Boris Nemtsov Plaza Unveiled in Washington, D.C. 

Feb 28 2018

The Boris Nemtsov Plaza was unveiled during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 27. A part of Wisconsin Avenue from Edmunds street to Davis street, directly in front of the Russian Embassy, has officially been renamed in honor of the prominent Russian opposition leader who was shot dead in 2015.

The ceremony was attended by Nemtsov’s friends and family, as well as members of the U.S. Congress, State Department, and DC Council.

Among others who gave speeches during the event were Vladimir Kara-Murza, chairman of Boris Nemtsov Foundation; Boris Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna Nemtsova, and Senator Marco Rubio, who initially introduced legislation to name a street after Nemtsov a year ago.  

Senators Roger Wicker, Chris Coons, and Ron Johnson, who co-sponsored the legislation, spoke at the event. Also present were Assistant Secretary of State for the European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell, Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Eleanor Holmes Norton. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, who introduced a law renaming the street on the local level after the initiative stalled in Congress, spoke at the ceremony. The D.C. Council unanimously passed the law in January 2018.

In her opening statement, Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation, which organized the unveiling ceremony, said everyone present could agree “we wish we never had a reason for this memorial and that Boris Nemtsov would still be with us.” She thanked those gathered at the ceremony “in honor of the life of a man who many of us view as the soul of the Russian pro-democracy movement.”

Kara-Murza of the Nemtsov Foundation said the renamed street is the “first official commemoration of Boris Nemtsov anywhere in the world,” something not possible in Russia. 

Kara-Murza continued, “You have done something more to commemorate Boris Nemtsov,” referring to the recent concession by Moscow authorities to allow activists to put a plaque on the house where Boris Nemtsov lived. After blocking all initiatives to commemorate Nemtsov for three years, Moscow “probably realized how it looks when the U.S. commemorates a Russian statesman while Moscow refuses to do so,” he said.

Kara-Murza said Nemtsov “became the embodiment of a very different Russia” – a free, democratic country that “respects its citizens and lives at peace with the neighbors.” He said Nemtsov gave his life for this and that “the best possible tribute to him, to his legacy, is a free and democratic Russia, and that day will come.”

The former politician’s daughter, Nemtsova, said “two struggles have been unfolding” since the assassination of Nemtsov – a fair investigation of his death and an effort to commemorate him. She noted that unofficial memorials erected by volunteers at Moskvoretky bridge, where Nemtsov was killed, have been removed more than 70 times.  

Senator Rubio said that Nemtsov was “an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and his regime’s  corruption, invasion of Ukraine and that ultimately led him to the tragic fate.  The street sign directly outside of the Russian Embassy serves as an enduring reminder to Vladimir Putin and to those who support him that they cannot use murder, violence, and intimidation to silence the voices of freedom and dissent.”

Rubio added, “We have to stand with thousands of Russians who peacefully protest against corruption and illegitimate elections. It is our hope that one-day Russian people will have leaders who protect the fundamental liberties and freedoms of all their citizens and leaders who will be very proud to have Boris Nemtsov’s name outside of the embassy here in Washington.”

Senator Coons said the legacy of Nemtsov, who helped open the Russian Embassy in Washington DC in 1994, is “a stark reminder of how different a path Russia has taken from that day.” 

D.C. Council member Mery Cheh said that Russian authorities may prevent commemorations of Nemtsov in Russia, but they cannot do it here.

“This commemoration will not be removed. This commemoration will stay here as a symbol to Boris Nemtsov,” Cheh said.

By Valeria Jegisman

The ceremony was attended by Nemtsov’s friends and family, as well as members of the U.S. Congress, State Department, and DC Council.

Among others who gave speeches during the event were Vladimir Kara-Murza, chairman of Boris Nemtsov Foundation; Boris Nemtsov’s daughter Zhanna Nemtsova, and Senator Marco Rubio, who initially introduced legislation to name a street after Nemtsov a year ago.  

Senators Roger Wicker, Chris Coons, and Ron Johnson, who co-sponsored the legislation, spoke at the event. Also present were Assistant Secretary of State for the European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell, Congresswomen Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Eleanor Holmes Norton. D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, who introduced a law renaming the street on the local level after the initiative stalled in Congress, spoke at the ceremony. The D.C. Council unanimously passed the law in January 2018.

In her opening statement, Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation, which organized the unveiling ceremony, said everyone present could agree “we wish we never had a reason for this memorial and that Boris Nemtsov would still be with us.” She thanked those gathered at the ceremony “in honor of the life of a man who many of us view as the soul of the Russian pro-democracy movement.”

Kara-Murza of the Nemtsov Foundation said the renamed street is the “first official commemoration of Boris Nemtsov anywhere in the world,” something not possible in Russia. 

Kara-Murza continued, “You have done something more to commemorate Boris Nemtsov,” referring to the recent concession by Moscow authorities to allow activists to put a plaque on the house where Boris Nemtsov lived. After blocking all initiatives to commemorate Nemtsov for three years, Moscow “probably realized how it looks when the U.S. commemorates a Russian statesman while Moscow refuses to do so,” he said.

Kara-Murza said Nemtsov “became the embodiment of a very different Russia” – a free, democratic country that “respects its citizens and lives at peace with the neighbors.” He said Nemtsov gave his life for this and that “the best possible tribute to him, to his legacy, is a free and democratic Russia, and that day will come.”

The former politician’s daughter, Nemtsova, said “two struggles have been unfolding” since the assassination of Nemtsov – a fair investigation of his death and an effort to commemorate him. She noted that unofficial memorials erected by volunteers at Moskvoretky bridge, where Nemtsov was killed, have been removed more than 70 times.  

Senator Rubio said that Nemtsov was “an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin and his regime’s  corruption, invasion of Ukraine and that ultimately led him to the tragic fate.  The street sign directly outside of the Russian Embassy serves as an enduring reminder to Vladimir Putin and to those who support him that they cannot use murder, violence, and intimidation to silence the voices of freedom and dissent.”

Rubio added, “We have to stand with thousands of Russians who peacefully protest against corruption and illegitimate elections. It is our hope that one-day Russian people will have leaders who protect the fundamental liberties and freedoms of all their citizens and leaders who will be very proud to have Boris Nemtsov’s name outside of the embassy here in Washington.”

Senator Coons said the legacy of Nemtsov, who helped open the Russian Embassy in Washington DC in 1994, is “a stark reminder of how different a path Russia has taken from that day.” 

D.C. Council member Mery Cheh said that Russian authorities may prevent commemorations of Nemtsov in Russia, but they cannot do it here.

“This commemoration will not be removed. This commemoration will stay here as a symbol to Boris Nemtsov,” Cheh said.

By Valeria Jegisman

Lukashenka’s Ryanair Hijacking Proves Human Rights is a Global Security Issue

May 24 2021

The forced diversion and landing in Minsk of a May 23, 2021 Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania, and the subsequent arrest of dissident Roman Protasevich who was aboard the flight, by the illegitimate Lukashenka regime pose an overt political and military challenge to Europe, NATO and the broad global community.  NATO members must respond forcefully by demanding (1) the immediate release of Protasevich and other political prisoners in Belarus, and (2) a prompt transition to a government that represents the will of the people of Belarus. 

The West’s passivity in the face of massive, continuous and growing oppression of the Belarusian people since summer 2020 has emboldened Lukashenka to commit what some European leaders have appropriately termed an act of “state terrorism.”

The West has shown a manifest disposition to appease Putin’s regime —Lukashenka’s sole security guarantor. It has made inappropriate overtures for a Putin-Biden summit and waived  Nord Stream 2 sanctions mandated by Congress. These actions and signals have come against the backdrop of the 2020 Russian constitutional coup, the assassination attempt against Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment on patently bogus charges, the arrests of close to 13,000 Russian activists, and the outlawing of all opposition movements and activities. All this has led Putin and Lukashenka to conclude that they eliminate their political opponents with impunity.  

Today’s state-ordered hijacking of an international passenger airplane—employing intelligence agents aboard the flight,  and accomplished via an advanced fighter-interceptor—to apprehend an exiled activist, underscores that violation of human rights is not only a domestic issue, but a matter of international safety and security.  Western governments unwilling to stand up for the victims of Putin’s and Lukashenka’s regimes are inviting future crimes against their own citizens. 

Absent a meaningful and swift response, the escalation of violence and intensity of international crimes committed  by Lukashenka’s and Putin’s regime will continue, destabilizing the world and discrediting the Western democratic institutions. 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – THE KREMLIN’S INFLUENCE QUARTERLY

May 20 2021

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them, we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.

Criminal operations by Russia’s GRU worldwide: expert discussion

May 06 2021

Please join Free Russia Foundation for an expert brief and discussion on latest criminal operations conducted by Russia’s GRU worldwide with:

  • Christo Grozev, Bellingcat— the legendary investigator who uncovered the Kremlin’s involvement, perpetrators and timeline of Navalny’s assassination attempt. 
  • Jakub Janda, Director of the European Values Think Tank (the Czech Republic) where he researches Russia’s hostile influence operations in the West
  • Michael Weiss, Director of Special Investigations at Free Russia Foundation where he leads the Lubyanka Files project, which consists of translating and curating KGB training manuals still used in modern Russia for the purposes of educating Vladimir Putin’s spies.

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 11 from 11 am to 12:30pm New York Time (17:00 in Brussels) and include an extensive Q&A with the audience moderated by Ilya Zaslavskiy, Senior Fellow at Free Russia Foundation and head of Underminers.info, a research project on post-Soviet kleptocracy

The event will be broadcast live at: https://www.facebook.com/events/223365735790798/

  • The discussion will cover Russia’s most recent and ongoing covert violent operations, direct political interference, oligarchic penetration with money and influence; 
  • GRU’s structure and approach to conducting operations in Europe
  • Trends and forecasts on how data availability will impact both, the Kremlin’s operations and their investigation by governments and activists; 
  • EU and national European government response and facilitation of operations on their soil; 
  • Recommendations for effective counter to the security and political threats posed by Russian security services. 

YouTube Against Navalny’s Smart Voting

May 06 2021

On May 6, 2020, at least five YouTube channels belonging to key Russian opposition leaders and platforms received notifications from YouTube that some of their content had been removed due to its being qualified as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

They included: 

Ilya Yashin (343k YouTube subscribers)

Vladimir Milov (218k YouTube subscribers) 

Leonid Volkov (117k YouTube subscribers)

Novaya Gazeta (277k YouTube Subscribers) 

Sota Vision (248k YouTube Subscribers)

Most likely, there are other Russian pro-democracy channels that have received similar notifications at the same time, and we are putting together the list of all affected by this censorship campaign. 

The identical letters received from YouTube by the five account holders stated:

“Our team has reviewed your content, and, unfortunately, we think it violates our spam, deceptive practices and scams policy. We’ve removed the following content from YouTube:

URL: https://votesmart.appspot.com/

YouTube has removed urls from descriptions of videos posted on these accounts that linked to Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting website (votesmart.appspot.com).

By doing this, and to our great shock and disbelief, YouTube has acted to enforce the Kremlin’s policies by qualifying Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting system and its website as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

This action has not only technically disrupted communication for the Russian civil society which is now under a deadly siege by Putin’s regime, but it has rendered a serious and lasting damage to its reputation and legitimacy of Smart Voting approach. 

In reality, Smart Voting system is not a spam, scam or a “deceptive practice”, but instead it’s a fully legitimate system of choosing and supporting candidates in Russian elections who have a chance of winning against the ruling “United Russia” party candidates. There’s absolutely nothing illegal, deceptive or fraudulent about the Smart Voting or any materials on its website.

We don’t know the reasons behind such YouTube actions, but they are an unacceptable suppression of a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the Russian people and help the Kremlin’s suppression of civil rights and freedoms by banning the Smart Voting system and not allowing free political competition with the ruling “United Russia” party. 

This is an extremely dangerous precedent in an environment where opposition activities in Russia are being literally outlawed;  key opposition figures are jailed, exiled, arrested and attacked with criminal investigations; independent election campaigning is prohibited; and social media networks remain among the very few channels still available to the Russian opposition to communicate with the ordinary Russians.

We demand a  swift and decisive action on this matter from the international community, to make sure that YouTube corrects its stance toward Russian opposition channels, and ensures that such suppression of peaceful, legal  pro-democracy voices does not happen again. 

FRF Lauds New US Sanctions Targeting the Kremlin’s Perpetrators in Crimea, Calls for Their Expansion

Apr 15 2021

On April 15, 2021,  President Biden signed new sanctions against a number of officials and agents of the Russian Federation in connection with malign international activities conducted by the Russian government.

The list of individuals sanctioned by the new law includes Leonid Mikhalyuk, director of the Federal Security Service in the Russian-occupied Crimea.

A report issued by Free Russia Foundation, Media Initiative for Human Rights and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in December 202, identified 16 officials from Russian law enforcement and security agencies as well as the judiciary operating on the territory of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula currently occupied by the Russian Federation. These individuals have been either directly involved or have overseen political persecution of three prominent Crimean human rights defenders – Emir-Usein Kuku, Sever Mustafayev and Emil Kurbedinov.

Leonid Mikhailiuk is one of these officials. He has been directly involved and directed the repressive campaign in the occupied Crimea, including persecution of innocent people on terrorism charges and massive illegal searches. The persecution of Server Mustafayev was conducted under his supervision. As the head of the FSB branch in Crimea, he is in charge of its operation and all operatives working on politically motivated cases are his subordinates. 

Within the extremely centralized system of the Russian security services, Mikhailiuk is clearly at the top rank of organized political persecution and human rights violations.

Free Russia Foundation welcomes the new sanctions and hopes that all other individuals identified in the report will also be held accountable.