Foreign Ministry Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law Konstantin Dolgov’s interview with the TASS news agency

October 27, 2016

Question: Considering the appointment of Anna Kuznetsova as the president’s new children's rights commissioner, have there been any new contacts with the United States regarding the organisation of a visit by a Russian interdepartmental delegation to monitor the rights of adopted children? Is Washington still impeding this trip?

Konstantin Dolgov: A few days ago, we proposed to our US colleagues that they consider the possibility of establishing contact between a Russian delegation, led by children's rights commissioner Anna Kuznetsova, and US representatives, to address issues related to adoption. We believe that the overriding priority of humanitarian issues – and ensuring children’s rights certainly belongs to this category – makes it incumbent on us to constantly raise them before each other and search for solutions. We hope for a positive response from our US colleagues.

Question: In the context of the [upcoming] legalisation of same-sex marriage in Finland and the recent cases of removing children from Russian families, what are the prospects for an adoption agreement being signed with Helsinki?

Konstantin Dolgov
: Regarding these removals, they should be treated on a case-by-case basis. The Russian embassy in Helsinki, together with the relevant authorities in Finland and Russia, is working very actively, and, in my opinion, effectively, to resolve such issues promptly and fairly as they arise.

Question: Does the Foreign Ministry intend to expand the list of countries that Russians are advised not to visit due to the danger of detention at the US request?

Konstantin Dolgov: The Foreign Ministry has issued several complementary warnings on the issue. All of them are posted on our official website. The first was on September 2, 2013 and the subsequent ones were issued on April 10, 2014, May 22, 2015 and April 11, 2016.

We urge our citizens to make a sober assessment of this kind of threat to them in almost any country in the world, but primarily those with which the United States has signed extradition agreements. There are over 100 such countries. A list of them is available on the website of the Foreign Ministry or of the US State Department.

Question: What is the status of Konstantin Yaroshenko’s case following his consent to be extradited from the United States to Russia under a Council of Europe convention? What are his chances for repatriation in the near future? Has there been any change in the cases of Viktor Bout and Roman Seleznyov?

Konstantin Dolgov: With regard to Yaroshenko, the Justice Ministry has sent a request to the United States authorities to consider the possibility of his extradition to Russia under a Council of Europe convention to serve out his sentence in his motherland. We have yet to see what the US response will be.

We have seen no shifts on Viktor Bout’s case. He is still being held in solitary confinement in a prison unit where his contact with the outside world is controlled. Following a recent hearing at the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) on transferring Mr Bout to the prison's general population, the constraints on his contacts with other people, including his relatives, and on receiving information, are still in place. Considering that Viktor Bout is a vegetarian, he lacks an adequate diet in prison. The BOP invariably turns down requests from the prison where the Russian is being held for his conditions to be eased, contending that Mr Bout belongs to the category of especially dangerous felons. From our perspective, this is absurd, considering the position of Judge Shira A. Scheindlin, who said recently that the sentence she had given Mr Bout was incommensurate with the convict’s guilt. In addition, it should not be forgotten that he was struck off the international sanctions list.

Question: Is there monitoring taking place of crimes against humanity committed by the so-called moderate opposition and terrorists in Syria? What is the human rights situation in the course of the operation by the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq, and are there plans to issue a “white paper”?

Konstantin Dolgov: We are closely monitoring human rights violations in the Middle East by terrorists and extremists who are active there. We continuously cover this situation from various international and Russian platforms and we share our assessments with the media. In particular, we believe that suppressing the tragedy of the Christian population is a crime. According to a number of human rights organisations, over the past seven years, the number of assaults and terrorist acts against Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East has grown by 309 per cent. Since the outbreak of the armed conflict in Syria, the number of Christians in the country has fallen from 2.2 million to 1.2 million. Christian shrines are subjected to attacks and militants are taking Christians hostage. The situation of the Christian community in Iraq is equally difficult. Since 2003, its number has declined by a factor of 10: from 1.5 million to 150,000. We urge NGOs to pay close attention to this issue.

Question: As you know, many Russians are being held in prisons in Ukraine, at detention centres of the Ukrainian Security Service, without trial or investigation. Have the Ukrainian authorities announced the exact number of our citizens [in detention]?

Konstantin Dolgov
: We have yet to receive this information even though we regularly (including quite recently) remind our Ukrainian colleagues about the need for this, taking active efforts in this direction via international organisations, including the UN OHCHR, the OSCE and the CE.

We believe that the rights and legitimate interests of Russian citizens in Ukraine must be meticulously observed. We will press to ensure that “frozen” issues in this sphere are resolved.

Question: What initiatives is Russia preparing in order to prevent the violation of Russian athletes’ rights in the future?

Konstantin Dolgov: I can confidently say that our representatives are actively working on the issue at the main international venues, including the UN, the OSCE and the CE.

Sport has always been a tool for bringing nations closer together, facilitating friendship and mutual understanding, and promoting mutual respect and tolerance. As President Vladimir Putin noted: Russia “has always been, and remains committed to fair, just and equal sport competition. The Olympic Charter states unequivocally that the objective of the Olympic movement is to serve the harmonious development of humankind and facilitate the creation of a peaceful society. These goals are of paramount importance for international sport and for the international sport movement as a whole, and it is important to strive for them and develop them.” This is the position that we proceed from in our work.

To be continued...