2009/09/07 "Hamsters and Stones…?"
  • Press Release No. 80/1224
  • 07/09/2009

Today, September 7, in the press centre of The Izvestia was held a press conference at which the speakers of five operating organizations reviewed the results of the 2009 Grant Competition for NGOs.

We are tired of listening to reproaches about our use of ‘money from the West'. That's why every year the Mother's Right Foundation takes part in the competition and tries to receive Russian roubles for its activities aimed at assistance to families of servicemen who died in the Russian Army. (Our applications have never been chosen for grants.) This year we have proposed the project under the title: ‘Legal Education and Spreading Effective Judicial Practice Concerning Cases on Protection of Rights of Dead Servicemen's Families'. In our application, we wrote: ‘The problem of lack of unified judicial practice in Russia leads to the situation when citizens living in different regions of the Russian Federation can or can't realize their rights... Thus, the situation is quite paradoxical: the scope of a citizen's rights is determined by his place of residence. The project is aimed to spread information on the rights and privileges of dead servicemen's families among parents of dead servicemen and judges. Its purpose is to create and spread our positive judicial practice. It's hard to overestimate such a project, because it's actual. Here is a passage from the letter by judge V.: ‘I ask you to send me a copy of your brochure ‘Lawyer Advice' (judicial practice of our Foundation) which I am going to use in my work, because the examples it describes will be of great interest to judges from other regions...' In our application, we mentioned the project objectives: 1). Creating positive judicial practice in human rights protection of members of dead servicemen's families; 2). Spreading information on the Foundation's positive practice in protecting the rights of members of dead servicemen's families; 3). Publishing Instruction Booklets informing dead servicemen's parents on their social and procedure rights, as well as on how to apply to the court; 4). Spreading instructions and normative acts on the rights and privileges stipulated by the RF Law among  members of dead servicemen's families and Soldiers' Parents' Organizations. The project is to be completed within 12 months. Of course, we counted the amount of money we need to accomplish the project and asked for 4,932,542 roubles. It's a modest sum considering business trips to courts in different regions of Russia and mail expenses in the situation when prices have grown 300%.

Creating positive practice is the most expensive issue of our project. You can achieve the objective only if you can pay for the work of professional lawyers and their business trips to different regions of the RF. We have not and won't take a rouble from dead servicemen's families. After a successful trial, a family receives a concrete result. Every year, the Foundation initiates 150-200 trials in different regions of the RF (we win 70% of trials), then we publish brochures on successful trials and send them to dead servicemen's parents and courts. These brochures help parents to file a claim and win a case on their own, without the participation of our lawyers. Besides, they inform judges on judicial practice in this area.

Every court decision determines the life of a dead serviceman's family. Quite often after the loss of a breadwinner, the money they receive under a court decision is their only means of subsistence, and this does not depend on the situation in the country because they have lost their jobs long ago. They face the problem of surviving every day. Here are some shocking examples of poverty: The mother of a dead soldier stole a piglet because she had no food for her children. Instead of attending school, the children had to make wooden boxes for vegetables to make both ends meet. The woman was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. The mother whose son had died in Chechnya adopted a child from an orphanage. She starved for several days to save food for her new son. Some ‘well-wishers' advised her to abandon the child. Not to mention the families that lost their apartments after the deaths of their husbands and sons. They have no roof above their heads...

When the Foundation press secretary, Anna Kashirtseva, read the announcement of the press conference, she accredited herself. Before this she asked whether they would announce the list of winning organizations. She was told that ‘yes' the list would be announced there, in the press centre of The Izvestia. Polite managers warned that she ‘should keep silent and not ask any questions because she was not a journalist. It was quite a problem to get the information papers because their number was limited. (‘You are from an NGO, we have no materials for you,' told a man distributing the information papers. But then he had mercy on our press secretary and gave her the papers.) By the way, our press conferences are organized much better though they are not held in such cool places. They usually take place in our Independent Press Centre in a non-commercial way: we hand out our materials (it's a problem to print them using our old equipment) without limitation; we don't ask people to keep silent; we don't hasten people to finish the second part of a press conference (answers to journalists' questions) as was done at the press conference (they hastened a mass media representative who was going to ask the last question, ‘Be quick... Mind the time...' Today, our main question is as follows: ‘Will they give us Russian money or shall we face again reproaches for helping Russian families using money from the West?

Our press secretary did not receive any answer, because they did not announce the list of winning organizations as had been promised. Instead, they said that the list would be displayed on the site of the Public Chamber of Russia. What a pity. Representatives of mass media had no chance to ask concrete questions on concrete organizations.

The speakers spoke about this year's priorities. Here is a passage from the information papers they gave us: ‘In the situation of the world economic crisis, the president of the Russian Federation issued Order No. 380-rp of June 17, 2009 according to which all nonprofit organization had access to grants for projects aimed at supporting poor and socially unprotected citizens who suffer from the deteriorating economic situation, and especially those citizens who have lost jobs.... When choosing the winners, we preferred the projects aimed at protection of children, ecology and things environmental, struggle against corruption, immigration policy, struggle against xenophobia, development of international and inter-religious dialogue, supporting and development of volunteer movement, cooperation between NGOs and the State, increasing role of civil society in promoting innovation activities, development of human rights protection in social spheres...'

The speakers told that they had financed the projects aimed at address assistance to poor citizens, and that the results of NGOs' activities should be material, i.e. sensed with one's fingers. They gave us some positive examples, such as collecting special weather-beaten stones (Mum's the word! It reminds of the ill-famed ‘spy stone'.) and purchasing domestic animals (a goat or a hamster - they did not specify) for children from poor families... and that was the end of the event. Then the participants went away.

In the afternoon, we looked through the list displayed on the site of the Public Chamber of Russia and once again did not find the name of the Mother's Right Foundation.

(C) To use or cite this and other press releases you should make reference to the Mother's Right Foundation.