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Putin Notes Human Rights Disparity in Russia - 2002-12-10


President Vladimir Putin has told Russia's human rights commission that Russia still has a long way to go toward ensuring basic human rights for its citizens. The president's comments come two days before the nation celebrates Constitution Day.

President Putin said there is a big gap between constitutional guarantees of human rights in Russia and people's every day abilities to exercise those rights.

Mr. Putin addressed the problem in a meeting at the Kremlin Tuesday with members of Russia's human rights commission, which was created just last year.

The president told the commission that Russia's failure to meet human rights norms set out in the country's constitution stems mainly from a lack of money. But he also chided officials for being, as he put it, bureaucratic and arbitrary.

Mr. Putin said people in Russia are still subjected to irresponsible actions by authorities at all levels and in numerous venues, from courtrooms to police stations.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said the president has asked the commission to help organize a thorough analysis of all draft laws pertaining to human rights, in a bid to see that they are the best they can be. He also urged them to pay more attention to letters from citizens detailing either problems with human rights or suggestions for improvements.

But an independent human rights group, the Moscow-based Glasnost Foundation, said Mr. Putin also has to answer for the rights abuses in the country. Sergei Grigoriyants, the head of the Glasnost Foundation, said President Putin, by virtue of his position, is responsible for any and all gaps of which he speaks.

Mr. Grigoriyants said the president's comments are nothing more than an attempt by him to distance himself from human rights problems in Russia. He said the comments aim to support what he called the Russian myth about a good czar with good intentions who is burdened by bad bureaucrats.

Later this week, Russians will observe Constitution Day. In advance of the two-day national holiday, President Putin said that Russians had been living in a different country for quite some time now but many of Russia's laws, he added, are still from another life.

President Putin says the goal for the future should be to make the Russian nation open and effective for all.