was there. And it turned out I was on the stop-list, so I was basically detained, put into a metal cell, turned around to discover it was being locked behind me. Despite the best efforts of the British embassy in Moscow, I was deported. Since then I have heard many similar stories of academics, most recently a American human rights worker, and he was deported two weeks ago, and others privy to the regime and people just working in Moscow, who are being deported. So we ponder whether this is the way to go. Russia is already doing it against people who want to improve the human rights situation. So I commend what Bill has done, I absolutely agree with Anthony, and I think this is the way forward.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Thank you. Next we have Steve Kay, who is the leading barrister at the International Criminal Court who has represented a number of prominent international figures. He offers expertise in handling the prospects of future litigation and the preparation and presentation of landmark cases, and has represented the victims of the Beslan massacre at the European Court of Human Rights. Recent instructions include the defense of the Deputy Prime Minister of Kenya against charges of post-election violence and crimes against humanity.

Steve Kay QC

Thank you very much. I sit as a recorder of the Crown Court, I’ve been a recorder for fifteen years and practiced extensively in the criminal courts in England and developed an international criminal law practice. So I’m used to seeing a lot of crime in my thirty-seven years at the Bar, and when Bill Browder came to me about eighteen months ago, the story that he came to me with was quite extraordinary, because it wasn’t Hermitage’s money, I couldn’t get around that for the first half hour, it was actually the Russian state’s money. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that these girls sitting in a little tax room in a Moscow office were able to perpetuate such a massive fraud of 230 million dollars, have villas in Palm Island off Dubai, and be living that kind of lifestyle as very middle ranking tax officials. This whole scene made me look at what Bill had presented me with, and I at least thought they were married to Putin or someone else. I have seen a top ranking KGB guy, who said “no Steven, they are not married to the top.” It’s impossible that this is the Russian state’s money. I can’t get my head around this, that these people in this room pulled this off, and that no one’s touched them and they are just ordinary middle ranking figures, walking around the streets of Moscow, but driving limos around the south of France.

And that whole picture brought with it to me the fact that this was nationalised crime, there is no other way of looking at it. Nationalised crime, crime that is sponsored by the state, a tax regime which is there to be parasitically fed from proceeds of tax than looking at the poor people in Beslan, who have been treated quite badly by their government, and other outlying areas, and people just feed off the stolen revenues, and it’s an acceptable form of conduct.

Now turning from the criminal law experience, Bill asked me what could be done at the international criminal law level. I said, “absolutely nothing. There is no international crime here, it’s not genocide, it’s not crimes against humanity, it doesn’t fit with any of the international crimes that are considered by the international community as so serious that people go to prison that people go to prison for a long while.” But when you think about it, the size of these crimes, we know that the Hermitage fraud that Magnitsky uncovered was the tip of the iceberg. There’s even more in Bill’s briefcase. He can pull out PowerPoint presentations and show you other times where these things were systematically done. And as I’ve reflected more on this, about the system and how seemingly wide-scale and systematic it is its actually fitting that crimes against humanity scenario, but it’s not one of the listed crimes against humanity. Widespread and systematic attacks against a civilian population, be it rape, be it persecution, be it those particular crimes is what make crimes against humanity. The only thing missing from the ICC charter is a “Point L” that includes theft and corruption or bribery or whatever, financial crime.

But let us just turn and look at what’s motivating the international community to develop international criminal law over the last fifteen years. It was in fact, Trinidad and Tobago in 1989 that suggested an International Criminal Court. The whole thing had been put to bed post-Nuremburg since the mid-fifties, and it was Trinidad and Tobago that was concerned about drug smuggling, money laundering  in the Caribbean that in the 90s, 70s, 80s, almost brought down governments, and it was a widespread problem that put forward the original idea of having an International Criminal Court, put it forward to the United Nations. But then that got hijacked and changed during the Yugoslavia conflict, turning into the ad hoc tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, but it was actually corruption and money-laundering that was the motivating factor in all the original reports in setting up the ICTY, were concerned with that issue.

It seems to me that this has become such a big issue now that it’s time for the UN to turn to it and decide that so many people are being exploited in Russia and in Africa and elsewhere where the parasites feeding off their hard earned labours sort of produced money, income that’s simply not getting into their hands. That the original Trinidad and Tobago proposal can be looked at again, revised again by foreign ministers who have the will and determination to do it and the guts to do it. Because we all know the fact that we are receiving the benefits of this laundered money.

You’ve got to make a stand somewhere about your fellow man and think about how you can improve his life, so these appalling acts that are done in these states where people get away with corruption, where they get away so easily with nicking 230 million dollars from the Russian state,  and no one even knocks on their door. Those abuses are able to filter through the system and people get treated badly, their human rights get affected and then there comes a time when their quality of life becomes such that they’re people that have no future. It’s time that the UN did something about this, and the international community restored their original idea that Trinidad and Tobago had in 1989. Thank you.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Steven, thank you very much. And last but not least we have Michael Weiss, Research Director at HJS and co-chair of the Russia Studies Centre. A widely published journalist, Michael has expertise in the Syrian uprising, contemporary Russian politics, and human rights in the Middle East. He is the author of influential reports including The Shuvalov Affair: A Case History of a Putin’s Aide’s Financial History, Intervention in Syria: An Assessment of Legality, Logistics, and Hazards, which was repurposed and endorsed by the Syrian National Council, and Age of Impunity: Russia After Communism and Under Putin.

Michael Weiss

Thanks very much. I’ve been working with Bill and studying the Magnitsky affair for the better part of two years, and there is a very simple genius to what this campaign has managed to achieve, partly in the US Congress. And that is, as Luke said, hitting the Russian government, hitting the state officials where it hurts the most, in their pocketbooks. But even more than that, it’s the naming and shaming aspects that really sort of delivers the hammer blow. To have the US Congress issue a list of people, to say these people are credibly accused of murder, or complicity, or benefiting from the murder of an innocent man is hugely influential, and it shocks the Kremlin like nothing else.

The difficulty in this country, and I think one of the chief areas of resistance in doing something like this, is the enormous amount of wealth that is poured into the UK by corrupt Russian state officials and corrupt Russian private citizens who more often than not tend to be in bed with the Kremlin. And there’s a sort of welter of problems that surrounds this. Number one, they’ve managed to buy quite a lot of political influence and access. I don’t know how many of you know it here, but in the Council of Europe, which is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, Pan-European institution, and one of the old international assemblies, the Conservative Party votes with United Russia as a bloc. In fact, they voted down a recommendation by an independent commission which said now is the time to further investigate crimes committed by the Russian state, human rights abuses, money laundering, you name it. And this measure was voted down, it needed a two-thirds majority to pass, in part because a lot of Conservative MPs voted with United Russia, along with Serbia and Ukraine and all those other great bastions of democracy and human rights.

This is a great problem that is going to be faced in this country, I’ve done quite a lot of work looking at corruption, on the Shuvalov affair as you mentioned. Igor Shuvalov is the First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia who, well, let’s put it this way, as some of my Russian opposition friends like to say, he made the mistake of paying taxes on the money he stole. And this is why he was sort of found out. I state for the record, because libel laws being what they are in this country, I don’t accuse him of stealing money. This story was an examination of how he came to be in possession of so much money. And it involved anything and everything.

Anyone who’s ever studied these kinds of dodgy business practices will understand offshore accounts, oligarchs both living here and in Russia, wire transfers, swift banking, you name it. And the overall picture is that of great deals of financial wealth and assets existing under this umbrella of total opacity. And more often than not, financial regulatory authorities here, in the Unites States, and elsewhere by the way, this particular affair involved not just Russian nationals, but people with American citizenship or British citizenship, they had no idea that this kind of money was changing hands, they had no idea that so called loans were being issued, no idea that returns on investments were the GDPs of small Caribbean island nations. This is the problem. There are not at present the ample resources needed to investigate people who everyone accepts engage in dodgy business practices.

This type of activity manages to import itself into Britain, which by the way, according to Transparency International and the IMF is considered one of the greatest tax avoidance scheme countries in the world, is through the registration of companies in here, entities that UK companies House will very likely put on the books and on the statutes. These companies tend to not be run by the owners of the companies, but by nominees or directors, and more often than not, I can give you a few names of people, these are directors of upwards of 700 or 800 companies at once, all of which belong to very powerful and wealthy individuals, which I am sure all of you would have heard of if you mention their names. These directors should be a red flag to bodies like the Financial Services Authority or the Serious Fraud Office in this country.

Look, I’ve dealt with guys, very honest investigators and bureaucrats in this department, who just simply say we haven’t got the resources to bring to bear, to study all of these things, and to investigate. But they do have legislation on the books, in the Unites States we have the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which is very powerful and finds that even if you commit a bribe in a foreign country you can be brought to justice in the Unites States. You have the Bribery Act here, which more or less stipulates the same thing. The Russian counterpart, by the way, have, as the Russian Finance Ministry recently published on its website, a clause that says if you bribe an official abroad that is not tax-deductible in Russia, just to give you a sense of this sort of gaping disparity that exists between the West and Russia.

One of the nice things though about Putin’s “return to power,” and Luke and I were discussing this earlier, whereas before things like to be conducted in the grammar of western democracy and human rights, and good business practices and transparency, now the mask is sort of slipping off and they are not afraid to basically say, “this is the way we do things and it’s none of your goddamn business.” And believe you me, the HJS Russia Studies Centre has done reports looking at corruption, and one my colleague Julia is publishing, which will make recommendations as to how the UK in particular can enforce banking protocols, anti-money laundering statutes, and the like.

We did a report on bank called VTB. VTB is where the Syrian regime has put a lot of its money.  This has been disclosed by the Wall Street Journal. VTB has investment or commercial banking arms in several European countries, including this one. VTB is where I think French and German pensioners have invested I think half a billion pounds of their money, their retirement assets. And yet this is a bank that is bedevilled and has been, for the last ten years, by every kind of civil litigation and allegation of corruption. And at the very least, what can be said about this bank is when they make an investment or loan, they’ve so failed to do any type of due diligence that they take a colossal loss. We did a report on VTB in conjunction with Alexei Navalny’s Foundation for Fighting Corruption. VTB ‘s response to the report was, and I quote, “The Henry Jackson Society should look at corruption inside itself.” Now what bank on Earth, Citibank, Chase Manhattan, Barclays, would you ever make any kind of allegation that “maybe you guys aren’t up to the best sort of business practices,” and have them come back and accuse you of being corrupt. I mean this is childish behaviour, speaking with a guilty conscience.

And it’s across the board in Russia now. So there’s actually so much opportunity. And by the way, one of the things I’ve noticed studying charities, registered charities, in this country, Companies House doesn’t even know which charities are in arrears on their tax filings. I mean, this is the difficulty here. When you register a company in the UK, you are basically on your honour to disclose all of your information, you pay taxes, and all the rest of it. You can be investigated, but somebody sort of has to put up a red flag and say that you are behind on these things. Citizens in the UK can actually do a great deal of damage against Russian state corruption by simply tracking some of these companies and entities and saying, “these guys stepped out of line, these guys did something that doesn’t seem right.”

You can get their year-end financial statements by paying for it on Companies House website. So do the math yourself, and see where things don’t add up. I mean, a lot of the citizen journalism is driving the anti-corruption movement in Russia can equally be applied in European countries. So I guess, in closing, I would say, the UK has become a playground for crooks and thieves, and crooks and thieves that have so much money they are now able to buy and to turn into crooks and thieves people who are native Brits, and this is creating a huge, huge problem for human rights, for international law, and for Russian justice. And I think a Magnitsky Act in this country, if you thought a Kremlin response to the US act was bad, if anything like this were to happen here. I think Vladimir Putin’s head would explode to be honest with you.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Thank you Michael, for a very thought-provoking, or provoking anyway, thought to start off with. Can I just say in terms of housekeeping that filming is not permitted by HJS, although we’re not Chatham House, so there we are. Now can I just start off with a question, which is really coming out of what you said, Michael, with comparing the FCPA with our Bribery Act. Our laws in the opposition and leadership in the Bribery Act, and I have to say, the Act was put through under a very consensual and cross-party basis. Before the last general election and afterwards, it was implemented and the guidelines set up by this administration, but clearly there have not been a huge number of prosecutions under the act to date. However, I’d be very interested to hear the panel’s views on whether the culture has changed since the implementation of the Act, and whether there should be more prosecutions perhaps.

Steven Kay QC:

Well, it’s getting the evidence, isn’t it? One of the problems is bringing a statute onto the books here, which here sounds great when the crime is thousands of miles away, is getting the evidence of corruption or bribery, because generally the home state where it takes place is going to keep quiet about it. However, there will be times where there are international enquiries or whistleblowers within a large organisation when such practices will be exposed, and the Act can be dusted off and used. We have Proceeds of Crime Act as well, which was 2002, which is able to strain people involved with corruption and also confiscate assets, which is quite a powerful weapon to be used in parallel with the Bribery Act.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Are you finding you clients are taking on board these pieces of legislation?

Steven Kay QC

Well in the car park at … [inaudible]… school in …[inaudible]… they talk of nothing else. There are a large number of Russians now going to private schools in Surrey, who are now caught by the legislation if they have a place of business or conduct business in this country. I think it is on the minds of everybody, I think it has also infiltrated business practice. I mean, you do read around on these issues. The problem is, though, we think, “well, the French won’t do that, the Italians wont, and neither will the Spaniards.” Given the economic climate at the moment there’s almost a resistance or resentment we should put ourselves in that position, damaging British jobs.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Is that what led you, then, to say we’d have to go to the UN?

Steven Kay QC:

Yes, I think it has to be on the bigger scale than that. I think regionally it is very difficult.

Luke Harding

Sort of a more general point, which is that it is hard to prove. This is the big picture here, you hear these stories and you chase them, and it is very, very hard. For example, in 2007 I came across this rather funny company based in Switzerland, which exports a third of Russia’s oil. Owned, co-owned by, let’s be careful here, a known associate of Vladimir Putin, a guy called Gennady Timchenko. And, you know, I was just intrigued by why was a third of Russia’s oil being bought by a sleepy Swiss village of green fields and cows… [inaudible]…  And so I started off down this trail of enquiry, and in 2007 I did write a story which made front page of the Guardian, basically quoting sources inside the presidential administration saying Putin himself is worth 40 billion dollars. And that this Swiss company was his firm, not formally, but in other ways. And of course I did what all the things a good reporter would do, talk to Transparency International. Of course, the Kremlin refused to comment. And we still never got to the bottom of that story. A lot of people have had a go. The Economist has done it, and Timchenko sued the Economist. Basically, his response was that he hired the best lawyers and PR people in London to spruce up his image, so that whenever you said “friend” regarding Putin, you had to use the word “associate” and so on.

And it’s extremely hard to for investigators, it’s extremely hard for investigative journalists, it’s extremely hard for everybody to get to the bottom of this, and in the end what I did was to put all the evidence I accumulated in the public domain. And it was mosaic tiles, it wasn’t the whole mosaic, and let people make their own minds up. But the problem with regulation is that you need a higher standard of proof, and it’s very hard because covering the Berezovsky-Abramovich trial, for example, what came clear was that very wealthy Russian oligarchs who made their fortunes in the 1990s, the first thing they did was, we’re talking about 20 years ago, was insert a whole series opaque offshore companies into the dynamic. So you would have an oil company that also, oil taken out of the ground and sold to a refinery and then sold to twenty different companies in the Cayman Islands, Jersey, and Panama, and so on.  And how this was investigated, either as a tax investigator or as a journalist, how do you pursue that? It’s very, very difficult, and I think we need to be realistic about what the challenge about unravelling this is.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Can I sort of say, Michael would you like to go from here?

Michael Weiss:

I mean I agree with how, just to give you one example, with the Shuvalov affair, a lot of this hinges on what he claims was a stock option that had been issued to him 0.5 percent stock option in Sibneft which at the time was an oil company that was created for the purposes of privatisation, but at the time a stock option at that size would have been a very sizeable amount of money to own. And so the question is, where’s the documentation showing you claim to have made all your millions from this stock option? Where’s the documentation showing you own this stock option? And the response was, “well, at the time, it was the 90s and these things were sort of done orally, we didn’t keep paper-trails.”

Well, ok, I mean and unfortunately there is a legitimate argument to be made that did indeed happen. If you’ve read the encyclopaedia-sized transcript of the Abramovich versus Berezovsky trial, these are the kinds of things that got discussed, so from a regulatory point of view it is exceedingly difficult to, a Luke says, find this sort of just cause to open an investigation if you haven’t got any sort of criminal evidence to deal with. And that’s the thing, people say “nobody has been found guilty in a court of law, how can you say that!” Well yeah, that’s the problem, nobody has been found guilty in a court of law because the courts in Russia certainly aren’t going to prosecute these things legitimately.

Bill Browder

I wouldn’t be so pessimistic. If you look at the prosecutions in America for foreign corrupt practices, the way these laws are written in America, you don’t even have to have committed the crime. There’s a famous case involving an American investor in a fund that was run by a man named Victor Kozhony, who was a … [Inaudible]… and in this particular situation was trying to invest in a private equity fund, which Victor Kozhony was organising to invest in Azerbaijan, in which Victor Kozhony was going to, according to the conviction, provide the Azeri government officials special benefits. Special benefits never came, but this guy was convicted for should of having known that Victor Kozhony was going to do this.

I guarantee you that the way the law is written here, if the government here, decided that they want to prosecute people, they could. I have probably the most experience of anybody, anywhere, engaging in different law enforcement agencies in different parts of the world. We have the most passive criminal justice system in the UK, with any country that has double the…  [inaudible]… in terms of investigating people who are involved in major corruption and financial crime. And back to the question about the Bribery Act, it’s beautiful on paper, I would be very, very surprised if it ever gets implemented, because in order to get the crime prosecuted it’s harder than getting into Harvard Law School. It has to be the best crime, with the best recommendations, it has to be almost an absolute certainty that it can be prosecuted, and you have to present the prosecutable evidence to the police before they’ll even open up a criminal case and so, I think, can I just say…

Jonathan Djanogly MP

By the way, I haven’t introduced Bill Browder, and for those of you who don’t know him, he is of course the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, and the leader of a remarkable campaign, and I think that we all commend you on the campaign that you have run. Bill, can I just ask you a little bit more on what you just said, because in terms of off the prosecutors, they have to determine that it is in the public interest to prosecute, and in determining the public interest they do have to weigh up the sorts of things that all the other speakers would discuss, and that is the weight of evidence and the cost to the public of achieving that evidence. Although I have never personally been involved in prosecution, I do know that it is that sort of problem which everyone is talking about. Is there something that can be done do you think, to help prosecutions?

Bill Browder:

I’ll make a joke. The British government spends somewhere between 20 and 40 million pounds per annum excluding failed extradition warrants against political enemies of the regime, saying “we want to extradite so-and-so because he’s an enemy of the regime.” The British crown prosecution service then hires lawyers, QCs et cetera, to extradite that person. The courts then uniformly deny the extradition, and then the British government pays both sides. So if you just took that money and used that money to actually prosecute a bunch of the bad guys that are actually doing bad stuff, that’s one way to finance it. The answer is, I dealt with the US justice system, and I’ve dealt with the British justice system, and I don’t know the budgets of both, and maybe it’s an issue of budgets, maybe it’s an issue of prestige. In the US if you bring a crime, they say, “Ok, that’s a crime that’s been committed, let’s figure out we can prosecute it.” And every experience I’ve had here, the British authorities basically say, this is uneasy, maybe the Foreign Office will look badly upon that, et cetera, et cetera.

Jonathan Djanogly MP:

In fact, it’s your turn, Tony.

Sir Anthony Brenton:

I’d just like to say a couple of things. First, the Bribery Act. Implementation is difficult, and probably inadequate, but I think that it certainly has a deterrent effect. I know businesses and businessmen have been put off doing business in Russia because they fear they will come into contact with corruption and will then be subject to the terms of the Bribery Act. That’s probably the most important effect it’s had. So the low level of prosecutions under it understates how effective it’s been. But I don’t think that’s where the centre of the action is.

The fundamental problem in Russia is not corruption from foreign companies, it’s Russian-on-Russian corruption. And the real opportunity that the UK and other Western countries, but particularly the UK, have to act is on the money which is winding up in the City. That’s the place where it’s worth focusing the discussion, I would suggest. And on that, as someone’s already observed, it is very difficult, because of the huge financial interests involved. The instinctive reaction when we talk about extra regulation is that if we do it, then all the money will go to New York or the Cayman Islands or somewhere, but it seems to me that there is a bit of an open door here, because we now have a government that has been vigorously stamping on money that has been concealed in places like the Cayman Islands, and it becomes that much harder therefore to resist some sort of push by the UK for international action against dirty money being put in London. And it seems to me that some sort of initiative in that area, and the UN is the wrong place, but there are financial institutions which are the right place for an initiative of that sort, which could have a real effect, on the ability of rich Russians, crooked Russians, to deposit their money overseas, and would do real damage to the regime. That’s where you need to focus, it seems to me.

Jamison Firestone

My name is Jamison Firestone, I was Sergei’s partner and I also wear another hat, as a lawyer, and I deal with a lot of offshore transactions. I think there’s something we’re kind of missing. I think the Bribery Act is a great thing, and it’s a step in the right direction. One of the problems that you have, look, what we have in Russia is essentially a criminal state, and it generally makes war on its own people, and then it hijacks the apparatus of international law and banking and claims all the rights of a sovereign nation, that we have to honour it, and it doesn’t honour us.

If you want to talk about the best place for offshore banking, it’s Russia. If you want to put your money in a bank where nobody can get it out, and where you’re never going to be prosecuted, where you’re never going to be extradited, is Russia. The reason Russian officials put their money abroad is because they’ve stolen it from the Russian government or the Russian people, and they are afraid of prosecution at home.  If you want to take drug money, or you want to take weapons trafficking money, and you want to put it in a state that will protect your rights to kill and export with its nuclear arsenal, because “nyet is nyet,” and there’s nothing anyone in this room can do about it right now. You put your money in Russia, and you launder your money through Russia, and you’re well-protected. So what you need is something in the international framework to deal with the country that is making all of this crime possible, and all of this financial crime possible, and drug money and weapons money, and anything else, has a nuclear arsenal to defend itself. It’s not a small island in the middle of nowhere, it’s not Switzerland, and that is a major international problem that we’re not built to deal with right now. And it requires an international mechanism that is far more than just the UK to deal with.

Michael Weiss:

In our intermediaries, which are more often than not, small island nations, or just small nations, I mean, one case in particular I remember, during the Houla massacre in Syria there was a delivery of what Western diplomats were undoubtedly weapons to the Assad regime and the ship that delivered them was owned by a company in Cyprus, which itself was owned by a company in the Netherlands, which itself was owned by a Russian company that was owned by the guy who eventually became the vice chairman of the Russian Olympic Committee. He lives here. He owns castles in Scotland, fabulous amounts of wealth, you can look him up on Forbes. I won’t mention his name because last time I wrote about him, he threatened to sue. Cyprus and the Netherlands are EU countries, there are sanctions against the Syrian regime. We raised the red flag with the Syrian opposition, which then petitioned the EU to say “what are you doing about this?” The EU said, “well, we don’t know what to do about it.” I read an article the other day that said if Cyprus has to get a bailout comparable to what Greece had, this will primarily benefit Russian oligarchs because they keep all their money in Cyprus.

Question 1:

There are two thoughts in my mind, one is… [inaudible]…The second… [inaudible]… in the EU [inaudible] We need organisations debating in public, how to deal with businesses that they have good reason to believe have got illegal money or illegal dealings behind it. We will get our chartered accountants, we will get our law society, and the Bar Council to actually ask themselves some of these ethical, practical questions, we can get other people to put it on their agenda… [inaudible]… To have possibility of progress, I think rather than just throwing out individual darts somewhere, they drop in the fog and can’t be seen, you find ways of succeeding… [inaudible]… at national, EU, and international levels.

Luke Harding

And so the international money laundering regulations…

Jonathan Djanogly MP

I’ll start by asking, what are the practical steps that a recognised professional should be taking?

Question 1

Due diligence… [inaudible] This company is trying to do something … [inaudible] …

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Steven, you want to comment?

Steven Kay QC

Yes, this takes on from what Bill said, about national criminal laws, whether someone intends to steal a loaf of bread or attempts to bribe an official, or intends to kill someone. Internationally, actually the crime of war crimes involving command responsibility or crimes against humanity, command responsibility for criminal liability is “knew or should have known.” We’re  talking here about global crimes, we’re not talking about someone just being in Moscow and where they intended to do this, or where they intended to do that and the society looks at it. We’re actually talking about far wider obligations, and internationally at criminal law we do have this test, and it’s out there and it convicts people, puts them away for 30, 40, 50 years on command responsibility, on that test of “knew or should have known.” And if bankers and others have that test imposed upon them, I think we’d see a few sprucing up of banks and cleaning up of accounts at a pretty sharp rate.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Another question from the floor, perhaps?

Question 2

It’s Julian Gallant from Pushkin House, soon not to be. Isn’t the problem really not the money brought over and spent in England on public schools, et cetera, isn’t the problem really the purchase of gas and the supply of gas? That is really the issue that we really have to address. And the other issue is the lack of contact with the high echelons of political power.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Luke would you like to…

Luke Harding

I remember visiting Gazprom with our City Editor about two years ago. Because there’d been, one of these things I’d written about had been this allegation that Putin was actually a secret beneficiary of Gazprom. And so I said, I said to the PR guy, you know “Vladimir Vladimirovich is a beneficiary of Gazprom’s activities?” And he made this show of tapping the name into his computer, and he said, “I’m afraid not, there’s no record of Vladimir Vladimirovich” … [inaudible] which tells the same story really.

But I think the more serious point it, well, look at Germany, and it’s interesting that there was actually a motion put forward in the Bundestag on Friday which took a critical approach in regards to what happened, but it’s very tricky. Germany gets 40 per cent of its gas, I mean there’s the whole NordStream project. Putin has been very, very successful with this whole energy relationship with the European Union, with dividing the EU, and dealing bilaterally with various capitols. He bullies the Baltic States, he hires various people, and he’s really… [inaudible]… We know from WikiLeaks that he even offered Berlusconi to be on his pay-roll. And so this is a problem. It isn’t just about tracking down corruption. There are big political interests at stake, we’ve seen BP and Rosneft. And it became a huge, huge deal which may play out in our interest or may not, we’ll have to see how that plays out. And so there is a massive political dimension here, whether it’s Ukraine, whether it’s Germany, whether it’s the UK, and Putin plays his cards very, very well.

Sir Anthon Brenton

Julian, you’re right.  Two things about gas, I think we’re straying a little bit, but gas, as I used to meet Russian ministers, and Putin and so on, they were all experts on the gas market. It’s quite astonishing. I’ve sat in on meetings with Putin where he has displayed encyclopaedic knowledge on the way the British gas market operates. And they all care very deeply, I can’t continue to examine why, but this is the heart, in a way, of how the Russian regime works, that’s gas and the proceeds from gas. That’s the first point.

The second is, that the balance of power on this is shifting for a variety of reasons. There’s suddenly a lot of new gas available, lots of shale drilling. The price of gas is falling. It’s becoming detached from oil. There’s a rather under noticed move by the European Commission, God bless it, which is to launch an anti-trust investigation against Gazprom. In the eyes of the Russian regime, that amounts to almost a declaration of war, given how intensely they observe it. The motion in the Bundestag that Luke referred to is a fascinating indicator that the nation, the most powerful in Europe, which has been most attached to maintaining good relations with Russia over the past decade, is edging away, partly because the gas market itself is changing, and partly because everyone is becoming aware of what Russia really is. All of those sort of irrelevant little points add up to a feeling, I have a feeling that a major opportunity is coming for Europe to get its act together more closely with regard to Russia, as Russia’s grip on the gas market fades. And therefore Europe’s capacity to really influence Russia for the better, which has been completely negligible over the last decade or so because European countries have very different views of Russia. And it is something that we, the UK, should be looking to, first of all to make happen, and secondly, if possible, to deploy.

Davis Lewin

… [Inaudible] … When people hear the almost entertaining stories about Russian misdeeds, are we not in the place where we have to codify better what this particular playground brings? And not in terms, just in the Magnitsky case, that is very clear, but I don’t think it’s clear to people on the street that that are listening or even the more engaged people, what the downside is, what the costs are. There is a moral appeal, and I can understand in terms of a moral appeal, but this is also an opportunity to make the case more stridently in terms of why it’s not such a good thing that this money is ending up in the City, or do you not think that’s an area that we can focus more on?

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Looking at the panel, there seem to be two themes here. One is British people, or perhaps foreigners, operating from the UK and conducting illegal operations in the UK, and then there are foreign people conducting illegal operations from foreign countries. And so adapting you questions, should those be considered concurrently? Are the roots of the problem the same for both of them? If we deal with one them will we not get to the bottom of the other?

Michael Weiss

I have not seen a deal yet that has exclusively involved only Russians dealing in one country. It involves multiple countries, it involves multiple citizens in various countries. The issue, and to answer your question, is that it’s all interconnected. But the UK, for whatever reason, because of its proximity to Moscow, it’s a four hour plane ride, because of the sort of tax avoidance schemes that are in place here. This is where they come and this is where they wreak havoc. I mean the problem is, well, in 2006, the Litvinenko affair sort of blew the lid off of bilateral relations, and they’ve never quite recovered. I would say, good, because a lot of Brits understand the nature of Putinism and the regime.

In the United States, however, what I find slightly disturbing, I’m hoping the Magnitsky Act will change it, is a perception that the US and Russia are friends. This followed on the heels of the reset, which I think by all accounts the conventional wisdom is that that sort of spent itself out and is now dead. Particularly if you look at what’s happening in Syria and so on and so forth. Americans need to understand, you know, Russia itself, the people of Russia are by no means their enemies, but the Putin regime, I mean, you know I describe it as ok, we all know about what happened with Lehman Brothers and what that cost the average taxpaying citizen. Imagine that though, where the bankers then left and started shooting people on the streets. That’s kind of what you’re seeing now taking place in Russia. So it’s the convergence of financial crime with, you know, homicide and worse, these sort of mafia state tactics that Luke writes about in his book. And the average person really does not have a very clear perception of what that entails, and the toll it takes, not just on bank accounts, but on whether you live or you die.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

When you talk about foreigners wreaking havoc here, are you talking about them using this country as a base for illegal operations abroad, or are you talking about them as just using this country to spend ill-gotten gains, but they don’t necessarily behave badly in this country?

Michael Weiss

Both. I mean it depends on who the player is, and it depends on what the particular deal is, but I mean, you know, the stuff I’ve looked at, there’s evidence of both for sure.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Because I would have thought that perhaps someone who would want to use this country to spend their ill-gotten gains might not want to do bad in this country.

Michael Weiss

Yes, but if you are citizen of this country and they’re spending their ill-gotten gains and they are opening entities that then become clearinghouses for other deals through which they do bad in other countries, you effectively become, Britain becomes, complicit in those crimes.

Luke Harding

Can I just make a slightly counterintuitive point. There are lots of lovely, wonderful Russians who live here, who work here, who study here, who set up businesses, who are legitimate, who are decent, who are great, and we, I mean I’m sure this meeting will appear, and will be written up as a meeting of Russaphobes, but that’s absolutely not the case. We have to be very clear, there is a distinction between opposing the Putin regime and being anti-Russian. All of us want a different Russia, a more democratic Russia, a more transparent Russia, a more accountable Russia. And I welcome the fact that there are so many Russians here, I think there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is when you have people from the regime, and I’m thinking for example of Sergei Lavrov. I was there, Tony was there, when Lavrov was busy denouncing the British Council, shutting down the British Council’s operations in St Petersburg, suggesting it was a hotbed of spies. Meanwhile his daughter was studying at the London School of Economics, and that’s the problem. People who deploy this xenophobic rhetoric and who are stealing and investing their money offshore and then want more of the benefits, and those are the people we should be targeting, not just every Russian.

Davis Lewin

You make a very specific point, particularly a problem for the … [inaudible] … essentially, the British government would never, you know, even when you’re climbing up the walls of its embassies in Tehran, the BBC is told not to cover it because it might enflame, it would never go after somebody like that, saying their daughter is potentially going to be expelled. And these are kind of, how do I put it, we can call it cunning, or whatever the right word might be, but we are not particularly well suited to meeting these kids of opponents in a way, because they behave in ways that often fall, you know, below the kinds of standards that we consider in ourselves. So my sense is that we just wouldn’t see the British government … [inaudible] … this kind of tit-for-tat action, or whatever you want to call it.

Sir Anthony Brenton

You need to be careful here, and I’m going to say something that is going to sound incredibly prissy, but actually is true. We have standards, and we observe those standards. If you watch what’s going on with regards to Abu Qatada, a completely separate case, but exactly the same thing, where this guy, I don’t know what the evidence is against him, but he’s generally written off as a total terrorist and a menace, we cannot expel him back to his country of birth because he has rights. And much irritating as that is, I take considerable pride in having worked for and living in a country which defends those rights. And I think that is important in our relations with Russia as well. I was Ambassador at the time of the Litvinenko affair, I was all for finding all sorts of nasty things to do with the Russians in response to they’d been doing to us, but in my saner moments I saw that by behaving sanely and properly we set an example which the Russians find it very difficult to encounter rationally. They look at how we perform, and they envy it. There is important level of national behaviour here which we maintain and which is in itself a very strong contradiction of the way Russia and other similar countries behave.

Question 3

And in that context, I suppose we can say that the gentleman’s daughter wasn’t necessarily accused of anything, herself.

Sir Anthony Brenton

We don’t just throw people out of the London School of Economics because . . .

Luke Harding

I wasn’t saying she was going to get kicked out, I was making a point about the hypocrisy in senior regime figures.

Bill Browder

The real question is, are the people committing torture or murder in Russia on a regular basis for financial benefit, do they have the right to come here?

Bill Browder

Now the answer to that question isn’t obvious. There is nobody who can answer that question in the affirmative, they do not have a right.

Sir Anthony Brenton

Well, Bill and I have discussed this. Bill has actually engineered a change in British government policy. Not enough of a change, but a change. He has made it from completely opaque about who we give visas to and who we don’t, to making it public that we are against giving visas to people who face legitimate accusations of breaches of human rights and all of that, specifically the result of the Magnitsky list and the campaign that’s been associated with that. It has not gone far enough. I would very much like it to have the British government say “people on the Magnitsky list will not get in,” but given how the cogs in Whitehall turn, it’s actually quite significant.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

But to what extent should someone who have done wrong or have been proved have done wrong before we take away a right to the visa?

Bill Browder

Nobody has a right to a visa, it’s a privilege to have a visa.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Ok, should someone have been convicted of something or accused of something?

Michael Weiss

I suppose this doesn’t really have a legal basis, but there’s a sort of absurdity factor in this as well. I mean, I don’t know to what extent I can talk about your current difficulties…

Bill Browder

You can talk about anything you want.

Michael Weiss

Well, so one of the guys who was involved in the arrest and torture and death of Magnitsky is now suing Bill for libel, because Bill has done this remarkable successful campaign. Now this guy claims, he’s a former police officer with the Interior Ministry, Interior Ministry police officers make about 20,000 a year or so, now he’s retired…

Bill Browder

Five thousand.

Michael Weiss

Five thousand a year! So, this guy, as Bill has found out, owns, you know, a Mercedes and Jaguars, and most of the properties and assets he has are registered in his mother’s name. His mother is a pensioner, in Russia by the way. She has a high-rise condominium in one of the most elite posh neighbourhoods in Moscow, et cetera. This guy is suing Bill, has managed to retain the services of one of the most white-shoe law firms in Britain. Now you can, in a libel negotiation, do what they call a no-win-no-fee basis, where he doesn’t have to pay anything unless he can win the case. But he’s also retained the services of one of the most white-shoe public affairs companies in Britain, which is now handling all of his media and press. There is no way a guy who makes five thousand dollars a year can pay the services of these two British institutions. And I actually rang up both of them, and said, “well, look, this is what he claims to have done, above board and professionally throughout his life, and yet you know you’re average fee for ‘X’ is a follows. Does the math not add up?” And they threatened to sue me for even asking that question.

Sir Anthony Brenton

Did you check he wasn’t acting on a no-win-no-fee?

Michael Weiss

I asked that question, they refused to comment on that. The public affairs company refused to comment on.

Bill Browder

I can confirm that they are acting on a paid hourly basis.

Michael Weiss

Well, there you go.

Unknown Speaker

There is no public affairs company in London that would act on a no-win-no-fee basis.

Michael Weiss

No, no, no, I meant the public affairs company was absolutely taking a fee, but that the law firm might have been, but Bill has just confirmed. But basically, here’s a guy, who, in his own defence is completely blown out of the water by how he is going about putting it forward. Currently, by public standards, by calling attention to this in the British media, don’t you name and shame people, and this comes back to your earlier point, within this country, who themselves become complicit in the refurbishment and the rebranding, rehabilitation of criminals.

Luke Harding

There’s a big point here, as well, which is kind of Kremlin tactics, kind of interesting I think, that with having covered the Berezovsky/Abramovich case, it is kind of obvious that after Berezovsky fled to London, the focus was all on the criminal process and trying to extradite him. Tony Blair being furious, and Vladimir Putin bring furious that Tony Blair didn’t call up and warn him that the courts had refused to hand him over, et cetera et cetera. So it is very much criminally-focused, and at some point, I think about five or six years ago, some got out of the criminal suit, civil suit, and what they did very successfully, as well as enticing Berezovsky to sue Abramovich, which turned out to be a catastrophic mistake. They sued him in every single jurisdiction. So they went after his villa in the South of France, in Brazil, and so on. They are now suing him in London over Aeroflot. And this has become the new strategy.

So wherever the sort of … [inaudible] … I mean they’ll do INTERPOL as well, but instead they’ll hire as you say, law firms and the hard PR people. They have unlimited resources, and the strategy is to bankrupt you.  Is to just exhaust you morally and to just deplete your assets until you have nothing left, to the point where Berezovsky has actually had to see his mansion with his duck pond in Surrey to pay his legal bills, and his last few hundred million, I don’t know. You know, so he’s on oligarch poor street. And it’s quite clever, and what is depressing, as you say, is that there are law firms, there are PR companies … [inaudible] … were in the news, front page of The Times two days ago who were queuing up to take this money.

Bill Browder

Just going back to your question, should somebody be convicted of a crime before being put on this list? And the answer is if there is a proper justice system, then of course, but in places like Russia where the courts are involved in the crimes, how can you then say we have to depend on the courts to convict those people to deny them the right, or privilege, whatever you want to call it, to have a visa. And so you have complete breakdown of the justice system, and that complete breakdown of the justice system has led to horrific human rights abuses, perpetuated on their people on a regular and consistent basis. The only reason why the Magnitsky case is famous is because of Sergei’s own testimonies from jail and our advocacy. But for every Sergei Magnitsky there are probably ten thousand others with the same thing. There really are crimes against humanity in Russia. And the system doesn’t work, and then what are we going to do if that system doesn’t work? Say, “you know what, that’s them, it’s not us, let’s just not worry about it”?

Question 4

The Magnitsky case has been due to your efforts, very highly publicised, very highly reviewed. Indeed, there’s an act going through, a bill going through the House in America at the moment, and so the level of review and consideration has been very high. But for those other tens of thousands of cases that you referred to you, you can’t have an act in Parliament, or Congress, for any one of them…

Bill Browder

No…

Question 4

…So how does one determine when someone should not receive a visa because of alleged offenses?

Bill Browder

The way it is worded in the US law, and this has all been thought through and debated, I met with lawyers all over and specialists, is you make a definition, like you do in any law. And the definition in the US law is if the President, Obama, or whoever the President may be at the point in time that “they look at this, has reason to believe that this person is guilty of gross human rights violations, and there is a standard for what constitutes ‘gross human rights violations,” and there is also a standard for “reason to believe.”  There’s a standard for “beyond a reasonable doubt,” on the balance of probability and reason to believe. We’re not talking about putting someone in jail, we are talking about them not getting a visa. And any good government, and any good legal system can then adjudicate some of these cases and then create case law, and then you can operate on. There’s nothing undoable about this, there’s nothing unimplementable about this.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Would anyone else like to comment on that process? Sir?

Question 5

I’m from a border state with Russia and I strongly support this view. Actually these countries, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, they have a system like this that was in operation for many years. We even wrote a report about the CIS ban system for human rights offenders in Germany. And that is a completely non-transparent system. So of course, you should make a transparent system, and I think the main point is that it should be up for the challenge, and there would be a mechanism that can prove you are not guilty of making human rights violations. That’s the problem with the terrorist lists, is that there are no mechanisms, no real mechanisms, to dispute your placement on the list. If you have that, at least from a human rights point of view, it would be perfect.

Bill Browder

The current law actually does contain a mechanism where people can appeal and challenge from being put on the list.

Michael Weiss

By the way, it’s important to note that with the Magnitsky affair, when Medvedev was President one of the things he did right was inaugurate a human rights council, and unlike other bodies inaugurated by the President of Russia, this one happened to be legitimate and transparent, and had a sense of justice. They found that all of these guys were guilty of something. And in fact, Pavel Karpov, one of the actors involved, tried to sue in a district court, I think in Moscow, to get the human rights council to strike his name out of the report. And because it was a small court, that was also legitimate and above board, they turned him down. So the Russian government has established precedents for going after some of its own people, the very people, indeed, that it’s trying to protect at the national level.

Bill Browder

And I should point out that Putin just watered down that human rights council. He doubled membership, he put it up so that anybody can elect who their human rights person is, and pretty much everybody who’s prominent and internationally respected doesn’t come in front of the human rights commission.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Yes?

Masha Karpov

I’m Masha Karpov. I was wondering about the pact that people have been hinting at for some time that Serdyukov, who has just been sacked, has been involved in the whole fraud affair, tax fraud that at the time, so I was wondering if there are any consequences of his sacking?

Bill Browder

There is a very interesting article that showed up in RBK daily last night, and the Vedomosti this morning which showed, that this Poliakova, which was, for those of you who hadn’t hear, she’s known as the “tax princess,” proved in the illegal tax refund that Sergei Magnitsky uncovered, and all of a sudden was identified along with her husband of having about forty million dollars’ worth of assets, including some gigantic houses in Russia, Dubai, and Montenegro and accounts with Credit Suisse. It was reported today that she is now under investigation in relation to Serdyukov. And what I think is happening is quite interesting, it is that there are some people fighting with Serdyukov. Serdyukov is the former defence minister.  And there are people who are fighting with us. And the people who are fighting with Serdyukov don’t really care about people who are fighting with us. And so it gets all muddy. So she probably will get prosecuted, but never for any of the crimes having to do with us.

Luke Harding

And let’s just be clear, Serdyukov isn’t being prosecuted because he’s corrupt. Basically, everybody is corrupt and they are all part of that, but he has been prosecuted for disrespecting Putin by having this affair with this woman while married to Putin’s friend, Zhukov’s, daughter. So it’s a respect thing, it’s not a corruption thing. The corruption is why he is being whacked, but…

Masha Karp

He’s also being sacked as a result of his reforms of the army. People are unhappy with that. But I am also wondering about it.

Bill Browder

Well, the one thing you can be absolutely sure of in Russia is that all the people who were involved in the Magnitsky case, sooner or later, for different reasons, with interconnected webs going everywhere, and everybody, anybody who’s an enemy of somebody who is on the Magnitsky list, will use that for their own purposes. We will never see justice the way want to see justice. No one will ever prosecuted, at least in the current regime, for what they did to Magnitsky, but all sorts of people will be attacked and vilified for their own private conflicts, because Russia is just one big byzantine house of conflict.

Jamison Firestone

If you look at the sum that we’re talking about, Sergei uncovered about 4.5 billion rubles and then he discovered 180 million dollars, and then we finally our group and the journalists we were working with, came up with the profit of tax refunds that went through Olga Stepanova to 800 million. They were not talking about this, they’re talking about another 80 billion rubles in VAT refunds. So to put it in perspective, you’re talking about 1.5 billion dollars of illegal tax refunds done in one Moscow tax office. And all of this really is, as Luke said, is unconnected. They aren’t going to touch Magnitsky, maybe they just like to protect other people who aren’t involved.

But what I think is interesting, when they asked me on the TV, they said you know, “what do you think happened with this people?” And I said, “the problem is that because of the rivalry, or war that’s going on, they have fled the country. And what we’re doing is limiting where they can flee to. I highly suspect that they are sitting in Dubai right now, and I highly suspect that they can’t go anywhere else. They can’t go home, they can’t come here, they can’t go to Europe.” So they said, “what’s going to happen here?”  I said, “what’s going to happen here is very simple, sooner or later, the world is going to take a position that the only place these people can stay is in Russia and then they will turn on each other, and they will all end up with each other in prison.” And that’s where it’s going.

Sir Anthony Brenton

Can I just frankly, I mean, make a much more general point. The Serdyukov affair, it’s fascinating the way Russia is going. The regime, I don’t agree that everybody is corrupt, but a significant proportion of top people are corrupt. This is a regime that runs on compromat. which runs on people knowing dirty things about each other, and people for the most part are in intense competition with each other. And what is happening now more and more is that this competition is turning fratricidal.  People are being sacked, it’s the allegations, the stories are reaching the light of day, in a way in which they were not five or ten years ago. And that underlies some really quite deep instabilities in the way Russia is currently operating, which is perhaps the big underlying story in how Russia has been going.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

On that topic, does anyone want to comment on where Russia is going on these sorts of issues? Are things looking up or down?

Sir Anthony Brenton

Well, Luke got it right, there’s a chill at the moment. After the demonstrations at the beginning of the year, there was a great burst of hope amongst the opposition, but Putin remains, without doubt, Russia’s most popular politician. He won his election, it wasn’t a completely un-corrupt election, but he won it, and as I talk to Russian taxi drivers and people in bars, you ask them who should run Russia, and the answer always is Putin. And that’s an unavoidable fact. He’s brought to the Russians, stability, pride, prosperity, which they did not have.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Is this debate actually only attached to Putin? In other words, if Putin was not there, are you saying that things would be better?

Sir Anthony Brenton

No, essentially, the debate is about Putin, he’s the man and he’s the tent pole around which everything hangs. At the moment he has support, he has the self-confidence, to re-impose extra controls to get the situation under control.

Luke Harding

Well, you could say that. I think we’ll ask ourselves, why did Putin come back? That’s the question. We can spend the entire time debating Putin, because we start talking about elections and things like this. But the reason he came back is because basically if there had been any real kind of succession, Putin knew that he would end up in jail, that there would be law enforcement prosecutions against him, or worse. And he made a status so that the dynamic in Russian politics is, at the moment, that Putin has to be there forever. And that sounds crazy, but he’s recently had this facelift, he may or may not have injured himself, and the reason there is so much speculation about that, is because as a person in this regime, there is no succession mechanism if anything were to happen to him. My sense is that he, and also having had a … [inaudible] … who met him recently on the Valdai trip, two weeks ago, is that he sees no reason why he can’t go on and on and on. And I think he sees himself in a kind of role where he can do six years and another six years until he’s head of the Russian state in his late seventies. And for the moment, depressingly, I see nothing which will push him off that path.

Bill Browder

I’d like to say something to that. From this whole experience we had with Sergei Magnitsky and all the research we’ve done and what we’ve learned from that, what’s become clear is that the Russian government, and this was mentioned before, and it’s not a government ideology or in the national interest, but is a government of theft. And probably somewhere between eighty and ninety per cent of all the money collected by the Russian government in the form of tax collection is stolen or in some way expropriated by people who are in the government.

And so you basically have a government operating for one specific goal, which is not acting in the national interest. And so you have somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 people benefiting, and you have 140 million people suffering. Hospitals in Russia are inadequate, they don’t have the proper equipment, roads aren’t being built, teachers aren’t being paid. And you can’t do that for very long without having people get angry. People started getting angry, we saw that.  With saw that when they started to protest, and just the bravest people started protesting, not the average person. And so we have a situation which is unsustainable. And what do you do when people start protesting? You start cracking down on those people. They’re arresting them, et cetera. And one of two things will happen. Either Russia will go into a full-scale authoritarian/totalitarian regime where all this stuff won’t buckle up, or eventually the regime will change, either from its own inside, or will change from the outside. And I disagree with a 70-year-old, late seventies Putin.

Luke Harding

I don’t mean that I want that!

Bill Browder

I’m not saying you want that, I’m just saying it’s unlikely. I don’t think, I mean the situation is so brittle and so unstable and the harsh reactions to what’s going on are so telling that I don’t think anyone who knows Russia could predict that it’s going to stay the same for very long. It might be able to hold itself together for a little while, but not for very long.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Now Tony, you’re saying that despite all of that, Putin remains the man for the common man?

Sir Anthony Brenton:

Putin, yeah, I mean I disagree with Bill on this. The demonstrations were a very compelling demonstration that he has lost the endorsement of the people, the fast-rising Russian middle class,  the urban Russian middle class. And that is a major loss for him. The majority of the Russian people still support him strongly, and contrary to what Bill says, they have a much better life than they had ten years ago. Putin has done well for them. And they look to him to continue to do well. Now, I agree with Bill that the underlying tension and instabilities and the fact that the economy is sputtering along, finally. constitute a threat, a real threat. But we’re still some way away from that threat becoming actual, I would guess. I don’t know about Putin in his seventies, but give him another few years.

Bill Browder

The key thing you said is that they are doing better than they were ten years ago, or even about fifteen years ago. But they are not doing better than they were five years ago, and that’s the key. It’s all about that.

Michael Weiss

The other thing is Putin’s popularity. He very quickly realised the power that television wields in Russia, and that’s why he basically took over the television networks and made them state-controlled, and state-owned. And if you look at the kind of things that the Russian state TV churns out, particularly about the West and the United States, I mean Mike McFaul, who went hat in hand basically, and on his first day was compared to child molesters, and was called an agent provocateur. These things are more than kind of a built-in … [inaudible]… it’s very interesting to me, I mean one thing that’s been sort of going on since the 1990s is that Russians don’t like the word “revolution.” It’s always about reform, it’s sort of gradualist rehabilitation. The Levada Centre, which is a very prominent independent polling firm in Russia, recently conducted a survey, and they found that, well there is some wiggle room to how the term is defined, that there’s some  Russians who are more amenable to the idea of revolution. And by that they don’t mean people with guns, storming the Winter Palace scenario, but they mean an actual change of regime.

And I don’t think, and you’re quite right that the upper middle class, but then again when there are these sort of quickenings in Russia, they tend to be led by a vanguard of the educated and the elite. And they happened in the major cities which are where you are seeing the protest movements break out. One of the things that disturbs me, however, Lilia Shevtstova at Carnegie in Moscow wrote a very good article about this. And she said that for the first time in her life, she’s noticed a sort of shift in opinion among Russian liberals. Whereas before they would look to the West, they would look to the United States as a kind of moral and political benchmark or beacon, suddenly they are turning their eyes away, because they feel as though the west is letting them down. There were no declarations of solidarity. The last time President Obama used the words Russia and human rights in the same sentence was 2008, I believe. Secretary Clinton has used them again, but these things do matter, the optics, the sort of signal that is being beamed from Washington matters, and I’m sorry to say, but the current administration in Washington has declared war on the Magnitsky Act, is very adamantly opposed to it. The ambassador is not in his heart of hearts, though he has to pretend as though he is.

These things, they send a signal to the Kremlin insiders, basically, “you guys are just like us, you talk about democracy and human rights, but really it’s all about greasing the hand, and this is the way the world works, and let’s be honest.” But to the Russian street, the message is dire, it’s, “we’re on our own, we’re being left to the wolves.” That really disturbs me. We have in the audience a prominent Russian opposition figure. Natalia, maybe you want to speak that effect. But I mean I’m hearing this a lot lately. I mean our society, the Henry Jackson Society, was named after a senator, who basically changed the world by introducing the precursor to the Magnitsky Act, the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, which pegged commerce in centralised economies to human rights. That kind of campaign, with the exception of senators like McCain and Ben Cardin, there’s very minimal noise about this coming from the politicians you would expect them to be coming from.

Natalia Pelevine

As Sir Brenton was saying, the Russian people accepted Putin as the number one leader, and there is no other option, but the option as Michael mentioned, the need for change is very strong. We do feel sort of left completely alone at the moment, I will talk about that later. Outside of the Magnitsky Act, which is something we feel very strongly about, and we support it in the opposition, there isn’t very much. We do feel a bit abandoned, because the Russian policy is about problems, and we are just doing what we feel is right. And it’s a little disappointing. However, having said that, there’s a very strong notion in Russia in the media that everyone who is in the opposition is somehow a spy, you know any sort of open connection to the West is maybe not in our favour.

And so there’s a little bit of a situation there, and we’re going to keep going, and we’re going to keep fighting no matter what’s in store, because the situation is difficult, there will be probably some arrests coming up, including possibly Navalny, and other leaders as well. Whether they will stop at that, or whether there will be further arrests we don’t know.  I’ll tell you this much, for the past two weeks I’ve been meeting with people talking about, you know, what to do because, we are kind of considering various options. Because we could be locked up literally the next day. So we have to meet outside, we cannot take our phones with us, we try to go with the security measures, we don’t know how well those work, but it’s tough to really be, it’s difficult where we talk to those people and they’re genuinely scared, they’re genuinely worried, and even Udaltsov, who was the toughest guy, always the last on the stage going “go and get them, stay the night, we’ll march tomorrow,” he was scared, literally, like two weeks ago, he was scared.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

If the Magnitsky Act has the effect of hardening relationships between Russia and America, things get worse between the two countries, could that make things harder for you in the shorter term?

Natalia Pelevine

Well, possibly, although I think that I don’t know if there is any direct connection. However, in the long run, the Magnitsky Act, as has been said many times today, will hit Russia where it hurts, for the government. They do want to travel. They don’t care about their people. They don’t care about their images or whether they have any trust or respect from their own people. They don’t care what the opposition says about them. What they do care about is having their houses abroad, travelling abroad, et cetera. That’s what they care about, that’s the situation in Russia. There’s a firm understanding, at least at the moment, that that’s the only way forward because the judicial system in Russia does not work.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Right.

Natalia Pelevine

We know what’s going with the 6th of May events and charges, there’s definitely a lot more to come, we know about that situation. It’s now a possibility that they started using torture, as you probably know. In one of the cases recently when the guy fled, one of the Udaltsov people was captured in Ukraine and was brought back. That was a secret operation, it was completely illegal what they did. And then in all likelihood the guy was tortured one way or another. We don’t know, an injection of some kind, whether they made him talk, we don’t know. But they made him sign a paper, well, we’re basically looking at the methods of 1937, of Stalin’s times. We’re very afraid, I’ll be honest with you. We’re not going to stop, but we just want everyone to know that.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Well, thank you for coming today and talking to us. I’m afraid that time is not in our side. Perhaps a closing question?

Julia Pettengill

Yes, I’m Julia Pettengill, and I am the chair of the Russia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, and I just want to thank all of the speakers and Bill Browder for being here today to talk about this fascinating and very important subject, and for leading this campaign. As was mentioned before, the Magnitsky Act is going to go for a vote this Friday in the House in the United States, and hopefully that will pass, and lead to more things in Europe and in the UK. And thank you Natalia, for her comments. Natalia will be speaking at the second round table panel that we’re going to be having this afternoon, and I hope that whoever is able to stick around for that will be able to attend as well. It will focus on the way the Magnitsky bill affects the Russian opposition. So as a kind of concluding question, just to bring us full circle, I just want to put to the panel what they see as the likelihood that we can build a kind of UK version or EU version of the Magnitsky Act? How practical is that in the political context here? And will it have to be adjusted to fit the particular context in this country?

Sir Anthony Benton

Let me just start it off. On the UK, I was involved slightly in trying to get the UK to move a bit on the Magnitsky issue. I think we have got as close to as much as we are going to get out of the UK for the moment. The passage of the Magnitsky Act in America will be helpful. But it is not going to make a huge difference here, but I think it is doable to get them to explicitly say that they’ll get the Magnitsky List in, but we’re not quite there yet. I think there’s a genuine opportunity coming up to get the EU more effective in dealing with Russia than it has been for, well, certainly after all the time I’ve been involved in EU dealing with Russia. The balance of power is visibly shifting, and I think there’s a real job to be done, and UK diplomats could be involved in this, in trying to engineer a tougher approach to Russia. I don’t want to go on too long, but there is a distinction between the EU and the US on this, is that the US administration is difficult on Russian human rights issues because they have real security issues as well with Russia, which they also have to negotiate and handle. The EU is a much less security-driven organisation, much more economically-driven organisation. The balance, can on the economic side, as I said, the EU has a great opportunity to use its weight, and we should be looking for ways to encourage it to do so.

Luke Harding

I would just like to say briefly that one should expect that the Russian government would let this happen. What’s been interesting is that, I’ve done several pieces on the Russian Conservative Friends of Russia group, which has just kicked off now. Now there’s nothing wrong with having Conservative Friends of Russia, that’s absolutely fine, but what was interesting was the launch party was in the Russian ambassador’s garden, several prominent MPs were there, the guy who runs it has been flown to Russia on an all-expenses-paid trip, has been talking with Russia Today saying that the relationship is being shaped by Cold War stereotypes, and so on.  I think, the battle here, will see all sorts of tactics used, pressures brought, PR companies, to try and stop this from happening. I think we need political consensus, because it’s not going to be easy.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Thank you.

Steven Kay QC

I think the US Magnitsky Act, which carries with it the Secretary of State’s determination of who goes on the list, whose assets are frozen, almost equivalent to our terrorism legislation here. I don’t see that happening here with this issue. I think you’re quite right about the EU being the central player in this. I was at the European Commission for the Human Rights subcommittee where the Magnitsky case was raised, and that had a tremendous impact, and the feedback, not only from within Russia, but around Europe, as to what was required to be done, I think was tremendously important. It really is the best way to go, I entirely agree with that European route.

Michael Weiss

Yeah, I mean, I think that the EU does have the proper mechanisms, particularly because a lot of countries in the EU feel Russia is less of a far-away human rights burden, and more of an imminent threat. I mean, you had the Polish foreign minister speak close to Oxford saying that. And we have to understand that there is a lot of Euroscepticisim, not just as part of political phenomenon in Britain now, and across the spectrum in British society, but understand that for us, and for the Baltic States- Estonia, Latvia, a resurgent Russia is a great, great danger to Europe. And it’s not just about energy wars, I mean, cyber security is a massive issue. Remember what happened in Estonia in, I think 2007, basically the entire government was shut down for a day, I think it cost them a billion dollars, from a cyber-attack that emanated from Russia over a relocation of a World War Two monument, no less.

So these are things I think need to be massaged and exploited, frankly. The fact that Germany is now sort of opening its eyes and seeing what Putinism is really about, presents a really viable opportunity. I remember one person once said to me that Ireland would be an excellent place to start, because they quite like the robust human rights demonstrations. Even starting to get European countries themselves to adopt a Magnitsky-like law will actually, it could, have a force-multiplier effect on the UK in the long term. But certainly at the EU level, that’s where the sanctions have to be in place, and all of these sort of pan-European treaties, human rights acts, statutes. They just have to be enforced, basically. And Russia needs to be stopped at the MEP level, and at the Council of Europe level, of not only wielding its own influence through its own representatives, but forming these rather cynical formations with European parties, and democracies who then vote one way.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Well, I think that’s…

Bill Browder

Let me say one last thing, which is, in April 2010, Sergey died in November 2009. In April 2010, I went to the US State Department, to the head of the Russia desk, with this idea of banning these sixty people involved with Sergei Magnitsky. And he wasn’t aware that that was my question. He thought I was there just to talk about whatever, and when I said that I am aware of an executive order or something, like 1755, which allows you to ban foreign officials from coming into the country and I’d like him to invoke that for Sergei Magnitsky, he looked at me like I had walked in with a turd  on my head and ended the meeting right then and there, like it was the most ridiculous thing anyone could come in and suggest.

And now we’re two and a half years later, and on Friday the US House of Representatives are going to pass the Magnitsky Act, hopefully. Don’t believe any of the stuff about this thing not happening, because there’s almost, this thing has taken on an almost biblical snowball effect, which goes beyond all cynicism, all politics, all analysis. I mean, what happened with Sergei Magnitsky and with good versus evil, it’s just so unbelievably powerful that even the most ardent realists have a hard time pushing that aside. And I would predict that if we were to have this same meeting ten years from now, we would probably have a number of European countries, along with this country, that would ban these people from coming into the country.

Jonathan Djanogly MP

Bill, thank you very much for that conclusion, for what I think has been a fascinating meeting. And I would like to add my thanks to Steven and to Michael, and to Tony, and to Luke for giving their time and coming to talk with us today. And thank you for coming as well.

 

Round Table Discussion 2

 

Chris Bryant MP

This is entirely my fault that some of us are late because I lost everybody and gave people a guided tour of Commons Chamber, which they didn’t want but I said I wanted them to have it.

This is meant to be a discussion about the international implications of the Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which is the kind of American version of what is going to be happening in a next few days. There are other versions that have been moving through other countries. It actually has been phenomenally difficult to persuade House of Commons authorities that you can create a similar British bill, because they keep on trying to say that it will be a private legislation or hybrid legislation.

Now Christopher Chope that sitting back there is the past master of writing new laws and bills, well bills normally to be fair that don’t often become acts or statures, so we may have to draft him to draft our British version, that would actually get past the clerks at the House here. But we thought it is going to be good to have a general discussion. Each of the people in the panel is going to speak for a few minutes, and I think I will be a bit tough on people, who I think have spoken for too long. I don’t know why I am looking at you Natalia.

Natalia Pelevine

That’s ok.

Chris Bryant  MP

Because I am going to go to you first. But the main thing is to get the discussion going so we can come up with more ideas. I am sorry that some of you have a light shining at your face. This is not an interrogation; we are not going to interrogate you. I think you have all the details about the speakers so I am not going to do lengthy introductions. So we are going to start with Natalia, who is part of the opposition in Russia. Natalia, all yours.

Natalia Pelevine

Thank you. Is it ok if I read? It is going to be very brief, but I think we need to get the discussion going very quickly. Little jet lag also, just landed from Moscow.

In his life and certainly in his death, Sergey Magnitsky has done a tremendous amount for his country. Both Sergey’s courage and his professional integrity, and what others did to him because of his courage and integrity, might in a way have shaped the course of Russian history. Many people in Russia and the opposition understand that now. But a group of activists who have conducted a number of events in Moscow in support of Magnitsky Act called for a proper investigation of the events of Sergey’s death. Because every single time we hear the word “denied” on permission to hold a mass picket we have to resort to one person pickets. And even then we have people detained.

One of the people who regularly participated in our events, Sergey Krivov, is now in jail for the events of the 6th of May. He is a very calm, kind man with a PhD and proper understanding of his rights. He always had a copy of the constitution with him at our Magnitsky pickets. And often had to inform police officers who had approached us what by law they could and could not do with us. He is now in Matrosskaya Tishina jail and his prospects are pretty grim.

While the authorities from the Ministry of the Interior and the Kremlin are extremely angry about the possibility of any law related to Magnitsky case in American and in Europe. And we get many dirty looks from employees of the Ministry of the Interior while we picket outside their main headquarters. Many passers-by give us thumbs up. This to me shows that the people understand that with the current judicial system in Russia, truth and justice are barely ever possible. And because something has to be done, justice in some form has to be done; it can and should come from somewhere else. The judicial system in Russia works to accommodate those in power and those with money, which pretty often is the same thing.

I personally have been at court in Russia on the case of Shuvalov, who was mentioned earlier today by Michael Weiss, the Deputy Prime Minister in Russia. I, as a Russian citizen, made a request to General Prosecutors Office to investigate the circumstances under which he received a very large sum of money, $120 million from very famous oligarchs, which pretty much looks like a bribe. So far I lost every single legal battle; I have another hearing on Friday because I am taking the procedure to the next level and I am appealing previous court decisions in Moscow City Court. But even though we are losing battles we must win the war. In a country where the judicial system and penitentiary systems are helping legalise crime, we must keep fighting to win the war against the machine that has very little respect for human life.

The foundation Russia for All has recently established independent human rights council, the founding members of which include former members of President Human Rights Council. Just two days ago, the President formed a new Human Rights Council with some very important distinguished names in an attempt to pretend that human rights mean something in Russia on a government level after all. Many of the people who joined my council were in the President’s Human Rights Council before but really no longer wanted be there, because they do not want to be part of the charade. Very little can be done about human rights, I believe under the wing of the people who violate daily basis. One of our priorities as an independent human rights council is to lobby and promote the Magnitsky Act in the US and similar initiatives in Europe. And we hope that if the current initiative does succeed the list will be open-ended and we can add many more names to that list.

In Russia, those in power and all levels of power much of the time pretend to fight corruption. They pretend to care about human rights, truth and justice. What they not pretending about is their fear that they will be able to travel to nice places like London, New York or Rome where some keep their property, houses and money. As ridiculous as it is, many of those who work for the state do not care about their image in their own country or loss of respect of their own people. But they care about buying their houses and spend their holidays abroad.

Within the opposition we have our differences, we sure do. But the Magnitsky Act is definitely the unifying factor for us and something we all really behind and have very high hopes for. If it ever was possible to include in a list people from the Putin cohort, it is a vicious circle, never ending cover-up. We must fight to implement the Magnitsky Act for the sake of Russian people, international community and sacred concept of human rights. Thank you.

Chris Bryant MP

Thanks very much. I think we can go next to Elena Servettaz. I don’t know if I should be saying that with a French accent or the Russian accent. I am actually doing it in Welsh accent if you are wondering. Elena, over to you.

Elena Servettaz

I am sorry my English is rather poorer than my French. I just wanted to mention that Magnitsky case is a case concerning every one of us. And when I am talking about the Magnitsky case, it is about us really. I will give some examples which happened in my life as a journalist and maybe you will understand how important can it be. So now I am working in France for seven years already and you can imagine that my work as a journalist has been changed a lot, because I am in Paris. I don’t know if you say that in Russia there is journalism, the real one. There is not much choice any more. So when I was young and just started the journalism school, I was taught that the only aim of being journalist is to reflect the reality. But at this period I could not imagine how difficult could it be.

I always give the same example. In 2003, when Yukos trial has started, I wrote just a piece of news like I did already before, and my chief asked me before going on air on TV, he said, “No, no, you will not write this piece of news because it should be rewritten.” And it was really strange for me, there is only my editor in chief and there is nobody to read. And it was certain since then every text that is connected to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Yukos, Platon Lebedev will be read in Kremlin. And from that period I assumed there is no more freedom, freedom of speech. And with the Mikhail Khodorkovsky arrest I understood that Putin’s time has come.

Two years ago Sergey Magnitsky died, as you remember, and in 2009 Vasiliy Aleksanyan has died. And Sergey Magnitsky was also asked to testify against his colleagues, but they both did not do that, and they are both dead today. In Russia there is a peculiarity that I am trying to explain every time I am talking about Russian journalism and Russian opposition movement. Because for example, in France you cannot combine two professions, in Russia you are obliged to be a journalist and human rights defender too. Because you already have seen that the legislation does not work, that police and doctors can put the [inaudible] just to hide their own crimes and [inaudible] with it. So the only way to defend the person is to speak up.

But you know that in Russia you can count how many media you get, free media, maybe five, and they are mostly in the Internet.  And Russia is big enough and people are living in villages and small cities, and they have other problems to solve than to think about corruption. They have children to rise, they have money to earn, and because of this corruption they are not able to live normally. And it is good, profitable for the system and I do not believe that the street can solve the problem, even when we’ve seen 60,000 people in Moscow.

I have been there for several manifestations, but if you compare the last one to the ones we had in December, it is not the same amount of people. I do not believe that economic factors can solve the problem to because we already got an example in the  Stalin period. How many people have died because they have nothing to eat?  So I don’t believe in this. The only thing I believe is this international reaction and legislation, who will make these people change their behaviour and these packages of sanctions, they make them afraid. And we know they are afraid because as soon there is a piece of news about Magnitsky case you see the reaction of Russian minister of foreign affairs. And all the time they say they are enemy of Russia. Maybe it is located in the United States or in Europe or in London. They are really afraid of it. But in a normal country they will salute these initiatives like the Magnitsky Act.

And I have another example. When I asked the Russian ambassador in France in an interview, why they are afraid of the Mangnitsky list. Because I disagree that all Russian people are ready support it, that is not true. There are a lot of people who don’t know what it is. And I think what we should do is promote it and do a large campaign to explain to people what it is. Because in Russian TV, it’s like how it is called, it is like kind a sanction which is applicable to everyone and we would suffer. So we need to explain it more. So I asked him how to solve the Magnitsky problem, to punish the people involved in torture and murder of Sergey Magnitsky. And he said, “No, no, no. There are only enemies of Russia who say that it is.” So following his logic, I am an enemy of my own country for sure. And I don’t understand how we arrived at this point. And my asking for justice, by protecting the innocent, by trying to stop the torture, we arrive to be an enemy.

By the way, the new legislation that was voted in the Russian Duma recently in Moscow— for example, if I come to Moscow I will be considered a foreign spy. You remember about this. Because I got the salary of foreign country, I am a foreign journalist and considered a foreign spy. And the same logic is behind all the political repressions got place in Russia. That is why they’ve got all these arrests and trials, and that is why Leonid Razvozzhayev, who was mentioned today, was kidnapped in Kiev on 19th of October while he was trying to ask at the High Commission of United Nations for the status of political refugee. That is why Sergey Udaltsov, one of the leaders of the opposition movement, risked to find himself in prison, that is why Aleksey Navalny is seen by Russian authorities as, let’s say, as an agent, when he started his anti-corruption investigation.

And you all know about the Pussy Riot trial, as there is no need to remind how unjust it was. And Judge Syrova was not even allowed to be filmed. Maybe she was afraid to find herself in the Magnitsky list of Pussy Riot in future. And for these 15 seconds of songs, Nadia and Masha got small children and find themselves in prison. So if you remember how process was, we were looking at these three young ladies behind the grid that Mikhail Khodorkovsky was also behind, like they were dangerous criminals. But also it is important, maybe it is not discussed a lot abroad, I mean there are lots of processes, lots of trials where people have no possibility of access to a lawyer. We have seen this in Voronezh in August, when ecological activist were trying to make peaceful manifestation during the government speech.

And I think that we cannot wait any more. And when we cannot stop it inside of the country, the human rights legislation such as the Magnitsky Act could not only punish these people involved in the murder and torture of the Russian lawyer who discovered the fraud, but this could also make people like me or maybe you, if there is Russian people to be protected from repressions of that kind. That is why I think it is important to address to the international community to set innocent people free, and to act against authorities controlled by the Kremlin, and maybe one day they will pay attention to public opinion.

And, you know, everything is governed in Russia by a small group of people which, I guess is already in this list that what we call the Putin system. And this system was created by him to resolve problems following the only philosophy, which is money, power and control. So, I started my speech with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, because I think that during this period he was hoping that civil society in Russia was booming. And now there is really nine years in prison, the Sergey Magnitsky story, which was horrible, and during Putin I guess that this civil society will die if do not solve the problem. That is what I wanted to tell you.

Chris Bryant MP

Thank you so much. You referred to Pussy Riot, and some of you walking through Parliament would have seen that there are lots of busts of former prime ministers like Asquith and  Churchill, and my sort of campaign that I am hatching is that we’re going to put balaclavas on them all and put “Free Pussy Riot” underneath. My final aim is to get Mrs Thatcher as part of “Free Pussy Riot” campaign. Thanks very much Elena. Gunnar is going, I am not going to even try say your surname, because it’s a Finish name, I think and…

Gunnar Ekelove-Slydol

More Swedish.

Chris Bryant MP

Oh, all right, I was wrong. But there you go. Over to you.

Gunnar Ekelove-Slydol

Thank you. I am from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. This is a non-governmental organisation established in 1977. And it was actually established to support human right work in Soviet Union at that time. And you could conclude that we were not particularly successful because we are still struggling to support human rights work in successor states of Soviet Union. We also run programs in former Yugoslav countries and we are lobbying at the international organisations. I think it is fair to say that we use 4-to-5 different methods. Sometimes we do dialogue with the governments, which we think are able to listen and persuaded to follow human rights principles. But most of the time we do unpopular things with the governments; we investigate and produce critical reports about human rights violations. And in the Russian Federation we have been particularly active in the conflict area of North Caucasus, where you had two wars during the 1990s, and where there is still a kind a low intensity conflict, and we still witness human rights violations. So on that point we already have a long list of persons who are being responsible or committed grave abuses for human rights.

We also do a lot of educational programmes. I just returned from Murmansk and Petrozavodsk, meeting young journalists. And my impression is that now everybody knows how corrupt Russia is. Everybody knows how human rights are violated, but they don’t know how to deal with it. What can we do? And  I think it is quite telling when you say that you see the solution coming from outside, from other countries. We have a double strategy, admitting that you have to strengthen civil society inside Russia, even if more countries in Europe have Magnitsky legislation it might not be enough to democratise Russia.

So we think that education and the promotion of human rights among professional groups, in particular among young people are important. You have a long mission. We just had a meeting with Yavlinsky, the real leader of Yabloko. You can say many things about them, but he had one really good saying that “Europeans, you should have vision in how you see Russia in Europe. Not tomorrow, not today, but in a long term. Putin might look invincible right now. But sooner or later Putin will be gone, Lukashenko will be gone. And it is so important that you have done all the preparatory work and that you have a vision of how you want Russia to fit into Europe.”

I would say the main thing we are doing related to Russia is to fight impunity. So we are at the moment establishing databases, online databases, named after killed human rights defender Natalia Estemirova. So it will be the databases where you could find documentation of gross human rights violations and violation of humanitarian law in North Caucasus since the end of the Soviet Union period. And in these databases you can also generate the list of suspects.

When Bill [Browder] came to Oslo the first time, we thought him to be a very engaged, maybe even obsessed, with the Magnitsky case. And we were thinking hard, “why is he doing it. Is it that important? There are many important cases in Russia. Why is this supported?” After thinking a while, we have decided that we will support the justice for Magnitsky campaign. We think that so-called problematic cases are very important. They illustrate the rather systematic problems with human rights in the Russian Federation. And we see that the impact of the Council of Europe Human Rights Court judgments, and there are very many of them against Russia, they have a limited impact because Russia does not change the underlying causes, or they don’t address the underlying causes for those violations. We all the time challenge governments to be critical and to be publically critical. We think that is important. But we are searching for new and more effective tools to address impunity problem in new ways. And we think that the Magnitsky campaign is proposing some very effective tools, making it impossible for human right violators to operate in our countries, both money-wise and in terms of travel. There is another important reason, and it links corruption cases with human rights cases.

There has been too little cooperation between anti-corruption organisations and human rights organisations. We take that we should work together because more often human rights violations occur together with corruption cases, which is very strongly illustrated by the Magnitsky case. Then there is the simple reason that Magnitsky had a very strong character and a very high moral standing, and the campaigning itself is very resourceful and efficient. So there is a good chance that this campaign will lead to changes. I agree with you. And that it could be a precedent for all the campaigns. And that we could have a list which is wider than the persons who killed Magnitsky.

A final word on political mobilisation inside Russia. Travelling along Russia and asking people what they think about Magnitsky case, it is like you said, many people does not know much about it, they are very influenced by state propaganda, let’s call it what it is. So there is a huge challenge, not only to campaign in Western countries but actually to make the case very well known in its reality inside Russia. And it is important to present the international campaign as not anti-Russian, because I think ordinary Russians are feeling proud of their country. So we have to say that it is a proud Russian campaign against those who steal from Russia and those who destroy the society.

I think already corruption is one of the main issues leading to mobilisation in Russia. So in that sense it will only add to very widespread concerns among the Russian people. And it also points to another problem which ordinary Russians faced, that they cannot trust the courts.  Speaking to ordinary Russians, you really get the sense that they are insecure because there is no one they can trust to remedy violations.

So in summing up, I think that the Magnitsky campaign is important because it points to a very smart way of making human rights violations more costly. And I agree with those who think this is most important to deal with it, to make violations costly. I think it is also important that Western countries lead by example, to fight corruption and human right violations at home and to be positive at the Human Rights Court. There is a lot of debate in Europe, also in Britain today, that the court is interfering in the political area now it became too dynamic. I think we are in a position that we can really stick to the principles and support the mechanisms that we have.

And my last and most difficult conclusion is that we have to include business communities more, those who go to Russia to earn lots of money. We can tell them that it is an insecure environment. But my impression is that they are willing to take the risk because the carrot is that big, they can make so much money. But in order to be long-term I think we have to convince them that they have to be more principled, and that they should support the Magnitsky campaign as well. Thank you.

Chris Bryant MP

Thanks very much. You referred to Bill Browder being obsessed; in my view you don’t get anything done in politics unless you are a bit obsessed, in fact quite a lot obsessed, in fact completely and utterly obsessed. Because otherwise people just have to wait until you go away, until you stop knocking on the door. And there are many fundamental principles in politics. One is: learn how to count. Second: don’t call a vote until you are certain you going to win. But the other one is: stay until the vote and stay until the end of the day. And I think that is something we just need to make sure Russians understand.

There is a difficulty about Putin; people say that Putin will be gone one day. The problem is he can’t go, because if he to go he will be going to prison. That his real fear and his worry, that anybody else who comes after him would just send him to prison. And talking of prison, Andrei, you have spent a little while in prison. And you obviously going to speak from Belarusian perspective, but you also have interesting things to say about Magnitsky and Russia and how you see things changing.

Andrei Sannikov

Thank you. Here was speaking about Magnitsky act, Magnitsky case and particularly speaking what is happening in Russia, what is happening in Belarus, what is happening and unfortunately starts to happen in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union, because too much time was lost, too much complacency was shown by the West towards the processes that started to emerge in former Soviet Union, and now we are really in desperate need of some remedies from what happened. And I see the Magnitsky Act and the whole campaign as one of such things.

You know, it was as early as 2000 that the United Nations special reporter on independence of judiciary produced report on independence of judiciary in Belarus. Absolutely critical, absolutely negative, stating that there is no independence of judiciary system and after that the things solely got worse. Same with Russia. Nobody believes in justice done in the court, justice of the judiciary system. And I think it is an attempt, the Magnitsky Act that we are talking about, an attempt to fight for justice outside the system. Because there is international law. And while we are talking here, about a couple of times the issue was raised about how the Russian people, the Belarusian people will accept, what they attitude will be does not matter here. We are talking about law, we are talking about justice and there is absolute injustice being done in Russia, in Belarus. And we have to find a way how to find effective means to help people defend human rights in these countries.

I can tell you that I would like also to stress the urgency of this, because yes, I did recently come out of prison. And actually I did mention Magnitsky once in my letters from prison to my wife. Ironically it was because Medvedev, then President of Russia said, cast some doubt on the case and demanded an investigation. And I wrote about it in my letter to my wife, saying if the precedent is created it will help to create a precedents here in Belarus as well. And you know, even this letter, which of course I know it was read by censors, but it did stop my torturers from perusing such practice further for some time, not for the whole period because there is you know…[inaudible] The word “impunity” was mentioned several times here, and there is impunity in Russia, there is impunity in Belarus.

Chris Bryant  MP

Can I just ask you, when you say torturers, what do you mean?

Andrei Sannikov

I mean torturer.  Especially for the political prisoners, I will talk a little about it. Why I am saying there is urgency, because I see what is happening in Russia, which is following in the footsteps of Lukashenko. And I can tell you when Khodorkovsky was put in jail, the situation was much better for political prisoners in Russia and Belarus definitely. There is no limitation to what they can do to political prisoners. We don’t have to talk about several years; several days will be enough to destroy a person completely. And that is what happening now to Belarusian political prisoners. It is Dashkevich, Shtaskevich, Beliatskiy. You know, we had 1-2 political prisoners, now we have more than ten of them – Aftuxvoich, Frachkevich…[inaudible]… I can name all of them. And you know, now the first person was sentenced for 4.5 years for participation in a peaceful demonstrations. They apply the same logic – organisation of mass disorder. And he was sentenced for 4.5 years. So that what will happen, that what is happening in Belarus. Every prominent political leader will be framed with allegedly criminal case, though they will never say it is political, they say it is a criminal case. Put in prison and then try to destroy him – morally, psychologically or even physically. So the precedent is badly needed, extremely needed for all of us, not only for Russia. And will think that…[inaudible]… let’s remember why Russia is reacting so nervously. They do remember very well the Jackson-Vanik legislation, which was not easy to pass.

Chris Bryant  MP

Maybe everybody else does not.

Andrei Sannikov

In Russia everybody.

Chris Bryant  MP

No, in the room.

Andrei Sannikov

Jackson-Vanik legislation was tied with the Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, but then it became a human rights tool to defend human rights and to tied…[inaudible]… and Gunnar is absolutely right to say there should be a connection with business sector, with preference of business, because it was tied to economic interests of Russia, of Soviet Union. And it became a powerful tool to protect human rights, and they do remember it very well, this practice of Jackson-Vanik. I don’t know whether it is completely now removed from the agenda or I think it still this practice is still valid for Russia.

Michael Weiss

It is tied to the Magnitsky bill. It cannot be revoked until Magnitsky has passed.

Andrei Sannikov – You see, it’s good. We have already this kind of precedent. This will be a stronger precedent that we all need. So I think that, again, the situation is quite difficult. I don’t want to add to pessimism, but I want to really tell you that we now need the strong and principled support of the democratic world to solve our problems. As regards to Belarus, I can tell you absolutely honestly, that without the help of the democratic world nothing will be possible in Belarus, because the crackdown was simply enormous and it is impossible to act now in Belarus without being criminally prosecuted as an opposition activist.

Chris Bryant  MP

Ok. Time for some questions and comments, whether to individuals or to the whole panel. I think shall take them in threes if that’s ok. It would be great if you could say who you are.

Mike Harris

Mike Harris from Index on Censorship. It is brilliant seeing Andrei here today, we will catch up later. I think there is a total lack of European vision. The European Union behaves as if it is a local council, it does not project its foreign policy aspirations at all. It is the largest trading block and yet very little is done in terms of meeting its economic minds to project into Russia, into its neighbourhood, into Belarus and countries that are potentially tipping countries such as Ukraine, Georgia. I think the Council of Europe is important as well. Britain does not take the Council of Europe seriously at all.

It was a shame to see last time when tougher measures were proposed at the Council of Europe that MPs that represent the United Kingdom voted in a block with Russians to defeat it. It basically came down to the chair to cast the vote, which is disgraceful that the number of MPs in the Council of Europe who continually lobby on behalf of Azerbaijan and Russia. And very little attention is paid by British political parties to who they send to Council of Europe to oversee the European Court of Human Rights. And it means that our presence in Europe is incredibly weak. That is kind of a cross-party problem. I think that the Magnitsky campaign has been really, really effective. But I think there needs to be far more emphasis paid by politicians across Europe to different…[inaudible]…  we have to provide human rights in Belarus.

Chris Bryant MP

Christopher Chope, do you want to say anything sort of as an addition, addendum, to that?

Christopher Chope MP

Well I didn’t want to be involved with… [inaudible]… because this is a totally different case frankly. There are all sort of things said about the German motivation for wanting to transfer things up in Azerbaijan into alternative pipelines, things like that. And what happens in any international forum is that you’ve got politics from 47 different members countries is that you get some good results, some not so good results.

But a lot of those votes that take place, take place with looking in with fiscal numbers, or with popular voting, even with what issues are. And what we’ve been discussing earlier today, what was the law that we’re trying to for the investigation [inaudible] every time we do amendment in Council of Europe into the Magnitsky case. And it is quite clear that on Monday when there was a decision taken place that who should be the repel turn on that case, that there were a loss of [inaudible] there were a lot of people who were moved and mobilised politically to try and [inaudible]. That’s obvious. But that’s not what’s going to happen, because in the end the [inaudible] the wrong one was selected and he will be accountable to parliamentarians before it. And since we’ve got somebody here from Belarus, I’ll be interested to hear whether he feels that by expelling Belarus from Council of Europe which is basically a sanction, which we could exercise against Russia, whether that helps or not, because that is the ultimate sanction that the Council of Europe has in saying that this country is so far away from complying with the principals of democracy, human rights and the rule of law that it should be counted out. That happened in Belarus, I am not sure whether that made things better or worse in Belarus.

Chris Bryant MP

I’ll come to Andrei on that note, but can I just ask whether there will be another vote some day? There is a lot of misunderstanding, my understanding is slightly different from yours Christopher, about the votes that were be able to last few months in Council of Europe on Russia. Because I thought that British Conservatives voted with Putin’s party, and in a previous vote whether there should be a critical report on human rights in Russia. So, is that right?

Christopher Chope MP

No, that’s not right. What happened was that there was the, after about six years there was something that’s called the Monitoring Committee which looks at the state of human rights in different countries which are not the original members of the Council of Europe. Those monitoring committees come from reports by convention, those reports come forward with resolutions rather than recommendations. And the recent report in relation to Russia, there was an issue on whether or not to be a recommendation to the committee of ministers… [inaudible]… and that’s not what happened with other reports, so there were arguments put forward that you can’t just change the rules in relation to one country, because otherwise it makes look so other countries which have got sure amount of problems, basically that…

Chris Bryant MP

Sorry. And these arguments were put by Putin’s MPs and British Conservatives?

Christopher Chope MP

[Inaudible]

Chris Bryant MP

All right, we go to Belarus.

Christopher Chope MP

I can’t speak about that time, I was monitoring elections in Georgia, so I wasn’t there.

Chris Bryant MP

All right. Hmm… Andrei and then I’ll go around again. Just the specific one, on Christopher’s point.

Andrei Sannikov

You know, I can give you my view. First, I think there is no parallel here, between Russia and Belarus. Why? Because it was never a member of Council of Europe, it had only special guest status. So it never was expelled. And you know the difference between not being admitted and being expelled. I always said that Belarus cannot be accepted as member of Council of Europe as it does not meet criteria. So it will be difficult to make a decision on acceptance of Belarus or admission of Belarus in the Council of Europe, because it’s a question of criteria. How could you now take such a decision?

As for Russia, it is different you know, and for other countries maybe, because it was accepted with a certain promises. Some of the promises it does comply with like a moratorium on death penalty, some of the promises and obligations are forgotten.  So there is no parallel in this. As regards with Belarus, I don’t think there could be even contemplation of such a decision on admittance of Belarus.

Chris Bryant MP

Let me take some other questions and I will come back to the panel. I’ve got the lady there and the gentlemen. So the lady there.

Question 1

I am researcher in the House of Lords. The Council of Europe produces reports and we sometimes know about them, sometimes not. And the European Union at certain times has actually banned certain people, president Mugabe comes to mind. It makes absolutely no difference, but he and his friends and relations come to Europe, it doesn’t really matter. So, I think the idea is that we have got to look up to those European structures is …[inaudible]… Surely, the real point is that the British Parliament, the Westminster parliament should have passed this legislation. Now you say that House of Commons may be negotiating, may be debating it at some point. Is that right, or did I misunderstand or I am missing…?

Chris Bryant MP

 It’s slightly more complicated. The House of Commons have already passed the resolution.

Question 1

Yeah, but that’s not binding.

Chris Bryant MP

 Yes, indeed. The Commons authorities tell me every version that I have tried to come forward with of stature that would do the same as in the United States of America would be struck down by parliamentary authorities, as either being a hybrid bill, because it names individual people and also has some general application, in which case the parliament resistance makes it almost impossible. But secondly, it might be just private legislation, and in that case you are never going to see that happens unless the government takes this up.

Question 1

But, I mean it is just of sort a methodological question. Would it be a good idea to pass it through the House of Lords?

Chris Bryant MP – Exactly the same applies to the House of Lords as to the House of Commons in terms whether it is a hybrid bill or not.

Question 1

I see. In fact it is a dead duck.

Chris Bryant MP

Well, we need to find another means, which would not make it …[inaudible]… which would not name Magnitsky, I think, is the route we need to go then, and there are other means which government can implement if we create enough support.

Question 1

Because that seems to be the same EU regulations never work. Anyway, the Council of Europe passes reports. So it is actually up to the British parliament.

Chris Bryant MP

Or the government or whatever. Yeah.

Michael Weiss

 

I think it is very difficult— you dealing with a set of circumstances in which one party is operating with good faith, mainly the UK with its rule of law and the EU to whatever extent, because the rule of law, and the Russian Federation which tends to exploit the institutions and the mechanisms for its own benefit. People forget, I mean the Helsinki accords, the only way that this kind of came into fruition was basically rationally emphasised basket …[inaudible]… by sovereignty so that Russia would maintain control of Eastern Europe, and then West would do nothing in terms of enforce power to change that. In the basket that dealt with human rights Henry Kissinger basically told them “Do not worry about that, it will never be enforced.” Well on the whole, ten years later Jackson-Vanik read it different way, the United States Congress read it certainly a different way. And suddenly Russians found themselves in a trap of their own making. And it seems to that right now you dealing with sort of similar statement in a sense, the Russian government seems to think, “Ok, we had this reset with United States. And president Obama can clearly strike down any Magnitsky Act or anything trying to be written as the rule of law of United States which would penalise Russian state officials and credentials of the country or freeze their assets,” not understanding how the United States government works is that Congress makes the laws and the president can choose to veto it or not.

There used to a very clever way and it’s either devised by European Union or it’s devised by the UK, that presents in a best Russian economic interests, in their best geopolitical interests, but basically makes them hostage to human rights. And it seems to me that some of the Cold War tactics that were exploited, going to be exploited again, whether it is Council of Europe, European Parliament, the House of Commons, the House of Lords – I didn’t see a credible case put forward that says, “Look, it would be really stupid of Russians not to agree with this for X, Y, Z.” Look at all money they’ve got invested in this country, I mean probably 9 billion at this point, but tens if not hundreds of millions in terms of real estate and assets and the rest of it. I don’t understand, the liberal culture difference between America and down here, but there must be some way of doing this. And it is not, sort of, one of list of sanctions against specific individuals that some kind a… [inaudible]… says, “Look, you guys bring people into the country who guilty of murder, of torture or …[inaudible]”… They simply can’t be letting them, they can’t use our banks , they can’t invest in this country. I mean this is absurd.

Chris Bryant MP

We kind of tried to get rid of Abu Qatada and we gave him asylum. The lady there.

Question 2

Heather Blake, Reporters Without Borders.

Andrei Sannikov and Elena Servettaz

[Inaudible]

Chris Bryant MP

You are being translated in to Russian.

Heather Blake

I’ll speak in English, not French. But I just want to do some remarks on our recent research. Russia is a country characterised by the lack of political pluralism and widespread corruption. In terms of press freedom, that means that the press controls broadcast media, arbitrary use of anti-extremism law and impunity, acts of violence against journalists, especially in North Caucasus.

Our press freedom index has ranked Russia at 142 of 179 countries in 2011. In 2010 it ranked at 140 out 178 countries. Our 2012 Internet Enemies report found that authorities are using the issue of national security to expand web monitoring and censorship. And we have found that not just in Russia, but in many countries press freedom violations are taking place. It also signifies that other violations are taking place and on a rise. Just to refer to what I mentioned about the fines at this … [inaudible]… reminds for Article 275 of the penal code, which redefines high treason as the transmission of state secrets, not only to foreign organisations or governments but also to international organisations representatives, basically journalists. More of a new definition of financial aid systems…

Chris Bryant  MP

 Could I just bring you to some kind of question, because I think these things are quite well known by the panel.

Heather Blake

 I know, I am just stating these, just as this is an international NGO that has done this research. I’m just reiterating these points.

Chris Bryant MP

 But I don’t think you need to persuade anybody in this room of any of these points. I totally agree with you.

Heather Blake

Thank you. But another thing that was not mentioned was the law on the protection of children from information detrimental to their health and government. And that gentleman has mentioned that one way to fight impunity is starting with civil society and education. And you have a law in a country that is blocking websites that could be of educational use for children, then it makes it very difficult. In terms of the UK, the Foreign Secretary has stated repeatedly that human rights are part of our foreign policy, and he has a human rights committee in which all NGOs have a seat, and he has a human rights sub-committee as well. In persuasion that the UK would consider passing some kind of Magnitsky Act is to highlight what we found in the Magnitsky US act was that… [inaudible]… I am going into to the list of the tricky solutions signed up to…

Chris Bryant  MP

Which would be finishing…

Heather Blake

 …The international community’s support of the people of Russia in their efforts, to realise their full economic potential and advance democracy, human rights and rule of law. The human rights and fundamental rights are universal. And the people of Russia and everywhere deserve to have their human rights and fundamental rights respected.

Chris Bryant MP

Natalia, bearing all this in mind, how much do you think the international pressure really helps create civil society? You know, the opposition in Russia, because as someone said, the danger in foreigners saying nasty things about Putin is that everybody in Russia thinks “we’ve got to defend our president.”

Natalia Pelevine

I think it does quite a bit, and actually I want to ask what we can do to get the support mentioned earlier, in order for something to happen here in Westminster, in terms of a possible Magnitsky Act of some kind. The problem with the Russian government is that they really stopped caring about what their own people think about them. They do to a degree care what the West thinks, however, somebody mentioned at the panel earlier, at the lunch meeting, Putin is the kind a guy who respects power only and strength only. He does not respect weakness. So any kind of semi-firm decisions from the West are nothing to him. And as long as, sort of, nothing happens or very little happens in terms of actual, not just statements, actual legislation in America and especially in Europe, because Europe is more important to them than America in many ways. Which is why what will hopefully happen later this week in the States is really important, however if something like this were to happen here, this will blow their head off.

Chris Bryant  MP

We don’t use that kind of imagery!

Natalia Pelevine

I am sorry, 18-plus. Yes, it would really hit them very, very hard. So it is really extremely, extremely important that something does happen. And I think we are not just the opposition. I just want to answer to what Elena said, about some people not responding well to the Magnitsky Act. That’s not true. I don’t travel to Russia, I live in Russia. And I have yet to meet a single person that has something negative to say. It is true that not everybody knows about it, because it is not talked about that much. But out of the people who do know about, I have yet to meet, even anti-Western people you would meet who hates everything American or British or whatever would not say anything bad about Magnitsky Act. That’s my experience. So yes, please do tell what we can do. I don’t know how we can proceed from now on, but it is really important. And London and the UK is super important to Russian oligarchs. Oligarchs are closely connected, as we know, to Putin and everybody in power, pretty much everybody. So, yeah, let’s proceed, please help.

Chris Bryant MP

 Elena?

Elena Servettaz

There are lots of people who, when they hear about the Magnitsky Act, they receive it like law, and Russian law. There are people like that who vote Vladimir Putin, so don’t explain me that there is, I think even today, there is most of people what Vladimir Putin because they’ve got… [inaudible]… for information. I travelled also, I saw these guys, they’ve got nothing to it…

Natalia Pelevine

They don’t know about the Magnitsky Act, that is true. But if you explain it to them properly they probably wouldn’t have an opinion at all.

Andrei Sannikov

[inaudible]… Most of Russians do not care about this case.

Chris Bryant MP

  I read a piece recently, arguing that Putin is terrible, but even if there were free and fair elections, Putin will still win in Russia. Do you think, let me ask Gunnar.

Gunnar Ekelove-Slydol

It is not a completely fair question, because Putin will win probably because he eliminated all his…

Natalia Pelevine

Exactly, when there are no options, he created such a situation where there are no options. Who else you are going to vote for?

Elena Servettaz

 … [Inaudible]… vote for, as there are lots of people to elect and to be elected in Russia. It is Putin who usually says, “Who if not Putin”.

Natalia Pelevine

That is what I am saying. He cleared the field, so people think there is nobody to vote for. So if there was a fair vote of some kind, he would probably get 10-to-15 per cent less than what he did. We think that margin is in existence. However he might win.

Chris Bryant MP

We’ve got a gentleman at the back, and then I’ll come to the gentleman at the end. Yes, in the red tie.

Julian Gallant

I’m Julian Gallant, from Pushkin House. One thing I do know is that the government in Russia feels very rejected by Britain. And it feels that Britain rejected talks and has not attempted to develop ties and dialogue. So my question is when are we going to bring them to the table, when are we going drag them out, so to speak. Again, so we are sitting here and actually discussing; we agree with each other that this things are mad, we all agree. When are we going to get who does not agree, when are we going to get someone who says, “So what about Magnitsky, so what about Litvinenko, so what?” When are we going to get someone who says that in public?

Chris Bryant MP

Well what normally happens is that the Russian ambassador writes to the Speaker and tries to prevent the House of Commons from having debate at all.

Julian Gallant

It is disappointing, isn’t it? That there is so much discussion about Russia but we couldn’t agree with each other.

Chris Bryant MP

The gentleman with the stripy purple short.

Andrei Aliaksandrau

My name is Andrey Aliaksandrau, and I am Belarusian as well, and now I work … [inaudible]. And I just wanted to make a point on the earlier discussion about the large vote that people like Putin and Lukashenko. I just wanted to draw attention that the election is not about voting itself, elections are about competing of ideas. And ideas to compete, they use such institutions as free press for example. If there is no of freedom of press or there are severe problems with freedom of assembly or freedom to exchange information. We can’t say about fair vote at all, we can’t say about a situation of fair vote unless there is critical situation with freedom of press, freedom of assembly in countries such as Russia or Belarus.

Chris Bryant MP

Andrei, is that right?

Andrei Sannikov

Of course it’s right. It’s a mistake that many people make, saying that “Who else if not Putin or not Lukashenko?” Look, I had the most successful campaign. And actually it took me, like three-to-four months of relative openness or relative liberal situation in the country, for me and my team winning a lot of votes. If anybody in Russia has the possibility to use mass media as extensively as Putin does, you will have a strong competitor and you will have potential winter of the elections if he belongs to democratic camp. Of course it’s true.

Chris Bryant MP

Can I ask something else, which somebody referred earlier to, people who pretend to support human rights within Russia, I mean not within human rights organisations, but within the hierarchy within the regime. And so for instance, recently Medvedev said that he didn’t that Pussy Riot should be in prison. But I don’t quite understand what the point of saying that is. Can someone explain that? Is that just the show?

Elena Servettaz

Yes, it is a type of show.

Natalia Pelevine

Because everybody knows it that Medvedev decides nothing so he can say everything he wants. But that creates the illusion that there is difference in opinion, blah blah blah democracy, blah blah blah.

Chris Bryant MP

Yes Maria.                                                               

Maria Logan

I have been a lawyer for Mr Khodorkovsky for many years now. A question to Chris, I mean everyone is in agreement that the Magnitsky legislation is a good tool to help the Russian opposition, everyone in agreement. But we can go in to the field, like… [inaudible]… to campaign this legislation, but there is a lot of resistance with the countries that are clearly democracies. And my question to you is, I know you are very supportive and trying to find a way to get it done. But how much for example— I know Bill lobbies with us, I know we try to fight as well… [inaudible]… have specific people that are trying to influence that. But I don’t know how much, for example, the NGOs here in the UK and the international NGOs are pushing for it. In my opinion, there is not enough consensus among NGOs. For example, Amnesty is not here. We have a few others, but I know Amnesty is divided on this issue, they don’t know whether to support or not, and Amnesty is a huge organisation. I know Freedom House was very supportive. But where are the other organisations?

Chris Bryant MP

Khodorkovsky is an Amnesty prisoner of conscience, no?

Maria Logan

Well, I can tell you a lot about Amnesty. So this is not the discussion about them, but they are not at the table and I am sure they’ve got the invitation. We have Article 19, we have Reporters Without Borders. There are a lot of popular organisations in London, and London is the centre of human rights organisations. Where are they? I mean, are they supportive, are they not supportive? And a question to you, how to push this issue in this country if NGOs unite on this issue?

Chris Bryant MP

Other parliamentarians may disagree with me, but my experience is that on any individual campaign you need three or four obsessives who would just ask about it in every, maybe not every time they’ve got a chance, but certainly every third or fourth time. Because you remember, Parliament represents constituencies, you can’t devote all your energy on one international subject. And you also need a significant number of people who know enough to be able, you know, to add their name to the letter or whatever. But you also need civil society to take interest.

When I was in the Foreign Office and had responsibility for Columbia, the trade union movement was harassing me every single day, every hour of every day on human rights abuses in Columbia. That meant that my office spent at least half the day dealing with Columbia every day of every week. And if there were more people in civil society devoting themselves on Russia in the same way, then I think David Lidington or William Hague would have no choice but to be taking it as a much more serious political issue than they do. The number of times the Russia question is raised is pretty thin. And this year all the questions were not about human rights, but the Russian position on Syria, rather than Russia itself.

There is a gentleman here—you might be better seated, you have a microphone.

Martin Dewhirst

My name is Martin Dewhirst, University of Glasgow. I would like to ask all members of the panel whether they agree or disagree with two statements. The first statement is very well known, “The Cold War is over”. Do you agree or disagree? And the second statement, which I heard some time ago from an extremely high and influential, even powerful, British official is the following, “Russia is the nuisance but not a danger.” Do all of you agree or disagree with these two statements?

Chris Bryant MP

This feels like Question Time now. Gunnar?

Gunnar Ekelove-Slydol

The Cold War is over, although all of the problems are not solved. But the Cold War is over in a way that we can meet in many more places to discuss and find common solutions, that we couldn’t do during the Cold War. I think Russia is dangerous in a way that sets the precedent for how you can run a state. And I think European politicians are not fully aware of that, in particular in some Western countries. Because we also see tendencies in European Union countries to limit checks and balances, to undermine constitutional courts. In particular I am thinking about Hungary, where you can see that Victor Orban in some way reinventing certain tendencies during Putin in Russia. Maybe there are other examples elsewhere. So, inaction is not an option, that is my message. We have to make sure that Council of Europe is not undermined as protector of values in Europe, because we have members who disregard the values. So we are really in need of new tools. I am not really in favour of expelling other countries, but to set clear benchmarks.

Chris Bryant  MP

Elena?

Elena Servettaz

As for the first question, I can give you a quotation of Vladimir Putin, during his last interview and, all ministers and everybody seemed quite the same. For them, the Cold War is not over, because as soon you start to speak about the Magnitsky Act it throws its enemies out from Russia, and at the same time as I remember Obama while he was talking to Medvedev, “Don’t worry if I am re-elected, there was a little bit change.” When you’re asking me if Russia is dangerous, I never talk about it, just to answer your… [inaudible]… Maybe you’ve heard about the terrorist act in the theatre, how many people have died there. My cousin was there and I don’t know how many years have passed, ten. And even now she cannot explain what really happened. And it’s only one case, ok. We’ve got Nord Ost, I had friends in Beslan and I see mother s of children that died there. I remember a lot of cases in Chechnya, friend of mine spent eight-and-a-half years in a prison. She is my age, she is 29. She was in a prison because the Russian authorities decided she was a terrorist, while she campaigns against terrorism. After all this you see it is dangerous, people dying, there are children dying. So, for me it’s really clear, it’s really dangerous.

Chris Bryant MP

 Andrei?

Andrei Sannikov

The Cold War is definitely over, but no one succeeded in explaining that to Russians. As for the dangers, I come from Belarus, I can tell you that as long, from my point of view as a Belarusian, as long as I hear sphere of interest, sphere of influence, I can tell you that’s a dangerous Russia speaking, and it is a danger for me as an independent country. As for the dangers, they are real, and again I want to stress, it is not only Russia. It’s Belarus, it’s Russia, it’s what happened in Ukraine. And the West didn’t fight so far, anything to counter this rather aggressive expansion of corrupt politics into the West itself. So yes, there is danger, and unfortunately the danger is strengthening coming from this region, from the former Soviet Union in general.

Chris Bryant MP

 Natalia?

Natalia Pelevine

I think on the Cold War aspect Andrei said it all. On the danger aspect, I think what Elena meant is that Russia is a danger to itself, which it is. It is a danger to its people, it will continue imprisoning people, it will, the worth of human life in Russia is almost zero as we’ve seen in Nord Ost and Beslan. I have been doing an independent investigation into the Moscow theatre siege events for many years now. And I can tell you, it is excruciating to see parents ten years on, it was literally on the 26th of October when we commemorated the 10th anniversary of those events. It is excruciating to see parents of kids who died because of really cruel actions of their own government. They gassed the people; Russian government gassed their own people in that theatre. You can’t escape the fact that those 130 people, well  five of them were shot, but 125 people died in that theatre because of the gas, that was not used by the terrorists, it was used by the Russian government. So, yeah, it is dangerous to itself, but is also dangerous to the rest of the world, because the guy who is flying with birds and who is in a possession of that button. We all know what button that is. I think this bloke is bloody dangerous.

Chris Bryant MP

 We’re meant to be leaving the room, I am afraid, at four. I just want to answer the question morally, that the one bit no one mentioned is, I suppose on of the key aspects of the Cold War was espionage, and I would be certain that there are more Russian operatives working in United Kingdom now than thirty years ago. Now it may be they almost engaged in the industrial espionage rather than necessarily state espionage, but just because of that, the commercial interest of many of the people at the top of Russian state is now the same as their political interests. So you have a security state still, which is just constructed with a different face on it. It’s sort of a refrigerated war rather than necessarily Cold War. The sphere of influence is still vital. I mean, the Russian military code produced two years ago says that the greatest threat to Russia is NATO. And hence their position in Georgia, despite the supposed agreement with Sarkozy, still there are Russian troops in Georgia. Fierce nationalism and the fact that many of the opposition candidates that want to get anywhere have to even out the nationalism of Putin makes politics even more… [inaudible]… And in terms of danger, even Kadyrov’s mother thinks Kadyrov is dangerous. So, I think the case is pretty much proven. I am terribly sorry that we agree with one another and I hope this is relayed to the embassy.

Natalia Pelevine

One last thing. One last very selfish thing, as someone who is flying back to Moscow tomorrow to face the unknown, the Magnitsky Act and everything that will happen from now on related to that is directly connected to the prosecutions that might happen in the future to the Russian opposition. Please keep that in mind, because the fate of the members of the opposition is directly related to the Magnitsky Act. We need your support and we need your help. Thank you.

Chris Bryant MP

Which takes us to the end of meeting. Can I say an enormous thanks to those who organised the day – the Henry Jackson Society and all who helped to make sure this event could happen. Thank you very much to everybody for coming. And there are letters going to the government in relation to the third anniversary. I think there are plenty of people on both sides of the House, Dominic Raab in particular has been really courageous and forceful in trying to make sure that the government here adopts a supporting position.

Today we’ve been thinking principally about Magnitsky case, but there are so many others, whether it is Natalia Estemirova or Politkovskaya, and many journalists as well. And more journalists have died in Putin’s time in government than in 150 years of British rule in the United Kingdom. So, I think when we talk here about a free press, we just need to understand there are phenomenal freedoms other people don’t get to enjoy, and this is only happening a few hundred miles away, really in another part of European Union. I fully take the point on board about needing to protect the institution of the Council of Europe. And I always thought it was a strange irony that the European Convention was largely written by a man, David Maxwell Fyfe, who later became a Lord Chancellor, a Conservative home secretary and then Lord Chancellor. When he was Home Secretary he ran one of the nastiest, most homophobic, bitter campaigns against gay men. Ironically, the first few men who were caught were Conservative members of the Parliament. I end with that thought. Thank you very much everybody for coming along.

END OF TRANSCRIPT 

HJS



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