Russia's ghastly Children's Rights Commissioner finally quits

Pavel Astakhov -- celebrity lawyer, courtroom TV star, crime novelist, reciter of impromptu religious poetry -- has finally met a scandal he couldn't laugh off: when he met with the children who'd survived a boating accident that killed 14 of their friends, he opened with "So, how was the swim?"

On Global Voices, Yulia Savitskaya rounds up six more of Astakhov's most notorious gaffes, starting with the time in 2000 when he defended an American arms-smuggler (later pardoned by Putin) by breaking into seemingly impromptu religious poetry ("Russian have wide-open hearts, and sincere faith/And ready to behold the Creator/And ready to forgive not once, not even twice."), a moment he later explained by claiming he'd experienced "a moment of enlightenment or confusion."

Astakhov isn't just weird, he's also genuinely sinister: he helped a 19 year old win the right to marry the 11 year old girl he'd impregnated (an event that preceded his being made Commissioner for Children's Rights!), and then, later, polled his Twitter followers on whether schoolchildren should be chained to their desks.

4) Full Support for the Ban on US Adoptions
In 2013, Astakhov supported Russia's infamous “Dima Yakovlev law,” which forbids American citizens from adopting Russian children. When asked about his position on the legislation, Astakhov went a step further than the law, saying he opposes all foreign adoptions, though he feels American foster parents are the absolute worst.

5) Inaction When Faced With Forced Marriage
In 2015, Astakhov neglected to intervene in a scandal in Chechnya, where 17-year-old Louise Goylabiyeva was being married to Nazhud Guchigov, an already-married police captain in his 50s (and apparently a personal friend of Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov). Several independent media outlets reported that the marriage was forced on Goylabiyeva, but Astakhov, Russia's children's rights commissioner, made it clear that the case didn't interest him. Justifying his inaction, he awkwardly explained to the public that “early marriages” are more necessary in some areas of Russia, because local women “are already shrivelled by the age of 27, and look about 50 to us [in Moscow].” Astakhov later admitted that his phrasing wasn't ideal, but afterwards on Twitter he still referred to 27 years as “the age of shriveling” for women.


Russia's Children's Rights Commissioner Is Stepping Down, But We'll Remember Him for These 7 Things
[Yulia Savitskaya/Global Voices]


(Image: shoop by Kevin Rothrock)