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Published in Press Stream:
July 1, 2016

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Published in Stream:
July 1, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
No Plans to Fire Child Ombudsman Astakhov, Says Kremlin Depite Reports of His Resignation
6 years
Stream: July 1, 2016
Publication: Russia Update
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin had not signed any decrees to dismiss children's ombudsman Pavel Astakhov, Novaya Gazeta reported citing RIA Novosti. Said Peskov (translation by The Interpreter):

"The president has not signed any decrees yet, I don't know who wrote such statements and whether they were written at all. I can only state one thing: Astakhov continues to work."
Astakhov's press secretary Yuliya Sergeyeva said she could not confirm the claim that he was resigning.

Yesterday June 30, RBC reported, citing three different sources, that Astakhov was resigning over a conflict of interest with his son's business. But RBC also reported that his office denied it and that he was "with the president" at a meeting in the Foreign Ministry at that time.

Astakhov has in general been a highly controversial figure in Russia and abroad. When he traveled to Karelia to respond to the children's camp tragedy there in which 14 children died, he asked the surviving children casually, "How was the sailing?". 

Word got around through social media and the remark was seen as insensitive given that the child had seen her fellow campers drown or die from the cold. "Thank God, we survived," a woman responded to him at the scene. Astakhov retorted that his remarks were taken out of context and that he had been building rapport with the children.

A Russian-language petition demanding Astakhov's resignation on has already been signed by 154,000 people, including 4 State Duma deputies, about 50 regional and municipal legislators and even a mayor -- a rarity for such protests.

Even two regional human rights ombudsmen and three children's ombudsmen's signed the petition to have him go.

Astakhov's response was to dismiss the petition because is registered in San Francisco. "Will we express public opinion on American sites now?" he asked.

RBC cited a source close to the Kremlin saying that the government was very unhappy with Astakhov lately.  Not only was the outrage over the insensitive remark in Karelia at issue, but past scandals, such as Astakhov's defense of marriage of girls under the age of 18 in Chechnya, when he said they were better than "wrinkled old women."

Astakhov was appointed children's ombudsmen by then-president Dmitry Medvedev in 2009 and kept on by Putin. He is most notorious for enthusiastically promoting Russia's draconian adoption ban after first reassuring adoptive parents in the middle of the process that they should not worry about it.

The ban followed the passage by the US Congress of the Magnitsky Accountability Act that places sanctions on persons alleged to be responsible for the torture and death of tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in prison.

Astakhov, an attorney educated at the University of Pittsburg was once a fan of the US and also took on cases in opposition to the Kremlin, including defense of Pavel Gusinsky, then owner of NTV, and the residents of the apartment building in Ryazan where a strange FSB plot to plant explosives was uncovered, similar to the buildings blown up in Moscow in 1999.

But he backed Putin's run for election and has been loyal ever since. He has shrugged off findings that he plagiarized his dissertation and every other attempt to challenge him.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick