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Russian Regional Political Activists Visit U.S. Ahead of Upcoming Elections
April 1, 2003

For Immediate Release
PR: 03-008

Library of Congress-based OPEN WORLD Program Brings Russian Civic and Political Leaders to the U.S. to Discuss Political Activism

Washington, DC – The role of civic groups and political parties in supporting democracy will be the focus of a ten-day visit to the U.S. by eight Russian political and NGO leaders that begins today in Washington, DC. The Russian delegation is hosted in Washington DC and Annapolis, Maryland by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) as part of the OPEN WORLD exchange program managed by the Center for Russian Leadership Development at the Library of Congress.

OPEN WORLD is the only exchange program housed in the legislative branch of the U.S. Government. The program brings emerging decision-makers and opinion-leaders from all of Russia’s 89 regions for a firsthand look at the U.S. democratic process.

The delegation represents a cross section of Russian regional civic and political activists from the Urals mountain region, combining the leaders of two of Russia’s pro-democracy parties, and representatives of non-governmental organizations promoting voters’ rights.

Among the delegates are the Leader of the Sverdlovsk Regional Branch of the Yabloko Party, Yury Kuznetsov; Deputy Chairman of the Sverdlovsk Regional Branch of the Union of the Right Forces Anatoly Batov; Chief Advisor to the Russian Federation Presidential Envoy to the Urals Federal District, Ilya Gorfinkel; Executive Director of The VOICE Association for Voters’ Rights Liliya Shibanova; Chairman of the youth NGO Legal Consciousness in the Chelyabinsk Region, Alexey Sevastyanov; and others.

"With parliamentary and presidential elections in Russia scheduled for December 2003 and March 2004 respectively, we are eager to discuss with our American counterparts methods for deterring election fraud, educating citizens and encouraging participation in the political process," said Liliya Shibanova, Executive Director of The VOICE Association. "In this way, we hope to improve VOICE’s efforts in Russia to monitor these upcoming elections," she added.

During their visit, the Russian participants of the OPEN WORLD Program will meet with U.S. officials, activists and political and civic experts, including representatives of Common Cause, the Maryland State Board of Elections, The League of Conservation Voters and the Washington DC City Administration and Council.

The host of the delegation, NDI, is a nonprofit organization working to strengthen and expand democracy worldwide. Calling on a global network of volunteer experts, NDI provides practical assistance to civic and political leaders advancing democratic values, practices and institutions. NDI works with democrats in every region of the world to build political and civic organizations, safeguard elections, and promote citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.

"We have been a proud partner of the OPEN WORLD Program for more than three years," said NDI Senior Advisor Laura Jewett. "NDI has worked to support democratic activists in Russia since the early 1990s. By exposing Russian delegations to the US experience, we hope to reinforce that assistance with concrete models of American civic and political organizing," Jewett continued.

"We hope the U.S. experience – our successes and failures along the way – can help Russia build a transparent society based on the rule of law," said Geraldine Otremba, Executive Director of the Center for Russian Leadership Development. "The response we have received from U.S. hosts and Russian participants shows that this exchange is forging a deeper understanding between political and civic leaders in Russia and the U.S. – a relationship that will ultimately benefit us all."

Previously known as the Russian Leadership Program, OPEN WORLD is designed to foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and the Russian Federation and to work with Russian leaders as they implement democratic and economic reforms. OPEN WORLD participants range from State Duma deputies to small-town mayors, from innovative nonprofit directors to experienced journalists, and from political party activists to regional administrators. Over 6,000 OPEN WORLD visitors from Russia have been hosted by 50 states since the program’s inception.

For more information, please contact PBN’s Katya Sedova at 202-466-6210, NDI’s Tammy Lynch at 202-728-5686, or visit the OPEN WORLD website at