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Constitutional change is a true step in the evolution of Russian society and statehood

Constitutional change is a true step in the evolution of Russian society and statehood
Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Pavel Golovkin / Pool)

In this right of reply, the Russian Embassy takes issue with a critique on Vladimir Putin’s constitutional amendments.

We took note of the article entitled “Russian constitutional change entrenches Putin’s rule, heralds a dystopian future” by Dzvinka Kachur published on 5 August. It was a piece dedicated to painting Russia as a “dystopian”, “authoritarian” state, “where human rights mean less and less”. 

The writer, like many Ukrainian national political activists, appears to have problems with recognising the legitimacy of referenda. According to Ms Kachur, the Russian state authorities went through the whole trouble of holding the referendum to… get the approval from the West. Why? Because, as Ms Kachur said, “the approval of the West is important as Russia’s economy is suffering from the sanctions implemented by the West after the Russian annexation of Crimea”. 

First, Crimea reunited with Russia as a result of a referendum, held shortly after an ultra-nationalist coup in Ukraine. Crimea is Russia and the new Constitution ensures it will be this way forever. Secondly, Russian does not need anyone’s approval to develop its own statehood and civil society – just like any other sovereign state. It is indeed remarkable how religiously the author believes that everything in this world should go with the West’s approval. A referendum is a referendum if only the West approves it? The examples of Kosovo and Crimea, as if mirroring each other, show that the West tends to label something “legal” and “democratic” only if it’s politically beneficial, thus, come to think of it, making the terms “democratic” and “Western” synonyms and washing out the meaning of the former.

We have already spoken about the true meaning of that constitutional vote for Russian people: it is a true step in the evolution of Russian society and statehood. The new version of the Constitution is designed to protect our traditional values, sovereignty of our state and historical truth which is not “criminalisation of Stalin’s repressive methods” but a response to distortions of history. You can read more about it in the article on the Embassy’s website. The vote for approval was the decision of our people and it must be respected. The constant denial of the fact that Russian people can decide the future of their country themselves, describing them as if they were mindless and disoriented is unacceptable.

In her attempt to demonise (there’s no way to put it differently) Russia and its new Constitution. Kachur even explicitly titles the last paragraph “What South Africa needs to understand about Putin’s constitutional changes” as if South Africans can’t decide for themselves what they need to understand and what they don’t. That mentoring tone was repulsive even for non-citizens of SA.

One last thing to wrap up this “masterpiece of high-quality journalism”. By saying that “Article 125 of the newly amended Russian Constitution provides for the prioritisation of national legislation over international agreements that Russia has entered into” the author openly resorts to a distortion.

In reality, this Article entitles the Russian Constitutional Court to decide on the possibility of the implementation of the decisions of international or foreign courts only if they contradict the Russian public order. This measure is designed to make the Russian legislation system more resilient from foreign interference and, as a result, reinforce national security.

Just for a comparison: in the interest of national security, Russia amends its own Constitution, the US, for the same reason, has destroyed numerous countries and murdered millions of people. Deindustrialised and depopulated (just in six years!) Ukraine is a vivid example. Looking forward to reading an article signed by Dzvinka Kachur about that. DM

Alexander Arefiev is Third Secretary, Press-Attache for the Russian Embassy in the Republic of South Africa.

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