21.02. 2011 Kremlin can be seen as complicit in crimes against human rights activists.
Russia is a unique country where the security services of the Soviet empire have themselves become the Government. Soviet communist dictatorship has officially disintegrated but the essence of that dictatorship, the notorious KGB, has taken power in new Russia , with disastrous results for the rule of law and civil liberties, freedom of press and transparency.
A crucial indicator of the situation is the fact that tens of independent journalists and civil activists have been murdered - to name just Anna Politkovskaya, Natalya Estemirova, Sergei Magnitski - and yet not one crime has been solved and not one murderer has been brought to justice. By its unwillingness to bring about justice and transparency, the Kremlin can be seen as complicit in these crimes.
On February 14, a young assistant judge Natalya Vasilyeva exposed the network of falsehood around the Khodorkovsky trial by declaring that the verdict was not reached by the judges but was dictated to them from above.
Mr. Putin has built a police state that is good in cracking down on citizens but has failed to provide for them security and justice.
Issuing a visa ban for the officials considered responsible for Magnitski and other cases is one concrete measure to show that the EU is serious about the need for real improvement of rule of law in Russia . Leaders and high officials of all authoritarian regimes should be treated on equal basis. While economic and political contacts need to be continued, there is no reason why a clear moral message should not sent to them - they are not welcome in the capitals or tourist resorts of Europe .
The fact that Russian authorities have become so nervous about the very idea of a visa ban shows what a huge positive potential the EU really has to bring about changes in the situation.
Russian journalist Jevgeni Kisselyov recently warned: Western politicians have to consider just how high are the real costs of the constant concessions and compromises they make to Putin's regime, justified by short-term economic and political interests.
European Parliament's debate on the rule of law situation in Russia.
Strasbourg, February 15, 2011.
Tunne Kelam is Member of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee