Павел Алексеевич Астахов
|Children's Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation|
30 December 2009
|Preceded by||Alexei Golovan|
September 8, 1966 |
|Children||Anton, Artem and Arseni (sons)|
|Alma mater||1. Dzerzhinsky KGB Higher School
2. University of Pittsburgh
|Occupation||Politician, Lawyer, Television personality|
Astakhov graduated from the law faculty of the Dzerzhinsky KGB School in Moscow in 1991. In 2002 he received a Master of Laws from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. In 2006 Astakhov received a Doctor of Laws in Russia.
He speaks English, Swedish, Spanish and French as well as Russian.
Astakhov began practising law in 1991. In 1994 he became a member of the Moscow Bar and set up his own law firm, which has been known since 2003 as "Pavel Astakhov Lawyers Board". Astakhov represented some of Russia’s most high profile public figures, including Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the descendants of the Romanov dynasty, several Russian pop-stars and others.
The first case which gave prominence to Pavel Astakhov was that of Edmond Pope. On 5 April 2000, Pope, a retired US naval intelligence officer, was arrested in Moscow by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) after making contact with a Russian torpedo scientist. Pope was charged with espionage, seeking plans for the high-speed underwater VA-111 Shkval missile.
Edmond Pope was only the second American in 40 years to stand trial for espionage in Moscow. The first, Francis Gary Powers, the pilot of a U-2 spy plane that was shot down in 1960, was exchanged for a convicted Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel.
In December 2000, Astakhov surprised the court hearing the case by delivering his closing arguments in verse. He read out a 12-page lyric he had composed in iambic pentameters, urging the court to acquit Pope. The court was not impressed by Astakhov's poetry skills and Pope received a 20-year jail sentence; he was later pardoned by Vladimir Putin and was flown back to US.
In 2000-2001 Pavel Astakhov helped Russian media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky to escape two fraud charges.
On 13 June 2000, Gusinsky was arrested on charges of stealing property worth more than $10 million from the state-owned "Russian Video" company, but three days later, after a petition by Astakhov, Gusinsky was released on bail. Later, Astakhov and another prominent lawyer, Henri Reznik, managed to halt the criminal case against Gusinsky, who flew to Spain. Another case was opened on 17 September, alleging the embezzlement of $300 million from Gazprom, and on 17 November prosecutors reopened the first case. Gusinsky was arrested in Spain on an international arrest warrant on 12 December. On 22 December he was released on bail of 1 billion pesetas ($5.5 million).
Pavel Astakhov and Gusinsky's defence team claimed that the charges were politically motivated, and on 24 April 2001 the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon declined to extradite Gusinsky to Russia.
Following his role in the Pope and Gusinsky cases, Astakhov was invited to the USA to participate in a round table organized by the US Congress. He spent the following year in Pittsburgh completing a Master's in Law.
In December 2003, Pavel Astakhov sent a letter to the US Embassy in Moscow, advising President George W. Bush and Ambassador Alexander Vershbow that he would like to represent Saddam Hussein. Asked by a reporter whether he was prepared to defend Saddam Hussein free of charge, Astakhov replied: "I do not think that the former president of Iraq will agree to accept free legal aid". Saddam Hussein, however, did not have a chance to use Astakhov's services.
In 2003 Astakhov became the host of Chas Suda (Hour of Judgment) which aired on the REN TV channel. It was the first Russian judge show. Unlike Judge Judy in the USA, both parties in these trials are played by actors, with Astakhov acting as judge. The show became enormously popular and Astakhov set up a production company, Pravo TV, to make other programs with a legal theme.
Astakhov is also a prolific author, writing about his experiences in the Moscow legal system, as well as producing a series of novels featuring lawyer protagonists.
In the early days of Vladimir Putin, Astakhov was a trenchant critic of the Russian authorities, accusing them of political persecution of his clients, Vladimir Gusinsky and Edmond Pope. He spoke of a "total disregard for human rights" and claimed that the prosecutors "blindly execute the wishes of the authorities".
Later Astakhov made a 180-degree turn in his political affiliation and became one of the most prominent supporters of the top leadership of Russia. In November 2007 he founded and headed the national movement Za Putina (For Putin). At the founding conference, Astakhov described the aim of the new movement as follows: "Don't we choose a master in the house? Well, here we are proposing to find a master for the country."
On 30 December 2009 President Medvedev appointed Astakhov as Children's Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation, a post often referred to as children's ombudsman. At the time of his appointment, Astakhov was one of Russia's leading private lawyers, but he did not have a child welfare background. His predecessor and the first holder of the office, Alexei Golovan, had resigned unexpectedly on 26 December, just months after his appointment. (Golovan remained involved in child rights issues and was in 2012 involved in the development of legislation to protect the rights of children in orphanages.)
As ombudsman Astakhov sought to raise awareness of the welfare of Russian children adopted by foreign families. According to official Russian statistics, a total of 19 adopted Russian children had died worldwide as a result of beatings or negligence, since 1991. Some of Astakhov's critics alleged that he paid too much attention to the abuse cases after international adoptions and not enough to child abuse cases in Russia itself, where some 2,000 children were killed every year as a result of domestic child abuse. President Medvedev told Astakhov in December 2011: "I think that we cannot make any distinction here between cases abroad and cases at home. These are all crimes, serious crimes."
Astakhov was deeply involved in the preparation of the Russian-US treaty on adoption, signed by the US Secretary of State and the Foreign Minister of Russia on 13 July 2011. This treaty bans the independent adoption of Russian children, leaving adoption through agencies as the only option. American citizens who wish to adopt a child from Russia through an agency must pay $40-50 thousand whereas for Russian citizens the procedures are completely free of charge. Moreover, adoptive parents in many Russian regions receive financial aid from the regional authorities, which sometimes amount to RUR 300 thousand (about $10 thousand) per child.
President Medvedev told Pavel Astakhov on 3 December 2011: "There is nothing wrong with foreign adoptions of our children... the fact that foreign citizens do it does not tarnish them in any way, and on the contrary shows their desire to help these children." However, two weeks later, at Vladimir Putin's annual question and answer session with the public, broadcast live across Russia, Astakhov declared himself "an absolute opponent of international adoption" and asked Putin to change the law and to ban all international adoptions in Russia. "We must, as much as possible, keep our children in our country," Astakhov said in April 2010.
In April 2012 Astakhov suggested that Russian citizens should apply to adopt US children, although there were still 665,987 orphans in Russia itself according to the latest statistics and the number of adoptions in Russia had been falling each year since 2007.
In February 2012 Astakhov announced that in the next 5-8 years most of Russian orphanages and boarding schools would be shut down, and their residents adopted by Russian foster families. He said that more state funds "should be allocated to foster families" to "give a fresh impetus to foster parents to adopt a child... Russia without Orphans slogan should become one of the top priorities for the government and public servants".
Some experts, however, pointed out that Astakhov's reliance on financial incentives had led to an increasing number of children being returned to orphanages. According to the report of the chairwoman of the Russian parliamentary committee on family and children Yelena Mizulina in April 2010, thousands of children had been taken in by foster parents for financial reasons, and subsequently rejected after the financial assistance had been paid. Mizulina said that 30,000 children had been sent back to institutions by their Russian adoptive, foster or guardianship families in the last three years: "Specialists call such a boom in returns a humanitarian catastrophe". 
Despite the grave Russian domestic statistics of disruption of adoptions, Pavel Astakhov drew media attention to the case of a 7-year-old, Artem Saveliev (Justin Hansen), who was adopted in 2009 by the Tennessee nurse Torry Hansen, but in April 2010 was sent back to Russia with a note saying that he was "mentally unstable". Astakhov used this case to call for more restrictions on international adoptions in Russia.
Astakhov's critics in Russia have accused him of being an opportunist and a publicity seeker. Some child advocacy groups wished him "to pay more attention to protecting the rights of children in Russia and less to PR for himself". In April 2010 Astakhov described child advocacy groups as the "best form of legalisation of the paedophile community".
- "Pavel A. Astakhov". Official website of the Children's Rights Commissioner for the President of the Russian Federation. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Levy, Clifford J. (15 April 2010). "Russia Seeks Ways to Keep Its Children". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "2009 Human Rights Report: Russia". Official website of the US Department of State. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- "Astakhov, Pavel Alekseyevich". Russia Profile. 9 July 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "US 'spy' defended in verse". BBC World Service. 1 December 2000. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Tavernise, Sabrina (15 December 2000). "American Jailed as Spy in Moscow Is Freed on Putin's Orders; U.S. Welcomes Gesture". New York Times. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Lannin, Patrick; Hayley, Julia (14 December 2000). "Will Russia get Gusinsky?". News24. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "News in Brief: Lawyer Chases Hussein". The Moscow Times. 19 December 2003. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Ваульс, Наташа (18 December 2003). "Адвокаты дьявола" [Devil's Advocates]. BBC Russian Service (in Russian). Retrieved 9 March 2012.
- "Адвокат Эдмонда Поупа и Владимира Гусинского стал "Почетным адвокатом России"". NEWSru (in Russian). 6 August 2001. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Krainova, Natalya (12 November 2007). "United Behind a Putin Third Term". Moscow Times. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "Fans want Putin to stay in power". Gulf Times. Interfax. 16 November 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Bearr Trust report of Golovan resignation
- Bearr Trust report on orphanages Bill
- "Russian ombudsman slams US acquittal in Russian child death". RIA Novosti. 2 December 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "Working meeting with Pavel Astakhov and Yury Chaika". Official website of the President of Russia. 3 December 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- Берсенева, Анастасия; Карелин, Дмитрий (14 July 2011). "Усыновление скрепили договором". Gazeta.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "Remarks With Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov After their Meeting". Official website of the US Department of State. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
- "Adoption from Russia". The Adoption Guide. Adoptive Families magazine. Retrieved 3 March 2012.
- "Приемные семьи Кубани получат по 300 тысяч рублей". Усыновление в России (in Russian). Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "Разговор с Владимиром Путиным. Продолжение" (in Russian). All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company. 15 December 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- "Quotes of the Day". Time. 16 April 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "Астахов призвал россиян принципиально усыновлять американских детей". Взгляд (in Russian). 16 April 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "Устройство детей, оставшихся без попечения родителей, в 2010 году". Усыновление в России (in Russian). Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "Динамика устройства детей в семьи". Усыновление в России (in Russian). Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "Most orphanages to be closed in Russia, children to be adopted". ITAR-TASS News Agency. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "В России начался "бум возврата" приемных детей" (in Russian). RIA Novosti. 23 April 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- "International adoption: Everyone wants the best for children". RIA Novosti. 30 April 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- Levy, Clifford J. (3 May 2010). "Russian Orphanage Offers Love, but Not Families". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2012.
- Pan, Philip (6 May 2010). "Pavel Astakhov, star of courtroom and TV, is Russia's ombudsman for children". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Сирин, Лев (19 April 2010). "Павел Астахов: Гей-парады навязывает педофильское лобби". Фонтанка.ру (in Russian). Retrieved 7 March 2012.
- Official website of the Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner
- Official account of Pavel Astakhov on Twitter