Vladimir Kara-Murza: we don’t want to give their country the villains

Russian opposition politician, the coordinator of the movement “Open Russia” Vladimir Kara-Murza argues that there are two parallel, Russia: one, the Kremlin, the other in spite of everything developing civil society. In an interview with Delfi Kara-Murza, who already had two poisoning, said he intends to return to Russia and continue their activities.


According to his vision, more and more people are involved in various campaigns, and all activity lies not only in Moscow or St. Petersburg but in the regions. In recent years, according to him, one gets the feeling that the young generation is more civic pride, which begins to overcome the fear of socially-political life: “It showed the recent protests in Russian cities”.

Answering questions of journalists at a press conference held in Lithuania, “Russian forum”, it is stated that to build the forecasts for Russia, but the current situation can’t last forever. In his view, change can occur suddenly and need to be prepared for that. In addition, the issue of Russia as Europe he calls fundamental. The current government does not consider itself part of European civilization, and he and his associates made its civilizational choice.

Vladimir Kara-Murza: to make predictions in Russia is a thankless task, especially the dates and numbers. We also from our history know that the major political changes tend to occur quickly and unexpectedly. Including for their participants. Let us remember three days in August 1991, when the collapsed mode, which lasted seven decades before. Or the current jubilee year, this figure too. We, the movement “Open Russia”, are ready for changes that inevitably will come. Anything eternal does not happen, the regime of Vladimir Putin is not eternal. Although it would seem, they begin to believe that they are forever. This is not so. But when the time comes (the end of mode — approx. edition), you need to be ready for it. When changes will start, too late to sit down and start thinking and planning what to do next. Therefore, almost all of our projects aims to prepare a new generation of civil democratic activists, to help them to obtain the necessary information and gain the necessary experience to be ready for the moment when they need to effect change in our country. For this we use the election (flawed and unreal) process, which is in Russia. As for Russia as part of Europe — this is a fundamental question. For many generations, it is a matter of controversy in Russian society. We know the answer of Vladimir Putin on it, his regime. A few years ago, the Russian government, the Ministry of culture has published a white paper on a strategy that is called “Russia is not Europe”. This is the answer of the current government. Our response is radically opposite. We are absolutely convinced that Russia is a European country, and Europe is not only because the question of geography. It is also a mentality, respect for law, respect for human rights, a number of rules and obligations, and most importantly — choice. We don’t doubt our choice — European. In the XIX the philosopher Vladimir Soloviev said, now the noun to the adjective Russian is European. We are Russian Europeans, as have English, French and German. And this principle, this system of values is very important to us and we have no doubt that the day will come when Russia will become a European country in the full sense of the word.

Delfi: What is the issue in Russia’s relations with the West must stand in the first place?

— First, it is important initially understanding that when Western leaders talk with the Kremlin, they say no. It is very important that not only Lithuania and a number of EU countries talked with civil society, but to more and more Western democracies would come to this. Definitely on the agenda are questions of international law. We all know that, given how the regime of Mr. Putin behaves in recent years. And here again there is a direct relationship between what happens inside the country, and with the way Putin regime conducts itself on the world stage. Because why should the government that violates the rights of its own citizens and does not respect its own laws and Constitution, must respect international law and the interests of neighbouring States. There is a direct relation. We expect that our partners in the OSCE, and it includes all EU countries, USA and Canada will be in contacts with official Russian authorities and to raise uncomfortable questions. Such issues as civil liberties, human rights, implementation of norms and obligations that Russia itself took over, joining the OSCE, the Council of Europe. And when Mr. Lavrov repeated “do not meddle in our internal Affairs”, it is disingenuous, because in the OSCE documents clearly state that questions concerning human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law cannot be considered an internal affair of a state. The choice between realpolitik and moral issues actually false. As once said Andrei Sakharov, in the end, the moral choice turns out to be the most pragmatic. And the history of the last fifty years in Europe has shown that lasting relationships are possible only on the basis of respect for human rights and international law. That is why the three baskets of the OSCE connected: security, economy and human rights. And we wish our Western partners have found the time and opportunity to pay attention to all of these questions. If you view the Kremlin’s propaganda, you will hear that we — the representatives of the Russian opposition, civil society, go to the West and ask for money, political support, regime change. It’s all nonsense. We do no one could ask for. It is our job to change the situation in Russia, to defend human rights, to achieve democracy and the rule of law. We do it as much as you can. The only thing we ask our Western partners, they, first, honestly and openly talked about what we have going on, called a spade a spade and not pretend that is what actually happens. Second, to the West of the country remained loyal to its principles that they declared, on which the Western system. This also applies to the access of our corrupt, human rights violators in the Western countries to the Western financial system.

— Sometimes it seems that in the Baltic States, given their position in the relations with Russia, You find more understanding than in other EU countries. This is why, perhaps, here and conduct such forums for the Russian opposition and experts.

— Lithuania and, probably, we can say the countries of Central and Eastern Europe is much better in this sense, appropriate (for such events as the Russian forum — DELFI), at the expense of your experience, history, all that survived in the twentieth century. So this forum, I come not for the first time, a wonderful platform that gives an honest, open debate, including on sensitive issues. And when I meet with Lithuanian politicians, it is clear that there is understanding. Believe me, it is not everywhere. Not all Western European and North American capitals. Unfortunately, many Western leaders say Russia, they mean the Kremlin, Putin’s regime. Not so long ago was the first visit by new U.S. Secretary Rex Tillerson in Moscow. A few days before his visit, a group of senators from both parties wrote him a letter with a request to find time during his visit to Moscow to meet with representatives of civil society. It is a long tradition in the United States, every Secretary of state who travels to Moscow, finds the time for such a meeting. And that’s fine. If the US wants to build strong, long-term relationship with Russia, based on mutual trust and understanding, not to speak only with authorized officials, it is necessary to talk with society too. Unfortunately, during his first visit, Mr. Tillerson’t found the time to meet with civil society. This is unfortunate, I hope that this bug will be fixed next time.

— Don’t worry, and regret?

— Regret. This is the first visit, he was very short, so let’s see what he will do next. But it is important to contact officials of human rights issues and values necessarily raised. Because we are all members of the Council of Europe, OSCE. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law — is the subject of international obligations in the framework of the COE and OSCE. Therefore, they need to talk. And when Mr. Lavrov says that it is internal Affairs, it is to put it mildly, does not speak the full truth, because human rights issues are the subject of international obligations. It is therefore very important to have this understanding that the Kremlin is not the whole Russia. And when Mr. Volodin says that without Putin there is no Russia — it is, firstly, insulting to our country, and secondly, it’s simply not true. If the Western democracies are interested in having a long-term partnership with Russia, very important to talk not only with those who today are in the Kremlin, but also with those who might be in the Kremlin tomorrow.

— How to be then with those who represent the electorate of Putin? During the forum, sociologist Alexei Levinson from the “Levada center,” said DELFI, that the Russian President has support, and Putin was able to mobilize Russian society. What can the opposition leaders to offer attractive for the part of the Russians who voted for Putin?

— With due respect to the “Levada center” and its experts, in Russia in General is not very correct to speak about sociology and sociological research in the context of a totalitarian regime. In the absence of free elections, major independent media when the television is engaged in daily propaganda and in the country are political repression — people know that, relatively speaking, for opposing views to get a club on the head, go to jail. I would not began to trust sociology and some studies in this context. Therefore, if we talk about how really popular the current government, I think it is better to look on her own actions. Now we hear that they have 80, 90 percent support. You know, when in power 90% support, it would not rig the elections to gag journalists and beat people. So does the government insecure and cowardly. As for how to attract people… There’s a popular stereotype that Russian people some special. He needs a strong hand, a whip. Again, this is just not supported by the facts. I’m a historian by training, and I can say that every time, unfortunately, it was not so often, when Russian citizens have the opportunity to vote in free elections and choose between the authoritarian and democratic way, each time choosing the democratic. It was in 1906 for election to the first State Duma. In 1917 elections for the Constituent Assembly. In 1991, in the presidential elections. Russian citizens are no better and no worse than citizens of other European countries. And they want the same what I want all other people to live in a free state of law, to an independent judiciary, rights are reserved to the government were elected, not appointed to high offices. And despite the fact that we talked about sociology, but even this distorted sociology, if you will avoid terms that are distorted propaganda, and to ask specific questions to Russian citizens “do you want to an independent court”, “if you want power out” and so on for all the basic values of Russian citizens want absolutely the same things that citizens of other European countries.

In recent years Russia has left quite a lot of active and successful people. In Russia Navalny attacked with green paint, You are a victim of poisoning. How, in Your understanding, in the West perceive such stories? And how big is the percentage of active people by your estimates, in Russia?

— Indeed, in a time when the government is Vladimir Putin a number of opposition leaders, independent journalists and corruption fighters were killed. A little over two years ago in the center of Moscow near the Kremlin wall was defiantly murdered Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. Many opposition activists are under pressure, they are squeezed out of the country, forced to emigrate, people are put in prison. Now, according to the human rights centre “memorial” in Russia more than a hundred political prisoners. Recently Alexei Navalny was attacked and almost lost vision in the right eye. I have two years survived two assassination attempts, poisoning. In 2015 and three and a half months ago. Both times were in a coma, had multiple organ failure, that is, the organs failed and the doctors estimated the chances of survival at five percent. So I was very lucky that I am with you stand talking. However, you know not wait. When I am fully physically recovered, I want to go back home to Russia and continue to do what I was doing. And what we do with colleagues and comrades in the opposition movement. Because this is our country and we have a responsibility to our country and citizens. We don’t like, where does Russia’s current regime, we believe that he leads her to a standstill. That the current government is based on corruption, totalitarianism, denial of basic rights and freedoms of citizens — a road to nowhere. And we don’t want to give their country the villains. And I believe that the greatest gift we could make to the Kremlin, is to surrender and escape. We do not do. Indeed many have left, it is a tragedy, but nevertheless, we hope that these people will return, when to change the situation, because these people need. But even despite the fact that such a wild outflow in Russia today, a huge number of understanding caring people who want our country to become a normal, free, democratic, European country. And they are ready for this endeavour. And this day (change) must come.