| Vladimir Lukin,
a prominent liberal politician and co-founder of Yabloko, is likely to
become Russia’s new presidential human rights envoy after Vladimir
Putin recommended him for the post. Earlier Putin pledged that the authorities
would not ignore the potential of liberals who failed to win seats to the
State Duma in December’s parliamentary polls. Lukin is the first
Yabloko member to be given a job by the president.
It had been rumoured for a long time that one of Yabloko’s co-founders
might be appointed to some post of responsibility. Those rumours were
on 29 January when Putin invited Vladimir Lukin to the Kremlin. In official
footage of the meeting the president and Yabloko leader shook hands, but
the contents of their discussion remained a secret.
Lukin has long been considered one of the likeliest candidates to succeed
Oleg Mironov, whose term in office expired last year, but at the same
time the choice of Lukin’s candidacy was not the most obvious. The
co-leader of Yabloko rose to prominence chiefly through his achievements
as a professional diplomat, rather
than human rights activities. In the late 1980s Lukin worked at the Foreign
Ministry; in the early 90s he was Russia’s ambassador to the US,
and in the previous State Duma Lukin held the post of deputy chairman
and also oversaw international affairs.
This led many to suggest that Lukin might be appointed ambassador to
some strategically important country (at present there are vacant posts
in Tokyo and Rome), instead of being nominated human rights envoy.
Russian ombudsmen, whose powers are severely restricted by law, exercise
primarily representative functions, and none of them have managed to improve
the human rights situation in the country.
The first person to take on the role, Sergei Kovalyov, resigned in protest
after all his efforts to eradicate human rights abuses proved futile.
Judging by Putin’s decision to commission Lukin to this thankless
job, the president has no plans to exploit the potential of the liberals
as widely as one might have hoped, all the more so as Yabloko’s
second-in-command is the only one the authorities have clear plans for.
Other Yabloko leaders, such as Grigory
Yavlinsky and Sergei Mitrokhin,
too, had expected job offers from the Kremlin. According to some reports
Igor Artemyev, the head
of the party’s St Petersburg branch, has been invited to the post
of deputy to Minister for Economic Development and Trade German Gref.
In his new post Artemyev will be in charge of natural monopolies. However,
those reports have still not been confirmed.
Nonetheless, Yabloko members are very pleased for Lukin. Yavlinsky,
speaking on behalf of the party, has already pledged his full support
for his colleague, as ''the situation in that field is extremely deplorable''.
''Vladimir Petrovich Lukin is one of the co-founders and prominent figures
of our party and we believe that he is able to work with dignity on that
important constitutional post,'' Sergei
Ivanenko told Interfax, adding that the party considers the participation
of its representatives in the work of governmental agencies ''expedient''.
Although Lukin himself refused to comment on the essence of his future
work before his candidacy is officially approved by the State Duma, given
the overwhelming Kremlin majority in the lower house, his appointment
is seen as pre-determined. To be appointed, a candidate for the presidential
human rights envoy has to enlist the support of two-thirds of the house.
Some leaders in United Russia have already voiced their support for Lukin.
Equally important is that Pavel Krasheninnikov, the SPS member who won
a Duma seat in an individual constituency and then joined the United Russia
faction shortly after the December poll, has decided not to nominate himself
for the post. In June last year
Krasheninnikov was one of the candidates nominated to the post and secured
the highest number of votes, although not enough to be appointed.