New Federal Children’s Ombudsman: Anna Kuznetsova
Vladimir Putin has replaced Pavel Astakhov as the Federation’s Children’s Rights Commissioner and appointed Anna Kuznetsova as Children’s Ombudsman.
Kuznetsova is President of the charity Pokrov, set up to support the family, motherhood and childhood, which this year became one of the administrators of the NGO Presidential Grants’ Scheme. The appointment was announced on the Russian President’s website. She takes over from Astakhov, who was appointed back in 2009.
According to TASS, Kuznetsova’s appointment has come as a great surprise. “Unexpected, yes absolutely! No matter where I’ve been and whatever job I’ve had, this is the work I’ve always wanted to do”, she said. Kuznetsova has also stated that she intends to “take a good look at things, examine the detail, get to the bottom of issues and put a team together… We’ll try and do all we can. I want every child to be happy and we’ll do our utmost to achieve this goal”.
Kuznetsova is also head of the Penza executive committee for the All-Russian People’s Front and Chair of an association of family protection organisations that brings together those NGOs and civil pressure groups involved in defending and supporting the interests of families, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood.
Speaking to the Russian Information Agency Novosti, Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary, explained that several candidates had been interviewed for the post and that, despite her young age, Kuznetsova possessed the necessary experience for the role. “The main thing is that she’s given birth to six children, which was an important consideration. She has a wealth of experience and her human qualities lead us to believe that she will make an effective Ombudsman”, said Peskov.
Kuznetsova’s appointment has also been welcomed by the Federation’s Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights. The Council put forward three candidates for the Children’s Ombudsman post in July this year – Yana Lantratova, Chair of the Coordinating Council of the Union of Russian Volunteers, Elena Topoleva, CEO of the Agency of Social Information (ASI) and Elizabeth Glinka, Executive Director of the international NGO Fairness in Aid. NGO representatives had supported the nomination of Elena Aleshana, President of the charity Volunteers in Support of Child Orphans. A petition organised in support of her nomination attracted more than 6,000 signatures.
According to ASI, Aleshana has reacted positively to Kuznetsova’s appointment. “She has a lot of children to go with her experience in the field. Her charity is used to dealing with crises that crop up in motherhood and pregnancies and I hope these will serve her well in resolving a range of long-standing problems linked to a lack of systemic support for mothers and children”, Aleshana added.
According to Vladimir Berkhin, President of the charity Tradition, Kuznetsova is someone who loves and understands her work and is very good at it. “She is a charming and hardworking businesswoman”, he says. Berkhin stressed the importance of the new Ombudsman being a practitioner and that she has come from the NGO sector. However, he pointed out that the role of Ombudsman is totally different from being the head of an NGO or association. “Be that as it may, I have every confidence in her selflessness and sincerity”, he added.
Novosti also reported that following her appointment, Kuznetsova declared that we are now living in a “golden age for public organisations”. “We must make the most of this time so I think the office of the Children’s Ombudsman will definitely have to work with NGOs”.
According to a report in Novosti, Kuznetsova has said that she intends to work on introducing a law that prohibits the adoption of orphans by foreigners, the so-called “Dima Yakovlev law”. Prohibitive measures need to be complemented by a supportive approach, including encouraging the adoption of children from Russian orphanages who are disabled or have special needs.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin