By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Several members of Russia's presidential human rights council said on Wednesday they planned to leave the advisory council, reflecting doubts that President-elect Vladimir Putin was dedicated to improving human rights.
During Dmitry Medvedev's presidency, the rights council has drawn attention to reported abuses including in the case of Sergei Magnitsky, whose 2009 prison death has drawn widespread condemnation and strained Russian-U.S. ties.
The makeup of the council is up to the president, but plans by members to step down reflect disappointment in its impact and doubts that Putin was serious about improving human rights.
At least four members of the presidential Civil Society and Human Rights Council have no intention of serving on it under Putin, according to its chairman, Mikhail Fedotov, and two of those who plan to leave.
"I do not consider him a legitimate president," said political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin, who questioned the official results of the March 4 election Putin won with nearly 64 percent of the vote.
"The volume of falsifications approached a critical level," said Oreshkin, adding he was unsure whether Putin really won the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Government officials say violations were not widespread enough to affect the outcome.
Yelena Panfilova, the head of anti-corruption group Transparency International Russia, said at the council's last meeting with Medvedev on Saturday that she did not intend to remain on the council.
"It's no secret that I came to the council because I hoped that we would be able to do very much. But now I think I will (be able to) do significantly more through ... public activity," said Panfilova.
She confirmed her intention at a news conference with other members on Wednesday including Fedotov.
Fedotov said human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Svetlana Gannushkina told him she did not want to be on the new council and that another member, Ida Kuklina, also planned to leave.
PUTIN AND NGOs
Fedotov said he would not want to remain chairman if Putin makes radical changes to the makeup of the 40-member council.
"If President Putin wants the same council that Medvedev had then he can keep it. Everything depends on him."
"(If) instead of these wonderful people come generals or people who don't work to protect human rights but rather to attack them, then that is a completely different council, and I would not like to be its chairman," he said. Continued...