Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Holiday of Obedience or Imitation of Regional Elections in Russia

Sep 14 2015

The regional elections that took place yesterday (September 13, 2015) in many Russian regions did not surprise anyone. With the exceptions of Kostroma, where the democratic coalition was allowed to campaign, or Irkutsk with the surprised results and the second round of elections to follow, most of the elections were not competitive as usually.

So, we’ve decided to tell you a very typical story – when there is just an imitation of elections with no real alternative and when it’s quite safe and predictable for the ruling party. This is how it happens (on the example of Leningradskaya Oblast):

The elections in Leningradskaya Oblast are very difficult to call elections. Alexander Drozdenko, Acting Governor, was supported by the Kremlin and, in fact, chose his competitors by himself. For example, he chose Alexander Perminov, a 36-year-old deputy of the Legislative Assembly of Leningradskaya Oblast from ‘A Just Russia’ party, after having some tea with Sergey Mironov, the leader of the party. A little-known candidate from ‘Civic Initiative’ – Alexander Gabitov (a former son-in-law of Gennady Seleznev, ex-Speaker of the State Duma) was reportedly promised the position of the Vice-Governor of the region for his participating in the elections. And Gabitov was touting Drozdenko in his social media the entire summer, which looked quite stupid: “At the entrance to the government building of Leningradskaya Oblast I met A.Y. Drozdenko! Alexander Yurievich – democratically, without security. That’s what it means to conduct business in the region in a balanced and harmonious manner! You can honestly look into the eyes of the citizens and not to be afraid to walk down the street”!

A communist Nikolai Kuzmin, a State Duma deputy, also participated in the elections. When journalists requested him to enumerate the shortcomings of Drozdenko, he effaced himself much. As it turned out, he couldn’t imagine he was supposed to criticize his opponent.

To Andrey Lebedev, the leader of the LDPR faction in the Legislative Assembly, was promised the second place in the elections – so that his self-esteem doesn’t plummet too much. However, the results show that promise of the head of the region hasn’t been kept.

Independent candidates were not allowed to campaign – they were blocked through the so-called ‘municipal filter’ (candidates to the post of the head of the region should collect signatures of municipal deputies, and taking into account that the United Russia has an absolute majority, the chances of unapproved candidates to get to the election ballots equal zero).

A regional oligarch, deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the region from United Russia, Vladimir Petrov, wanted to participate in the elections. He was ready to spend significant funds for his campaign, but Drozdenko was afraid of a strong competitor and reportedly requested the President’s Administration not to let Petrov in the elections.

“God looks after me. I have nobody to fear”

Drozdenko’s elections – as they are dubbed in the region – are the exact repeat of Poltavchenko’s elections of last year when Acting Governor of St. Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko was provided with dummy candidates that did not pose any threat to him. Konstantin Sukhenko, a deputy of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly from the LDPR, learned he was Poltavchenko’s competitor by accident. He received a phone call and was informed he wanted to become the Governor of Russia’s North Capital. At least he told his friends so. Later, Sukhenko became the head of the Committee on Culture of St. Petersburg i.e. was promoted in exchange for his participation in the elections. Nobody knew Andrey Petrov before those elections – a candidate from the Rodina party, who became Deputy Head of the Central District of St. Petersburg and who unofficially, organized the March summit of European neo-Nazis to the city. City political scientists had difficulty remembering the name of candidate Takhir Bikbaev. Vadim Tulpanov, the Senator, Ex-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly even jokingly called him Timur Bekmambetov (it’s a famous Russian movie director). Poltavchenko didn’t let his biggest opponent in the election – Oksana Dmitrieva from A Just Russia party, which is very popular in the city. When I asked Poltavchenko if he feared her, he responded: “God looks after me. I have nobody to fear.”

Even if the main candidates gain a big percentage and the turnout is only 20%, it may look not serious enough

In both cases, the authorities were worried only about one thing – the turnout. Even if the main candidates gain a big percentage and the turnout is only 20%, it may look not serious enough. There is a question of legitimacy in this case. That’s why in both Leningradskaya Oblast this year and in St. Petersburg last year the early voting of so-called ‘budget workers’ were organized. They were not forced to vote for Drozdenko since the main threat for him was only the turnout.

Since there were no real competitors, there were no independent observers as well. Russian pop music was heard in empty poll stations. Pies, traditional for Russian elections, quickly ended. Policemen played games on their cell phones in a relaxed manner. Rare voters would explain they voted for Drozdenko since they “don’t know any other candidate. They haven’t seen anybody on billboards, newspapers haven’t written anything about them.” What is the difference, in the end, with what result Drozdenko is going to win?

Regional journalists, mostly funded by Drozdenko and therefore, can’t write negatively about him, unofficially called the elections as a ‘Holiday of Obedience’ and were happy that those dull, non-alternative and predictable elections are finally over.

According to the preliminary data, voiced by the head of the Leningradskaya Oblast Election Commission Vladimir Zhuravlev, Alexander Drozdenko got 80,6% votes, Nikolay Kuzmin – 8,39%, Alexander Perminov – 3,86%, Andrei Lebedev – 3,45%, Alexander Gabitov – 1,9%.

by Alexandra Garmazhapova

So, we’ve decided to tell you a very typical story – when there is just an imitation of elections with no real alternative and when it’s quite safe and predictable for the ruling party. This is how it happens (on the example of Leningradskaya Oblast):

The elections in Leningradskaya Oblast are very difficult to call elections. Alexander Drozdenko, Acting Governor, was supported by the Kremlin and, in fact, chose his competitors by himself. For example, he chose Alexander Perminov, a 36-year-old deputy of the Legislative Assembly of Leningradskaya Oblast from ‘A Just Russia’ party, after having some tea with Sergey Mironov, the leader of the party. A little-known candidate from ‘Civic Initiative’ – Alexander Gabitov (a former son-in-law of Gennady Seleznev, ex-Speaker of the State Duma) was reportedly promised the position of the Vice-Governor of the region for his participating in the elections. And Gabitov was touting Drozdenko in his social media the entire summer, which looked quite stupid: “At the entrance to the government building of Leningradskaya Oblast I met A.Y. Drozdenko! Alexander Yurievich – democratically, without security. That’s what it means to conduct business in the region in a balanced and harmonious manner! You can honestly look into the eyes of the citizens and not to be afraid to walk down the street”!

A communist Nikolai Kuzmin, a State Duma deputy, also participated in the elections. When journalists requested him to enumerate the shortcomings of Drozdenko, he effaced himself much. As it turned out, he couldn’t imagine he was supposed to criticize his opponent.

To Andrey Lebedev, the leader of the LDPR faction in the Legislative Assembly, was promised the second place in the elections – so that his self-esteem doesn’t plummet too much. However, the results show that promise of the head of the region hasn’t been kept.

Independent candidates were not allowed to campaign – they were blocked through the so-called ‘municipal filter’ (candidates to the post of the head of the region should collect signatures of municipal deputies, and taking into account that the United Russia has an absolute majority, the chances of unapproved candidates to get to the election ballots equal zero).

A regional oligarch, deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the region from United Russia, Vladimir Petrov, wanted to participate in the elections. He was ready to spend significant funds for his campaign, but Drozdenko was afraid of a strong competitor and reportedly requested the President’s Administration not to let Petrov in the elections.

“God looks after me. I have nobody to fear”

Drozdenko’s elections – as they are dubbed in the region – are the exact repeat of Poltavchenko’s elections of last year when Acting Governor of St. Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko was provided with dummy candidates that did not pose any threat to him. Konstantin Sukhenko, a deputy of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly from the LDPR, learned he was Poltavchenko’s competitor by accident. He received a phone call and was informed he wanted to become the Governor of Russia’s North Capital. At least he told his friends so. Later, Sukhenko became the head of the Committee on Culture of St. Petersburg i.e. was promoted in exchange for his participation in the elections. Nobody knew Andrey Petrov before those elections – a candidate from the Rodina party, who became Deputy Head of the Central District of St. Petersburg and who unofficially, organized the March summit of European neo-Nazis to the city. City political scientists had difficulty remembering the name of candidate Takhir Bikbaev. Vadim Tulpanov, the Senator, Ex-Speaker of the Legislative Assembly even jokingly called him Timur Bekmambetov (it’s a famous Russian movie director). Poltavchenko didn’t let his biggest opponent in the election – Oksana Dmitrieva from A Just Russia party, which is very popular in the city. When I asked Poltavchenko if he feared her, he responded: “God looks after me. I have nobody to fear.”

Even if the main candidates gain a big percentage and the turnout is only 20%, it may look not serious enough

In both cases, the authorities were worried only about one thing – the turnout. Even if the main candidates gain a big percentage and the turnout is only 20%, it may look not serious enough. There is a question of legitimacy in this case. That’s why in both Leningradskaya Oblast this year and in St. Petersburg last year the early voting of so-called ‘budget workers’ were organized. They were not forced to vote for Drozdenko since the main threat for him was only the turnout.

Since there were no real competitors, there were no independent observers as well. Russian pop music was heard in empty poll stations. Pies, traditional for Russian elections, quickly ended. Policemen played games on their cell phones in a relaxed manner. Rare voters would explain they voted for Drozdenko since they “don’t know any other candidate. They haven’t seen anybody on billboards, newspapers haven’t written anything about them.” What is the difference, in the end, with what result Drozdenko is going to win?

Regional journalists, mostly funded by Drozdenko and therefore, can’t write negatively about him, unofficially called the elections as a ‘Holiday of Obedience’ and were happy that those dull, non-alternative and predictable elections are finally over.

According to the preliminary data, voiced by the head of the Leningradskaya Oblast Election Commission Vladimir Zhuravlev, Alexander Drozdenko got 80,6% votes, Nikolay Kuzmin – 8,39%, Alexander Perminov – 3,86%, Andrei Lebedev – 3,45%, Alexander Gabitov – 1,9%.

by Alexandra Garmazhapova

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.