Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 44

In an interview appearing in the November 29 issue of the Paris-based weekly Russkaya Mysl, human rights activist Sergei Grigoryants, chairman of the “Glasnost” Foundation, commented on his own participation and that of other human rights defenders in the “Civic Forum,” an event held in Moscow on November 21-22 which had been organized by Gleb Pavlovsky, the guiding force behind several influential pro-Putin web-sites. Asked whether the well-known human rights organization Memorial had not exhibited naivete by participating in Pavlovsky’s venture, Grigoryants responded: “Memorial is persistently striving toward dialogue [with the Russian leadership]. It is characteristic how the dialogue concerning the question of Chechnya took place [at the forum]. The generals who were there simply preserved a silence. Mr. Yastrzhembsky [Putin’s official spokesman] called [Sergei] Kovalev a demagogue, and Kovalev termed Yastrzhembsky a disseminator of disinformation. I don’t think that that kind of dialogue is needed by anyone. Much more interesting were the speeches on the first day by the younger members of Memorial–Oleg Orlov and Aleksandr Cherkasov. They indeed expressed a number of weighty remarks and proposals.”

And Grigoryants continued: “On the one hand, there was a proposal, which elicited a response on the part of the authorities, concerning cooperation by Memorial with the military procuracy in investigating [war] crimes, a practice which occurred during the first Chechen war [of 1994-1996]. True, I don’t recall anyone being punished at that time for the deaths of 100,000 peaceful inhabitants. Cherkasov in his address said that the organization does not deny the right of the state to employ force, and in Chechnya at the beginning of the second war force was necessary, but Memorial condemns the forms in which it took place.” “I would say,” Grigoryants concluded, “that the preparedness for a dialogue is currently one sided. The position of Memorial is changing but not that of Mr. Yastrzhembsky or of the military procuracy.”