June 6, 2022

President of Russia website: Russian human rights official complains that her office has been blocked from visiting prisoners-of-war in Ukraine

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon.

I have your album. Let’s talk about the work carried out by the Human Rights Commissioner in 2021.

Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova: Mr President, in accordance with the federal constitutional law, I would like to present my 2021 performance report. It is long this year. 

Let me report on the main results, in the context of the current situation.

Last year, amid the pandemic and restrictive sanctions, my task was to continue providing people with the opportunity to address the Human Rights Commissioner to share their pain, grief or to receive a consultation and also to make it easier. People never come to us just to talk.

It was crucially important to find new tools. And we did find them: we opened a round-the-clock hotline, set up a group that deals promptly with enquiries, created an online office and used the remote format. All of that is useful today when we have over 1.4 million refugees in the country, when the special military operation is underway in Ukraine, when we witness unprecedented sanctions and Russophobia. Naturally, it has resulted in many new tasks and I think we are managing them well.

Last year, we received an unprecedented number of applications, 59,500. Neither I nor my predecessors have ever received that many before. It was very important to review every one of them and find out the truth and help people, if possible.

With 2,253 appeals, violations of the rights of citizens were confirmed, and the rights of 11,000 people were restored. The rights of even more people were ensured because one appeal is usually submitted by residents of an entire block of flats, a company’s staff or even a residential area when it comes to the environment.

As a result of the measures taken, the rights of 875 suspects, accused and convicted persons were restored. Most of them complained about long periods of pre-investigation review, preliminary investigation, refusals to initiate a criminal case, refusals to gather evidence not only to prove guilt, but also to prove innocence.

Over 390 accused and convicted persons received an opportunity to restore their rights with our assistance, mostly on medical issues, abolition of illegal decisions related to denials of parole, or application of illegal measures and methods.

We know that criminal cases have been initiated regarding the Saratov correctional labour facility and in Irkutsk. We have also asked internal monitoring and supervision agencies about this.

Over this time, we have managed to help a significant number of people in connection with labour issues; they have been paid wages that were sometimes not paid during the pandemic due to the fact that enterprises went bankrupt. It is very important that the state take additional measures in order to protect people in the sphere of labour relations.

We have helped 1,500 workers with getting their wage arrears amounting to 39 million rubles settled. About 5,000 were given the opportunity to receive social payments to purchase housing or build a house, and 4,200 people living in the territory of Baikonur have had the chance to purchase housing in Russia and return to their homeland after you issued the Executive Order (I asked you about this last year). I would like to use this occasion to convey words of gratitude from these citizens – they asked me to do this – for the fact that they have received help thanks to your Executive Order.

Another 227 have been given the opportunity to restore their rights in the social sphere. Here you can see the details on our topics and our achievements, as well as problems that have been identified.

The Institute of the Commissioner for Human Rights was involved in the release of Konstantin Yaroshenko and Oleg Nikitin from prisons in the US. I would also like to thank you for fighting for the return of these citizens. Together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and special services, we addressed both the relevant US departments and many international organisations. We are very glad that this happened. 

Restoring the rights of these people would be completely impossible without the cooperation and principled position of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, governors, your plenipotentiaries and, of course, civil society institutions with which we continue to work and strengthen our relationship.

Now we are working closely with the Defence Ministry and Emergencies Ministry on appeals from citizens related to the special military operation in Ukraine and with refugees staying on our territory. Since February 24, we have received over 3,000 appeals in defence of the rights and legitimate interests of citizens, persons and military personnel, violated by the Ukrainian authorities. Thanks to the Defence Ministry, measures have been taken to restore violated rights. 

I cannot but take this opportunity to say that it is a matter of great concern that the International Committee of the Red Cross has not yet informed us about visiting our Russian prisoners of war. We do not have any information on how the control over compliance with international norms and rules is being carried out in relation to our service personnel who find themselves in this situation.

As for me, I visited Ukrainian prisoners in Sevastopol and made sure that their rights were fully respected in accordance with international norms and principles. All their humanitarian needs, including bed clothes, food and medical care, are met. I personally received citizens there. After that, at their request, I informed their relatives about their fate, what they asked for. It is very important to ensure the work of the humanitarian component through our commissioners for human rights. 

At the start of the special military operation, many civilians who were in Ukraine were sort of taken hostage, and they were prevented from returning to their homeland. We have been approached by a huge number of truck drivers, sailors, people who were engaged in labour relations. To date, as a result of the dialogue we are conducting with the Ukrainian side, 45 truck drivers, 36 sailors, crew members of four ships and employees of Rosatom have been returned, and it is very important that this situation is resolved.

We are also working with the evacuees in temporary accommodation centres. Like all our human rights commissioners in the Russian regions, we go out to these people every day to see how we can help. And there are many people who need help.

Vladimir Putin: You mean refugees, don’t you?

Tatyana Moskalkova: Yes, of course.

For some reason, people who have been evacuated do not like to be called refugees, as a rule, they get temporary asylum status, not refugee status. This gives them an opportunity to find employment. This is one of the priorities in working with these people now.

But taking this opportunity, Mr President, thank you very much from these people for ensuring their safety, for providing everything they need to keep them alive. We are dealing with many issues, both household-related and humanitarian, jointly with volunteers and the Russian Red Cross.

Thank you for your Executive Order on volunteers, who have been given the opportunity to get life insurance. There are some absolutely amazing people among them.

Vladimir Putin: Good.

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