One of Russia's oldest human rights activists, 82-year-old Ludmila Alexeeva, has resigned from the presidential human rights council after the administration decided to change the way it chooses members for the 27-member body. She fears the council may come under the influence of the government.
Officially called the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, the advisory panel is established to assist the president in fulfilling his constitutional responsibilities to guarantee and protect human rights and freedoms. One of its tasks is also to help the development of civil society institutions in Russia.
The head of the council, Mikhail Fedotov, said that as of next month Russian non-governmental and other civil society groups will be able to nominate their candidates on the council’s official website. He said the president will then pick the new members from among these candidates, rather than "simply appointing them."
Alexeeva said this means that people from pro-Kremlin groups, including retired security agents, could be invited to participate and that Putin would likely select them.
"We definitely will not have the advantages that we used to have. For instance, we will not be able to summon ministers or heads of agencies. However, the recommendations of the council would certainly be known to the people through the media. The members of the council have been known as people of integrity. Today, when the nation is awakening, it is a crucial factor," Alexeeva said.
Alexeeva, who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, said Russia needs a non-governmental civil and human rights council.
Fedotov said that 13 members who have recetly left the council will be replaced with new members selected through an Interenet poll. He said in the future, all 27 members will be selected that way.