Purnima Anand, President of BRICS International Forum: Russia is a new model of democracy

The decline of the West and the rise of Russia. A point of view from India

It is already clear that the era of the West is coming to an end. What can Russia offer against such a development, and why does the world, tired of Western dictatorship, has its eyes on Russia? Pravda.Ru special correspondent Daria Aslamova asked these questions to Purnima Anand, President of the BRICS International Forum.

Good afternoon, Mrs. Anand, I would like to introduce you to our viewers as you are a very famous woman, President of the International Forum of BRICS. You are involved in the elections activity as an observer in Russian elections, including in Russia's new territories.

Russian elections are very important, Russia is creating new model of democratic values. According to the European model, the new Russian territories are not legally working, but they are saving people in the regions of Ukraine, It mans that Russia is saving these democratic values that are not recognised by the European Union, the United States — by the current system that was formed after WWII. Now we are moving towards a new model that has been developing in Russia and its new four regions. I think this is a very good revolution because people can select their country, where people can think about their sovereignty, and where they can survive with their own tradition, culture and history. This is particularly important for the people in the first place, not for the government, and I hope that we will soon see in the future that people get more power and democracy.

Western leaders call Russia a dictatorship. How can you respond to them?

They have their own system, and if some people or countries do not fit into their system, so they speak against them. They can only understand their own model, but not problems of other countries. Russia is having its own geographic and cultural issues, Russia has its own internal culture and traditions that are not commonplace in Europe. When they say to other countries that they are not democracies — this is not right. Other countries follow their own interests, and this is one of the reasons why President Putin has been successful again and again. People unite around such leaders and they believe that their leadership is right. I have visited many regions of Russia and many cities, and I could see that people were happy living there. They have their jobs, good education, good rights to speak in municipalities, they can tell government structures about their needs, and municipalities fulfil their needs. People have their own values, they hold their regional events, historic festivals, cultural programs devoted to Afanasy Nikitin, for example.

You served as an observer in elections in Russian new territories in the Donbass. Can you tell us what kind of experience you had there?

I received an invitation to go to Donbass, because international observers were actively discussing the crisis in the Ukrainian regions. When we had a chance to observe the referendа in the four new regions, I decided to take the chance. I was the only observer from India. It was a difficult journey because we had to travel by cars for many kilometres. I can tell you the situation about how people live there. We stayed in a very beautiful and good hotel, we had dinner there. When we left the hotel and went to another place, the front side of the hotel was bombed. We could feel what it was like for the people to live there. This is a very critical situation for them, of course. I salute to the people of those four regions, to mothers, children — all people. Most of the young men there joined the army, and their women live without their husbands and sons. They live in danger all the time.

Where exactly did you work as an election observer?

We visited several election stations, they were mostly schools. They decorated the stations with balloons, they were dancing there — we were celebrating a democratic process of elections. We believe in the Russian Federation. That was a message that I got. We arrived at another polling station when it was closing. One man came with his small son, he voted and gave his ballot to his child to drop the ballot in the ballot box. After voting, me and my colleague asked the man why he wanted his son to put the ballot into the ballot box. The man gave a very good answer. He said: "I believe in the Russian Federation, I believe in the next generation. We do not know whether we are going to survive today, but we give this opportunity to the next generation to sustain democracy here. They prepare their small children for the future.

Did you go to other new territories?

Yes, I visited Kherson, Crimea. Observers from the European Union also came with us. They were independent media representatives, not official EU observers. There were people from France, from Germany, for example.

I understand that you were also an organiser of an international group of non-European observers on political elections.

I got this opportunity in the beginning of 2018, in March, when the Russian presidential election was happening. There were incidents at the time, because they did not want President Putin to win the elections. The Russian government invited EU observers for the election. They refused to come. The Russian government initiated a new idea to invite new independent observers from India, Africa and other regions of the world. That was my first experience as a political observer in the Russian Federation. Then we had our own group developed. We believe that the European Union has no right to intervene in elections. We went to a number of small countries in Africa, like Congo and Madagascar. We took part in their election processes. We developed a parallel system there. EU observers were present there too, and so were we. This is a whole new initiative because the European Union is now not the only agency that can send its international observers to all countries of the world. Now there is a parallel organisation. We have the African Union, our own groups and EU groups as well. This is more balanced and more honest.

It is indeed strange that the European Union acts as a monopoly in international elections, because other countries do not get such an opportunity to observe elections in other countries. This is against democracy.

Very true. This is why we created a balance.

Are you going to Russia soon to act as an independent observer too?

Yes, I will be part of the Civil Organisation that has just been created by the presidential decree. They invited us and representatives of about 50 other countries too — Brazil, South Africa, many African countries, CIS countries as well. I would like to visit the new four regions of Russia again to see what changes have been happening there, and how people value their democratic process.

It appears to me that if Western or European officials listened to you they would assume that you are a victim of the Russian propaganda.

In fact, they are listening. They criticise us, but at the same time their criticism means that we are important for them. Whatever remarks they may give to us — good or bad — this is their prerogative. Yet, they understand that there is somebody rising. This is very important. We are on the same platform of democracy with them.

Where exactly are you going in Russia, in which region?

I hope I will go to Crimea. I visited the region three times before. One time I went there for elections, I visited Crimea on the way to Kherson, and then I visited it against for an economic forum. I have been observing the election process since 2014. Crimea is a very important region indeed. It gives a new model of peace and development. After WWII three leaders gathered in Crimea to discuss the future of the world. Crimea is a very important region at this point. Crimea is a new model of democracy for me. After WWII, three leaders of the world sat in the Crimea Palace — Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. They sat there to develop a new model of democracy and civilisation. However, today, the EU is led to believe that whatever they decide is final. They do not think about Africa, Asia, CIS. There is no balance here, because they should listen to everybody. Today, there are other countries rising, the BRICS has become a lot more important than it used to be. The BRICS countries stand for a very large geographical area and large population numbers. Those countries were not united before, they were living up to the UN model. Today, the countries that do not get a place in the United Nations — they join BRICS. This is another parallel system, which is very important to realise. We are working to develop a balance in politics and economy.

Does it mean that BRICS is a new model of democracy in the world as well?

Yes, it does. The BRICS model is based on the human-centric development. In the previous model, there was a government-oriented model only, when it is governments that control the people. Now BRICS says that it is equality and sovereignty that is important in the first place. This is very hard work, but we need to succeed. BRICS needs to grow for the future. We all have different civilisation patterns — different traditions, different languages, currency, religion, different law and so on. It is very difficult to put everything in one basket. We have one target, though — this is human-centric development — to give support to every person. Every person needs to have their rights, and our government rule is not to exploit people for the sake of money roads, construction, infrastructure. Every person should be a partner and stakeholder in the development process. I believe that BRICS economy will take care of this. We raise this point every time we join conferences and seminars, because this is the basis of the BRICS development.

BRICS is a successful political platform, but it does have many economic problems. We do not have common currency, we have difficulties with making payments. How can we resolve this?

If you want to change something, you need to see the light. You then move towards that light. You are right when you say that the BRICS is more successful politically. The political motivation is higher. Economic development is the next stage. However, I do not agree with your comment. BRICS is not highlighting political stages — BRICS is active on the economic side too. After Covid and the Ukraine crisis, we have been working on new rules of trade. We are trying to develop non-dollar payments. We are trying to make payments with our local currencies. This is happening owing to the BRICS model. Before that, all countries had to exchange their money into dollars before payments could be wired to other countries, and they had to pay more for that. Today, if two countries want to pay to each other, they can skip the dollar part. This is a result of the BRICS economic model. BRICS economy is taking shape, and other countries can see it. If they have no chance to join the World Trade Organisation, they want to join BRICS, because they feel that they can have their own space for trade and development within BRICS. They will have space for new technologies, innovative clusters and so on. Therefore, I feel that the BRICS economic part is just as important as the political part.

As you were in Crimea at the 2014 referendum, do you remember people's feelings there as they were voting in the referendum to become part of Russia?

Yes, the people were very happy. They came to that point by overcoming so many hardships and killings. When the referendum finally took place, people were very happy, they were looking for a better future for their children, for their safety, security and peaceful development. I was present there when President Putin gifted that Crimean Bridge, the bridge of prosperity. It was a historic and also economic package that was given to Crimea. I believe that the people of Crimea are having progress now, but other four regions are still having problems with all the shelling and bombings.

Do you think that there will be another Yalta conference after the hot phase of this conflict is over? Do you think there will be a new agreement between the West and Russia?

There will be a new development, of course. A peaceful agreement between Ukraine and Russia will happen, and it will be a historic moment for Russia because the oppression will be completed and the peaceful mission will be completed.

Why does Russia take such an important place in your life? Why did you decide to go to Russia to become an international observer?

Russia has such a long history, just like India. After India gained independence, Russia has been very supportive of India under all circumstances. Russia has always been by India side, whether we were going through wars or economic problems. Russia has contributed greatly to India's defence too. Today we feel that whatever is happening in the Russian Federation is right, because Russia has always been on the side of humanity. This has been the case in world history, as during the Second World War, and it remains so in the current situation too. If you think about Russia and all of the sanctions that it has to deal with today, it is only because the West still believes in its own monopoly on everything. Yet, Russia is now a strong country that can respond to them: it is not only your side, there are other sides there too. That is why so many countries stand with Russia. It's not only political, but also economic support. Russia has the support of such countries as China and India. Russia has new friends now in the eastern world.

Thank you very much.

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Author`s name Daria Aslamova
Editor Dmitry Sudakov