A letter to the editor of the Moscow Times:
The initial impulse for creating the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in New York and Paris came from President Vladimir Putin's comments at a Russia-EU summit in Portugal in 2007. In his comments, Putin said EU-funded support for democracy in Russia should be matched by Russia in Europe and elsewhere. In explaining these comments, presidential aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky said Putin was specifically referring to the European University at St. Petersburg, which received a EU grant to implement a project on election monitoring in Russia.
As a director of this project, the Inter-Regional Electoral Network of Assistance, or IRENA, I would like to draw attention to the following facts. Starting in June 2007, the IRENA project has experienced continuous harassment from the authorities. After a series of inspections that did not prove anything illegal in its project-related activities, the authorities attacked the recipient of the grant, the European University at St. Petersburg. Last month, the university was closed by the authorities on the ridiculous pretext of "fire safety violations." Soon after that, the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation started to operate in Paris and New York.