(MOSCOW) Shortly after meeting with President Obama in Moscow today, Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov told RFE/RL that "Russian democracy is our problem, not America's."
"Liberating Russia from this corrupt bureaucracy is not Obama's obligation, it is ours. This is our battle," he said during an exclusive interview at RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. "Nevertheless, as the president of the biggest democracy in the world, he has to speak about democracy. And President Obama did so in a clear way."
Nemtsov, an outspoken critic of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, served as Deputy Prime Minister under Boris Yeltsin from 1997-98 and is co-chairman of the Russian opposition group Solidarity. In today's meeting, he said, "President Obama got an accurate view of the difficulties faced by the Russian opposition and civil society."
"There are more voices than Medvedev and Putin," said Nemtsov. "Meetings with NGOs and civil society leaders can also be useful and helpful for the Russian-American relationship."
"Dividing civil society from the Kremlin is a good strategy," he said.
President Obama's hour-long meeting with Nemtsov included civil society representatives and other opposition leaders such as former world chess champion Gary Kasparov, Sergei Mitrokhin of the liberal Yabloko party and Gennady Zyuganov of the Communist party.
During the meeting, Nemtsov said he presented Obama with four reports documenting corruption at the highest levels of the Russian government.
"Corruption in Russia is not a problem - it's a system," he said.
In addition to his interview with RFE/RL's Russian Service, Nemtsov took questions from journalists and policymakers in a teleconference arranged through RFE/RL's Washington, DC office.
-In today's Wall Street Journal (July 7), Nemtsov urges President Obama not to abandon Russian democrats.
-"Obama Wades Into Russian Politics" (July 6), by RFE/RL Senior Correspondent Brian Whitmore
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RFE/RL's Russian Service is the leading international broadcaster in Russia, with non-stop coverage and a nationwide network of correspondents. A highly influential media outlet during the breakup of the Soviet Union, the Russian Service today continues to provide wide-ranging news and analysis under the slogan "local radio with a worldwide perspective."