NEVER AGAIN? OR OVER AND OVER… Russia celebrates the Victory day

May 10 2015

Yesterday Russia solemnly celebrated the 70th anniversary of the victory in the most horrible and deadliest war in its history. That war took millions of lives, destroyed half of Europe, and completely changed the world order, affecting everyone’s life and outlook in some way.

The Soviet people called this war ‘The Great Patriotic War,” while to the rest of the world it was World War II. For every Soviet person the war started on June 22, 1941 and ended on May 9, 1945. Our nation preferred to forget about the period of 1939-1941, during Stalin and Hitler’s collaboration, about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression treaty, about the USSR’s war against Finland and the invasion into the Baltic States.

Our nation preferred to celebrate the end of the war one day later than the rest of the world. And our nation preferred to neglect the contribution of the Allies to the war attributing the victory mostly to ourselves. Who cares about the American lend-lease program to the Soviet Union? Why discuss how the Soviet troops behaved on the liberated territories? Could the Soviet Union have avoided so many losses if the strategy had been smarter, if the Soviet leadership hadn’t committed so many errors (and crimes!) at the cost of people’s lives and if the country had been better prepared for the war?

However, the war was “sacred.” There was no debate regarding the role of the Soviet Union in the war. We were the nation-liberator. That war and our victory were the key elements of our nation’s self-consciousness and self-identification. Everybody could relate to it, be proud of that part of our history forgetting all black pages in it. Our victory in that war was an undeniable value unifying all of us. Even when the Soviet Union collapsed, the war and our victory remained the only unchangeable concepts in our consciousness and discourse. Victory Day was and is the most popular holiday, which could unify the entire nation: all ethnicities, all ages, all religions, and all political views.

While all other Soviet values vanished with the Soviet Union, it was very natural for the new Soviet-style dictator, Vladimir Putin, to use Victory Day to his favor. His regime and constant propaganda has conducted a laser surgery on the nation substituting a righteous national pride by twisting it into an ugly and threatening militaristic and pseudo patriotic frenzy.

The Russian people, as a nation, haven’t reconciled our past, haven’t analyzed our mistakes, violations and crimes, and haven’t ask for forgiveness and redemption. We painted the truth with many colors turning it into a half-truth and then to a complete lie. We are still outraged with the Baltic countries for their museums of occupations. Our overwhelming majority of people believe only the Soviets won the war and liberated Europe. We completely forgot about our Afghan war, and do not speak about Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

How can we move forward to the future as a nation without deep reflection of our past, without reconciliation with it and paying the price for our wrong doings? Well, our present responds to this question. What do we have? The war against Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the war against Ukraine in 2014-2015.

If Victory Day taught us anything, it taught us about the great sacrifice of a nation and the horrors of war. That we are now facing several wars and threats of others shouldn’t be celebrated, but should be met with the knowledge that the new Putin adventurism will come with the loss of life and prosperity. Is Russia ready for this? Do the Russian people understand what path they are be led down, or do they only believe wearing a black and orange ribbon is the extent of their patriotism?

Nevertheless, we should remember the war, our role in the victory, mourn those who died for our better future and esteem our veterans. It was a great idea to organize a march of the “Immortal Regiment.” The initiative came from a Siberian region and it’s very genuine and touching. It’s great we still have a holiday unifying the nation. It’s terrible that Putin’s government imposes myphologemes of the Soviet period and revives Stalin’s veneration. It’s great that veterans whom we are rapidly losing every year feel respected and honored yesterday. It’s wrong they are being remembered only on a Victory Day and before the elections. It’s great that the Victory anniversary was organized in such a grand style. It’s sad the Kremlin spends more money on military expenses and parades and holidays than on pensions for our veterans and their healthcare.

Victory Day is a day of honoring our veterans. It’s not a day of shaking Russia’s military muscle. “My dear, if only there was no war,” says a popular song. Let’s remember that war, learn from our history and live in a peace. Never again!

The Soviet people called this war ‘The Great Patriotic War,” while to the rest of the world it was World War II. For every Soviet person the war started on June 22, 1941 and ended on May 9, 1945. Our nation preferred to forget about the period of 1939-1941, during Stalin and Hitler’s collaboration, about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression treaty, about the USSR’s war against Finland and the invasion into the Baltic States.

Our nation preferred to celebrate the end of the war one day later than the rest of the world. And our nation preferred to neglect the contribution of the Allies to the war attributing the victory mostly to ourselves. Who cares about the American lend-lease program to the Soviet Union? Why discuss how the Soviet troops behaved on the liberated territories? Could the Soviet Union have avoided so many losses if the strategy had been smarter, if the Soviet leadership hadn’t committed so many errors (and crimes!) at the cost of people’s lives and if the country had been better prepared for the war?

However, the war was “sacred.” There was no debate regarding the role of the Soviet Union in the war. We were the nation-liberator. That war and our victory were the key elements of our nation’s self-consciousness and self-identification. Everybody could relate to it, be proud of that part of our history forgetting all black pages in it. Our victory in that war was an undeniable value unifying all of us. Even when the Soviet Union collapsed, the war and our victory remained the only unchangeable concepts in our consciousness and discourse. Victory Day was and is the most popular holiday, which could unify the entire nation: all ethnicities, all ages, all religions, and all political views.

While all other Soviet values vanished with the Soviet Union, it was very natural for the new Soviet-style dictator, Vladimir Putin, to use Victory Day to his favor. His regime and constant propaganda has conducted a laser surgery on the nation substituting a righteous national pride by twisting it into an ugly and threatening militaristic and pseudo patriotic frenzy.

The Russian people, as a nation, haven’t reconciled our past, haven’t analyzed our mistakes, violations and crimes, and haven’t ask for forgiveness and redemption. We painted the truth with many colors turning it into a half-truth and then to a complete lie. We are still outraged with the Baltic countries for their museums of occupations. Our overwhelming majority of people believe only the Soviets won the war and liberated Europe. We completely forgot about our Afghan war, and do not speak about Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

How can we move forward to the future as a nation without deep reflection of our past, without reconciliation with it and paying the price for our wrong doings? Well, our present responds to this question. What do we have? The war against Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the war against Ukraine in 2014-2015.

If Victory Day taught us anything, it taught us about the great sacrifice of a nation and the horrors of war. That we are now facing several wars and threats of others shouldn’t be celebrated, but should be met with the knowledge that the new Putin adventurism will come with the loss of life and prosperity. Is Russia ready for this? Do the Russian people understand what path they are be led down, or do they only believe wearing a black and orange ribbon is the extent of their patriotism?

Nevertheless, we should remember the war, our role in the victory, mourn those who died for our better future and esteem our veterans. It was a great idea to organize a march of the “Immortal Regiment.” The initiative came from a Siberian region and it’s very genuine and touching. It’s great we still have a holiday unifying the nation. It’s terrible that Putin’s government imposes myphologemes of the Soviet period and revives Stalin’s veneration. It’s great that veterans whom we are rapidly losing every year feel respected and honored yesterday. It’s wrong they are being remembered only on a Victory Day and before the elections. It’s great that the Victory anniversary was organized in such a grand style. It’s sad the Kremlin spends more money on military expenses and parades and holidays than on pensions for our veterans and their healthcare.

Victory Day is a day of honoring our veterans. It’s not a day of shaking Russia’s military muscle. “My dear, if only there was no war,” says a popular song. Let’s remember that war, learn from our history and live in a peace. Never again!

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.

International Criminal Court Asks for Full Probe Into Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Dec 14 2020

On December 11, 2020, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on the preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor.

According to the findings of the examination, the situation in Ukraine meets the statutory criteria to launch an investigation. The preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine was opened on 24 April 2014.

Specifically, and without prejudice to any other crimes which may be identified during the course of an investigation, Office of the Prosecutor has concluded that there is a reasonable basis at this time to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed in the context of the situation in Ukraine.

These findings will be spelled out in more detail in the annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities issued by the Office and include three broad clusters of victimization:

1.     crimes committed in the context of the conduct of hostilities;

2.     crimes committed during detentions;

3.     crimes committed in Crimea.

These crimes, committed by the different parties to the conflict, were sufficiently grave to warrant investigation by Office of the Prosecutor, both in quantitative and qualitative terms.

Having examined the information available, the Prosecutor concluded that the competent authorities in Ukraine and/or in the Russian Federation are either inactive in relation to the alleged perpetrators, or do not have access to them.

The next step will be to request authorization from the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open investigations.

The Prosecutor urges the international community, including the governments of Ukraine and Russia, to cooperate. This will determine how justice will be served both on domestic and the international level.

We remind you that on September 21, 2020, Free Russia Foundation sent a special Communication to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (the Hague, the Netherlands) asking to bring Crimean and Russian authorities to justice for international crimes committed during the Russian occupation of Crimea.

Comment by Scott Martin (Global Rights Compliance LLP):

As Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reaches the end of her tenure as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, she announced yesterday that a reasonable basis existed to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in relation to the situation in Ukraine. One of the most consequential preliminary examinations in the court’s short history, the Prosecutor will now request authorization from the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to open a full investigation into the situation.

Anticipating that the Prosecutor’s request will be granted, the ICC Prosecutor’s office will be investigating the second group of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Russian Federation (the situation in Georgia being the other). This would make Russia the only country in the world facing two separate investigations at the ICC for crimes under its jurisdiction.

Call for Submissions – The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly vol. 3

Oct 26 2020

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlins Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.