On June 24-25, Bonn, Germany, hosted a meeting of Russian municipal deputies who left the country for political reasons. According to a press release issued following the meeting, a decision was made to create an organization that will represent the interests of Russian citizens abroad and build a dialogue with the international community, as well as promote the development of civil society in Russia.
“Thanks to the election in the second half of the 2010s of a large number of independent deputies to the municipalities of Russia, we have repeatedly found ourselves at the center of “big politics”, collectively speaking out on the most pressing issues. Moreover, municipal deputies are practically the only legitimate representatives of citizens who are organized and consistently opposed to the war with Ukraine.
After the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, more than a hundred former and current municipal deputies from all over the country were forced to find themselves abroad. Our political experience, understanding of our regions and continued legitimacy are a unique combination on the basis of which we can create a workable structure for effectively addressing issues concerning Russia and Russians.”
As Olga Galkina, a member of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg of the 5th convocation, who was twice elected to municipal deputies in St. Petersburg, told The Insider, about 50 people attended the meeting. They represented Moscow and the Moscow region, St. Petersburg, Leningrad, Lipetsk, Tula, Kaluga regions, the Republic of Mari El, Krasnodar Territory, as well as Tomsk and Novosibirsk. Most of the congress participants now live in Germany and other European countries.
“We are united by the fact that all the years we have been working against Putin and the Putin vertical. We stand for the European way of Russia and we are against the war. And most importantly, we all want to return home and continue working in our regions.
Representing the interests of Russians will be one of our priorities. Many of those who entered the organizing committee and [carried out] preparations for the founding congress were at the Brussels meeting <in early June, a meeting of the Russian opposition in exile took place in the building of the European Parliament - The Insider> . We have developed contacts in different European countries both at the level of these countries and at the level of the European Parliament.
Also, interaction continues with such organizations [in Russia] as the Zemsky Congress and the Association of Independent Deputies. There are many acting deputies in our ranks, and they continue to work with their voters remotely.”
As Elena Filina, municipal deputy of the Prospekt Vernadsky district in Moscow in 2017-2022, told The Insider, the deputies appointed an organizing committee that will prepare the necessary documents and organize a congress at which the organization will be officially established.
“We have the opportunity to communicate with European and American politicians. There is a goal - to stop the war and make sure that after the war a democratic regime is established in Russia. The biggest danger is the conservation of the Putin regime and the signing of some kind of agreement with it. This regime must be dismantled, for this the whole world must join the process.”
Filina declined to name specific Western politicians with whom Russian deputies in exile interact, noting only that they are politicians of a democratic persuasion. According to her, it is difficult to imagine cooperation, for example, with the right-wing German parties, which “call to stop supporting Ukraine and spread fakes about Russia and how good Putin is there.”
“We would like to communicate about the organization of local self-government in European countries. This is very interesting from a practical point of view. If we are talking abstractly about democracy in Russia, then this is some kind of unicorn. We are down to earth people and very practical. We understand that democracy will begin with the fact that people in your country will be able to solve their problems, with local self-government. We will be involved in projects where this experience can be adopted.
Now the large immigrant community scattered around the world has a unique chance to gain a different experience. We lived either in the Soviet Union or in Putin's Russia. This is a difficult experience that does not give the skill of democracy and an instrumental understanding of what to do. We are now absorbing a completely new experience of social life and interactions. It is very valuable if, having acquired this experience, we can later transfer it to Russia.
Most of our activities are volunteer. We will seek funding for projects and for the implementation of specific plans with financial justification from specialized funds.”
The municipal deputy of the Moscow district of Shchukino in 2016-2021, Anastasia Bryukhanov, told The Insider that the working name of the future organization is "Deputies of Peaceful Russia", it has not yet been approved.
“We will not position ourselves as a government in exile. It is necessary that there be another political force that can approach European politicians and make some proposals. A force that can evaluate events and a vision of the future, as well as be a platform for discussing such issues.
Many people have access to politicians, officials and foundations. Someone went to Brussels and got contacts there, and someone is engaged in the evacuation of people from Russia, and they have contacts of European officials. We are in Germany, and here people deal with issues of humanitarian visas and support for emigrants. Almost everyone has at least one, two or three contacts among officials. Let's join forces, and we'll get a large base of contacts."