Staunton, October 22 – Those concerned about human rights in Russia have been appalled by the purge of the Presidential Human Rights Council while defenders of the Putin regime argue it is a move toward a uniquely Russian understanding of human rights (sota.vision/totalnaya-zachistka-soveta-po-pravam-cheloveka-pri-prezidente-rfsvoboda.org/a/30229242.html).
But in a Facebook post, Russian commentator Konstantin Eggert says that “the strangest thing in all this history is how long the illusions” about5 the nature of the Putin regime had been maintained among Russian liberals and in the West, and especially in Europe (ehorussia.com/new/node/19519).
Up until now, he continues, Putin “needed the Rights Council to create the illusion of interacting with civil society and the critics of his regime. The urban opposition intelligentsia was supposed to believe in the struggle of ‘the towers of the Kremlin’ and that changes within the system were possible and a new 1937 was precluded.”
And the Council’s existence also served Putin’s interests abroad, Eggert says, because people there “above all in Western Europe” cited it as evidence that the Kremlin leader was really different than the authoritarian leaders of the Soviet past despite what others in Russia and the West were noting.
Now, Putin has clearly decided to dispense with what had become an increasingly useless appendage – or alternatively to put it to new uses by having the revamped Council criticize human rights problems in other countries or become the basis for countering the arguments of the Russian opposition for change.
This is all part of a more general change, Eggert says; indeed, it may be the opening scene in a new drama. “Russia one way or another in the new future faces constitutional reform either for the absorption of the Donbass or Belarus or redistributing power while preserving the primacy of Putin.”
The revised Presidential Council on Human Rights will undoubtedly be charged as part of this to come up with “a new, ‘sovereign’ conception of human rights, one without unnecessary Western powers,” a conception of human rights in Russia exactly as Vladimir Putin thinks they should be.