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Interview of High Commissioner with «Channel 4»

15 June 2018
Interview of High Commissioner with «Channel 4»

On June 15, during the working visit in the Sverdlovsk Region High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation Tatiana Moskalkova gave an interview to Yekaterinburg television channel «Channel 4». In the interview, she spoke about the increase of the retirement age, the negotiations with Ukrainian counterpart Liudmila Denisova and the fate of Oleg Sentsov.

— Good evening, I am Maksim Putintsev and our guest today is Tatiana Moskalkova, the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation. Good evening, Tatiana Nikolaevna.

— Good evening.

— I would like to start our talk with the discussion of the most burning issue today, and that is not the World Cup, by the way. What do you think about the increase of the retirement age by the Russian Government? People would definitely appeal to you on this issue.

— You would be surprised, but I’m constantly approached on this issue by older persons who want to continue working. Frankly, I don’t really like the term «older person», because the concept of age has…shifted so 60 years is not old age anymore. And I receive appeals from people, who want to continue working, but civil service has age restrictions, and there are no exceptions for any official. That’s why this issue was very controversial, not only in terms of changing perceptions of the age and the state of a person, but it also creates a huge number of conflicts: support of the young, the interest of soon-to-be-retired people. That’s why the law is important, the law is needed, but it should be approached widely.

— It’s not enough to simply increase the age, many other things have to be regulated…

— Absolutely, we have to diversify the approach to those who will retire in the next one or two years, but they want to retire now before they reach this age… and to those who want to continue working, but they will lose money in the end. It is very important that nowadays the Government is working tightly with parliamentarians to introduce the discussion on this issue within the working group and to find some kind of a compromise for some categories of citizens. Secondly, it is very important that the law would come into force in stages.

— Well, it is the initial plan.

— It is, but these stages need consideration as far as rules, terms and dates are concerned. The Expert council was created under the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation. The members of the council are leading human rights activists, lawyers and specialists in human rights sphere. I am also to create a working group to take a position on each rule.

— Tatiana Nikolaevna, another burning issue is the hunger strike of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian director, who was sentenced for 20 years of imprisonment for terrorism here in Russia. Do you plan to visit him in the nearest future? As far as I understand, the whole problem is much wider, because the ombudspersons of the two countries agreed to compile certain lists and to monitor the conditions of inmates in both countries.

— The problem of Russian citizens who are in custody in Ukraine and Ukrainian citizens who are in custody in Russia is tragic. I would say that the problem is extremely acute because of the relations between the countries. Usually such people have dual citizenship: Sentsov and Kolchenko who are now in Russia, Vyshinsky and Odnovol in Ukraine, and others. Because of the dual citizenship, a consul cannot visit them, because Ukraine considers them as Ukrainian citizens and Russian consul is not allowed to visit them. The situation is the same in our country. That is why it was so important for ombudspersons of the two countries to have a possibility to visit these citizens within the humanitarian corridor, avoiding the politics. And when the presidents of the two countries reached the agreement that the commissioners may visit the citizens of their countries, Ms Denisova and I formed a certain sequence of actions through telephone conversation. I sent her the list of citizens I would like to visit.

— And she sent hers, didn’t she?

— Yes, she did. Her list contains 34 names, mine also contains 34 names. The first four people on my list are Odnovol, Vyshinsky, Baranov, Odintsov. They are those military men who were kidnapped in the Crimea. I visited them during the investigation, and now they are sentenced to imprisonment. For her part, the Ukrainian ombudswoman is mostly worried about Sentsov because of the hunger strike. She sent me such appeals and as a respond to the appeals the Commissioner for Human Rights in Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area met Sentsov in person and talked to him. I receive the information about the state of health of Sentsov from the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia every day. And I do hope that the Ukrainian side will also take care of Russian citizens who through protest actions can take such measures as hunger strikes.

— So, are you going to visit Sentsov with Ms Denisova? Is this somehow stated in the roadmap?

— A visit to Sentsov is stated in the roadmap, I am to meet him personally. However, Ms Denisova went to Salekhard without our mutual decision on the trip, and she did not get the permission to visit Sentsov, because the law does not provide for a foreigner to visit a Russian citizen, and according to our documents, Sentsov is a Russian citizen. Today I submitted a request to the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia to allow doctors (including those who were proposed by the Ukrainian side), lawyers or relatives to visit Sentsov in order to carry out an independent expertise with our doctors so we could get the information about the state of health of Sentsov. Today his state of health is satisfactory. With his permission, he receives IV treatment with a full set of all the needed nutrients, proteins and vitamins. He has not lost any weight, but has gained 2 kilos. Senator Ludmila Narusova had a videoconference with him…

— She urged him to stop the hunger strike.

— She urged him to stop the hunger strike, but then she was able to confirm that he was not sick with scurvy, that his teeth didn’t fall out, that the allegations that he was close to death were not true.

— Tatiana Nikolaevna, as far as I understand, the majority of complaints to the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia is connected with finances, isn’t it? If so, do you see some common traits when you analyze these appeals?

— It’s not right to say «finances»…

— It is a broad, but applicable term.

— Talking about citizens, these are issues of the material support for a family, social security, wages, accessibility and quality of healthcare, medical help in general. I don’t like the term «medical services», because «services» are always connected with property relations. Our concept of medicine was always associated with the first aid. And education was always connected with enlightenment, not with «educational services». You are quite right: in the Report of the High Commissioner in 2017, there is a section of citizens’ concerns, and people are mostly concerned with the social sphere. It is our top priority. And here in Yekaterinburg all the Commissioners for Human Rights of the Ural Federal District gathered to discuss the problems of fair wages, non-payment of wages on bankrupt enterprises and to propose measures…

— Just to discuss or to propose as well?

— To propose preventive measures. Any state agency should not only discuss the problem, but to solve it. The activity of the High Commissioner is aimed at restoration of violated rights. Last year Commissioners helped 250,000 citizens to restore violated rights. And it is 30% of all the appeals in labor sphere, it is a very high figure. Today it is very important that the Commissioners meet together…

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