A former Russian prime minister now faces death threats after joining the country’s opposition and criticising President Vladimir Putin.
Mikhail Kasyanov, the leader of Russian’s People’s Freedom Party, said Putin had failed to deliver enough reform.
Kasyanov served as prime minister of Russia between 2000 and 2004 under Putin.
A video appeared of him last month shown in the cross-hairs of a sniper’s rifle, which was posted by the pro-Kremlin leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.
Kasyanov was also recently attacked in a Moscow restaurant by a group of unknown assailants.
He spoke to Euronews correspondent Andrei Beketov on the sidelines of a European Parliament event to honour another Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated a year ago
Kasyanov: Our liberal and pro-European party co-organizes a conference on the anniversary of the death of Boris Nemtsov. We have come here to our friends to work out joint, pan-European plans. We are sharing vision of single Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. When I was a Prime Minister, we were formulating similar ideas with the European Commission and MEPs. We can’t implement them today because our party is not in power. Today democrats in Russia are our of favour. Nevertheless we continue to move on so far as we can.
This year Russia will have elections. Our party can change the situation in the country after entering the Russian Parliament. We will tell our compatriots about the European choice. Russia can achieve prosperity following examples of other European countries, including those that were previously with us in the same socialist bloc.
Our People’s Freedom Party will participate in the federal elections for the first time. We were registered with a help of European institutions, thanks to the European Court of Human Rights, which recognised the need for us to be registered, contrary to the opinion of the Russian authorities.
Euronews: President Vladimir Putin has just warned against attempts to influence the electoral process “from abroad”. Are you taking it personally?
Kasyanov: It should be taken personally by Vladimir Putin, because such statements suggest that the president is probably afraid of the electoral process in Russia. This process is based on Russian laws and international treaties of the Russian Federation. Russia is a member of the OSCE. A Copenhagen Protocol describes in detail what is free and fair election. Russia is a member of the Council of Europe. The Convention of human rights and political freedoms spells out in detail what is free and fair election. Putin and the Russian government are obliged to carry out all this. According to the Russian Constitution, these agreements take precedence over all other things. Conducting free and fair election is the international obligation. Our European friends are obliged to monitor it and demand the authorities to comply with these conventions, these international obligations. I am far from thinking that the Russian authorities will say: “We will hold elections in our own way.” I do not think that the government has decided to stop all international co-operation with the European Union.
Euronews: How has the year since the murder of Boris Nemtsov changed the situation in the country and in relations between Russia and Europe?
Kasyanov: In our country the situation has worsened. The death of Boris pushed our political forces to greater consolidation. On the basis of People’s Freedom Party (Parnas) we created a democratic coalition, which is a positive factor. But apart from that over the last years there was only further compression of the socio-political space by the authorities. A number of extremely unacceptable of laws were adopted, such as ban on a single picket, such a law, when the FSB (the Russian security agency) was allowed to shoot on a gathering accumulation of citizens, and the amendment to the electoral laws. Of course, all this is annoying and frustrating. I’m not even talking about the pressure on the opposition and the threats that come to us. It goes beyond the normal comprehension of what can happen in the 21st century.
Euronews: Is this pressure or is there a real possibility of a second such case, as with Boris Nemtsov?
Kasyanov: I hope that there will not be a second case. Of course, this threat is an attempt to stop our political activities. They do not hide it, the people who picket my office, shouting “get out of the country!” and so on, when I am attacked. And the authorities do nothing, and our appeals remain unanswered.
Euronews: The conference is entitled ‘Strengthening Russia’s
European Foundations”. Which direction are you facing? Should the EU continue the policy of sanctions or should some bridges be build?
Kasyanov: The so-called “sectoral sanctions” were imposed by the EU due to some circumstances like the annexation of the Crimea and the escalation of tensions in the East of Ukraine. Since these factors have not disappeared, I don’t see that these sanctions will be lifted. In recent years the EU has been standing on principled position. It and not going to some trade-offs, exchanges and the game behind their peoples’ backs. Until the border is not transferred under the control of the Ukrainian authorities, I am sure that sanctions will not be lifted.
Euronews: But the EU attempts to establish a different kind of relationship … I mean, the upcoming visit of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to St. Petersburg… What are your hopes for this visit? Is some new dialogue possible?
Kasyanov: I see only one dialogue. It is – to encourage the Russian authorities to give the border control of the Ukrainian authorities. This is indicated by the leaders of all European states, including the members of the “Normandy format”. They said that as soon as the Minsk agreement will be executed the sanctions will be lifted. Jean-Claude Juncker will, I understand, carry out the same policy. Of course, the EU wants to cooperate with Russia, and Russia wants to cooperate with the European Union. We all want cooperation. But we do not want the destruction of European security structure – something that the current government is doing today. Of course, no one in Europe can let that happen. And we, the Russian democrats, too, do not want this. We want peace and friendship, rather than tension. Therefore, the sources of tension should be eliminated.
Euronews: How do you assess the impact of EU sanctions on the economy?
Kasyanov: These sectoral sanctions contribute to the problems faced by the Russian authorities. But the sanctions are not that important. The problem is that the authorities did not carry out any reforms in the last 10 years. And Russia very much needs reform. Therefore, all have to start from the beginning, as I started this in the year 2000. So I have to quickly start all over again.