Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Nord Stream 2: commercial venture or political tool?

Mar 14 2018

U.S. and European experts weighed the political and business implications of Nord Stream 2 at an Atlantic Council event in Washington on Monday, March 12.

Europe’s demand for gas is rising while production is declining, complicated by the decommissioning of nuclear plants and environmentally damaging coal plants. This has resulted in a need for new energy sources and Russia should not be ruled out, said panelist Brenda Shaffer, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

In Germany, there is strong support for Nord Stream 2 as a business proposition, said Claudia Müller, a member of German Bundestag. Nonetheless, Ms. Müller noted that there have been some 62 meetings concerning the pipeline between the German Chancellor and other high-level politicians.

As such, many experts see Nord Stream 2 not merely as a commercial project, but as a political tool that threatens energy security in Europe, particularly in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

With the rapid growth of renewable energy and LNG exports, Europe today has a variety of energy options. There is more competition in the energy market, said Agnia Grigas, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and Europe should take advantage of this, whereas Nord Stream 2 would “lock in the European markets.” “I don’t think this is a very commercial project,” Grigas said.

Sandra Oudkirk of the US Department of State agreed, saying “buying into a massive expensive undersea project buys into future dependence on gas.”

Bypassing Ukraine

A divisive factor of Nord Stream 2 is that it proposes to bypass Ukraine, which some say would give Russia a free hand.

“This is a very dangerous free hand to give to Moscow right now,” said Ms. Grigas. “I don’t think this is exactly the time to reward the Kremlin and Gazprom.”

But opposition to Nord Stream 2 is not about punishing Russia, said Douglas Hengel, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, as much as it is about European energy security. “We have to look at what Russia is trying to do here. It is part of an overall plan, I think, to try to weaken the energy union, to weaken the European Union, to weaken the West,” said Hengel.

Yet Ms. Shaffer argued that bypassing Ukraine would in fact be beneficial to its independence, due to Russia’s deep involvement in Ukraine’s energy industry and the latter’s reliance on gas transfer rents.

In this regard, the U.S. policy objective of strengthening Ukraine by blocking Nord Stream 2 is counter-productive, Shaffer said.

Nor would it change Russia’s wider foreign policy, she added. “Does anyone take the view that if Nord Stream 2 isn’t built, Russia suddenly comes out of Crimea, changes policies in Donbass, changes policies in Syria?” asked Shaffer.

While U.S. opposition to Nord Stream 2 might not change Russian foreign policy, said Ms. Oudkirk, it is linked to “Ukraine’s path towards the West and a European future.”

Panelists agreed, however, that the U.S. should not widen its Russia sanctions to Nord Stream 2 unilaterally.

Ms. Müller warned that more U.S. pressure and restrictions on Germany could shift public opinion in Russia’s favor.


Exporting corruption

Another criticism of Nord Stream 2 is that it could spread a culture of corruption. It could have a negative impact on political and business life in Germany, said Ms. Grigas.

“We know when Russia exports its natural gas, it also exports political influence and it also exports corruption,” Grigas said.

Moreover, it is an initiative that strives to “to enrich the Putin circle,” said Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Just as Gazprom has enriched Putin’s close friends – such as Gennady Timchenko, the Rotenberg brothers, and Yury Kovalchuk, as discussed in a 2008 report by Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov – so, too, will Nord Stream 2 further benefit some of these individuals, Aslund said.

Free Russia Foundation head of research, Ilya Zaslavskiy, also present at the event, said there is already evidence of exporting corruption, as in the case of the Rotenberg brothers, who were beneficiaries of Nord Stream 1, as well as a money-laundering scandal around the Nordic Yards shipbuilding plant, as discussed in Free Russia Foundation’s report.

In his comments and questions to the panels, Zaslavskiy emphasized that independent research shows that Nord Stream 2 is not only about by-passing Ukraine but a whole of Central and Eastern Europe, breaking existing EU directives on Slovakia’s Eurostream and leaving an open question on who will pay for additional transit infrastructure from Germany to Central Europe. More importantly, Nord Stream 2 takes one of the major incentives for Putin not to wage a war of annihilation against Ukraine and creates a dangerous over-dependence on Russian gas via this single vulnerable undersea route that under worst scenarios would carry 70% of all Gazprom deliveries to the EU. In 2014-2015 Putin arbitrarily reduced supplies into Nord Stream 1 in order to prevent reverse gas flows to Ukraine and this is an indication on how political expediency will also drive Nord Stream 2 future operation.

The first panel at the Atlantic Council event included:

Mr. Douglas Hengel, Senior Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States; Professorial Lecturer, Energy, Resources and Environment Program, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Ms. Sandra Oudkirk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy, Bureau of Energy Resources, US Department of State

Dr. Brenda Shaffer, Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council

Dr. Agnia Grigas, Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Moderated by: Ambassador Richard Morningstar, Founding Director and Chairman, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council

The second panel included:

Ms. Aliona Osmolovska, Head of Corporate Communications, Naftogaz of Ukraine

Dr. Friedbert Pflüger, Director, European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS), King’s College London; Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council
Ms. Claudia Müller, Member, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, German Bundestag

Dr. Anders Åslund, Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Moderated by: Ambassador John Herbst, Director, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

By Valeria Jegisman

Europe’s demand for gas is rising while production is declining, complicated by the decommissioning of nuclear plants and environmentally damaging coal plants. This has resulted in a need for new energy sources and Russia should not be ruled out, said panelist Brenda Shaffer, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

In Germany, there is strong support for Nord Stream 2 as a business proposition, said Claudia Müller, a member of German Bundestag. Nonetheless, Ms. Müller noted that there have been some 62 meetings concerning the pipeline between the German Chancellor and other high-level politicians.

As such, many experts see Nord Stream 2 not merely as a commercial project, but as a political tool that threatens energy security in Europe, particularly in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

With the rapid growth of renewable energy and LNG exports, Europe today has a variety of energy options. There is more competition in the energy market, said Agnia Grigas, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and Europe should take advantage of this, whereas Nord Stream 2 would “lock in the European markets.” “I don’t think this is a very commercial project,” Grigas said.

Sandra Oudkirk of the US Department of State agreed, saying “buying into a massive expensive undersea project buys into future dependence on gas.”

Bypassing Ukraine

A divisive factor of Nord Stream 2 is that it proposes to bypass Ukraine, which some say would give Russia a free hand.

“This is a very dangerous free hand to give to Moscow right now,” said Ms. Grigas. “I don’t think this is exactly the time to reward the Kremlin and Gazprom.”

But opposition to Nord Stream 2 is not about punishing Russia, said Douglas Hengel, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, as much as it is about European energy security. “We have to look at what Russia is trying to do here. It is part of an overall plan, I think, to try to weaken the energy union, to weaken the European Union, to weaken the West,” said Hengel.

Yet Ms. Shaffer argued that bypassing Ukraine would in fact be beneficial to its independence, due to Russia’s deep involvement in Ukraine’s energy industry and the latter’s reliance on gas transfer rents.

In this regard, the U.S. policy objective of strengthening Ukraine by blocking Nord Stream 2 is counter-productive, Shaffer said.

Nor would it change Russia’s wider foreign policy, she added. “Does anyone take the view that if Nord Stream 2 isn’t built, Russia suddenly comes out of Crimea, changes policies in Donbass, changes policies in Syria?” asked Shaffer.

While U.S. opposition to Nord Stream 2 might not change Russian foreign policy, said Ms. Oudkirk, it is linked to “Ukraine’s path towards the West and a European future.”

Panelists agreed, however, that the U.S. should not widen its Russia sanctions to Nord Stream 2 unilaterally.

Ms. Müller warned that more U.S. pressure and restrictions on Germany could shift public opinion in Russia’s favor.


Exporting corruption

Another criticism of Nord Stream 2 is that it could spread a culture of corruption. It could have a negative impact on political and business life in Germany, said Ms. Grigas.

“We know when Russia exports its natural gas, it also exports political influence and it also exports corruption,” Grigas said.

Moreover, it is an initiative that strives to “to enrich the Putin circle,” said Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Just as Gazprom has enriched Putin’s close friends – such as Gennady Timchenko, the Rotenberg brothers, and Yury Kovalchuk, as discussed in a 2008 report by Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov – so, too, will Nord Stream 2 further benefit some of these individuals, Aslund said.

Free Russia Foundation head of research, Ilya Zaslavskiy, also present at the event, said there is already evidence of exporting corruption, as in the case of the Rotenberg brothers, who were beneficiaries of Nord Stream 1, as well as a money-laundering scandal around the Nordic Yards shipbuilding plant, as discussed in Free Russia Foundation’s report.

In his comments and questions to the panels, Zaslavskiy emphasized that independent research shows that Nord Stream 2 is not only about by-passing Ukraine but a whole of Central and Eastern Europe, breaking existing EU directives on Slovakia’s Eurostream and leaving an open question on who will pay for additional transit infrastructure from Germany to Central Europe. More importantly, Nord Stream 2 takes one of the major incentives for Putin not to wage a war of annihilation against Ukraine and creates a dangerous over-dependence on Russian gas via this single vulnerable undersea route that under worst scenarios would carry 70% of all Gazprom deliveries to the EU. In 2014-2015 Putin arbitrarily reduced supplies into Nord Stream 1 in order to prevent reverse gas flows to Ukraine and this is an indication on how political expediency will also drive Nord Stream 2 future operation.

The first panel at the Atlantic Council event included:

Mr. Douglas Hengel, Senior Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States; Professorial Lecturer, Energy, Resources and Environment Program, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Ms. Sandra Oudkirk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Diplomacy, Bureau of Energy Resources, US Department of State

Dr. Brenda Shaffer, Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council

Dr. Agnia Grigas, Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Moderated by: Ambassador Richard Morningstar, Founding Director and Chairman, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council

The second panel included:

Ms. Aliona Osmolovska, Head of Corporate Communications, Naftogaz of Ukraine

Dr. Friedbert Pflüger, Director, European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS), King’s College London; Senior Fellow, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council
Ms. Claudia Müller, Member, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, German Bundestag

Dr. Anders Åslund, Senior Fellow, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

Moderated by: Ambassador John Herbst, Director, Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council

By Valeria Jegisman

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.

Free Russia Foundation is starting to document cases of abduction by the Russian army of Ukrainians for the International Criminal Court

Jul 13 2022

In the temporarily occupied territories of the Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions, in addition to the killing of civilians and horrific destructions carried out by the Russian army: a severe violation of the norms of international law in the form of abduction of Ukrainians into the territory of Russia has been taking place.

Prior to being interned, Ukrainians are placed in so-called “filtration camps” where they are subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

All these actions violate the Hague Conventions and constitute an international crime.

We plan to collect information about such abduction cases, put it in written pleadings, and submit them to the International Criminal Court.

If you have been subject to abduction (internment), please, fill in the form via the link.