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Friday, June 16, 2006

Kommersant Records Russia's Slide into the Abyss: Are its Days Numbered?

As La Russophobe has already reported, Freedom House has downgraded Russia's democratization score. Now, Kommersant points out that last December Freedom House had already downgraded Russia to the point where it was removed from the list of "partially free" countries to the FH's "not free" column, and Russia has managed to deterioriate even further after that, clearly indicating that it is on a path to dictatorship.

Kommersant reports:

The international human rights research organization Freedom House has published its report on human rights for the first half of the year. Russia was moved from the list of “partially free” countries to that of “not free” countries last December. Since then, the report says, the situation has only worsened, with Russia receiving worse marks for national democratic governance (6.25 points out of 7, where 7 is the worst), the electoral process (6.25 points), civil society (5 points) and corruption (6 points). Russia's overall (averaged) score rose from 5.61 to 5.75 points. Freedom House added that those indicators are inappropriate for a member of the G8.The report was presented in Moscow. Freedom House is a nongovernmental organization founded in 1941 with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt. It is financed by international philanthropic organizations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, Soros Foundation, as well as by the U.S. Information Agency.Russia is considered to have lost its freedom of the press in 2002. Freedom House research director Daniel Kimmage noted that “The average citizen cannot find out the truth about what is happening in the country,” and predicted that the situation would deteriorate further as the presidential election in 2008 approaches. The authors of the report write that “The major theme was the state's crackdown on all aspects of political life in Russia, demonstrating that Russia is moving further from the ideals of democracy. The Kremlin continued to separate Russia from Western democracies by tightening control over the media, harassing the already weak opposition and seeking to put tighter controls on nongovernmental organizations.”President of the Fund for the Protection of Glasnost Alexey Simonov said that the report “faithfully reflects reality. Head of the human rights Memorial Society Oleg Orlov agreed. “All those factors in which Russia was assessed that way correspond to reality,” he said.Kremlin-linked political scientists and Public Chamber member Sergey Markov dissented, however. “There is great exaggeration,” he said, “associated with several factors. In the West, there is general concern and misunderstanding about what is really happening in this country, and the assessment of the events of the 1990s as democracy is completely erroneous.”

It's worth noting that the Carnegie Center's Masha Lipman has warne d in the Washington Post: "Lately there are persistent rumors that the next target may be the publishing house Kommersant and its crown jewel, the newspaper of the same name. This is Russia's most professional and high-quality mainstream daily. If the rumors are true, Kommersant will likely be handled as other media have been: The state will "appoint" a loyal buyer whose editorial line will no longer be a source of concern to the Kremlin." If/when Masha's prediction is realized, this will truly spell the beginning of the end for Russian civilization.

By contrast, as the Moscow Times reports, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova are all making progress in democratization, as their Freedom House scores show. The MT reports: "By comparison, the Western-leaning countries of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova have improved their ratings marginally; all three scored in the 4 range. Belarus, with 6.71, and Turkmenistan, with 6.96, lost a little ground in the past year."

The MT also notes that Freedom House has exposed Russia's Neo-Soviet violation of international treaties it has signed: "The report also accused Russia of violating the Helsinki Accords by permitting only specially selected international observers to monitor elections. The report said Russian authorities 'fine tune' the electoral system after each voting cycle to ensure their grip on power."

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