Experts Highlight Crucial Role of International Observers at Russia’s Upcoming Parliamentary Elections

Jun 16 2016

On June 9, at the Atlantic Council headquarters, the Institute of Modern Russia, the Atlantic Council, and Free Russia held a panel discussion on the prospects for Russia’s 2016 parliamentary election.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Pavel Khodorkovsky, John Herbst, Miriam Lanskoy, and Steven Lee Myers discussed the vote, the opposition’s plans, and the international community’s role in ensuring free and fair elections

On September 18, 2016, Russia will hold a parliamentary election—its seventh since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Since March 2000, not a single nationwide vote in Russia has been assessed by international observers as “free and fair.” The last Duma elections in 2011 were marred by allegations of widespread fraud and prompted the largest street protests under Vladimir Putin’s rule.

What should be expected from the upcoming vote? A panel of experts on Russia gathered at the Atlantic Council headquarters to discuss a wide range of issues related to this question. The panel consisted of Vladimir Kara-Murza, National Coordinator of the Open Russia movement and deputy leader of the People’s Freedom Party; Pavel Khodorkovsky, president of the Institute of Modern Russia; Dr. Miriam Lanskoy, senior director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy; and Ambassador John Herbst, director of Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. Steven Lee Myers, a New York Times correspondent and author of a The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin, moderated the discussion.

Steve Myers started off the discussion by pointing out that for many journalists and Russia observers in the West, the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary election is more or less predetermined—the political system is rigged, and the opposition has little chance of winning—yet at the same time, every election held under Putin’s rule has provided information about the ways his system operates; therefore it is important that the West pay attention to this election, as it may learn more about the context of Russian politics.

In his remarks, Vladimir Kara-Murza noted that the election was set for September 18, which is three months earlier than usual. This was done so that “the campaign season would coincide with the vacation season” and thus cause a low turnout, which would “favor the regime.” In light of the campaign, the Kremlin has moved to introduce a number of new draconian laws, one of them being the ban on parties and candidates being endorsed by people who, for various reasons, are not allowed to run themselves. “This whole federal law was passed [to target only] two people—Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexey Navalny,” Kara-Murza said. He also reminded the panel that Russian officials had already made it clear that the observers from the Council of Europe will not be welcome at the elections, in direct contradiction to the country’s membership in this organization. Kara-Murza observed that the situation has deteriorated since the 2011 election, which “was not a high benchmark” in the first place.

He went on to say that under the circumstances, the Russian opposition had been discussing whether to simply boycott this a priori fraudulent election, but despite the cons, has decided that it’s still worth running for three key reasons: first, to take every opportunity to challenge the regime; second, to give a political voice to numerous Russians who want their country to be free and democratic and to provide an alternative vision; and third, to help a new generation of Russian democratic activists gain political experience by participating in the election process as candidates.

Therefore, the goal of the Open Russia movement that Kara-Murza represents as National Coordinator is to support 24 candidates in single-mandate districts across Russia. Anticipating the obvious question—“Why even bother training these young people?”—Kara-Murza told the story of a Soviet pianist named Rudolph Kerer, who was exiled in Kazakhstan without a musical instrument. Because he didn’t want to forget how to play piano, he made himself a wooden plank and played this plank for 13 years before he was able to strike an actual chord. Drawing on this analogy, Kara-Murza concluded that people in the Russian opposition know that one day Putin’s regime will end, and when that time comes, they will be ready.

Speaking next, Miriam Lanskoy wondered why Putin, who enjoys an 86-percent approval rating, is so insecure that he needs to continue clamping down on the opposition. Over the last few years, the Kremlin has undertaken a number of steps to expand its repressive apparatus. Further amendments were made to legislation to expand the definition of “political activity,” and brand more NGOs as “foreign agents,” among other things. Since social media proved crucial to the 2011–2012 protests, the government has launched new initiatives to take control over this part of the Internet. There have also been physical attacks on opposition members, including Mikhail Kasyanov and Alexey Navalny. And in April, on the eve of the election campaign, Putin made the disturbing move to establish a National Guard of Russia, a 400,000-member force that directly responds to Putin’s personal friend Valery Zolotov.

Though Lanskoy called the replacement of former head of the Central Election Committee Vladimir Churov with the more liberal-minded Ella Panfilova “a cosmetic move” signifying that the Kremlin is so confident that it controls every aspect of the electoral process that it feels it can afford to make a small concession, she nonetheless concludes that the Kremlin is terrified of a repeat of the 2011–2012 protests. Today, as the economy deteriorates, people’s discontent is growing. And the biggest vulnerability of the regime is kleptocracy: quoting Levada Center polls, Lanskoy noted that 50 percent of Russians think the president is responsible for corruption and economic mismanagement of the country. She concluded that even if people’s frustration hasn’t yet found a political form, it likely will by 2018.

You can watch the discussion below:

Pavel Khodorkovsky focused on the topic of election observation by international observers, and Russia’s obligations in this context. Earlier this year, Alexey Pushkov, head of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), announced that PACE observers will not be allowed to monitor polling stations during the upcoming elections. (This came as retaliation for PACE’s suspension of the voting rights of the Russian delegation following the annexation of Crimea.) Other Russian officials have made similar statements, making it clear that there will be no PACE observers in Russia this time. Since international observers’ role is to ensure conditions under which people can freely express their opinions and choose the legislature, this unwillingness to invite such observers is a telling sign of the Kremlin’s intentions.

Khodorkovsky noted that Russia’s membership in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was not affected by the Crimea controversy, and one might therefore expect OSCE observers to be invited. But, though the deadline for issuing an official invitation is June 18, at the time of this writing, Russia had not yet done so. Khodorkovsky argued that since the Russian opposition decided not to boycott the elections, the government should follow suit and not boycott international observation. Whether this happens or not will be known soon enough.

In his turn, John Herbst offered a few thoughts on Russia from Washington’s perspective. First, he addressed the question raised by other panelists: why does Putin need all of these restrictions if his approval rating is so high? According to Herbst, a politician who is polling at over 75 percent is not going to worry about holding a free and fair election. Still, it seems that Putin has reasons to worry, since another poll suggests that the majority of Russians think their country is heading in the wrong direction. Second, Herbst addressed a more basic question: why have elections at all? Especially given the Russian government’s claims that their country is a “distinctive civilization, a Eurasian civilization, different from the corrupt West”? Herbst argued that despite these claims, Vladimir Putin “doesn’t know, ultimately, any other way to legitimize himself to his own population or internationally, and that is why we have all of these problems, all these restrictions… that would prevent an accurate reading of the Russian population from being presented.”

Finally, Herbst returned to the key question raised by Kara-Murza: why are the members of the Russian opposition willing to participate in this kind of election? The reason, Herbst said, is that elections do provide legitimacy, despite the Kremlin’s propaganda: “The parties participate so they can be seen as participating, so they develop experience, and so that after the results come in, on the basis of the best information available regarding the true results, you might have further developments in Russia.”

While the debate on how to deal with Russia continues in the West, Kara-Murza offered a simple solution earlier this June in his testimony at the hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (“Russian Violations of Borders, Treaties, and Human Rights”). When people in the West ask how they can help Russia, the answer should be: “stay true to your values.” Speaking on behalf of the opposition and the Open Russia movement, Kara-Murza said, “We are not asking for support—it is our task to fight for democracy and the rule of law in our country. The only thing we ask from Western leaders is that they stop supporting Mr. Putin by treating him as a respectable partner and by allowing his cronies to use Western countries as havens for their looted wealth.”

The Institute of Modern Russia will continue its engagement with leading European policymakers in June 2016 to highlight the challenges facing independent and opposition candidates at September’s Duma elections. On June 20, Vladimir Kara-Murza and Vadim Prokhorov, a member of the Expert Council of the Russian Central Electoral Commission, will participate in a PACE event in Strasbourg, France. The event is hosted by the EPP/CD Group, the largest caucus in PACE, which brings together national parliamentarians from the Council of Europe’s 47 member states to discuss issues of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

The following day, June 21, Kara-Murza and Prokhorov will be guests of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, at a briefing to analyze the legal, financial, administrative, and practical barriers to the free and fair participation of independent and opposition candidates in the election. The event will bring together members of the European Parliament, officials, NGO staff, journalists, and diplomats to pinpoint IMR’s concerns about the electoral process and to discuss ways in which the European Union can bring pressure to bear on Russia in the run-up to and during the election.

This article first appeared on IMR site.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Pavel Khodorkovsky, John Herbst, Miriam Lanskoy, and Steven Lee Myers discussed the vote, the opposition’s plans, and the international community’s role in ensuring free and fair elections

On September 18, 2016, Russia will hold a parliamentary election—its seventh since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Since March 2000, not a single nationwide vote in Russia has been assessed by international observers as “free and fair.” The last Duma elections in 2011 were marred by allegations of widespread fraud and prompted the largest street protests under Vladimir Putin’s rule.

What should be expected from the upcoming vote? A panel of experts on Russia gathered at the Atlantic Council headquarters to discuss a wide range of issues related to this question. The panel consisted of Vladimir Kara-Murza, National Coordinator of the Open Russia movement and deputy leader of the People’s Freedom Party; Pavel Khodorkovsky, president of the Institute of Modern Russia; Dr. Miriam Lanskoy, senior director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy; and Ambassador John Herbst, director of Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council. Steven Lee Myers, a New York Times correspondent and author of a The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin, moderated the discussion.

Steve Myers started off the discussion by pointing out that for many journalists and Russia observers in the West, the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary election is more or less predetermined—the political system is rigged, and the opposition has little chance of winning—yet at the same time, every election held under Putin’s rule has provided information about the ways his system operates; therefore it is important that the West pay attention to this election, as it may learn more about the context of Russian politics.

In his remarks, Vladimir Kara-Murza noted that the election was set for September 18, which is three months earlier than usual. This was done so that “the campaign season would coincide with the vacation season” and thus cause a low turnout, which would “favor the regime.” In light of the campaign, the Kremlin has moved to introduce a number of new draconian laws, one of them being the ban on parties and candidates being endorsed by people who, for various reasons, are not allowed to run themselves. “This whole federal law was passed [to target only] two people—Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Alexey Navalny,” Kara-Murza said. He also reminded the panel that Russian officials had already made it clear that the observers from the Council of Europe will not be welcome at the elections, in direct contradiction to the country’s membership in this organization. Kara-Murza observed that the situation has deteriorated since the 2011 election, which “was not a high benchmark” in the first place.

He went on to say that under the circumstances, the Russian opposition had been discussing whether to simply boycott this a priori fraudulent election, but despite the cons, has decided that it’s still worth running for three key reasons: first, to take every opportunity to challenge the regime; second, to give a political voice to numerous Russians who want their country to be free and democratic and to provide an alternative vision; and third, to help a new generation of Russian democratic activists gain political experience by participating in the election process as candidates.

Therefore, the goal of the Open Russia movement that Kara-Murza represents as National Coordinator is to support 24 candidates in single-mandate districts across Russia. Anticipating the obvious question—“Why even bother training these young people?”—Kara-Murza told the story of a Soviet pianist named Rudolph Kerer, who was exiled in Kazakhstan without a musical instrument. Because he didn’t want to forget how to play piano, he made himself a wooden plank and played this plank for 13 years before he was able to strike an actual chord. Drawing on this analogy, Kara-Murza concluded that people in the Russian opposition know that one day Putin’s regime will end, and when that time comes, they will be ready.

Speaking next, Miriam Lanskoy wondered why Putin, who enjoys an 86-percent approval rating, is so insecure that he needs to continue clamping down on the opposition. Over the last few years, the Kremlin has undertaken a number of steps to expand its repressive apparatus. Further amendments were made to legislation to expand the definition of “political activity,” and brand more NGOs as “foreign agents,” among other things. Since social media proved crucial to the 2011–2012 protests, the government has launched new initiatives to take control over this part of the Internet. There have also been physical attacks on opposition members, including Mikhail Kasyanov and Alexey Navalny. And in April, on the eve of the election campaign, Putin made the disturbing move to establish a National Guard of Russia, a 400,000-member force that directly responds to Putin’s personal friend Valery Zolotov.

Though Lanskoy called the replacement of former head of the Central Election Committee Vladimir Churov with the more liberal-minded Ella Panfilova “a cosmetic move” signifying that the Kremlin is so confident that it controls every aspect of the electoral process that it feels it can afford to make a small concession, she nonetheless concludes that the Kremlin is terrified of a repeat of the 2011–2012 protests. Today, as the economy deteriorates, people’s discontent is growing. And the biggest vulnerability of the regime is kleptocracy: quoting Levada Center polls, Lanskoy noted that 50 percent of Russians think the president is responsible for corruption and economic mismanagement of the country. She concluded that even if people’s frustration hasn’t yet found a political form, it likely will by 2018.

You can watch the discussion below:

Pavel Khodorkovsky focused on the topic of election observation by international observers, and Russia’s obligations in this context. Earlier this year, Alexey Pushkov, head of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), announced that PACE observers will not be allowed to monitor polling stations during the upcoming elections. (This came as retaliation for PACE’s suspension of the voting rights of the Russian delegation following the annexation of Crimea.) Other Russian officials have made similar statements, making it clear that there will be no PACE observers in Russia this time. Since international observers’ role is to ensure conditions under which people can freely express their opinions and choose the legislature, this unwillingness to invite such observers is a telling sign of the Kremlin’s intentions.

Khodorkovsky noted that Russia’s membership in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was not affected by the Crimea controversy, and one might therefore expect OSCE observers to be invited. But, though the deadline for issuing an official invitation is June 18, at the time of this writing, Russia had not yet done so. Khodorkovsky argued that since the Russian opposition decided not to boycott the elections, the government should follow suit and not boycott international observation. Whether this happens or not will be known soon enough.

In his turn, John Herbst offered a few thoughts on Russia from Washington’s perspective. First, he addressed the question raised by other panelists: why does Putin need all of these restrictions if his approval rating is so high? According to Herbst, a politician who is polling at over 75 percent is not going to worry about holding a free and fair election. Still, it seems that Putin has reasons to worry, since another poll suggests that the majority of Russians think their country is heading in the wrong direction. Second, Herbst addressed a more basic question: why have elections at all? Especially given the Russian government’s claims that their country is a “distinctive civilization, a Eurasian civilization, different from the corrupt West”? Herbst argued that despite these claims, Vladimir Putin “doesn’t know, ultimately, any other way to legitimize himself to his own population or internationally, and that is why we have all of these problems, all these restrictions… that would prevent an accurate reading of the Russian population from being presented.”

Finally, Herbst returned to the key question raised by Kara-Murza: why are the members of the Russian opposition willing to participate in this kind of election? The reason, Herbst said, is that elections do provide legitimacy, despite the Kremlin’s propaganda: “The parties participate so they can be seen as participating, so they develop experience, and so that after the results come in, on the basis of the best information available regarding the true results, you might have further developments in Russia.”

While the debate on how to deal with Russia continues in the West, Kara-Murza offered a simple solution earlier this June in his testimony at the hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (“Russian Violations of Borders, Treaties, and Human Rights”). When people in the West ask how they can help Russia, the answer should be: “stay true to your values.” Speaking on behalf of the opposition and the Open Russia movement, Kara-Murza said, “We are not asking for support—it is our task to fight for democracy and the rule of law in our country. The only thing we ask from Western leaders is that they stop supporting Mr. Putin by treating him as a respectable partner and by allowing his cronies to use Western countries as havens for their looted wealth.”

The Institute of Modern Russia will continue its engagement with leading European policymakers in June 2016 to highlight the challenges facing independent and opposition candidates at September’s Duma elections. On June 20, Vladimir Kara-Murza and Vadim Prokhorov, a member of the Expert Council of the Russian Central Electoral Commission, will participate in a PACE event in Strasbourg, France. The event is hosted by the EPP/CD Group, the largest caucus in PACE, which brings together national parliamentarians from the Council of Europe’s 47 member states to discuss issues of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

The following day, June 21, Kara-Murza and Prokhorov will be guests of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, at a briefing to analyze the legal, financial, administrative, and practical barriers to the free and fair participation of independent and opposition candidates in the election. The event will bring together members of the European Parliament, officials, NGO staff, journalists, and diplomats to pinpoint IMR’s concerns about the electoral process and to discuss ways in which the European Union can bring pressure to bear on Russia in the run-up to and during the election.

This article first appeared on IMR site.

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.

Joint Call of Parliamentarians on the condition of Alexei Navalny in prison

Apr 08 2021

April 8, 2021

We, the undersigned, are shocked and troubled by the most recent news of Alexei Navalny’s condition in prison. 

Russia’s leading opposition figure is reported to suffer severe back pain with losing sensitivity in parts of his legs. It is no more than six months since he survived a vicious poisoning attack with a nerve agent that has long-term crippling effects on his health. In prison, he is systematically denied any medical treatment. On top, prison guards wake him up every hour at night, a practice amounting to torture by sleep deprivation according to his lawyers. This is why medical experts called on the Russian authorities to allow Mr. Navalny’s treatment and why he himself now resorted to a hunger strike. Let’s not forget: Mr. Navalny’s incarceration itself is a travesty of justice – he was formally sent to prison for not checking in with Russian authorities on a fabricated case (as confirmed by European Court of Human Rights) when he was recuperating in Germany from poisoning and subsequent coma.

Russian authorities with its secret services tried to kill Alexei Navalny last August, they may now be attempting the same, in a slower, even more cynical way. 

Europe has offered Alexei Navalny a place to recover from the attempt at his life. Specialized labs in Germany, France and Sweden confirmed the assassination attempt used Novichok, an internationally banned chemical weapon. Angela Merkel personally met Mr Navalny in hospital and many other Western leaders expressed their solidarity after the poisoning attack. We need to intervene again. 

We urge Russia to immediately allow medical treatment of Alexei Navalny and release him from prison. We call on the EU Council as well as EU member states’ leaders to reach out to Russian authorities to request the immediate release of Alexei Navalny, which was mandated by European Court of Human Rights’ decision in February 2021. In addition, we demand the EU Council task EU ambassador to Russia to conduct, together partners from the UK, Canada and the US, a visit of the prison facility and meet Alexei Navalny. It is critical now that Alexei Navalny’s fate became the symbol of injustice many thousands face because of increasing brutality of Russian regime against its own citizens. 

In December 2020, the EU launched its Global Human Rights Sanction Regime modelled on so-called Magnitsky Act. This law has been inspired by one Sergei Magnitsky, a brave Russian lawyer who was tortured to death in prison in 2009 – he was systematically denied treatment when he developed a serious medical condition. We still can act now in case of Alexei Navalny so we avoid commemorating later.

Marek HILSER, Senator, Czech Republic

Andrius KUBILIUS, MEP, EPP, Lithuania

Lukas WAGENKNECHT, Senator, Czech Republic

Žygimantas PAVILIONIS, MP, Lithuania

Miroslav BALATKA, Senator, Czech Republic

André GATTOLIN, Senator, France

Mikulas BEK, Senator, Czech Republic 

Nicolae ŞTEFĂNUȚĂ, MEP, Renew, Romania

David SMOLJAK, Senator, Czech Republic 

Petras AUŠTREVIČIUS, MEP, Renew, Lithuania

Tomas FIALA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Liudas MAŽYLIS, MEP, EPP Lithuania

Zdenek NYTRA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Dace MELBĀRDE, MEP, ECR, Latvia

Jan SOBOTKA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Matas MALDEIKIS, MP, Lithuania

Jiri RUZICKA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Bernard GUETTA, MEP, Renew, France

Jaromira VITKOVA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Rasa JUKNEVIČIENĖ, MEP, EPP, Lithuania

Petr OREL, Senator, Czech Republic 

Tomasz FRANKOWSKI, MEP, EPP, Poland 

Miroslava NEMCOVA, Senator, Czech Republic

Hermann TERTSCH, MEP, ECR, Spain

Premysl RABAS, Senator, Czech Republic 

Aušra MALDEIKIENĖ, MEP, EPP, Lithuania

Ladislav KOS, Senator, Czech Republic 

Attila ARA-KOVÁCS, MEP, S&D, Hungary

Sarka JELINKOVA, Senator, Czech Republic

Erik MARQUARDT, MEP, Greens, Germany

Pavel FISCHER, Senator, Czech Republic

Pernille WEISS, MEP, EPP, Denmark

Helena LANGSADLOVA, MP, Czech Republic

Roberts ZĪLE, MEP, ECR, Latvia

Jan LIPAVSKY, MP, Czech Republic

Klemen GROŠELJ, MEP, Renew, Slovenia

Pavel ZACEK, MP, Czech Republic

Riho TERRAS, MEP, EPP, Estonia

Ondrej BENESIK, MP, Czech Republic 

Miriam LEXMANN, MEP, EPP, Slovakia

Frantisek KOPRIVA, MP, Czech Republic 

Sandra KALNIETE, MEP, EPP, Latvia

Petr GAZDIK, MP, Czech Republic 

Jerzy BUZEK, MEP, EPP, Poland

Tomas MARTINEK, MP, Czech Republic 

Janina OCHOJSKA, MEP, EPP, Poland

Jan BARTOSEK, MP, Czech Republic

Eugen TOMAC, MEP, EPP, Romania

Jan FARSKY, MP, Czech Republic

Ivan ŠTEFANEC, MEP, EPP, Slovakia

Roman SKLENAK, MP, Czech Republic

Krzysztof HETMAN, MEP, EPP, Poland

Frantisek VACHA, MP, Czech Republic

Ivars IJABS, MEP, Renew, Latvia

Marek VYBORNY, MP, Czech Republic

Franc BOGOVIČ, MEP, EPP, Slovenia

Zbynek STANJURA, MP, Czech Republic

Radvilė MORKŪNAITĖ-MIKULĖNIENĖ, MP, Lithuania

Petr FIALA, MP, Czech Republic

Raphaël GLUCKSMANN, MEP, S&D, France

Vít RAKUSAN, MP, Czech Republic

Juozas OLEKAS, MEP, S&D, Lithuania

Jaroslav VYMAZAL, MP, Czech Republic

Assita KANKO, MEP, ECR, Belgium

Adela SIPOVA, Senator, Czech Republic

Radosław SIKORSKI, MEP, EPP, Poland

Róża THUN UND HOHENSTEIN, MEP, EPP, Poland

Javier NART, MEP, Renew, Spain

Andrzej HALICKI, MEP, EPP, Poland

Alexander ALEXANDROV YORDANOV, MEP, EPP, Bulgaria

Ondřej KOVAŘÍK, MEP, Renew, Czech Republic

Andreas SCHIEDER, MEP, S&D, Austria

Leopoldo LÓPEZ GIL, MEP, EPP, Spain

Sergey LAGODINSKY, MEP, Greens, Germany

Antonio LÓPEZ-ISTÚRIZ WHITE, MEP, EPP, Spain

Marketa GREGOROVA, MEP, Greens, Czech Republic

Lolita ČIGĀNE, MP, Latvia

Marko MIHKELSON, MP, Estonia

Renata CHMELOVA, Czech Republic

Bogdan KLICH, Senator, Republic of Poland

Transatlantic Interparliamentary Statement on Unprecedented Mass Arrest of Russian Pro-Democracy Leaders on March 13, 2021

Mar 25 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 25, 2021

Contacts:
Honourable Irwin Cotler, PC, OC, OQ, Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights
+1 514.735.8778
Natalia Arno, Free Russia Foundation
+1 202.549.2417

TRANSATLANTIC INTERPARLIAMENTARY STATEMENT
On unprecedented mass arrest of Russian pro-democracy leaders on March 13, 2021

“We, the undersigned members of the foreign affairs committees of legislatures around the world – the duly elected democratic voices of our constituents and countries – unreservedly condemn the unprecedented mass arrest of Russian pro-democracy leaders. 

A violation of the Russian constitution and of the country’s international legal obligations, these unjust and arbitrary arrests are an assault on the last bastion of the Russian democratic movement. United in common cause, we call for an end to Putin’s punitive persecution and prosecutions of Russian civil society leaders, the release of all political prisoners, and the imposition of targeted Magnitsky sanctions against Russia’s architects of repression.

The crimes perpetrated by Putin’s regime against the Russian people and against the international community have been deadly and are well-documented. Left unchecked, its internal repression has often morphed into external aggression. Wars, murders, theft, embezzlement, nuclear blackmail, disinformation, election interference — they are so numerous and now so well-known, that we feel no need to enumerate all of them in this letter. Under the cover of Covid restrictions, we have seen a further intensification of these trends.

Last year, Putin’s regime illegally amended the Russian constitution, executing a constitutional coup, allowing Putin to stay in power indefinitely and thereby formalizing the Russian transition to authoritarianism. 

In January, he arrested Aleksey Navalny, who was punished with a nearly three-year prison term for not meeting his parole obligations because he was out of the country convalescing from a state-sponsored assassination attempt. Putin then brutally suppressed the nation-wide protests that emerged in Navalny’s support, arbitrarily arresting thousands, and launching criminal prosecutions against them.

On March 13th, security services entered a perfectly lawful Congress of elected municipal deputies and detained nearly 200 people for not adhering to the Kremlin’s command of how to interact with local constituents. In today’s Russia, disagreeing with Putin is not tolerated, and those who do find themselves in jail or worse.

Some of those detained included elected leaders like Ilya Yashin and Maxim Reznik, pro-democracy reformers Andrey Pivovarov and Anastasia Burakova, and popular politician Vladimir Kara-Murza. Mr. Kara-Murza is a top public intellectual and opposition leader whose transformative work on behalf of the Russian people has had a global resonance. His vision and values – eloquently conveyed with a uniquely compelling moral clarity and commitment, often before our respective legislatures – led to his earlier being targeted by the regime for assassination, attempts on his life that he survived twice. The work of such courageous leaders continues to be a source of inspiration in our pursuit of collective peace, security, and dignity for all.

For a society to succeed it must have a set of principles and values that guides it. Most notably, this includes a legal system that honors the rights of all its people and not solely for those who deem themselves leaders and the sycophants who profit from them.

Sadly, these recent developments demonstrate yet again that only Putin’s criminality and impunity prevail in Russia today. The way the regime runs its politics is indistinguishable from the way it runs its foreign policy and its business dealings. To indulge such malign behavior by the Kremlin toward those it disagrees with is to encourage its corrosive behavior in all these other areas.

The democracies of the world have a choice: maintain a normal relationship with a rogue state, continuing to send the message that its treatment of its own citizens is to be overlooked, and its malicious activities are to be condoned. Or, sending a clear and compelling message: that until the Kremlin reverses its troubling trajectory, the current status quo will be unacceptable. This includes targeted sanctions against Putin and his corrupt and criminal cronies – such as canceling access to our banking system, business ties, and safe harbor in our best neighborhoods and schools – ensuring that they cannot enjoy the liberties in our countries that they deny their compatriots in theirs. 

For the sake of a free Russia and a free world, we trust democracies will make the right choice.”

Rasa Jukneviciene, Member of the European Parliament

Andrius Kubilius, Member of the European Parliament

Miriam Lexmann, Member of the European Parliament

Pavel Fischer, Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security of the Senate of the Czech Republic

Marko Mihkelson, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Estonia

Richards Kols, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Seimas of the Republic of Latvia

Žygimantas Pavilions, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania

Bogdan Klich, Senator, Chairman of the Foreign and European Union Committee of the Senate of the Republic of Poland

Eerik Niiles Kross, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Estonia

Emanuelis Zingeris, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania

Benjamin L. Cardin, Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation; Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission)

Bill Keating, Member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Relations and Chair of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment

Brian Fitzpatrick, Member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Relations

Kimberley Kitching, Senator, Chair of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Deputy Chair of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Parliament of Australia

Chris Bryant, Member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the UK Parliament

Bob Seely, Member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the UK Parliament

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Urgent and Concrete Steps to Stop Putin’s Global Assassination Campaigns

Feb 11 2021

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent Russian pro-democracy advocate, was closely tracked by an FSB assassination squad when he suffered perplexing and near-fatal medical emergencies that sent him into coma in 2015 and 2017, establishes a new investigation by the Bellingcat group

Documents uncovered by Bellingcat show that this is the same assassination squad implicated in the August 2020 assassination attempt on Alexey Navalny and whose member has inadvertently confirmed the operation in a phone call with Navalny.   

Bellingcat has also established the FSB unit’s involvement in the murder of three Russian activists, all of whom died under unusual but similar circumstances. 

Taken together, these independent nongovernment investigations establish the fact of systemic, large-scale extrajudicial assassinations carried out by Putin’s government against its critics inside and outside of Russia, including with chemical weapons banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention. 

Free Russia Foundation calls on the international community to formally investigate and prosecute Putin’s government for these crimes. 

Free Russia Foundation calls on the Biden Administration to direct the FBI to release investigation materials surrounding the assassination attempts against Vladimir Kara-Murza that have been denied to him thus far. 

Free Russia Foundation calls on the international community to articulate measures to compel Russia to free Alexey Navalny from his illegal incarceration where his life remains in dire danger. 

Free Russia Foundation condemns in strongest terms today’s court sentence announced to Alexey Navalny

Feb 02 2021

Continued detention of Navalny is illegal and he must be freed immediately. Suppression of peaceful protests and mass arrests of Russian citizens must stop, and the Kremlin must release all those illegally detained and imprisoned on political motives. Free Russia Foundation calls on the international community, the US and European leadership, to move beyond expressions of concern and articulate a set of meaningful instruments to compel the Kremlin to stop its atrocities.