MOSCOW, January 24 (Itar-Tass) — Leaders have been changed in one of the key units of the Russian-American Presidential Commission – the Civil Society Group, The Kommersant reports. Political co-chairmen Vladislav Surkov and Michael McFaul (both left the administrations of the Russian and American Presidents) were replaced by two diplomats – Konstantin Dolgov and Thomas Melia. Both have already strongly criticized the human rights situation: Melia criticized Russia, and Dolgov – the United States. With those two co-chairmen, the Group, which usually avoided publicity, may turn into an area of open account-settling, The Kommersant believes.
Little was known about concrete results of the work of the Surkov-McFaul group, the newspaper continues. Its work and the resolutions it adopted were not made public. No documents were issued on it.
The changing of the co-chairmen may change its work radically. Surkov and McFaul were appointed to those posts to give a definite status to the Group in conditions of the reset of Russian-American relations, while Dolgov and Melia are both professional diplomats, and both specialize on human rights problems.
They started polemics before they really met. Melia made a report at the Senate in mid-December, in which he described the parliamentary elections in Russia as forged and expressed concern over the growth in Russia of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, homophobia and intolerance to religious minorities. Melia is a staunch supporter of the use of sanctions against those who violate human rights. He supports a ban on the entry to the U.S. of the Russian officials, who, in the opinion of Washington, are connected with the death of Sergey Magnitsky, a lawyer.
Dolgov, in his turn, strongly criticized the situation in the United States. He submitted late in December a report of the Russian Foreign Ministry on the human rights situation in some countries, most of which dealt with the U.S. According to the report, there are problems with freedom of speech in the U.S., and “old system-like problems are being aggravated, specifically racial discrimination, xenophobia, overcrowded prisons, the use of capital punishment without sufficient reasons, including against guiltless people, minors and people suffering from mental diseases, defects of the electoral system and corruption.”