Call for a resolution on Ildar Dadin, a Russian political prisoner

Jan 06 2017

The Magnitsky Act Initiative and Free Russia Foundation call for a resolution on Ildar Dadin, a Russian political prisoner.

As of January 4, 2017, Ildar Dadin, a jailed 34-year old Russian opposition activist who accused his prison staff of torture, has been missing for 33 days.

While Ildar’s wife Anastasia Zotova counts the days on her Facebook page since her husband went missing and unsuccessfully tries to break through the  wall of silence that the Russian authorities have built around Ildar’s case, the 30-day mark has triggered a campaign in social networks using the hashtag #ГдеИльдарДадин (#WhereIsIldarDadin). It became a trending topic on Russian Twitter.

Prominent political figures, human rights activists and civil demonstrators have uploaded photos of themselves to social media holding #ГдеИльдарДадин (#WhereIsIldarDadin) signs, pictures of Ildar and articles about him using the hashtag. Some prominent figures who have latched on to the inquiry include the director of the organization “For Human Rights” Lev Ponomaryov, editor-in-chief of a radio station “Echo of Moscow” Alexey Venediktov, and an MP in St.Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly Boris Vishnevsky, and they have sent letters to the Federal Penitentiary Service demanding the authorities to reveal Dadin’s location. A group of famous Russian writers published an open letter on Facebook with the same request that was signed by hundreds of Facebook users.

Ildar Dadin is serving his 2.5 year sentence for so-called “repeated violations of of public assembly rules”. Article 212.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code allows the Russian authorities to impose a prison sentence against the more persistent street protesters. Dadin was the first convicted under this law, but he is not the only activist who the law was used against. Vladimir Ionov and Irina Kalmykova, were charged under the same Article 212.1 and had to flee the country to avoid persecution. Mark Galperin is currently under investigation on his own recognizance.

Despite being a resident of the Moscow metropolitan area, in October 2016, Ildar was sent to a penal colony about 750 miles to the north of Moscow, in Karelia, to serve his term. About a month later, his wife released a letter from Ildar where he alleged that he was tortured with cold, hunger, repeatedly beaten by 10-12 men, humiliated, and threatened with abuse and death by a prison warden and guards. In one particular episode Ildar Dadin was hung up by handcuffs for half an hour, before his underpants were taken off and he was threatened with rape. His previous letters never reached their intended addresses as they were intercepted by the prison colony administration. Dadin’s shocking message ignited a series of protests throughout the world. The protests were held in Segezha in front of the Dadin’s penal colony, in Kyiv, Vilnus, Riga, Tallinn, Bonn, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, and Ottawa. The official investigation did not find any evidence to confirm Ildar’s claim, although human rights defenders and journalists were able to find current and former inmates of the prison where Ildar was held who confirmed regular practice of beating and torture in the prison. On December 5, 2016 Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service announced that Dadin had been moved from Karelia to a different facility for his safety. Since then, his whereabouts and condition have been unknown by both his wife and his lawyers.

Experts say that long transfers from one facility to another which can last up to 6 months is another method of torture. Inmates are placed in railroad cars without heat when the temperature outside drops down to -22 F, and with 3-4 men sleeping in a space meant for one. Ildar Dadin’s case is not the only one in the Russian penal system, a fact confirmed by many reports of human rights organizations such as Russian Committee Against Torture and the Russian Public Verdict Foundation. His case reveals a terrifying picture of systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in prisons and penal camps while government agencies shield those whose crimes become too difficult to hide.

The Helsinki Final Act recognizes human rights and fundamental freedoms as an essential factor for the peace, justice and well-being necessary to ensure the development of friendly relations and co-operation among all states.” Institutionalized practice of torture in Putin’s Russia breaches its international legal obligations such as The United Nations Convention against Torture of 1984, The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, The Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and others. While Putin wants to be treated by the West as an equal partner, he refuses to keep up his obligations under international law, and invest in protecting the world order. As Michael McFaul, a former United States Ambassador to Russia, said: “Russia under Putin today is not interested in being a stakeholder or responsible member in many of these international institutions. Rather, they seek to weaken them or in the case of NATO to undermine them completely.” The rules of the international community should be enforced, and human rights and the fundamental freedoms must be guaranteed.

We call on the U.S. Congress and the U.S. administration to support the resolution of the European Parliament on the case of Ildar Dadin and:

  1. Call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ildar Dadin and all those detained on false or unsubstantiated charges or for using their right of freedom of expression and assembly;
  1. Initiate an evaluation of correspondence in between the article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation that places new restrictions on public gatherings and provides for such gatherings to be considered a criminal act and international standards;
  1. Urge the Russian authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of the allegations made by Ildar Dadin of torture and ill-treatment, with the participation of independent human rights experts; calls for an independent investigation into the allegations of torture, abuse and degrading and inhumane treatment on the part of state officials in Russian detention facilities, labor camps and prisons;
  1. Call on the Russian Federation, in this regard, to carry out a thorough review of its penitentiary system with a view to undertaking a deep reform of the system, and to fully implement the standards agreed under the relevant international conventions;
  2. Express its solidarity with those arrested in Russia and in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, including Crimean Tatars, on false and unsubstantiated charges, and calls for their immediate release;
  1. Remind Russia of the importance of full compliance with its international legal obligations, as a member of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with fundamental human rights and the rule of law as enshrined in various international treaties and agreements that Russia has signed and is party to; underlines that the Russian Federation can be considered a reliable partner in the sphere of international cooperation only if it keeps up its obligations under international law;
  1. Work with 28 EU Member States and the EU institutions in developing a unified policy towards Russia that commits them to a strong common message concerning the role of human rights in the USA-EU-Russia relationship and respect for international law; call on the EU to develop a substantive and concrete strategy supporting Russian civil society and organizations, making use of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights;
  1. Adopt a series of targeted sanctions to punish those responsible for the mistreatment of Ildar Dadin and other human rights activists.

 Magnitsky Act Initiative
Free Russia Foundation

As of January 4, 2017, Ildar Dadin, a jailed 34-year old Russian opposition activist who accused his prison staff of torture, has been missing for 33 days.

While Ildar’s wife Anastasia Zotova counts the days on her Facebook page since her husband went missing and unsuccessfully tries to break through the  wall of silence that the Russian authorities have built around Ildar’s case, the 30-day mark has triggered a campaign in social networks using the hashtag #ГдеИльдарДадин (#WhereIsIldarDadin). It became a trending topic on Russian Twitter.

Prominent political figures, human rights activists and civil demonstrators have uploaded photos of themselves to social media holding #ГдеИльдарДадин (#WhereIsIldarDadin) signs, pictures of Ildar and articles about him using the hashtag. Some prominent figures who have latched on to the inquiry include the director of the organization “For Human Rights” Lev Ponomaryov, editor-in-chief of a radio station “Echo of Moscow” Alexey Venediktov, and an MP in St.Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly Boris Vishnevsky, and they have sent letters to the Federal Penitentiary Service demanding the authorities to reveal Dadin’s location. A group of famous Russian writers published an open letter on Facebook with the same request that was signed by hundreds of Facebook users.

Ildar Dadin is serving his 2.5 year sentence for so-called “repeated violations of of public assembly rules”. Article 212.1 of the Russian Federal Criminal Code allows the Russian authorities to impose a prison sentence against the more persistent street protesters. Dadin was the first convicted under this law, but he is not the only activist who the law was used against. Vladimir Ionov and Irina Kalmykova, were charged under the same Article 212.1 and had to flee the country to avoid persecution. Mark Galperin is currently under investigation on his own recognizance.

Despite being a resident of the Moscow metropolitan area, in October 2016, Ildar was sent to a penal colony about 750 miles to the north of Moscow, in Karelia, to serve his term. About a month later, his wife released a letter from Ildar where he alleged that he was tortured with cold, hunger, repeatedly beaten by 10-12 men, humiliated, and threatened with abuse and death by a prison warden and guards. In one particular episode Ildar Dadin was hung up by handcuffs for half an hour, before his underpants were taken off and he was threatened with rape. His previous letters never reached their intended addresses as they were intercepted by the prison colony administration. Dadin’s shocking message ignited a series of protests throughout the world. The protests were held in Segezha in front of the Dadin’s penal colony, in Kyiv, Vilnus, Riga, Tallinn, Bonn, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, and Ottawa. The official investigation did not find any evidence to confirm Ildar’s claim, although human rights defenders and journalists were able to find current and former inmates of the prison where Ildar was held who confirmed regular practice of beating and torture in the prison. On December 5, 2016 Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service announced that Dadin had been moved from Karelia to a different facility for his safety. Since then, his whereabouts and condition have been unknown by both his wife and his lawyers.

Experts say that long transfers from one facility to another which can last up to 6 months is another method of torture. Inmates are placed in railroad cars without heat when the temperature outside drops down to -22 F, and with 3-4 men sleeping in a space meant for one. Ildar Dadin’s case is not the only one in the Russian penal system, a fact confirmed by many reports of human rights organizations such as Russian Committee Against Torture and the Russian Public Verdict Foundation. His case reveals a terrifying picture of systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in prisons and penal camps while government agencies shield those whose crimes become too difficult to hide.

The Helsinki Final Act recognizes human rights and fundamental freedoms as an essential factor for the peace, justice and well-being necessary to ensure the development of friendly relations and co-operation among all states.” Institutionalized practice of torture in Putin’s Russia breaches its international legal obligations such as The United Nations Convention against Torture of 1984, The United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, The Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and others. While Putin wants to be treated by the West as an equal partner, he refuses to keep up his obligations under international law, and invest in protecting the world order. As Michael McFaul, a former United States Ambassador to Russia, said: “Russia under Putin today is not interested in being a stakeholder or responsible member in many of these international institutions. Rather, they seek to weaken them or in the case of NATO to undermine them completely.” The rules of the international community should be enforced, and human rights and the fundamental freedoms must be guaranteed.

We call on the U.S. Congress and the U.S. administration to support the resolution of the European Parliament on the case of Ildar Dadin and:

  1. Call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ildar Dadin and all those detained on false or unsubstantiated charges or for using their right of freedom of expression and assembly;
  1. Initiate an evaluation of correspondence in between the article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation that places new restrictions on public gatherings and provides for such gatherings to be considered a criminal act and international standards;
  1. Urge the Russian authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation of the allegations made by Ildar Dadin of torture and ill-treatment, with the participation of independent human rights experts; calls for an independent investigation into the allegations of torture, abuse and degrading and inhumane treatment on the part of state officials in Russian detention facilities, labor camps and prisons;
  1. Call on the Russian Federation, in this regard, to carry out a thorough review of its penitentiary system with a view to undertaking a deep reform of the system, and to fully implement the standards agreed under the relevant international conventions;
  2. Express its solidarity with those arrested in Russia and in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, including Crimean Tatars, on false and unsubstantiated charges, and calls for their immediate release;
  1. Remind Russia of the importance of full compliance with its international legal obligations, as a member of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and with fundamental human rights and the rule of law as enshrined in various international treaties and agreements that Russia has signed and is party to; underlines that the Russian Federation can be considered a reliable partner in the sphere of international cooperation only if it keeps up its obligations under international law;
  1. Work with 28 EU Member States and the EU institutions in developing a unified policy towards Russia that commits them to a strong common message concerning the role of human rights in the USA-EU-Russia relationship and respect for international law; call on the EU to develop a substantive and concrete strategy supporting Russian civil society and organizations, making use of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights;
  1. Adopt a series of targeted sanctions to punish those responsible for the mistreatment of Ildar Dadin and other human rights activists.

 Magnitsky Act Initiative
Free Russia Foundation

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.