Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Analysts predict grim outlook for the future of the Russian economy

Oct 28 2015

On October 26, 2015, at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, a panel discussion occurred centering around the future of the Russian economy and more specifically the large energy sector.

Featured at the event were Olga Oliker, head of the Russia and Eurasia Program at CSIS, Vladimir Milov of the Institute for Energy Policy, Ilya Ponomarev, the exiled State Duma MP and the only Duma MP to vote against the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Ilya Zaslavskiy of Chatham House, and Sergey Aleksashenko of the Brookings Institution. Both Olga Oliker and Jeff Mankoff of CSIS thanked Free Russia Foundation for the idea of the event and invitation of leading Russian experts as panelists.

Vladimir Milov stressed the redundancies of the statements issued by Russian state officials regarding the state of the economy. The Russian economy, already under some strain from low oil prices, mismanagement, and international sanctions, could be headed for even harder times. Milov claimed there was no clear view for improvement of the economy when the sharp decline in domestic demand and consumer purchasing power wasn’t showing signs of improvement. Even in the 1990s, widely regarded both within and beyond the Russian borders as a time of runaway corruption, economic destruction, and weakness, domestic demand and consumer purchasing power was able to rebound.

Real wages and pensions in Russia are sharply declining due to the weak rouble. Low oil prices, by contrast, while certainly part of the equation, may not be as large a part of the economic decline as previously thought. The recession in 2008 also featured a large drop in oil prices, but back then the rouble was stable and there were no international sanctions to speak of.

Russia is also in an international credit rut. Today, in contrast to the economic problems in 2008, banks are much more cautious to lend money to Russia and Russians, even those who are not included on sanctions lists.

“We do not know who Russia will invade tomorrow”. Milov said referring to this reluctant mood.

Are these problems here to stay? It is often argued that a removal or phasing out of sanctions could give the economy a much-needed jump start, but the problems plaguing the Russian economy may be more deeply rooted than previously speculated. Further shocks to the rouble’s stability, already weak, could happen in the future and Russia’s service, industrial, and manufacturing sectors, while still operating very close to their pre-sanctions capability, could be forced to downsize in the future. State authorities, Milov claimed, had implicitly instructed these sectors to stay the course until things calm down.

Whether that stability will come is another question. Domestic car sales, for instance, have plummeted by 40 percent.

In Russia’s large energy sector, things also look grim. Oil fields in Western Siberia are depleted. Growth at the tip of the iceberg, in terms of smaller oil companies, is still present but not very substantial. Large companies with state investment such as Rosneft and Lukoil are starting to shrink.

Milov compared the situation to a matryoshka doll, in that the energy sector’s outlook seems to become progressively worse the further in it is examined.

How does Russia reverse this? The answer is simple-more drilling and investment, but the Kremlin’s look towards heavier taxes and overall under-financing of the industry could hurt that hope substantially. A similar policy, with similarly negative results, was undertaken by the Kremlin in the late 1980s under Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

Budget spending could also be a liability down the road. The Kremlin wants to keep the budget where it is according to Milov, but they’re going to need more money to do that, and they may have to get it from taxes levied on the energy sector. If that happens, there’s a large possibility of the oil industry, still in the black at the moment, to fall into the red.

The federal budgets in 2012 and 2013 were allegedly geared to benefit wealthy Russians rather than teachers and healthcare workers

When asked about his analysis, Mr. Milov stressed the overall atmosphere of uncertainty. In addition to higher taxes becoming a concrete policy enacted by Moscow, the idea of printing more money is also allegedly being mulled by the Kremlin. Over the last ten years, the Kremlin has stressed state investment as the primary way to grow the Russian economy. Unfortunately, since 2008, that growth has been minimal or nonexistent. It’s not corruption to blame, but what Milov claimed was “sunken capital”. Russia’s far eastern regions, for instance in the city of Vladivostok, have seen extensive projects with little use or benefit.

Next to speak was former A Just Russia State Duma MP Ilya Ponomarev. Mr. Ponomarev was exiled and branded as a traitor to his country when he became the lone MP to vote against the March 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Ponomarev, a far-left politician, began his remarks by claiming that the economic crisis in Russia didn’t start with the War in Eastern Ukraine, but the presidential election in 2012. Russia’s social safety net infrastructure, in addition to the public sector’s health, was not very good. The federal budgets in 2012 and 2013 were allegedly geared to benefit wealthy Russians rather than teachers and healthcare workers, Ponomarev explained. As a result, the regions became over-saturated with expenses they couldn’t pay for.

Ponomarev once represented the well-off city of Novosibirsk, Russia’s third largest city and the largest in Russia’s vast Asian region. Novosibirsk was well-off in terms of small business, but in the last few years has suffered from a much-smaller-than-needed budget, “Going from profitable to inept in one year” as he said. Capital expenditures ground to a screeching halt, hurting the regional economies and consumer confidence.

The perception of Siberians and Russians from the eastern areas also changed, he said, from good, loyal producers to “beggars, jumping high to receive subsidies”. To make matters worse, regional debt skyrocketed as well as interest, and state banks were unable to refinance or provide money to remedy the sick economy. Prices also increased.

Rather than blaming the incompetence or mismanagement undertaken by the government, Russia’s extensive media controls drove the blame towards the United States and Ukraine, or as Mr. Ponomarev phrased it, “Bloody America and the fascist Kyiv junta”.

This might be slowly but surely changing. Support for the War in Eastern Ukraine, once as high as 70 percent, has dropped to around 50%. On this subject, Mr. Ponomarev claimed that it would continue to drop but that protests were unlikely. Unlike the introductory speaker, he said that economic problems didn’t create social unrest in Russia on their own, even if they sometimes laid a foundation for it. Pension reform in the 2000s created nearly spontaneous large protests, some bigger than the infamous Bolotnaya protests, and the government had to step in and pump money back into the system to calm things down. In 1998, when Russia defaulted and the rouble was near worthless, protests were scattered at most.

What’s the political impact? Regional elections aren’t looking super hopeful for the ruling United Russia party. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation is gaining momentum in Siberia, even winning in Irkutsk, another comparably well-off region. Change, if it is to come, will happen in the developed regions rather than the depressed ones. United Russia will likely keep its majority but lose some seats in the 2016 Duma elections as opportunity pops up on the left side of Russian politics, but whether democratic forces will come into some power is still very much questionable.

The Kremlin seems stuck on ideas and proposals that the other members of the Eurasian Economic Union  are not interested in

Ilya Zaslavskiy of Chatham House suggested Russia may take advice from Iran and Belarus to relieve its economic rut, namely, to reach small but pivotal agreements with the United States and European Union while keeping the broad overall policies and rhetoric intact. Russia’s energy sector, however, has no clear policy to remedy its problems despite a lot of talk of closer ties with China and the chilling effect will remain a thorn in Russia’s side. The “obsessions” of “building pipelines around Ukraine and the new friendship with China” sound like the same old mistakes as the proposed North Stream may be delayed or cancelled if the EU does not choose to cooperate, and not many binding agreements have been made with the Chinese despite extensive effort and talks. Chinese banks have not been loaning Russia as much money as originally hoped.

To distract from that, Mr. Zaslavskiy floated the idea of another area of tension between Russia and the West: Central Asia. The Kremlin seems stuck on ideas and proposals that the other members of the Eurasian Economic Union (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Belarus) are not interested in. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are both facing looming succession crises to their longtime strongman leaders Nursultan Nazarbayev and Islom Karimov, who are 75 and 77 respectively. In addition, Kyrgyzstan seems to be drifting towards a pro-Kremlin autocracy after flirting with democracy, and Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are under threats from the jihadist group Islamic State and its affiliates. Closer to home, the Kremlin is mulling the construction of a military base in Belarus and may decide to “protect its interests” in Moldova, where protests reminiscent of Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution are taking place.

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Like Mr. Ponomarev, Sergey Aleksashenko of the Brookings Institution was insistent that Russia’s economic problems have been festering since before the Ukrainian Conflict. He stressed the drop in investment and scathingly criticized the current administration, claiming Putin “destroyed the federation” by 2004 and “Humiliated property rights and the electoral process”.

At the same time, Aleksashenko firmly stated that despite the fact that the Russian economy was not going to collapse any time soon, prospects of growth looked grim. Many Russians point to the large growth the Russian economy saw during Putin’s first two terms in office, but the truth is that those seven years of growth have been followed by eight years of stagnation and decline. Furthermore, the Russian government’s use of reserve funds to prop up the rouble and the budget could have disastrous consequences. Even the usual refrains of bolstering the social safety net, long a campaign promise of many of the large Russian political parties, may be discarded in next year’s Duma elections.

By Kyle Menyhert

 

Featured at the event were Olga Oliker, head of the Russia and Eurasia Program at CSIS, Vladimir Milov of the Institute for Energy Policy, Ilya Ponomarev, the exiled State Duma MP and the only Duma MP to vote against the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Ilya Zaslavskiy of Chatham House, and Sergey Aleksashenko of the Brookings Institution. Both Olga Oliker and Jeff Mankoff of CSIS thanked Free Russia Foundation for the idea of the event and invitation of leading Russian experts as panelists.

Vladimir Milov stressed the redundancies of the statements issued by Russian state officials regarding the state of the economy. The Russian economy, already under some strain from low oil prices, mismanagement, and international sanctions, could be headed for even harder times. Milov claimed there was no clear view for improvement of the economy when the sharp decline in domestic demand and consumer purchasing power wasn’t showing signs of improvement. Even in the 1990s, widely regarded both within and beyond the Russian borders as a time of runaway corruption, economic destruction, and weakness, domestic demand and consumer purchasing power was able to rebound.

Real wages and pensions in Russia are sharply declining due to the weak rouble. Low oil prices, by contrast, while certainly part of the equation, may not be as large a part of the economic decline as previously thought. The recession in 2008 also featured a large drop in oil prices, but back then the rouble was stable and there were no international sanctions to speak of.

Russia is also in an international credit rut. Today, in contrast to the economic problems in 2008, banks are much more cautious to lend money to Russia and Russians, even those who are not included on sanctions lists.

“We do not know who Russia will invade tomorrow”. Milov said referring to this reluctant mood.

Are these problems here to stay? It is often argued that a removal or phasing out of sanctions could give the economy a much-needed jump start, but the problems plaguing the Russian economy may be more deeply rooted than previously speculated. Further shocks to the rouble’s stability, already weak, could happen in the future and Russia’s service, industrial, and manufacturing sectors, while still operating very close to their pre-sanctions capability, could be forced to downsize in the future. State authorities, Milov claimed, had implicitly instructed these sectors to stay the course until things calm down.

Whether that stability will come is another question. Domestic car sales, for instance, have plummeted by 40 percent.

In Russia’s large energy sector, things also look grim. Oil fields in Western Siberia are depleted. Growth at the tip of the iceberg, in terms of smaller oil companies, is still present but not very substantial. Large companies with state investment such as Rosneft and Lukoil are starting to shrink.

Milov compared the situation to a matryoshka doll, in that the energy sector’s outlook seems to become progressively worse the further in it is examined.

How does Russia reverse this? The answer is simple-more drilling and investment, but the Kremlin’s look towards heavier taxes and overall under-financing of the industry could hurt that hope substantially. A similar policy, with similarly negative results, was undertaken by the Kremlin in the late 1980s under Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

Budget spending could also be a liability down the road. The Kremlin wants to keep the budget where it is according to Milov, but they’re going to need more money to do that, and they may have to get it from taxes levied on the energy sector. If that happens, there’s a large possibility of the oil industry, still in the black at the moment, to fall into the red.

The federal budgets in 2012 and 2013 were allegedly geared to benefit wealthy Russians rather than teachers and healthcare workers

When asked about his analysis, Mr. Milov stressed the overall atmosphere of uncertainty. In addition to higher taxes becoming a concrete policy enacted by Moscow, the idea of printing more money is also allegedly being mulled by the Kremlin. Over the last ten years, the Kremlin has stressed state investment as the primary way to grow the Russian economy. Unfortunately, since 2008, that growth has been minimal or nonexistent. It’s not corruption to blame, but what Milov claimed was “sunken capital”. Russia’s far eastern regions, for instance in the city of Vladivostok, have seen extensive projects with little use or benefit.

Next to speak was former A Just Russia State Duma MP Ilya Ponomarev. Mr. Ponomarev was exiled and branded as a traitor to his country when he became the lone MP to vote against the March 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Ponomarev, a far-left politician, began his remarks by claiming that the economic crisis in Russia didn’t start with the War in Eastern Ukraine, but the presidential election in 2012. Russia’s social safety net infrastructure, in addition to the public sector’s health, was not very good. The federal budgets in 2012 and 2013 were allegedly geared to benefit wealthy Russians rather than teachers and healthcare workers, Ponomarev explained. As a result, the regions became over-saturated with expenses they couldn’t pay for.

Ponomarev once represented the well-off city of Novosibirsk, Russia’s third largest city and the largest in Russia’s vast Asian region. Novosibirsk was well-off in terms of small business, but in the last few years has suffered from a much-smaller-than-needed budget, “Going from profitable to inept in one year” as he said. Capital expenditures ground to a screeching halt, hurting the regional economies and consumer confidence.

The perception of Siberians and Russians from the eastern areas also changed, he said, from good, loyal producers to “beggars, jumping high to receive subsidies”. To make matters worse, regional debt skyrocketed as well as interest, and state banks were unable to refinance or provide money to remedy the sick economy. Prices also increased.

Rather than blaming the incompetence or mismanagement undertaken by the government, Russia’s extensive media controls drove the blame towards the United States and Ukraine, or as Mr. Ponomarev phrased it, “Bloody America and the fascist Kyiv junta”.

This might be slowly but surely changing. Support for the War in Eastern Ukraine, once as high as 70 percent, has dropped to around 50%. On this subject, Mr. Ponomarev claimed that it would continue to drop but that protests were unlikely. Unlike the introductory speaker, he said that economic problems didn’t create social unrest in Russia on their own, even if they sometimes laid a foundation for it. Pension reform in the 2000s created nearly spontaneous large protests, some bigger than the infamous Bolotnaya protests, and the government had to step in and pump money back into the system to calm things down. In 1998, when Russia defaulted and the rouble was near worthless, protests were scattered at most.

What’s the political impact? Regional elections aren’t looking super hopeful for the ruling United Russia party. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation is gaining momentum in Siberia, even winning in Irkutsk, another comparably well-off region. Change, if it is to come, will happen in the developed regions rather than the depressed ones. United Russia will likely keep its majority but lose some seats in the 2016 Duma elections as opportunity pops up on the left side of Russian politics, but whether democratic forces will come into some power is still very much questionable.

The Kremlin seems stuck on ideas and proposals that the other members of the Eurasian Economic Union  are not interested in

Ilya Zaslavskiy of Chatham House suggested Russia may take advice from Iran and Belarus to relieve its economic rut, namely, to reach small but pivotal agreements with the United States and European Union while keeping the broad overall policies and rhetoric intact. Russia’s energy sector, however, has no clear policy to remedy its problems despite a lot of talk of closer ties with China and the chilling effect will remain a thorn in Russia’s side. The “obsessions” of “building pipelines around Ukraine and the new friendship with China” sound like the same old mistakes as the proposed North Stream may be delayed or cancelled if the EU does not choose to cooperate, and not many binding agreements have been made with the Chinese despite extensive effort and talks. Chinese banks have not been loaning Russia as much money as originally hoped.

To distract from that, Mr. Zaslavskiy floated the idea of another area of tension between Russia and the West: Central Asia. The Kremlin seems stuck on ideas and proposals that the other members of the Eurasian Economic Union (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, and Belarus) are not interested in. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are both facing looming succession crises to their longtime strongman leaders Nursultan Nazarbayev and Islom Karimov, who are 75 and 77 respectively. In addition, Kyrgyzstan seems to be drifting towards a pro-Kremlin autocracy after flirting with democracy, and Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are under threats from the jihadist group Islamic State and its affiliates. Closer to home, the Kremlin is mulling the construction of a military base in Belarus and may decide to “protect its interests” in Moldova, where protests reminiscent of Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution are taking place.

766435346

Like Mr. Ponomarev, Sergey Aleksashenko of the Brookings Institution was insistent that Russia’s economic problems have been festering since before the Ukrainian Conflict. He stressed the drop in investment and scathingly criticized the current administration, claiming Putin “destroyed the federation” by 2004 and “Humiliated property rights and the electoral process”.

At the same time, Aleksashenko firmly stated that despite the fact that the Russian economy was not going to collapse any time soon, prospects of growth looked grim. Many Russians point to the large growth the Russian economy saw during Putin’s first two terms in office, but the truth is that those seven years of growth have been followed by eight years of stagnation and decline. Furthermore, the Russian government’s use of reserve funds to prop up the rouble and the budget could have disastrous consequences. Even the usual refrains of bolstering the social safety net, long a campaign promise of many of the large Russian political parties, may be discarded in next year’s Duma elections.

By Kyle Menyhert

 

Statement of Free Russia Foundation Condemning the Massive Missile Strike on Ukrainian Territory

Oct 10 2022

On the morning of October 10, the Russian military launched missile strikes against Ukrainian cities. They targeted Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskyi, Ternopil, Lviv, Zhytomyr, Kremenchuk, Kryvyi Rih, Konotop, Odessa, Rivne, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Poltava. According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, more than 80 rockets were fired at the territory of Ukraine. A total of eleven people were killed and dozens were injured.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the strikes were carried out strictly against military, communications, and energy facilities in Ukraine. This is not true: museums, philharmonic halls, business centers, residential buildings, parks, and public transport stops are not military targets. One video circulated on social media shows a huge shell crater on a children’s playground. Fear, death and destruction have once again come to the capital of Ukraine. This is yet another demonstration of the Kremlin’s absolute cruelty and Vladimir Putin’s determination to continue his inhuman war against the sovereign state and its people.

We are deeply shocked by today’s large-scale missile attacks of the Russian Armed Forces on Ukrainian cities, which have caused widespread damage and resulted in the death and injury of many innocent people. We mourn the victims and express our sincere condolences to all Ukrainians who have suffered today. 

The Russian Federation’s escalation of war in Ukraine is unacceptable and must cease immediately. We call on world leaders, governments, and international human rights organizations to pressure the Kremlin to stop attacks on civilian infrastructure, withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine, and resume diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the war. We also demand that Vladimir Putin and all those involved in today’s attack be prosecuted for war crimes.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Human Rights Activists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. A Congratulatory Letter from Free Russia Foundation

Oct 07 2022

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties, Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, and Russia’s Memorial HRC.

The Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties is engaged in promoting human rights and democracy in the country, assistance programs for “Kremlin prisoners” — Ukrainian political detainees held in Russian jails, investigation of war crimes, tracing missing citizens, and providing assistance to thousands of Ukrainians affected by the war unleashed by the Putin regime.

Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democratic movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s. He devoted his entire life to the promotion of democracy and peace in his country. The Human Rights Center ” Viasna,” which he founded in 1996, collected information about those detained at the protests and torture in detention centers, provided help to the victims of law enforcement excesses.

Memorial, Russia’s most important human rights organization, was founded in 1987 by a group of likeminded activists who wanted to commemorate the victims of Soviet-era political repression. Members of the movement created a complex of sites dedicated to the victims of repression, and held demonstrations, exhibitions, and seminars on the subject of state terror. The first chairman of Memorial’s board was Andrei Sakharov, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

In announcing the winners, Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, stated that “the Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power.”

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation, in congratulating her fellow human rights activists on their award, noted that the protection of civil liberties should be the space that can still unite the citizens of post-Soviet countries, dragged by the will of one man into the most grievous of conflicts.

“I welcome the decision of the Nobel Committee and salute all the laureates for the recognition of their merits. The award goes to people who embody not only the struggle for truth and justice, but also the very fundamental notion of freedom. It is also an indication of the plight of civil society in our countries, divided by the will of one man and now separated by history for decades to come. Just look at where we are today: the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, headed by Oleksandra Matviychuk, has been investigating the thousands of war crimes committed by Putin’s army on Ukrainian soil since February; Viasna, Belarus’ leading human rights organization, has been demolished, with Ales Bialiatski and many of its staff arrested; Memorial has been fined and liquidated, its assets have been seized by the authorities, and its team has been forced to flee the country. But I believe that we will not allow this regime to finally destroy our lives and the historical destinies of our peoples. Protecting basic human rights is still the space that unites us in 2022. I congratulate you, colleagues! Peace, freedom, and justice to our countries!”

Free Russia Foundation Condemns Expansion of Charges Under the Politically-Motivated Criminal Prosecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza and Demands His Immediate Release

Oct 06 2022

Today, Russian media outlets have reported that new charges of high treason (Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code) have been filed against opposition politician, human rights activist, and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Vladimir Kara-Murza’s attorney Vadim Prokhorov confirmed that the charges of state treason have been filed against the politician on three counts. They allege speeches criticizing the Russian authorities at public events in Lisbon, Portugal; Oslo, Norway; and Washington, DC. According to the lawyer, the speeches, that indeed took place, posed no threat to the security of Russia, on the contrary, they were aimed at protecting the interests of Russia and its citizens and at correcting the current catastrophic situation.

The pro-democracy leader faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Vladimir Kara-Murza has pleaded not guilty.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation, in her comments on the new charges expressed outrage at the illegal prosecution of Kara-Murza.  “Charges of state treason for public speeches are absurd especially with regards to Vladimir, who is globally recognized as a true patriot of Russia and revered for his work in defense of the interest of the Russian people and democratic principles.”

Arno noted that Vladimir Kara-Murza served as Foundation’s Vice President, but was relieved from that position on August 3, 2021. “This decision was made by our board in recognition of the fact that Vladimir had been spending most of his time working in Russia, that was his main focus and his plan,” she explained.

The Foundation considers the criminal case against Vladimir Kara-Murza fabricated and politically motivated, a retribution for his work in support of human rights and his courageous quest against Putin’s autocracy.

“It has been absolutely clear from the very beginning that the detention and persecution of Kara-Murza is part of the wider campaign by the Russian authorities to punish and suppress any dissent,” said Natalia Arno.

“Today, accusations of discrediting the Russian military and participating in activities of an undesirable organization have been further inflated by charged of high treason, one of the most severe criminal offenses that can send a person to prison for decades. Vladimir Kara-Murza is a Russian patriot who has fought for many years for a prosperous future for his country. For this, the Kremlin tried to kill him twice, but, having failed to achieve its aim, arrested him and is now persecuting him on false charges that could lead to years of unjust imprisonment.

This is a tragic case  that shows us the ways Vladimir Putin’s dictatorial regime is suppressing all opposition in order to sow fear among Russians and remain in power at any cost. For years, Vladimir Kara-Murza has been one of the most consistent and determined advocates of democracy and human rights in Russia. His bogus arrest only underscores the importance of the idea of justice for the people of Russia and Ukraine, who have suffered too long from the actions of the Kremlin kleptocracy.” Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, considers the charges against Vladimir Kara-Murza unjust and politically motivated, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. We demand the Russian authorities to stop manipulating the law to achieve false, illusory goals that destroy the very foundations of democracy and international security.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Signing of the Treaty on the “Incorporation of New Territories into Russia,” De Facto the Annexation of the Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Sep 30 2022

On Friday, September 30, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic,” as well as the occupation administrations of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, signed treaties in the Kremlin on “joining Russia.”

Free Russia Foundation strongly condemns the decision of Vladimir Putin and his administration to continue the illegal annexation of the occupied territories in Ukraine. The forcible change of international borders at the expense of another sovereign state and the so-called “referenda” that preceded it are a serious violation of the foundations of international law and cannot be recognized under any circumstances.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation: “Today Vladimir Putin has de facto announced the illegal annexation of the occupied territory of a sovereign state. The signing of this treaty is a blatant violation of the fundamental norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, of which Russia is a member. Such actions by the Russian President, together with previously announced military mobilization and nuclear blackmail, only lead to an escalation of the conflict and new human sacrifices. In the modern world, borders cannot be redrawn at gunpoint. Russia’s actions are illegal and unacceptable to the civilized world.”

Free Russia Foundation, which provides support to Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, calls on all countries and international organizations to join us in resolute and public condemnation of Russian military aggression and its illegal actions to tear away the territory of sovereign Ukraine. We urge you to call on the Kremlin to cease its hostilities and leave the territories it has seized.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Kremlin’s Decision to Annex the Occupied Territories of Ukraine and Preparations for Mobilization in Russia

Sep 20 2022

On September 20, 2022, the occupation authorities of the self-proclaimed republics “LNR” and “DNR” and other occupied territories of Ukraine, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, hastily announced that they would hold “referendums on joining Russia” in the near future. The authorities of the “LNR” and “DNR” added that the vote will take place as early as this week, from September 23 to 27, 2022.

On the same day, the Russian State Duma introduced the concepts of “mobilization,” “martial law” and “wartime” into the Russian Criminal Code. The deputies voted for the law in the third reading unanimously — all 389 of them. Now voluntary surrender, looting and unauthorized abandonment of a unit during combat operations will result in imprisonment.

From the first day of the war unleashed by Putin’s regime and its allies against independent Ukraine, Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights activists forced to leave the country because of direct security threats, has condemned the crimes of Putin’s regime against independent Ukraine. We respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and consider human life and freedom to be of the highest value.

The forthcoming “referendums”, mobilization, and martial law are a collapse of the whole system of “Putin’s stability,” the illusion of which the Kremlin has been trying to maintain since the beginning of the full-scale war with Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is preparing to blatantly violate international law once again and launch an attack on democracy and freedom in Ukraine and Europe. Any statements by the Kremlin that residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine want to become part of Russia are false.

Three decades ago, the Ukrainian people proclaimed the independence of their state. Since 2014, the world has seen that Vladimir Putin has undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and any attempts at anti-war protest in Russia through military force, repressive legislation, false statements, and massive state propaganda. Despite all the suffering inflicted on Ukraine, Putin has failed to achieve this goal: Ukrainians continue to show fortitude and determination to defend their country at any cost, and Russian anti-war resistance continues despite repression.

We consider any attempts to tear away Ukrainian territory through so-called “referendums” categorically unacceptable and call on state institutions and international human rights organizations to join the demand for an immediate end to the war and the liberation of the occupied territories. Any war brings suffering to humanity and endangers peace. We will not allow a totalitarian dictatorship to prevail and we will continue to fight for Ukraine’s independence and Russia’s democratic future.