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Europe

Kremlin human rights adviser quits amidst retrograde rights climate

The Kremlin's top human rights adviser has stepped down in the face of hostility from a pro-Kremlin, nationalist youth group. Ella Pamfilova had fought to make Russia more just, but often came up against a brick wall.

Ella Pamfilova

Pamfilova had grown tired of being persecuted

The chairman of Russia's presidential council on human rights resigned Friday in a move widely seen as a protest against the deteriorating rights situation in Russia.

Ella Pamfilova, the activist who chaired President Dmitry Medvedev's council on human rights and oversaw the development of civil society, resigned amidst heavy fire from the Nashi nationalist youth group, as well as strong disagreement with Medvedev's human rights policies.

"She wanted to resign because she had simply had enough of the persecution that was circling around her," Pamfilova's fellow council member, Irina Yasina, told the Interfax news agency.

Accused of slander

The pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi had threatened to sue Pamfilova for slander after she criticized the group for an exhibition staged at its annual summer camp on Lake Seliger.

The exhibition featured images of the heads of Russian liberal leaders, such as 83-year-old human-rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, stuck on stakes in Nazi helmets.

a rally of Naschi youth waving a Russian flag

The Naschi youth group welcomed Pamfilova's resignation

When images of the exhibition surfaced after President Medvedev's visit to the camp, Pamfilova told the Echo of Moscow radio station she was "frightened" to realize "that these guys will come to power in a number of years."

"That will be terrible," she said, adding, "That is intolerable - more so because the president has been there, at Seliger.''

Pamfilova, it seems, saw no way to continue working for the Kremlin, which lends its full moral support to the Nashi youth group. She also accused the movement of burning books.

"As chairman of the council, unfortunately I do not know what to do about this, apart from speak out and say that this is an outrage. If these cynical guys who don't care about anything, allow themselves anything, persecute people, because they know that adult men in high positions protect them, then that is terrible for the country," she warned.

' Men in high positions'

The day before Pamfilova's resignation, Medvedev signed legislation to strengthen the FSB, the KGB's secret-service successor - a move Pamfilova's council deemed the "rebirth of the unlawful and worst practices of a totalitarian state, with the goal of seeding fear and mistrust in the people."

She did not give specific reasons for her resignation, but said she planned to change her "sphere of activity" and that it would "definitely not be politics or state service."

Pamfilova said that her decision to leave her post was not taken overnight. The activist had told European Union officials in March that Russia's democratic institutions were underdeveloped and that there had been no significant progress in civil rights.

Medvedev

Activists had hoped Medvedev would improve Russia's human rights

The Kremlin suggested in a statement to reporters that Pamfilova's departure was long in coming.

"This is not the first time that this issue has appeared," said Medvedev's spokeswoman Natalya Timakova.

Human rights groups have expressed their deep regret at Pamfilova's departure.

Author: Geert Groot Koerkamp (dl/AP/AFP/Reuters)

Editor: Rob Turner

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