Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

How to Identify the Kremlin Ruling Elite and its Agents

Nov 16 2017

The Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think-tank, has proposed a set of criteria as the U.S. government compiles a list of corrupt Russian individuals and businesses with ties to the Kremlin.

The list is set to be published in a U.S. government report to Congress in February 2018, as mandated by a new sanctions law signed by the U.S. President in August. Section 241 of the new sanctions law* requires a report listing “the most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation, as determined by their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth”. However, the law does not lay out specific parameters to identify the “closeness” of persons to the Putin regime.

On Tuesday (Nov. 14), in an effort to explore this criterion, the Atlantic Council gathered at the Russell Senate Office Building, bringing together leading experts, including: 

Ambassador Daniel Fried, distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and former coordinator on sanctions policy at the U.S. Department of State;

Anders Aslund, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and professor at Georgetown University;

Andrei Piontkovsky, a visiting fellow at Hudson Institute and a senior adviser for Free Russia Foundation; 

Andrei Illarionov, a senior fellow at Cato Institute and a former chief economic adviser to Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Fried said the report may be one of the most important elements of the new sanctions law. It has raised intense speculation in Moscow on who might be included in it and what that might mean for the Russian political and business elite and for Russia’s standing in the West.

He also said the report may persuade the Russian political and business class that they are better off by distancing themselves from the Putin regime and that it is a mistake to think that President Putin can protect them.

The ambassador also noted the need for clarifying the criteria for assessing ties with the Kremlin.

To this end, Mr. Aslund laid out the Atlantic Council’s proposed guidelines to U.S. authorities:

1) The person named is close to the Russian regime, measured by his or her involvement in planning, ordering, preparing, financing, executing, or otherwise supporting the aggressive, corrupt, or criminal actions noted above; or

2) The person’s fortune has been made through corrupt commercial operations with the Putin regime for the sake of personal gain; or

3) The person has held assets for Putin in what appears to be a corrupt fashion, even if he or she personally is not involved in the actions mentioned above, or his or her known personal fortune is not great enough to be considered of “oligarch” scale.

While the panel didn’t speculate about particular names that might be included on the list, Mr. Aslund discussed categories of people the report could include, such as those organizing mercenary forces in Ukraine and Syria and involved in cyber-warfare and disinformation campaigns. It could also include the oligarchs who profit from business ties with the Kremlin, Putin’s close circle from the 1990s, golden children, among others

Mr. Illarionov noted that Russian aggression has gone beyond the international borders and has become an international problem – therefore needing an international solution. Moreover, he said, the U.S. demands related to corruption and human rights violations are in line with Russia’s own laws.

“The criminal code of the Russian Federation is not too different from the criminal code of the United States,” Illarionov said. “Therefore, the crucial difference between them is not the conduct of criminal code per se, but the actual practice of written and unwritten laws. Too often today in Russia those who are guilty are not punished.”

Mr. Piontkovsky also supported an international response to Russian corruption, saying it could potentially improve U.S.-Russian relations. Piontkovsky explained that while Kremlin aggression often lies beyond the legal jurisdiction of U.S. authorities, the U.S. and European governments still have a powerful tool at their disposal – measures to freeze Kremlin-linked assets.

“Activists and leaders of the Russian opposition call for the U.S. government to hit the most vulnerable point of the Russian kleptocracy – their huge assets in the U.S,” Piontkovsky said.

“We have a classical Al Capone situation. You remember that your famous gangster was tried and sentenced for tax evasion, not for hideous crimes,” he said, adding, “the Russian ruling leadership is a collective Al Capone,  who can be tried here for money-laundering.”

______________________

*Section 241 of the new sanctions law, H.R. 3364, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, requires the U.S. administration to submit a report (“Report on oligarchs and parastatal entities of the Russian Federation”) listing “the most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation, as determined by their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth”. The report is expected to provide details on individuals’ relationships with President Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian ruling elite, as well as identifying corrupt practices and estimating their net worth. Furthermore, the report must also assess the emergence, leadership structure and beneficial ownership of parastatal entities.

The list is set to be published in a U.S. government report to Congress in February 2018, as mandated by a new sanctions law signed by the U.S. President in August. Section 241 of the new sanctions law* requires a report listing “the most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation, as determined by their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth”. However, the law does not lay out specific parameters to identify the “closeness” of persons to the Putin regime.

On Tuesday (Nov. 14), in an effort to explore this criterion, the Atlantic Council gathered at the Russell Senate Office Building, bringing together leading experts, including: 

Ambassador Daniel Fried, distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council and former coordinator on sanctions policy at the U.S. Department of State;

Anders Aslund, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and professor at Georgetown University;

Andrei Piontkovsky, a visiting fellow at Hudson Institute and a senior adviser for Free Russia Foundation; 

Andrei Illarionov, a senior fellow at Cato Institute and a former chief economic adviser to Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Fried said the report may be one of the most important elements of the new sanctions law. It has raised intense speculation in Moscow on who might be included in it and what that might mean for the Russian political and business elite and for Russia’s standing in the West.

He also said the report may persuade the Russian political and business class that they are better off by distancing themselves from the Putin regime and that it is a mistake to think that President Putin can protect them.

The ambassador also noted the need for clarifying the criteria for assessing ties with the Kremlin.

To this end, Mr. Aslund laid out the Atlantic Council’s proposed guidelines to U.S. authorities:

1) The person named is close to the Russian regime, measured by his or her involvement in planning, ordering, preparing, financing, executing, or otherwise supporting the aggressive, corrupt, or criminal actions noted above; or

2) The person’s fortune has been made through corrupt commercial operations with the Putin regime for the sake of personal gain; or

3) The person has held assets for Putin in what appears to be a corrupt fashion, even if he or she personally is not involved in the actions mentioned above, or his or her known personal fortune is not great enough to be considered of “oligarch” scale.

While the panel didn’t speculate about particular names that might be included on the list, Mr. Aslund discussed categories of people the report could include, such as those organizing mercenary forces in Ukraine and Syria and involved in cyber-warfare and disinformation campaigns. It could also include the oligarchs who profit from business ties with the Kremlin, Putin’s close circle from the 1990s, golden children, among others

Mr. Illarionov noted that Russian aggression has gone beyond the international borders and has become an international problem – therefore needing an international solution. Moreover, he said, the U.S. demands related to corruption and human rights violations are in line with Russia’s own laws.

“The criminal code of the Russian Federation is not too different from the criminal code of the United States,” Illarionov said. “Therefore, the crucial difference between them is not the conduct of criminal code per se, but the actual practice of written and unwritten laws. Too often today in Russia those who are guilty are not punished.”

Mr. Piontkovsky also supported an international response to Russian corruption, saying it could potentially improve U.S.-Russian relations. Piontkovsky explained that while Kremlin aggression often lies beyond the legal jurisdiction of U.S. authorities, the U.S. and European governments still have a powerful tool at their disposal – measures to freeze Kremlin-linked assets.

“Activists and leaders of the Russian opposition call for the U.S. government to hit the most vulnerable point of the Russian kleptocracy – their huge assets in the U.S,” Piontkovsky said.

“We have a classical Al Capone situation. You remember that your famous gangster was tried and sentenced for tax evasion, not for hideous crimes,” he said, adding, “the Russian ruling leadership is a collective Al Capone,  who can be tried here for money-laundering.”

______________________

*Section 241 of the new sanctions law, H.R. 3364, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, requires the U.S. administration to submit a report (“Report on oligarchs and parastatal entities of the Russian Federation”) listing “the most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation, as determined by their closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth”. The report is expected to provide details on individuals’ relationships with President Vladimir Putin and other members of the Russian ruling elite, as well as identifying corrupt practices and estimating their net worth. Furthermore, the report must also assess the emergence, leadership structure and beneficial ownership of parastatal entities.

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.