Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Experts: Russia unlikely to free itself of authoritarianism in near term

Feb 06 2018

Last Thursday (Feb. 1), the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think-tank, held a panel discussion on The Direction of Russian Politics and the Putin Factor as a part of its series on domestic Russian affairs.

The discussion explored Russia’s system of political power, the personal role of Putin and future scenarios. Looking ahead at the years to come, experts did not expect major changes in Russian politics, with some predicting harsher times for the Russian opposition.

The panel of experts included:

Dr. Yevgenia Albats, a Russian journalist and political scientist, editor-in-chief of The New Times

Andrei Kozyrev, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation

Dr. Eugene Rumer, Senior Fellow and Director, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, Distinguished Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council

In her assessment of Russia’s political transformation since Vladimir Putin became president in 2000, Dr. Albats found that there has been a transition from “personalistic authoritarianism” to the corporatism seen in Benito Mussolini’s Italy and Francisco Franco’s Spain.

Eight years after Putin first became president, the number of key administrative positions held by the cadres from the KGB, the GRU and the military – known as the siloviki – had increased to 67%, according to Ms. Albats. By 2015, Russian government institutions had been completely overtaken by them, forming a clan with a shared background and beliefs on domestic and foreign politics.

Albats said that never before had the “political police” been completely in charge as it is now, having previously answered to the Communist Party or Tsarist power. As such, Putin has become a hostage of the system that he has helped create, but “a willing hostage” who is fully aware of his situation and will remain “a face of this corporation” for some time, said Albats.

Ms. Albats finds that corporatist authoritarianism is more predictable and stable than personalistic regimes, as it is more consolidated and governed by shared rules. In this regard, she said it is “difficult to expect positive change in Russia”.

Ms. Albats also noted a new phenomenon that has developed in Russia – “hereditary capitalism,” referring to the children of the powerful. This “new Russian nomenklatura” have taken leading positions at financial institutions, state entities, and governmental agencies. Many of these people were educated in the West and while they may not have fully adopted Western democratic values, they “may bring some change and possibilities of democratic development” in the future, said Albats. In this regard, there is a parallel with the “children of nomenklatura” of the Soviet era, who was a “sort of vehicle in opening the country”.

Mr. Kozyrev noted that authoritarianism can be traced back hundreds of years in Russian history and has become a “vicious circle”. The current regime’s domestic and foreign policies – including its “military adventures” in Syria and Ukraine – are “contrary to the national interest of Russia,” said Mr. Kozyrev. “The interest of the regime is to steal in Russia and to spend in the West”, while keeping Russia under control through propaganda, said Mr. Kozyrev. To combat this, Western governments should focus on seizing the regime’s illegitimate foreign assets, he said.

In Dr. Rumer’s view, Russian authority is more of a clan-based system than a corporatist one. Although the Kremlin is the dominant force, the system still contains different clans and interest groups that originated in the 1990s. The rivalry between these clans has been visible in uncertain periods, such as the end of Putin’s second term as president in 2007-2008. Mr. Rumer doesn’t foresee any major changes in the next six years – as he believes the system will be able to deal with uncertainty, domestic challenges and discontent – but the situation may change after 2024.

Ambassador Vershbow agreed that the regime has become more corporatist than a dictatorship with a “single strongman calling all the shots.” Still, he doesn’t see Putin being dictated by the “corporation” as “they need him as the dispenser of illicit wealth.” But it is not certain whether there would be “cohesion” among the “members of the corporation” if Putin were to go.

Mr. Vershbow said the regime has been relatively successful in marginalizing the opposition without resorting to excessive force.

“They are being careful not to make Navalny into a martyr,” said Mr. Vershbow. “But I fear if he is successful with the boycott and deprives Putin of his 70 percent turnout and 70 percent approval in the so-called elections, harsher measures could come, remembering the assassination of Boris Nemtsov has to have been signed off at senior levels of the regime”.

In terms of the future, Vershbow predicts further clashes with the West, regardless of whether Putin is in power or a successor, since “the leaders of this corporation believe in their own propaganda.”

By Valeria Jegisman

The discussion explored Russia’s system of political power, the personal role of Putin and future scenarios. Looking ahead at the years to come, experts did not expect major changes in Russian politics, with some predicting harsher times for the Russian opposition.

The panel of experts included:

Dr. Yevgenia Albats, a Russian journalist and political scientist, editor-in-chief of The New Times

Andrei Kozyrev, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation

Dr. Eugene Rumer, Senior Fellow and Director, Russia and Eurasia Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, Distinguished Fellow, Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council

In her assessment of Russia’s political transformation since Vladimir Putin became president in 2000, Dr. Albats found that there has been a transition from “personalistic authoritarianism” to the corporatism seen in Benito Mussolini’s Italy and Francisco Franco’s Spain.

Eight years after Putin first became president, the number of key administrative positions held by the cadres from the KGB, the GRU and the military – known as the siloviki – had increased to 67%, according to Ms. Albats. By 2015, Russian government institutions had been completely overtaken by them, forming a clan with a shared background and beliefs on domestic and foreign politics.

Albats said that never before had the “political police” been completely in charge as it is now, having previously answered to the Communist Party or Tsarist power. As such, Putin has become a hostage of the system that he has helped create, but “a willing hostage” who is fully aware of his situation and will remain “a face of this corporation” for some time, said Albats.

Ms. Albats finds that corporatist authoritarianism is more predictable and stable than personalistic regimes, as it is more consolidated and governed by shared rules. In this regard, she said it is “difficult to expect positive change in Russia”.

Ms. Albats also noted a new phenomenon that has developed in Russia – “hereditary capitalism,” referring to the children of the powerful. This “new Russian nomenklatura” have taken leading positions at financial institutions, state entities, and governmental agencies. Many of these people were educated in the West and while they may not have fully adopted Western democratic values, they “may bring some change and possibilities of democratic development” in the future, said Albats. In this regard, there is a parallel with the “children of nomenklatura” of the Soviet era, who was a “sort of vehicle in opening the country”.

Mr. Kozyrev noted that authoritarianism can be traced back hundreds of years in Russian history and has become a “vicious circle”. The current regime’s domestic and foreign policies – including its “military adventures” in Syria and Ukraine – are “contrary to the national interest of Russia,” said Mr. Kozyrev. “The interest of the regime is to steal in Russia and to spend in the West”, while keeping Russia under control through propaganda, said Mr. Kozyrev. To combat this, Western governments should focus on seizing the regime’s illegitimate foreign assets, he said.

In Dr. Rumer’s view, Russian authority is more of a clan-based system than a corporatist one. Although the Kremlin is the dominant force, the system still contains different clans and interest groups that originated in the 1990s. The rivalry between these clans has been visible in uncertain periods, such as the end of Putin’s second term as president in 2007-2008. Mr. Rumer doesn’t foresee any major changes in the next six years – as he believes the system will be able to deal with uncertainty, domestic challenges and discontent – but the situation may change after 2024.

Ambassador Vershbow agreed that the regime has become more corporatist than a dictatorship with a “single strongman calling all the shots.” Still, he doesn’t see Putin being dictated by the “corporation” as “they need him as the dispenser of illicit wealth.” But it is not certain whether there would be “cohesion” among the “members of the corporation” if Putin were to go.

Mr. Vershbow said the regime has been relatively successful in marginalizing the opposition without resorting to excessive force.

“They are being careful not to make Navalny into a martyr,” said Mr. Vershbow. “But I fear if he is successful with the boycott and deprives Putin of his 70 percent turnout and 70 percent approval in the so-called elections, harsher measures could come, remembering the assassination of Boris Nemtsov has to have been signed off at senior levels of the regime”.

In terms of the future, Vershbow predicts further clashes with the West, regardless of whether Putin is in power or a successor, since “the leaders of this corporation believe in their own propaganda.”

By Valeria Jegisman

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Signing of the Treaty on the “Incorporation of New Territories into Russia,” De Facto the Annexation of the Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Sep 30 2022

On Friday, September 30, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic,” as well as the occupation administrations of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, signed treaties in the Kremlin on “joining Russia.”

Free Russia Foundation strongly condemns the decision of Vladimir Putin and his administration to continue the illegal annexation of the occupied territories in Ukraine. The forcible change of international borders at the expense of another sovereign state and the so-called “referenda” that preceded it are a serious violation of the foundations of international law and cannot be recognized under any circumstances.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation: “Today Vladimir Putin has de facto announced the illegal annexation of the occupied territory of a sovereign state. The signing of this treaty is a blatant violation of the fundamental norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, of which Russia is a member. Such actions by the Russian President, together with previously announced military mobilization and nuclear blackmail, only lead to an escalation of the conflict and new human sacrifices. In the modern world, borders cannot be redrawn at gunpoint. Russia’s actions are illegal and unacceptable to the civilized world.”

Free Russia Foundation, which provides support to Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, calls on all countries and international organizations to join us in resolute and public condemnation of Russian military aggression and its illegal actions to tear away the territory of sovereign Ukraine. We urge you to call on the Kremlin to cease its hostilities and leave the territories it has seized.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Kremlin’s Decision to Annex the Occupied Territories of Ukraine and Preparations for Mobilization in Russia

Sep 20 2022

On September 20, 2022, the occupation authorities of the self-proclaimed republics “LNR” and “DNR” and other occupied territories of Ukraine, Zaporozhye and Kherson regions, hastily announced that they would hold “referendums on joining Russia” in the near future. The authorities of the “LNR” and “DNR” added that the vote will take place as early as this week, from September 23 to 27, 2022.

On the same day, the Russian State Duma introduced the concepts of “mobilization,” “martial law” and “wartime” into the Russian Criminal Code. The deputies voted for the law in the third reading unanimously — all 389 of them. Now voluntary surrender, looting and unauthorized abandonment of a unit during combat operations will result in imprisonment.

From the first day of the war unleashed by Putin’s regime and its allies against independent Ukraine, Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights activists forced to leave the country because of direct security threats, has condemned the crimes of Putin’s regime against independent Ukraine. We respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states and consider human life and freedom to be of the highest value.

The forthcoming “referendums”, mobilization, and martial law are a collapse of the whole system of “Putin’s stability,” the illusion of which the Kremlin has been trying to maintain since the beginning of the full-scale war with Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is preparing to blatantly violate international law once again and launch an attack on democracy and freedom in Ukraine and Europe. Any statements by the Kremlin that residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine want to become part of Russia are false.

Three decades ago, the Ukrainian people proclaimed the independence of their state. Since 2014, the world has seen that Vladimir Putin has undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and any attempts at anti-war protest in Russia through military force, repressive legislation, false statements, and massive state propaganda. Despite all the suffering inflicted on Ukraine, Putin has failed to achieve this goal: Ukrainians continue to show fortitude and determination to defend their country at any cost, and Russian anti-war resistance continues despite repression.

We consider any attempts to tear away Ukrainian territory through so-called “referendums” categorically unacceptable and call on state institutions and international human rights organizations to join the demand for an immediate end to the war and the liberation of the occupied territories. Any war brings suffering to humanity and endangers peace. We will not allow a totalitarian dictatorship to prevail and we will continue to fight for Ukraine’s independence and Russia’s democratic future.

Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Vladimir Milov as Vice President for International Advocacy

Sep 01 2022

September 1, 2022. Washington, DC. Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Russian politician, publicist, economist, and energy expert Vladimir Milov as FRF Vice President for International Advocacy.

In her announcement of Vladimir’s new role, Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome this distinguished Russian civil society leader to our team. I am certain that Vladimir will become our force multiplier and make a profound contribution to FRF’s mission, including strengthening civil society in Russia, standing up for democracy defenders who oppose war, both inside and outside the country, building coalitions and mobilizing supporters. Vladimir Milov’s professional skills and extensive experience in human rights advocacy will help us come up with effective and innovative approaches to combat the authoritarian regime and repression that the current Russian government has unleashed against citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.”

Vladimir Milov was born on June 18, 1972. From 1997—2002 he worked in government agencies, more than 4 years of which were in senior positions, from assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Commission to the Deputy Minister of Energy of Russia.

Vladimir Milov has bravely and publicly called out the authorities for monopolizing the economy, and encroaching into public and political life of Russian citizens. Milov’s profile as an opposition leader rose thanks to his joint project with Boris Nemtsov. The report titled “Putin. Results,” condemned the activities of the Russian government during Putin’s presidency. In 2010, Mr. Milov headed the Democratic Choice movement, which later served as the basis for the creation of a political party with the same name.

In 2016, Mr. Milov became an associate of the unregistered presidential candidate Alexei Navalny. On May 11, 2017, he began hosting a weekly segment on the economy, “Where’s the Money?” on the NavalnyLIVE broadcast on YouTube.

In April of 2021, he left Russia for Lithuania amidst persecution of Alexei Navalny’s organizations. In February of 2022, he categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 6, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice added Vladimir Milov to the list of media outlets considered as “foreign agents.” Vladimir Milov is a regular guest expert for the world’s leading media outlets — CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal.

Kara-Murza faces a new charge as the Kremlin cracks down on its opponents

Aug 04 2022

Russian pro-democracy politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who’s been in jail since April for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military, now also stands accused of “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization,” which names Free Russia Foundation in the newly filed charge.

Free Russia Foundation, unconstitutionally designated as an “undesirable” organization by the Russian government in June 2019, did not organize an event on political prisoners in Moscow in 2021. FRF does not have any presence or programs inside Russia. Additionally, FRF has never conducted any work in the State of Arizona.

FRF strongly condemns the new charges brought against Vladimir Kara-Murza by Russian authorities and demands the dropping of all charges against him and calls for his immediate release.

“All actions of the Kremlin directed against Russian opposition politicians and activists have nothing in common with establishing the truth. They are instead aimed solely at getting rid of opponents of Putin’s regime,” FRF President Arno stated.

Free Russian Foundation and Boris Nemtsov Foundation launch “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign

Jul 25 2022

Russia is not Putin. We are Russia.

We aim at sharing this message with our friends around the world — therefore, in cooperation with Boris Nemtsov Foundation we are launching “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign.

We are going to be telling the stories of active pro-democracy anti-war Russians who have not lost their hope. US nationals also participate in this campaign: Francis Fukuyama, investigative journalist Casey Michel, and alumni of Boris Nemtsov Foundation media school.

Thank you for your donation:

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom honors the political legacy of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian liberal opposition politician assassinated in Moscow in 2015. It promotes freedom of speech and education along with the vision that Russia is a part of Europe.