MOSCOW, November 12 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin approved on Monday the new make-up of the Kremlin’s council on human rights and civil society.
The reshuffle comes after a spate of resignations that began in the wake of last December’s disputed parliamentary elections and continued following Putin’s inauguration for a third presidential term in May.
“We have to pay attention to all aspects of life – to issues of a political character, issues of the organization of society and social issues,” Putin told the council on Monday.
The new council includes Liliya Shibanova, head of the independent Golos electoral monitoring group that has been harshly criticized by the Kremlin in the past.
Other new members include well-known journalist Leonid Parfyonov, former presidential candidate Irina Khakamada and Alexander Verkhovsky, head of the Sova organization that monitors race-hate crimes.
The presidential human rights council is known for its independent stance, but has no legal authority and its recommendations are frequently ignored.
But Shibanova said that while she was unsure if the council would be able to “influence Putin,” she hoped it would be capable of getting its message across to the presidential administration.
“The council carries out very important work,” she told RIA Novosti. “And while there may be questions over its effectiveness, it undoubtedly has a certain influence.”
Putin also told the council he would be prepared to discuss a controversial new bill that drastically widens the definition of treason. The bill has prompted concern from experts, academics and human rights advocates, who say its wording leaves it open to abuse.
The bill has been approved by both houses of parliament, but Putin has not yet signed it into law.
"I'm willing to return to this and take a more attentive look," Putin said on Monday.