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.

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.