Liberalising Russia top priority: new Kremlin adviser

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President Dmitry Medvedev's chief human rights adviser on Wednesday vowed to promote greater liberalisation of Russia and put a stop to attempts to glorify the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Medvedev on Tuesday named Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Union of Journalists and a former minister with liberal credentials, the new head of the council advising him on human rights.

His predecessor Ella Pamfilova quit unexpectedly in July following public clashes with the controversial and influential pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi (Ours).

"The most important task is to help the president modernise society, to carry out its destalinisation without forgetting about judicial and police reforms," Fedotov told AFP.

Stalin led the Soviet forces to victory 65 years ago but presided over a harsh authoritarian regime where millions died in prison camps and attempts to glorify his rule are still frequent in modern-day Russia.

Medvedev has made attempts to distance himself from Soviet past, saying he had no desire to return to the Soviet Union.

His appointment, Fedotov said, was a public message that the president wanted to continue his liberal reforms.

"He picked a person with an open, liberal position," Fedotov said.

Fedotov also vowed to speak freely about problems, even though he acknowledged that in his new post he would formally be less independent than his predecessor.

A government minister under Boris Yeltsin, Fedotov said he would combine his job of the head of the rights council with the post of a presidential adviser.

"I am fully aware that I will not be able to publicly criticise the president," he said. "But I will speak the truth to his face and I see much more sense in this."

He added that he himself proposed that he is appointed to the advisor post.

"Because an adviser will have closer contacts with the head of state," he said.

"Formally this post will of course be tying me up but the president is aware of my position...that I have always been independent as a minister."

Medvedev has made liberalising Russia a key plank of his presidency but critics say society has yet to see any firm results.

© 2010 AFP

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