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Friday, October 20, 2006

Illarionov Joins CATO, Blasts Neo-Soviet Kremlin

The CATO Institute think tank, which maintains a Russian-language website, has established a Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity and hired Neo-Soviet dissident Andrei Illarionov and Kremlin defector to direct it. David McDuff translates a report from Echo Moskvy radio in which Illiarionv is quoted as saying: "“One can see those who attempt to dissent or protest end up either sewing mittens in Krasnokamensk or being struck dead by a bullet in her own lift.” CATO president Ed Crane commented: "We are delighted that such a champion of liberty as Andrei Illarionov has joined our new Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. For years Andrei has spoken truth to power inside the Kremlin. He is one of the most courageous men I have had the privilege of knowing."

McDuff quotes him further as follows:

Illarionov said the Politkovskaya murder highlighted an us vs. them mentality in the Kremlin. By way of further proof, he mentioned recent harassment of ethnic Georgians following a spying row between Russia and its ex-Soviet neighbour. “I cannot fail to comment, because this relates to the socially relevant agenda for the country, on the consequences of the actions that have been taken, including the consequences of certain statements that have been made lately. Comments that related to our relations with ethnic Georgians and comments on the murder of Anna Politkovskaya highlight, in my view, the position of at least part of the government, which was hidden or maybe not so well hidden but which has become completely apparent now, concerning the existence of people of different sorts. It has been promoted to official policy that there are people of different sorts in the country. For instance, there are journalists. It has been said that all journalists are critical and they are ranked because of this attitude. Then it turned out that particularly those journalists who are well known among human rights campaigners or in the West rank even lower. Human rights campaigners, apparently, are on an even lower rung. It turns out that people of certain ethnic origin are also ranked. If it turns out that someone is influential, they are treated one way, while if they are not influential in someone’s view, then they are treated differently."

He pointed to a contrast between how promptly “official reaction” came to the attempt on the life of Russian electricity boss Anatoliy Chubays and how it was delayed in the case of Politkovskaya. Putin was reported to have telephoned Chubays - Illarionov’s long-time opponent - the same day his motorcade came under attack in Moscow Region in March 2005. Putin did not make any public statements on Politkovskaya until days later. Illarionov denounced this as a regression from a modern state to a medieval type of state which is “the property of a narrow group of people who use the instruments of state against the rest of society”. He said this “cannot be called anything other than civil war”. “By inflaming a civil war in the country on whatever pretext - ethnicity, political views, vote, whatever - this government is committing the most heinous crime against the country,” he said.

He said political developments in Russia reminded him of accounts of Holocaust survivors he had once read. “Those memoirs recount how continuously, week after week, month after month, rights and liberties are destroyed, human dignity is destroyed and people are broken, and what comes out of that,” he said. “That’s the first thing that naturally comes to my mind. The second thing, which is provided by our own experience of recent years - difficult, bitter and tragic experience - is the example of terrorist seizures of the theatre and the school,” he added, referring to the Moscow theatre siege in 2002 and the Beslan school siege in 2004. Asked by interviewer Yevgeniya Albats to clarify his analogy between the Russian government and the captor holding hostages, Illarionov said: “I’m not saying who is doing this because we don’t know who killed Anna Politkovskaya. There are different views about this and different suspicions. However, I’d like to say the government definitely is creating an atmosphere of fear. It created it not just yesterday or the day before yesterday. This atmosphere of fear has been created for several years now. And I have to say that it is being done by gifted, successful and professional people. It is no accident that many people who would speak out a few years ago choose to keep quiet, do something else or emigrate today.”

He repeated his earlier comments that his move to Washington did not amount to emigration. He said he was not interested in “power struggle” but would continue to speak on Russian current affairs in future. One reason for this, he said, is his belief that a strong presidency is unsuitable for Russia.

“I’m not going to run for president and, as I said earlier, I’m not going to take part in political struggle defined as the struggle for political power. I can explain or maybe give one reason of very many, which is probably the most important one. I don’t consider the institution of presidency to be suitable for Russia. I think enormous problems in the country stem from its presidential form of government. No matter who gets that post, the logic of political development and state development will, or probably will, reproduce very similar outcomes,” he said.

“I am convinced that something good can come out in Russia only when truly parliamentary rule is instituted in the country such that it best reflects the diversity of political views, world views and interests of our large and diverse nation,” he said.

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