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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

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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