Leading Russian rights activists not to meet Obama in St. Petersburg

File Photo of Barack Obama Sitting at Desk with Mike McFaul Standing Next to Him Facing Him

(Interfax – Moscow, September 4, 2013) The veterans of the Russian human rights movement, Lyudmila Alekseyeva, Lev Ponomarev and Svetlana Gannushkina, have given up on taking part in a meeting with US President Barack Obama in St Petersburg since its date is constantly being changed.

“They have changed all this business several times: at first 5 September then 6 September, then vice versa and again 5 September, then 6 September. Since this is a different city and this concerns (buying) tickets and putting off all other activities, we apologized and said that we would not go,” Lyudmila Alekseyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group and veteran Russian rights activist, said.

“As far as I know, no-one is going from Moscow,” she said.

According to her, Obama’s meeting with the Russian human rights activists is currently scheduled for Friday 6 September and some representatives of the Russian civil society in St Petersburg may take part in it.

“This is some kind of a dramatic story,” leader of the movement For Human Rights Lev Ponomarev told Interfax.

He said that “they called today and said that the meeting had again been moved to 6 September”. “The meeting has been moved several times, I have already returned the tickets, now I will have to return them for the second time. I will not be able to attend the meeting in St Petersburg on 6 September,” Ponomarev said.

He went on saying: “They called me from the US embassy and said that they understood the situation. I hope no-one takes offence. This is not a demarche, this is a set of circumstances.”

According to Ponomarev, St Petersburg rights activists will take part in the meeting. “I consider this as a protocol event and hope that our St Petersburg colleagues will be able to represent all the Russian rights movement,” he said.

Head of the Civil Assistance Committee Svetlana Gannushkina told Interfax that she would not go to St Petersburg to meet Obama as the meeting was constantly being put off. “I have refused. The meeting is constantly being put off and I have refugees,” she said.

The St Petersburg LGBT rights organization Vykhod said on 3 September that it had been invited for a meeting with Obama who would be in St Petersburg at the G20 summit. Vykhod’s spokesperson told Interfax that only several St Petersburg public organizations had been invited for the meeting with the US President.