My Answer to Putin

14 September 2013 

By Boris Altshuler

Letter to the editor of The New York Times 

It can only be welcomed that Vladimir Putin in his article of 11 September 2013 in The New York Times speaks about possible Russia-US cooperation in stopping the bloodshed in Syria, in the framework of the UN Security Council in particular. And it is sad to remember that for more than two years of conflict, Russia vetoed in the UN Security Council all proposals for action aimed at stopping this bloodshed. As a result, there are now one million child refugees fleeing the escalating Syria conflict. 

And it is sad to remember that on 28 December 2012 the President of Russia did not veto the extremely cruel law which locked in Russia hundreds of kids prepared for adoption by American families. I have been involved in the protection of children’s rights in Russia for the last 17 years, and I can’t help thinking and thinking about these children, especially about the disabled ones who, instead of being treated and cared for in loving US families, are ‘buried alive’ in Russian children’s institutions. Why did President Putin not veto this notorious law? Why did President Putin not dismiss the Presidential Ombudsman for Children’s Rights, Pavel Astakhov, who has been the main advocate for this ‘anti-children’ law, and who constantly negotiates in the US with the only goal of hushing up this problem? 

Concern about world security is the main message of Vladimir Putin’s article. However, the direct way to world security is through the observance of an individual's human rights. This was the main message of Andrei Sakharov’s Nobel Peace Prize Lecture in 1975. And this is the main message of the Soviet and now Russian human rights movement. That is why I appealed before the recent G-20 Meeting to President Obama and to the US Congress to do their best to include children’s rights issues at the top of the agenda for negotiations. And I address now the same appeal to Vladimir Putin: please show humanity to these Russian children, and this will be a real step towards effective international cooperation in reaching world security and in bringing peace to those suffering in Syria in particular. 

Boris Altshuler, 
Chair of Right of the Child, Moscow
Member Moscow Helsinki Group, 
Member Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation 

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