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Controversial Ombudsman Mikhailov Dismissed

Published: October 23, 2009 (Issue # 1520)



  • Former ombudsman Igor Mikhailov
    Photo: Alexander Belenky / The St. Petersburg Times

A United Russia politician who was elected as St. Petersburgs first ombudsman in the summer of 2007 amid indignant protests from the local human rights community, Igor Mikhailov, was stripped of his duties this week by the citys Legislative Assembly.

According to the official version offered by the parliaments speaker Vadim Tyulpanov, Mikhailov brought the trouble on his own head by endorsing several members of his administrative staff to participate in the municipal elections held this fall.

The ombudsman, who has vowed to defend his rights in court and said that he is prepared to take the fight to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, maintains he has apparently irritated the authorities by doing his job too vigorously. Democracy is vanishing in St. Petersburg, the ombudsman said about his firing.

The St. Petersburg Human Rights Council may well agree with the ombudsman about the state of democracy, yet many human rights advocates refused to buy into Mikhailovs version of events, instead issuing an official news release welcoming his dismissal. Our council has always regarded Igor Mikhailov as completely unfit for the ombudsmans job, and the parliaments decision simply proves us right, the statement reads.

When Mikhailov assumed the ombudsmans post, a group of the citys leading human rights organizations refused to cooperate with him and formed an informal council of ombudsmen comprising experts from the citys nongovernmental organizations and human rights groups.

At the same time, Olga Kurnosova, the St. Petersburg representative of Garry Kasparovs United Civil Front said Mikhailov might be paying the price for his recent efforts to win the political opposition the right to hold public meetings without constantly getting in trouble with the authorities.

Mikhailov dismissed all allegations concerning his involvement with his staffs election campaigns. I personally never engage in any political activity; as for my staff, they have a legal right to take part in elections so I do not see a problem here, he said. Besides, two of my staff had previously been successfully elected to municipal councils and back then my colleagues at the parliament did not make an issue of it. The excuse the parliament has used to get rid of me is absurd.

Reports that Mikhailovs position was weakening began to appear in the summer, with the ombudsmans critics some of them members of his own party alleging that he had made a joke of himself by regularly uttering ridiculous comments that attracted nationwide coverage and even reached foreign audiences. A glaring example was his opinion on childrens punishment, voiced during a televised discussion on Channel Five in June 2009.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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