Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Our latest efforts to counter Kremlin’s “festival of thiefdom” in the West

Dec 27 2017

In the last few months, we at Free Russia Foundation have made consistent efforts: to expose Kremlin’s corruption and subversive plans surrounding Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and to educate about agents of post-Soviet corruption in the West.

This article summarizes our results and is a follow up to our initial work on it in 2017.

As far as Gazprom is concerned up to July we have been promoting our joint report with the Atlantic Council on Kremlin’s Gas Games in Europe, which laid out an independent and realistic vision about subversion activity of Russian leadership through the gas industry in the West. However, we quickly understood that that report alone was not enough, as many Western counterparts of Gazprom remain totally uninformed about rampant corruption of the monopoly that has spread into Europe in various forms a long time ago. For this reason, in autumn we analyzed key anti-corruption investigations related to Gazprom’s management and published a report with a self-explicable title Corruption Pipeline: The Threat of Nord Stream 2 to EU Security and Democracy

This analysis is only a tip of the iceberg. If we had to uncover the full magnitude of how Putin’s regime uses corruption to undermine EU countries in the energy sector, it would take a series of reports. However, this paper specifically deconstructs historical myths about Germany’s supposed success in transforming USSR positively through gas trade and shows never fulfilled promises of benefits from Nord Stream 1 inside Russia. It also challenges established consensus among German corporations and elsewhere among Gazprom partners that Russian monopoly will never succeed in bringing grand corruption schemes inside Europe because EU law enforcement and regulators are apparently so efficient. In fact, they are not, Gazprom has already brought its criminal practices into Europe and in our paper, we show how it does it.

In October we visited Visegrad countries discussing the menace of Nord Stream 2 for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), as the pipeline will potentially cut off and disrupt not just Ukraine but the whole region to the east of Germany. In Czech Republic we presented at Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), a meeting which was attended primarily by officials from relevant government agencies, various Embassies and experts on Russian security. While the audience agreed with postulates about the extent of Kremlin’s corruption and meddling in Europe through energy, the overall feeling was that the Republic had turned away from opposing Nord Stream 2 to a quiet neutrality. Czech energy companies had by now invested heavily into new capacity in anticipation for the launch of the pipeline and want a proper return on their initially reluctant investment.

We arrived in Prague when an anti-EU billionaire Andrej Babic won in parliamentary elections, and since then there has been a fear that the country will fall prey to Putin’s influence even further. However, there are many other parties and views in the Czech Republic and we found that our vision is being widely shared. The battle for hearts is not finished and the long-term position of the country towards Putin’s regime is something worth fighting for in public fora in Prague.

Another country on the fence about Nord Stream 2 is Slovakia. Bratislava’s GlobSec think tank has extensively covered this issue. This meeting had fewer policy-makers and more local analysts who seemed to share our view on the growing correlation between national security weakened cohesion between NATO members and Russia’s use of corruption in hybrid warfare against the West.

On the latter broad topic Free Russia made a joint report with the Kleptocracy Initiative (KI), Hudson Institute called How Non-State Actors Export Kleptocratic Norms to the West and on 11 October the Institute convened different experts on post-Soviet space and corruption to discuss the issue at a two-part panel. Just a few weeks before that a preliminary copy of the report was presented to current and former U.S. foreign policy professionals at the Dacor Beacon House.

In Visegrad countries we discussed the KI report at the cultural festival “Kulturus” which resulted in a collaboration article with Prague-based political analyst Alexander Morozov Toxic Money from Kremlin: Where is the Red Line?. In this expert comment, Alexander looked at the issue that Free Russia monitors closely: what Kremlin oligarchs will be sanctioned under the upcoming Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the much-anticipated decision in the US government is slated for February. In a move that we believe is connected to CAATSA, today US Treasury sanctioned 10 thieves-in-law (kingpins of Eurasian mafia) acknowledging the extent of their power and penetration into politics and business.

In November Free Russia made another round of presentations of both reports in Europe, this time in Denmark and Norway. Copenhagen’s CEPOS think tank kindly gave a platform to discuss all burning issues that we wanted to raise and the turnout, as the video of the event shows, has been tremendous. One of the reasons for that was a pending vote in the Danish parliament on the fate of Nord Stream 2. On 30 November, just ten days after our presentation, the parliament decided that its foreign policy ministry can from now on prohibit use of Denmark’s territorial waters for Gazprom’s pipeline on the grounds of national security. We believe our report on Gazprom’s corruption that was passed to Danish policy-makers may have played its part in tilting the vote in support of the motion.

In Oslo there was a closed presentation of both reports at Civita think tank and then a public hearing on the adoption of the Magnitsky Act as part of 40th anniversary of Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC). This great event brought together dozens of activists and researchers from CIS and EU countries. I talked about my research on Russian law enforcement officials that are already on U.S. Magnitsky list and how it showed that these people have been implicated in multiple cases abusing human rights and promoting corruption in Russia and beyond. I also placed that research in the broader context of the KI report mentioned above to show that violations in Russia go hand-in-hand with the multi-layered export of corruption to the West. NHC is planning to release select video recordings of the hearing shortly.

Finally, the year is ending on a very positive note – our colleagues have launched a long-awaited project Underminers. The idea is to publish 100 concise and easy-to-share profiles of agents and other intermediaries of post-Soviet kleptocracies that actively undermine democratic institutions and values in the West. The project was launched in early December and states two fundamental goals – to raise awareness among Western audiences and to increase support for the development and implementation of a comprehensive containment strategy against kleptocrats. The project kicked off with several profiles and an inaugural expert comment by Arkadiy Babchenko, a popular Russian blogger, and journalist, with a provocative polemical piece If Putin’s thieves become respected in the West, why should one obey laws? We expect this project to publish all 100 profiles in a speedy fashion over the course of several weeks in early 2018 (but without dumping all of them at once) and become a platform for learning and debate.

by Ilya Zaslavsky

This article summarizes our results and is a follow up to our initial work on it in 2017.

As far as Gazprom is concerned up to July we have been promoting our joint report with the Atlantic Council on Kremlin’s Gas Games in Europe, which laid out an independent and realistic vision about subversion activity of Russian leadership through the gas industry in the West. However, we quickly understood that that report alone was not enough, as many Western counterparts of Gazprom remain totally uninformed about rampant corruption of the monopoly that has spread into Europe in various forms a long time ago. For this reason, in autumn we analyzed key anti-corruption investigations related to Gazprom’s management and published a report with a self-explicable title Corruption Pipeline: The Threat of Nord Stream 2 to EU Security and Democracy

This analysis is only a tip of the iceberg. If we had to uncover the full magnitude of how Putin’s regime uses corruption to undermine EU countries in the energy sector, it would take a series of reports. However, this paper specifically deconstructs historical myths about Germany’s supposed success in transforming USSR positively through gas trade and shows never fulfilled promises of benefits from Nord Stream 1 inside Russia. It also challenges established consensus among German corporations and elsewhere among Gazprom partners that Russian monopoly will never succeed in bringing grand corruption schemes inside Europe because EU law enforcement and regulators are apparently so efficient. In fact, they are not, Gazprom has already brought its criminal practices into Europe and in our paper, we show how it does it.

In October we visited Visegrad countries discussing the menace of Nord Stream 2 for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), as the pipeline will potentially cut off and disrupt not just Ukraine but the whole region to the east of Germany. In Czech Republic we presented at Prague Security Studies Institute (PSSI), a meeting which was attended primarily by officials from relevant government agencies, various Embassies and experts on Russian security. While the audience agreed with postulates about the extent of Kremlin’s corruption and meddling in Europe through energy, the overall feeling was that the Republic had turned away from opposing Nord Stream 2 to a quiet neutrality. Czech energy companies had by now invested heavily into new capacity in anticipation for the launch of the pipeline and want a proper return on their initially reluctant investment.

We arrived in Prague when an anti-EU billionaire Andrej Babic won in parliamentary elections, and since then there has been a fear that the country will fall prey to Putin’s influence even further. However, there are many other parties and views in the Czech Republic and we found that our vision is being widely shared. The battle for hearts is not finished and the long-term position of the country towards Putin’s regime is something worth fighting for in public fora in Prague.

Another country on the fence about Nord Stream 2 is Slovakia. Bratislava’s GlobSec think tank has extensively covered this issue. This meeting had fewer policy-makers and more local analysts who seemed to share our view on the growing correlation between national security weakened cohesion between NATO members and Russia’s use of corruption in hybrid warfare against the West.

On the latter broad topic Free Russia made a joint report with the Kleptocracy Initiative (KI), Hudson Institute called How Non-State Actors Export Kleptocratic Norms to the West and on 11 October the Institute convened different experts on post-Soviet space and corruption to discuss the issue at a two-part panel. Just a few weeks before that a preliminary copy of the report was presented to current and former U.S. foreign policy professionals at the Dacor Beacon House.

In Visegrad countries we discussed the KI report at the cultural festival “Kulturus” which resulted in a collaboration article with Prague-based political analyst Alexander Morozov Toxic Money from Kremlin: Where is the Red Line?. In this expert comment, Alexander looked at the issue that Free Russia monitors closely: what Kremlin oligarchs will be sanctioned under the upcoming Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), the much-anticipated decision in the US government is slated for February. In a move that we believe is connected to CAATSA, today US Treasury sanctioned 10 thieves-in-law (kingpins of Eurasian mafia) acknowledging the extent of their power and penetration into politics and business.

In November Free Russia made another round of presentations of both reports in Europe, this time in Denmark and Norway. Copenhagen’s CEPOS think tank kindly gave a platform to discuss all burning issues that we wanted to raise and the turnout, as the video of the event shows, has been tremendous. One of the reasons for that was a pending vote in the Danish parliament on the fate of Nord Stream 2. On 30 November, just ten days after our presentation, the parliament decided that its foreign policy ministry can from now on prohibit use of Denmark’s territorial waters for Gazprom’s pipeline on the grounds of national security. We believe our report on Gazprom’s corruption that was passed to Danish policy-makers may have played its part in tilting the vote in support of the motion.

In Oslo there was a closed presentation of both reports at Civita think tank and then a public hearing on the adoption of the Magnitsky Act as part of 40th anniversary of Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC). This great event brought together dozens of activists and researchers from CIS and EU countries. I talked about my research on Russian law enforcement officials that are already on U.S. Magnitsky list and how it showed that these people have been implicated in multiple cases abusing human rights and promoting corruption in Russia and beyond. I also placed that research in the broader context of the KI report mentioned above to show that violations in Russia go hand-in-hand with the multi-layered export of corruption to the West. NHC is planning to release select video recordings of the hearing shortly.

Finally, the year is ending on a very positive note – our colleagues have launched a long-awaited project Underminers. The idea is to publish 100 concise and easy-to-share profiles of agents and other intermediaries of post-Soviet kleptocracies that actively undermine democratic institutions and values in the West. The project was launched in early December and states two fundamental goals – to raise awareness among Western audiences and to increase support for the development and implementation of a comprehensive containment strategy against kleptocrats. The project kicked off with several profiles and an inaugural expert comment by Arkadiy Babchenko, a popular Russian blogger, and journalist, with a provocative polemical piece If Putin’s thieves become respected in the West, why should one obey laws? We expect this project to publish all 100 profiles in a speedy fashion over the course of several weeks in early 2018 (but without dumping all of them at once) and become a platform for learning and debate.

by Ilya Zaslavsky

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.