- The Washington Times - Friday, April 22, 2016

A Soviet-era retired police chief was named Russia’s newest human rights ombudsman on Friday and promptly accused the United States of using the issue to “abuse” the Russian Federation into changing its ways.

“Western and American bodies have come to use the issue of human rights as a tool of blackmail, abuse, threats and attempts to put the pressure on Russia,” Tatyana Moskalkova told Russia’s Interfax media group on Friday. “The human rights ombudsman has plenty of tools to counter that.”

Ms. Moskalkova, 60, was appointed Russia’s human rights commissioner earlier in the day after winning a majority vote in the State Duma, notwithstanding concerns over what The Associated Press attributed as a “lack of democratic credentials.”

The retired police general had accused the U.S. throughout the election procedure of using a human rights agenda to put pressure on Russia, and the liberal opposition Yabloko party had urged lawmakers ahead of Friday’s vote to reject her candidacy on account of being “a mockery of common sense,” the Moscow Times reported.

Activists from the center-left group picketed the Duma on Friday morning to protest Ms. Moskalkova’s candidacy, but liberals weren’t the only ones to raise objections, the AP said.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a far-right politician, told fellow lawmakers, AP reported: Ms. Moskalkova “is a great person, but her work in the Soviet police and in the police under (President Boris) Yeltsin cannot give us any reason to think that she is able and wants to defend human rights.”

Russia’s newest human rights commissioner previously worked for more than 20 years in the Interior Ministry, the federal body that oversees domestic law enforcement effort, and is a member of the Kremlin-friendly Just Russia party. In 2012, she unsuccessfully lobbied for a law that aimed to establish punishments for “attacks on morality.”

Amnesty International recently reported that freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly within Russia remain severely restricted under the administration of President Putin, and it cited “serious human rights violations” in the North Caucasus region.

Earlier this week, Reporters Without Borders ranked Russia as No. 148 out of 180 countries with respect to press freedoms and said that “Russia’s behavior has legitimized the growing repression throughout the region because Moscow acts as a regional ‘model,’ albeit a negative one as regards to media freedom.”

Last year, lawmakers in the Duma advanced a proposal that would allow Moscow to overrule any findings made by the European Court of Human Rights regarding activity within Russia’s borders.

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