FRF has seen increased targeting by sophisticated cyber and legislative attacks by the Kremlin in recent months

Aug 15 2019

FRF was reportedly one of 30 organizations subjected to phishing attacks on the highly-encrypted ProtonMail servers and remains under a barrage of Kremlin propaganda amid massive protests in Moscow.

FRF was reportedly one of 30 organizations subjected to phishing attacks on the highly-encrypted ProtonMail servers and remains under a barrage of Kremlin propaganda amid massive protests in Moscow.

In recent months, FRF email accounts associated with ProtonMail and Gmail have been under a barrage of sophisticated phishing attempts to gain access to our private account information. According to reports in Bellingcat and The Insider, themselves victims of this attack, FRF was one of 30 ProtonMail users that were targeted in attempted phishing hacks. The list of targets under attack by the sophisticated operation carried out against the Swiss-based mail service included NGOs and think tanks, including Free Russia Foundation (FRF), and investigative journalists/activist researchers that expose aggressive Russian intelligence operations against Western democracies. According to Bellingcat’s research, the most likely perpetrator behind this attack is the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, that has already been caught in multiple illegal hacking operations against the US and its EU allies. Reportedly, Swiss, French and Dutch law enforcement are investigating the details of the latest attack. In a statement by ProtonMail, it is suggested that the cyberattacks were carried out by “Fancy Bear,” which is commonly thought to be a front for the GRU.

Over the last few months, Kremlin propaganda networks have initiated a barrage of public and discreet attacks on FRF and its staff. This has included statements made by the General Prosecutor’s office that FRF, among other foreign groups, have been responsible for organizing recent rallies in Russia. While we applaud those facing down police brutality, the organic rallies of up to 60,000 Russians in Moscow and elsewhere have been in protest against the illegal removal of several non-Kremlin allied candidates from the Moscow city ballot; they were not organized by foreign actors.

FRF has also been the subject of several recent breathless news reports suggesting our promotion of democracy, led by Russians for Russians is somehow treasonous. This came on the heels of June 28, 2019 designation by the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s office that FRF is an “undesirable” organization, one of 18 international organizations banned from direct activities in Russia. (FRF statement on the “undesirable” designation)

Rosfinmonitoring, Russian Financial service, absurdly attempted to accuse a member of FRF staff of being a suspect in financial transaction with ISIL (Islamic State). Ironically, this low-quality fabrication was revealed just at the time when FRF was finalizing its ground-breaking report “Misrule of Law” on the Kremlin’s interference in judicial and law enforcement processes in the West.

This spring, Russian State Duma officials and Kremlin-sponsored media falsely accused FRF of plotting and instigating anti-Russian protests in Tbilisi, Georgia, through our recently-opened office there.

“The fact that our analysts are targets of such illegal hacking and slander attacks alongside the best Western investigators of Russian aggression only confirms to us that we are doing the right thing as we expose the crimes of this kleptocratic regime. The whole world sees the brutality and stupidity of the Kremlin’s attempts to suppress genuine protests of tens of thousands of ordinary Muscovites and other Russian citizens. The Free Russia Foundation will continue its objective analysis of ongoing developments despite any attempts to impede our work,” said Natalia Arno, Founder and President of the FRF.

For more information, contact Natalia Arno at natalia.arno@4freerussia.org

FRF was reportedly one of 30 organizations subjected to phishing attacks on the highly-encrypted ProtonMail servers and remains under a barrage of Kremlin propaganda amid massive protests in Moscow.

In recent months, FRF email accounts associated with ProtonMail and Gmail have been under a barrage of sophisticated phishing attempts to gain access to our private account information. According to reports in Bellingcat and The Insider, themselves victims of this attack, FRF was one of 30 ProtonMail users that were targeted in attempted phishing hacks. The list of targets under attack by the sophisticated operation carried out against the Swiss-based mail service included NGOs and think tanks, including Free Russia Foundation (FRF), and investigative journalists/activist researchers that expose aggressive Russian intelligence operations against Western democracies. According to Bellingcat’s research, the most likely perpetrator behind this attack is the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, that has already been caught in multiple illegal hacking operations against the US and its EU allies. Reportedly, Swiss, French and Dutch law enforcement are investigating the details of the latest attack. In a statement by ProtonMail, it is suggested that the cyberattacks were carried out by “Fancy Bear,” which is commonly thought to be a front for the GRU.

Over the last few months, Kremlin propaganda networks have initiated a barrage of public and discreet attacks on FRF and its staff. This has included statements made by the General Prosecutor’s office that FRF, among other foreign groups, have been responsible for organizing recent rallies in Russia. While we applaud those facing down police brutality, the organic rallies of up to 60,000 Russians in Moscow and elsewhere have been in protest against the illegal removal of several non-Kremlin allied candidates from the Moscow city ballot; they were not organized by foreign actors.

FRF has also been the subject of several recent breathless news reports suggesting our promotion of democracy, led by Russians for Russians is somehow treasonous. This came on the heels of June 28, 2019 designation by the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s office that FRF is an “undesirable” organization, one of 18 international organizations banned from direct activities in Russia. (FRF statement on the “undesirable” designation)

Rosfinmonitoring, Russian Financial service, absurdly attempted to accuse a member of FRF staff of being a suspect in financial transaction with ISIL (Islamic State). Ironically, this low-quality fabrication was revealed just at the time when FRF was finalizing its ground-breaking report “Misrule of Law” on the Kremlin’s interference in judicial and law enforcement processes in the West.

This spring, Russian State Duma officials and Kremlin-sponsored media falsely accused FRF of plotting and instigating anti-Russian protests in Tbilisi, Georgia, through our recently-opened office there.

“The fact that our analysts are targets of such illegal hacking and slander attacks alongside the best Western investigators of Russian aggression only confirms to us that we are doing the right thing as we expose the crimes of this kleptocratic regime. The whole world sees the brutality and stupidity of the Kremlin’s attempts to suppress genuine protests of tens of thousands of ordinary Muscovites and other Russian citizens. The Free Russia Foundation will continue its objective analysis of ongoing developments despite any attempts to impede our work,” said Natalia Arno, Founder and President of the FRF.

For more information, contact Natalia Arno at natalia.arno@4freerussia.org

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.

Free Russia Foundation demands Navalny’s immediate release

Jan 17 2021

On January 17, 2021, Putin’s agents arrested Alexey Navalny as he returned to Russia from Germany where he was treated for a near-deadly poisoning perpetrated by state-directed assassins.

Navalny’s illegal arrest constitutes kidnapping. He is kept incommunicado from his lawyer and family at an unknown location and his life is in danger.

Free Russia Foundation demands his immediate release and an international investigation of crimes committed against him by Putin’s government.

The European Court of Human Rights Recognizes Complaints on Violations in “Ukraine v. Russia” as Admissible

Jan 14 2021

On January 14, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights published its decision on the case “Ukraine v. Russia”. The Grand Chamber of the Court has recognized complaints No. 20958/14 and No. 38334/18 as partially admissible for consideration on the merits. The decision will be followed by a judgment at a later date.

The case concerns the consideration of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights related to Russia’s systematic administrative practices in Crimea. 

The admissibility of the case is based on the fact that, since 2014, the Russian Federation has exercised effective control over the territory of Crimea, and, accordingly, is fully responsible for compliance with the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights in Crimea. The Court now needs to determine the specific circumstances of the case and establish the facts regarding violations of Articles of the Convention during two periods: from February 27, 2014 to March 18, 2014 (the period of the Russian invasion); and from March 18, 2014 onward (the period during which the Russian Federation has exercised effective control over Crimea).

The Court has established that prima facie it has sufficient evidence of systematic administrative practice concerning the following circumstances:

  • forced rendition and the lack of an effective investigation into such a practice under Article 2; 
  • cruel treatment and unlawful detention under Articles 3 and 5; 
  • extending application of Russian law into Crimea with the result that, as of  February 27, 2014, the courts in Crimea could not be considered to have been “established by law” as defined by Article 6; 
  • automatic imposition of Russian citizenship and unreasonable searches of private dwellings under Article 8; 
  • harassment and intimidation of religious leaders not conforming to the Russian Orthodox faith, arbitrary raids of places of worship and confiscation of religious property under Article 9;
  • suppression of non-Russian media under Article 10; 
  • prohibition of public gatherings and manifestations of support, as well as intimidation and arbitrary detention of organizers of demonstrations under Article 11; 
  • expropriation without compensation of property from civilians and private enterprises under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;
  • suppression of the Ukrainian language in schools and harassment of Ukrainian-speaking children under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1; 6 
  • restricting freedom of movement between Crimea and mainland Ukraine, resulting from the de facto transformation (by Russia) of the administrative delimitation into a border (between Russia and Ukraine) under Article 2 of Protocol No. 4; and, 
  • discriminating against Crimean Tatars under Article 14, taken in conjunction with Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention and with Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.

Cases between states are the rarest category considered by the ECHR. Almost all cases considered in Strasbourg concern individuals or organizations and involve illegal actions or inaction of the states’ parties to the Convention. However, Art. 33 of this Convention provides that “any High Contracting Party may refer to the Court the question of any alleged violation of the provisions of the Convention and its Protocols by another High Contracting Party.” In the entire history of the ECHR since 1953, there have been only 27 such cases. Two of them are joint cases against Russia, both of which concern the Russian Federation’s aggression on the territory of its neighboring states, Georgia and Ukraine.

New Year’s Blessings to All

Dec 30 2020

While 2020 gave us unprecedented challenges, it created transformative changes in the way we work and communicate. The hours of Zoom calls seemingly brought us all closer together as we got a glimpse into each other’s makeshift home offices along with interruption by kids and the family pets. Remote work also made us appreciate human interactions, in-person events and trips much more!

As 2020 comes to an end, we want to especially thank our supporters who continued to believe in our mission and the value of our hard work, and we hope the coming year brings all of us progress and growth for democracy throughout the world. We’d also like to thank our partners and staff in the U.S. and abroad, and we know how hard everyone has worked under difficult world changes to achieve so many of our objectives this year.

We send our best wishes to all who have stayed in the fight for democratic reforms and for the values of basic human rights. We look forward to a new year with the hope of many positive changes to come.

– Natalia Arno and the Free Russia Foundation team.