Coalition For Sovereign Elections Calls on the OSCE to Highlight ‘Creeping Annexation’ of Georgia on the Upcoming Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Sep 11 2019

On September 16, 2019, the “Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM)” will take place in Warsaw.

To the attention of:

OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Miroslav Lajčák
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President, George Tsereteli
OSCE Democratic Institutions and Human Rights office Director, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir

September 10, 2019

APPEAL

On September 16, 2019, the “Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM)” will take place in Warsaw. This meeting serves as a platform for the 57 OSCE participating States, the OSCE Partners for Co-operation, OSCE structures, civil society, international organizations and other relevant actors to take stock of the implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments, discuss associated challenges, share good practices and make recommendations for further improvement.

The Working Group of the “Coalition for Sovereign Elections” – Georgia 2020, express it’s gratitude to the OSCE Permanent Council for the distributed statement covering current situation on the occupation lines in Georgia. At the same time we call on OSCE Leadership as well as the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to include “Ongoing aggression of the Kremlin in Georgia” in the Agenda of the Meeting and respectfully invite the Permanent Representative of Georgia to OSCE H.E. David Dondua to report on events taking place on the so-called border with occupied Tskhinvali region.

Since August 7, 2019 – the eleventh anniversary of the Russia-Georgia war – the occupation regime has been continuously carrying out illegal and unjustified provocations against Georgia. Since the beginning of August, a new wave of borderization and creeping annexation in the Gugutiantkari village has caused Georgian citizens to lose their homes again.

At the moment, the situation has gone beyond the level of provocations that Georgia is used to during the last 11 years of its occupation. The Kremlin-backed unrecognized regime has been directly threatening Georgia with a military conflict for several days, recalling the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. The threats come amid the process of borderization and kidnapping of Georgian citizens (nine people have been kidnapped since the beginning of the August). Soldiers and military equipment of the occupying forces have been stationed directly near the demarcation line.

Recently, occupying forces also closed the checkpoint between Tskhinvali region and territory under Georgian jurisdiction permanently prohibiting the free movement of local citizens. In the last few days, they moved their military point 1.2 kilometers further into Georgian territory, thus expanding their occupation line. The regime has published a map that totally differs from the one that was negotiated by all sides and that is still used by the EU Monitoring Mission. According to this map, more and more Georgian villages will be occupied.

The Russian forces, in cooperation with the KGB of the so-called South Ossetia implement described actions.

As a reminder, “security” of the occupied region of Georgia (so-called South Ossetia) is provided by the Russian Federation. Mr. Oleg Shiran, a former Russian “FSB” officer, heads the KGB of the occupied Tskhinvali region. This means that the Russian government is the only actor responsible for the violations of international law and direct aggression against Georgia. The fact that the new wave of aggression is controlled from the Kremlin is also clearly visible by the campaign of lies in the Russian media actively broadcasting news about “elections” in Abkhazia and “provocations of Georgians.”

Further, the Russian side itself is engaged in provocations. The situation is very tense, more than at any other time since the war in 2008. Georgia is working at all levels to de-escalate situation, as well as to inform the international community about the new developments of unjustified aggression from the side of occupying forces. Without an immediate and
unequivocal response from the international society, which includes the OSCE and other interested actors, the occupying regime will not stop unpunished provocations against a sovereign State.

We respectfully call on participants of the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting to highlight these topics during the conference in Warsaw and prepare joint statement and concrete recommendations for Georgian government as well as European institutions on new effective mechanisms to counter aggression of the Kremlin in Georgia and human rights violations that take place on the occupied territory and occupation lines.

The statement is issued on behalf of the “Coalition for Sovereign Elections”:

The working group of “Coalition for Sovereign Elections” consists of well-known Georgian experts, journalists, activists and NGO representatives and take focus on external influence in Georgia. 09.10.2019

Contact person: Egor Kuroptev, Director of the “Free Russia Foundation” on South Caucasus egor.kuroptev@4freerussia.org

  1. Ambassador Valeri Chechelashvili – expert;
  2. Mr. Andro Gotsiridze – Founder of the Cyber Security Studies and Education Center;
  3. Mr. Egor Kuroptev – Representative of the Free Russia Foundation on South Caucasus; author of the Border Zone media project;
  4. Mr. Volodymyr Kopchak – Head of the Southern Caucasian Branch of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (CACDS);
  5. Mr. Lasha Khatiashvili – affiliated analyst at the Georgian Strategic Analysis Center;
  6. Mr. Nikolai Levshits – Fellow of the Free Russia Foundation;
  7. Mr. Tengiz Pkhaladze – Senior Fellow of the International Centre for Geopolitical Studies;
  8. Dr. Tornike Sharashenidze – Co-Founder of the Georgian Strategic Analysis Center;
  9. Mr. Vladimer Svanadze – Chairman of the board at the Internet Development Initiative;
  10. Mr. Gela Vasadze – Senior Fellow of the Georgia-Caucasus Strategic Studies Institute;
  11. Mr. Nika Chitadze – expert;
  12. Ms. Teona Akubardia.

To the attention of:

OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Miroslav Lajčák
OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President, George Tsereteli
OSCE Democratic Institutions and Human Rights office Director, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir

September 10, 2019

APPEAL

On September 16, 2019, the “Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM)” will take place in Warsaw. This meeting serves as a platform for the 57 OSCE participating States, the OSCE Partners for Co-operation, OSCE structures, civil society, international organizations and other relevant actors to take stock of the implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments, discuss associated challenges, share good practices and make recommendations for further improvement.

The Working Group of the “Coalition for Sovereign Elections” – Georgia 2020, express it’s gratitude to the OSCE Permanent Council for the distributed statement covering current situation on the occupation lines in Georgia. At the same time we call on OSCE Leadership as well as the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to include “Ongoing aggression of the Kremlin in Georgia” in the Agenda of the Meeting and respectfully invite the Permanent Representative of Georgia to OSCE H.E. David Dondua to report on events taking place on the so-called border with occupied Tskhinvali region.

Since August 7, 2019 – the eleventh anniversary of the Russia-Georgia war – the occupation regime has been continuously carrying out illegal and unjustified provocations against Georgia. Since the beginning of August, a new wave of borderization and creeping annexation in the Gugutiantkari village has caused Georgian citizens to lose their homes again.

At the moment, the situation has gone beyond the level of provocations that Georgia is used to during the last 11 years of its occupation. The Kremlin-backed unrecognized regime has been directly threatening Georgia with a military conflict for several days, recalling the 2008 Russian-Georgian war. The threats come amid the process of borderization and kidnapping of Georgian citizens (nine people have been kidnapped since the beginning of the August). Soldiers and military equipment of the occupying forces have been stationed directly near the demarcation line.

Recently, occupying forces also closed the checkpoint between Tskhinvali region and territory under Georgian jurisdiction permanently prohibiting the free movement of local citizens. In the last few days, they moved their military point 1.2 kilometers further into Georgian territory, thus expanding their occupation line. The regime has published a map that totally differs from the one that was negotiated by all sides and that is still used by the EU Monitoring Mission. According to this map, more and more Georgian villages will be occupied.

The Russian forces, in cooperation with the KGB of the so-called South Ossetia implement described actions.

As a reminder, “security” of the occupied region of Georgia (so-called South Ossetia) is provided by the Russian Federation. Mr. Oleg Shiran, a former Russian “FSB” officer, heads the KGB of the occupied Tskhinvali region. This means that the Russian government is the only actor responsible for the violations of international law and direct aggression against Georgia. The fact that the new wave of aggression is controlled from the Kremlin is also clearly visible by the campaign of lies in the Russian media actively broadcasting news about “elections” in Abkhazia and “provocations of Georgians.”

Further, the Russian side itself is engaged in provocations. The situation is very tense, more than at any other time since the war in 2008. Georgia is working at all levels to de-escalate situation, as well as to inform the international community about the new developments of unjustified aggression from the side of occupying forces. Without an immediate and
unequivocal response from the international society, which includes the OSCE and other interested actors, the occupying regime will not stop unpunished provocations against a sovereign State.

We respectfully call on participants of the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting to highlight these topics during the conference in Warsaw and prepare joint statement and concrete recommendations for Georgian government as well as European institutions on new effective mechanisms to counter aggression of the Kremlin in Georgia and human rights violations that take place on the occupied territory and occupation lines.

The statement is issued on behalf of the “Coalition for Sovereign Elections”:

The working group of “Coalition for Sovereign Elections” consists of well-known Georgian experts, journalists, activists and NGO representatives and take focus on external influence in Georgia. 09.10.2019

Contact person: Egor Kuroptev, Director of the “Free Russia Foundation” on South Caucasus egor.kuroptev@4freerussia.org

  1. Ambassador Valeri Chechelashvili – expert;
  2. Mr. Andro Gotsiridze – Founder of the Cyber Security Studies and Education Center;
  3. Mr. Egor Kuroptev – Representative of the Free Russia Foundation on South Caucasus; author of the Border Zone media project;
  4. Mr. Volodymyr Kopchak – Head of the Southern Caucasian Branch of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies (CACDS);
  5. Mr. Lasha Khatiashvili – affiliated analyst at the Georgian Strategic Analysis Center;
  6. Mr. Nikolai Levshits – Fellow of the Free Russia Foundation;
  7. Mr. Tengiz Pkhaladze – Senior Fellow of the International Centre for Geopolitical Studies;
  8. Dr. Tornike Sharashenidze – Co-Founder of the Georgian Strategic Analysis Center;
  9. Mr. Vladimer Svanadze – Chairman of the board at the Internet Development Initiative;
  10. Mr. Gela Vasadze – Senior Fellow of the Georgia-Caucasus Strategic Studies Institute;
  11. Mr. Nika Chitadze – expert;
  12. Ms. Teona Akubardia.

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.