Zakharova on her participation in Dachniy Otvet: “I accepted present as daughter, not as state official”
The provision of services to relatives of an official is a violation of the ethical code of a civil servant.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, for whom NTV channel has built “a veranda the size of a mansion” as part of a TV show Dachniy Otvet, believes she did not violate any laws.
The video showing NTV employees visiting the summer house of Zakharova’s parents accompanied by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative herself, discussing the details, and then showing the luxurious construction, is available on YouTube. The show was released on December 9. Maria Zakharova and her parents were provided with a separate pavilion a la Russian country estate with a gallery, a balcony, and a dance hall/dining room.
The premises are equipped with antique furniture and a tiled stove, as well as a “smart house” system, which allows warming the floor, opening windows, and turning on the light. Maria Zakharova told The Insider that everything was within the confines of the law, and she had received permission to participate in the program from her superiors.
“I did not hide anything from anyone, steal anything from anyone, nor use any official status. We had submitted applications for participating in the show for many years,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said. According to her, her family loves the TV show, but initially, they did not have any place to invite the journalists; but then her parents purchased the summer house and began to submit their applications.
“Neither the employer nor journalists from various media, who were aware of my participation in the project, expressed suspicion of violation of the ethics of a civil servant,” Zakharova noted.
Video: “Dachniy Otvet”: Aerial veranda for Maria Zakharova’s family
When asked by the publication how she combined participation in the show with a civil servant status, she replied that she acted as a daughter in this case. “This is a summer house of my mom and my dad. What have we done wrong? Should I have given up my parents, or should they have said that I was not their daughter? What should I’ve done? Not take part in the show?” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative resented.
“My life is no different from that of millions of other Russians. I use public transport, I buy products at Pyaterochka, Auchan, Magnit, and we buy everything for repair at Leroy. My clothes are made in Russia. I spend my vacation in Russia... The list goes on. I follow discounts, and there are goods that I can afford and those that I can’t. That’s how I live,” Zakharova explained.
She stressed that she had received permission to participate in the program from her superiors. “I have never received any income in the performance of official duties, except for the salary that the employer gives me every month; I hand over the protocol gifts sent to me to the appropriate structural unit. I don’t take bribes, I return gifts and regularly submit a certificate of property and income,” the MFA spokesperson said.
However, according to Deputy Director General of the Transparency International Russia Center for Anti-Corruption Research Ilya Shumanov, NTV is a public broadcaster, which interacts with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is in some way dependent on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since the agency is a newsmaker. Therefore, Maria Zakharova is in a working relationship with NTV, and the provision of services by the Dachny Otvet TV show to the official’s relatives violates the ethical code of a public civil servant.
Shumanov recalled the notion of “conflict of interest” – it occurs not only when the official, but also their relatives receive gifts and services. He acknowledged that the concept of conflict of interests in Russian legislation is very vague, but according to the recommendations of the Ministry of Labor, in the case with the summer house of Zakharova’s parents, the employer should offer to return the corresponding gift or compensate its cost, if it is impossible to return it.
Жители Российских бараков рады за Марию Захарову и за— Сергей Смирнов (@raratata3) 10 декабря 2018 г.
помогающий " нуждающимся" людям "Дачный ответ"!!!
Семья Марии Захаровой поучаствовала в программе "Дачный ответ" https://t.co/YjgIIsKBX4 pic.twitter.com/In8obwncVv
Caption: Residents of Russian barracks are happy for Maria Zakharova and Dachniy Otvet, helping "needy" people!!!
Maria Zakharova's family takes part in Dachniy Otvet TV show