Friday, June 25, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Ombudsman Under Fire for Criticizing OMON

Paul Goble

Staunton, June 25 – Following Vladimir Lukin’s sharp criticism of the actions of the OMON in dispersing an opposition meeting at the end of May, officials in several regions of the Russian Federation and numerous public organizations have called for his ouster as the country’s human rights ombudsman.
And this wave of criticism which involves charges that Lukin is supporting extra-systemic leaders like Eduard Limonov rather than protecting the rights of all as he is supposed to has sparked predictions that he will soon lose his job, predictions that have led the country’s most prominent human rights activists to come to his defense.
After OMON officers unceremoniously dispersed a group of defenders of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution who were meeting in Triumph Square, Lukin sharply criticized the officers, sparking protests from various quarters, including calls from some regional ombudsman that President Medvedev fire him for supposedly being more concerned with politics than rights.
Several Moscow publications picked up on that theme, suggesting that the members of the Russian opposition and Moscow human rights community who were dispersed by the OMON had attacked the militiamen and thus were behaving just like the Primorsky partisans,’s Anastasia Petrova reports (
The often hyperbolic attacks on Lukin are exemplified by an article by Boris Borisov in today’s “Russkoye obozrenie.” He argues that Lukin occupies “a sinecure” intended for those who have served Russia well, something he insists the current ombudsman has in no way done (
Lukin has engaged in “no active work for the defense of human rights” but only in the “imitation of stormy activity.” And as a result what Russians see is “nothing except an old man who is clearly tired from his past work who appears sometimes on television as someone who has completely fulfilled his responsibilities before the nation.”
But what is “strange,” Borisov continues, is that “no one asks him: ‘Mr. Lukin, what have you done to defend our rights?” According to the commentator, Russia’s ombudsman ignores most of the rights Russians have in the Constitution and focuses instead on “religious sectarians,” “sexual minorities,” and political opposition figures with whom he agrees.
Despite his failure to defend ordinary Russians and their rights, the “Russkoye obozrenie” commentator argues, Lukin has served others, including the United States, “where he worked as ambassador under Minister Kozyrev in the early 1990sand surrendered position after position to the new American friends.”
And Lukin has served the Chechens too, Borisov insists “It is no accident” that the Russian ombudsman has been decorated by the current Chechen leadership for “his services to the Chechen Republic.” But Lukin hasn’t served the Russian people, the commentator continues, and now it is time for him to retire or be fired.
Lukin’s defenders in the opposition and human rights community today released a statement protesting this “campaign” against the Russian ombudsman, arguing that “we consider it principally important to express our moral support to the civic and professional position of Vladimir Lukin” (
The appeal specifies that Lukin’s assessment of the May 31 events was both “precise” and “absolutely” correct, qualities that make the attacks on him since that time especially nasty and disturbing. Among the signatories of this appeal are Lyudmila Alekseyeva, Sergey Kovalyev, Valentin Gefter, Lev Ponomaryev, Boris Strugatsky, and Gleb Yakunin.

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