Russia blasts European Parliament’s resolution on elections

The Russian Foreign Ministry called the resolution by the European Parliament on the pre-election situation a blatant interference into Russia’s legislative process, warning of the negative consequences for such actions.

­ An official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Aleksandr Lukashevich, gave an extremely harsh evaluation of the European Parliament’s resolution on obstacles to political pluralism in Russian Duma elections, which was approved on Thursday.

“It is not news to me that the European Parliament has once again tried to use such a blatant method of interference in our internal legislative process and I cannot exclude that there will be a more thorough reaction from our side,” Lukashevich told reporters in Moscow on Thursday. 

The head of the State Duma Committee for International Relations Konstantin Kosachev said in an interview with RT that in his view, the resolution was very biased.

“The more the European Parliament discusses current political developments in Russia, the more concerned I become for one simple reason – the European Parliament is no longer discussing the whole picture of the ongoing processes in Russia, rather certain political forces, while at the same time supporting these political forces that are neither registered nor a part of the picture,” the Russian official told RT. “Anyone who wants to contribute to the free and democratic processes in Russia should ask this political party, Parnas, to meet the requirements listed in the Justice Ministry’s official reply and try to get registered again,” he said. "But nothing like this happens. This is a political project by the European parliament and [more specifically], certain political forces within the European Parliament, and I am not ready to accept it, nor do I believe this is a favor to Russia,” Kosachev said.

The Lower House official was also quick to point out that Russia was not a member state of the European Union, and thus the statements by the European Parliament were much less significant to Russia that those of the Council of Europe and its parliamentary assembly or the OSCE and its parliamentary assembly. He added that Russia will continue to work with the CE and the OSCE, though not the European Parliament.

In the resolution, Members of the European Parliament criticized Russian authorities for the recent decision to deny registration to the People’s Freedom Party or Parnas, though they conceded that “cumbersome registration procedures” are to blame for the move rather than overt political discrimination.  They also asked the Russian government to allow an international long-term election observation mission to operate within their country. 

On Thursday morning, one of the leaders of the unregistered Parnas party, Boris Nemtsov, said that Russian bailiffs had issued a statement banning him from leaving Russia. Nemtsov made his comments while taking part in a European Parliamentary session in Strasbourg. In an interview with the Russian daily Kommersant, Nemtsov said that the bailiffs were harassing him because of his political stance. Nemtsov’s colleague from the Parnas party, Vladimir Milov, reported that he had a similar problem hanging over his head and published the scanned document on his blog.

The Russian Bailiff Service at first denied that they had anything to do with Nemtsov’s and Milov’s travel bans. A short time later they said that the order had been issued but was already canceled and had never been sent to the Federal Border Guard Service for execution.

The canceled document was the six-month travel ban from leaving Russia and it was issued as Nemtsov and Milov failed to comply with a court ruling that ordered them to retract a slanderous report about a businessman whom the two politicians had baselessly accused of corruption. (Russian law allows for such measures, though they are usually reserved for debtors who were ordered to repay their debts or against those who have not pay fines for various offences).

The Russian Justice Ministry denied registration to the People’s Freedom Party in late June (the movement was founded in December 2010 and submitted an application for registration as a political party in May 2011). The ministry said their decision resulted from a serious of procedural violations, which included the listing minors and the dead amongst their party members. It also said that its regional departments had received handwritten statements from citizens denying their alleged party membership. Russian law only allows organizations with 45000 or more listed members to become political parties and take part in elections.

The leaders of Parnas immediately said that the ministry’s decision was politically motivated. However, they said they would not appeal the decision in court as such a move, in their view, made no sense.  Russian rights activists and NGOs also criticized the decision not to register Parnas as a party.

Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov has ruled out the possibility that there was any political motivation behind the decision. President Dmitry Medvedev also said he did not see any political motives in the refusal to register Parnas. The President suggested that the opposition party “remove the ‘dead souls’ and then they would be registered.”