Interethnic accord key for preserving Russia – Medvedev

Xenophobia and intolerance are incompatible with Russia, President Dmitry Medvedev said in his address to the Public Chamber.

­“Maintaining civil peace, interethnic and interconfessional accord in this country is not only prerequisite for modernization, it is also essential for preserving the country in the current state,” Medvedev said, meaning the indivisibility of Russia provided for by the Constitution.

“For this purpose we must promote real rather than sham values of all peoples living in Russia. We must promote the cultures of all these peoples, including, of course, Russian culture as it has always been at the core of our state,” he added.

The problem of interethnic intolerance has become especially acute in the last month following mass clashes on Moscow’s Manege Square instigated by nationalist slogans.

The Public Chamber is now working on a draft declaration to prevent xenophobia and extremism.

“The authorities reaction to xenophobia manifestation on Manege Square and other regions was important but, in my opinion, one-sided,” believes Public Chamber Member and director of the Moscow Bureau for human rights Aleksandr Brod. “Police measures won’t help.”

Medvedev also touched upon the sensitive issue of Russia’s court system. He mentioned the results of an internet survey which showed that around 80 per cent of Russians do not trust courts.

“All are to blame: the state, society and the court,”
the president said. “We need to make it so that the court takes an appropriate place in the system of values and not in the state apparatus.”

Another topic he publicly brought up for the second time in the past week is corruption. Following a meeting of the Anti-Corruption Council on January 13, he reiterated his main idea – that public control over the incomes of state officials is essential in fighting corruption. Medvedev has urged the chamber members to take a more active stance on this.

Anti-corruption measures are key to building actual civil society, the president is convinced. But civil society also needs effective interaction of power and citizens.

“All officials must communicate with the people both in person and … through electronic media. This makes the distance between the authorities and the people shorter. And the shorter this distance the more developed is civil society,” Medvedev noted.

He added that he himself plans a series of meetings with representatives of various professions and social groups.

The Public Chamber, an advisory body acting as a mediator between the authorities and the public was created five years ago but has become a very efficient tool for solving some complex legal, environmental and human rights issues. In his address, Medvedev praised the work of the body, which he said is “an important forum for open discussions on crucial issues.”