16.05.2006 | Halya Coynash

Children must not be used as weapons, Mr. Putin


The following letter concerns a lyceum and children’s home outside Moscow. I stress this since the Prosecutor General of Russia who has just had an injunction imposed on all the buildings and land on which this children’s home is located, may have other concerns.

The “Podmoskovny” Lyceum has for the last 12 years provided a home for many orphans, children from broken or underprivileged families, and more recently children who survived Beslan and “Nord Ost”.  It is now under serious threat of closure.  Russian human rights activists are desperately trying to galvanise public opinion to prevent what will be a tragedy for the children and a grave abuse of state power.

If the reader is wondering what a children’s home has got to do with the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, so are we.  One detail, however, may shed some light. The lyceum was founded and financed by Mikhail Khodorkovsky and is managed by his parents.

Doubts as to the real motives for Khodorkovsky’s present incarceration which have been repeatedly expressed by human rights organizations, politicians and the media in Russia and beyond need not be discussed here.  They indeed should not, since any settling of accounts – be they financial or political – can have nothing whatsoever to do with the children presently living and studying in the “Podmoskovny” Lyceum. 

A meeting of the G-8 is scheduled to take place this July in St. Petersburg. Perhaps this might be an appropriate forum for certain discussions regarding what are acceptable means of waging political battles, who are appropriate targets for the attention of the Prosecutor General, and who, categorically, are not.  We would therefore be extremely grateful for any letters sent by citizens of G8 countries to their leaders expressing concern over punitive measures exacted against a children’s home.

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