On the Day of Russian Constitution

Dec 12 2015

The constitution of “New” Russia was adopted on December 12, 1993. To mark the twenty-second anniversary of our country’s fundamental law, the authorities have decided to adopt several initiatives that are directly destroying some of the constitution’s articles and provisions.

At present the fundamental law, which is the supreme legal force and the foundation of legislation, is purely declarative and bears no relation to the Russian state’s actual legislative practice.

It is interesting to open the constitution and simply read the articles from it to anyone who understands today’s realities of the state.

Article 3
2. The people shall exercise their power directly, and also through the bodies of state power and local self-government.

Article 4
2. The Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal laws shall have supremacy in the whole territory of the Russian Federation.

Article 7
1. The Russian Federation is a social State whose policy is aimed at creating conditions for a worthy life and a free development of man.

Article 14
1. The Russian Federation is a secular state. No religion may be established as a state or obligatory one.
2. Religious associations shall be separated from the State and shall be equal before the law.

Article 19
1. All people shall be equal before the law and court.

Article 29
1. Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.
2. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be banned.

Article 31
Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, hold rallies, meetings and demonstrations, marches and pickets.

And now I want to name three names. Three people held under Article 212.1, which was adopted as recently as 2014. This article is in direct contradiction to Article 31 of the constitution.

Ildar Dadin

Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years imprisonment for repeated violations of the rules of holding rallies. This is the first sentence in Russia under article 212.1 of the Criminal Code. In other words, Dadin repeatedly disturbed public order, which is questionable given that most of his administrative punishments are for solo pickets, which even by today’s realities in Russia do not require any approval. In practice, the police use provocateurs to remove pickets. The provocateurs approach the person picketing unnoticed, and the picket ceases to be solo. Both end up in the police van- but they let the provocateur go.

The case materials show that several of the administrative offences, for which Dadin had already been punished, have suddenly become a criminal case. The prosecutor asks for two years, and the judge helpfully gives him 3.3 years in prison.  This is about the same as being jailed for repeated parking offences, having already paid the parking fines.

Vladimir Ionov

The Preobrazhensky Court in Moscow will sentence the activist Vladimir Ionov on December 16. Ionov is accused under Article 212.1- repeated violations at rallies. He has been under house arrest since February 3. It is indicated that he took part in the protests of January 10 and 15, as well as those on March 21 and May 11, 2015.

The prosecution is asking for Ionov to be sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence. Also, the prosecutor is asking the court to assign Ionov probation, ban him visiting places of mass gatherings and travelling outside of the city of Lyubertsy in the Moscow region, where he lives.

For the protest on January 10, 2015, when Ionov stood on Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin with a picket in support of the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, the court fined him 20 000 rubles (US$ 280). On January 15, Ionov was detained at a protest at which another 12 people were taking part.  The court then handed him a fine of 150 000 rubles (US$ 2,120) for a “repeated” violation. A key episode in this case was a protest in support of Ukrainian pilot, Nadezhda Savchenko, on May 11 at the “Matrosskaya Tishina” detention facility where she was being held.

On June 26 court bailiffs blocked Ionov’s pension card for the non-payment of administrative penalties. He is virtually deprived of his pension.

At the time of writing this article, the seventy-six-year-old opposition activist Ionov has been hospitalized with a preinfarction syndrome and is in intensive care.

Mark Galperin

Mark Galperin is a regular participant in the solo pickets on Manezhnaya Square and a moderator of protest groups on social networks. After Ionov, he became the second defendant to be arrested under Article 212.1. He is threatened with five years imprisonment. Here is one of the episodes in the case: Galperin was detained on March 23 as a result of a provocation at a solo picket on March 21. Two unknown people approached Galperin with placards, but they were later nowhere to be seen among those detained at the Tver police department. So this scheme had already been worked out with the provocateurs, who help the police detain political activists under formal pretexts.

 

And on Friday, the State Duma approved at its second, third and final readings, a law that gives the Federal Constitutional Court the right to recognize the enforcement of international court decisions in Russia as impossible if they violate the supremacy of the Russian Constitution, RIA Novosti reports. In other words, from now on activists can no longer even appeal to international courts or the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) since these institutions’ decisions would not be recognized by Russia anyway.

Due to this, those wrongfully convicted under Russian law have lost their last hope for justice. This is yet another step towards Russia’s self-isolation, by way of repression and degradation. One more indicator that the constitution is simply a tribute to the “democratic vogue”, a decorative document that developed states are “supposed to have”. But no one in power thinks to look back on its articles during the decision-making process.

The Russian justice system has remained at the level of Stalinist repressive principles, operating according to denunciations, arresting people on trumped-up charges, and turning back the clock to the worst period of Stalinism. The USSR’s economy was built on two pillars: prisoners’ labor and the sale of raw materials and minerals abroad. Now we see that oil prices are moving steadily downward, and there is no indication that they will begin to increase in the near future. This means that once again slave labor will be necessary, once again the repressive machine will make money through the supply of prisoners in new GULAGs. Our task is to prevent it.

by Ekaterina Ponomareva

At present the fundamental law, which is the supreme legal force and the foundation of legislation, is purely declarative and bears no relation to the Russian state’s actual legislative practice.

It is interesting to open the constitution and simply read the articles from it to anyone who understands today’s realities of the state.

Article 3
2. The people shall exercise their power directly, and also through the bodies of state power and local self-government.

Article 4
2. The Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal laws shall have supremacy in the whole territory of the Russian Federation.

Article 7
1. The Russian Federation is a social State whose policy is aimed at creating conditions for a worthy life and a free development of man.

Article 14
1. The Russian Federation is a secular state. No religion may be established as a state or obligatory one.
2. Religious associations shall be separated from the State and shall be equal before the law.

Article 19
1. All people shall be equal before the law and court.

Article 29
1. Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.
2. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be banned.

Article 31
Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to assemble peacefully, without weapons, hold rallies, meetings and demonstrations, marches and pickets.

And now I want to name three names. Three people held under Article 212.1, which was adopted as recently as 2014. This article is in direct contradiction to Article 31 of the constitution.

Ildar Dadin

Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years imprisonment for repeated violations of the rules of holding rallies. This is the first sentence in Russia under article 212.1 of the Criminal Code. In other words, Dadin repeatedly disturbed public order, which is questionable given that most of his administrative punishments are for solo pickets, which even by today’s realities in Russia do not require any approval. In practice, the police use provocateurs to remove pickets. The provocateurs approach the person picketing unnoticed, and the picket ceases to be solo. Both end up in the police van- but they let the provocateur go.

The case materials show that several of the administrative offences, for which Dadin had already been punished, have suddenly become a criminal case. The prosecutor asks for two years, and the judge helpfully gives him 3.3 years in prison.  This is about the same as being jailed for repeated parking offences, having already paid the parking fines.

Vladimir Ionov

The Preobrazhensky Court in Moscow will sentence the activist Vladimir Ionov on December 16. Ionov is accused under Article 212.1- repeated violations at rallies. He has been under house arrest since February 3. It is indicated that he took part in the protests of January 10 and 15, as well as those on March 21 and May 11, 2015.

The prosecution is asking for Ionov to be sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence. Also, the prosecutor is asking the court to assign Ionov probation, ban him visiting places of mass gatherings and travelling outside of the city of Lyubertsy in the Moscow region, where he lives.

For the protest on January 10, 2015, when Ionov stood on Manezhnaya Square near the Kremlin with a picket in support of the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo”, the court fined him 20 000 rubles (US$ 280). On January 15, Ionov was detained at a protest at which another 12 people were taking part.  The court then handed him a fine of 150 000 rubles (US$ 2,120) for a “repeated” violation. A key episode in this case was a protest in support of Ukrainian pilot, Nadezhda Savchenko, on May 11 at the “Matrosskaya Tishina” detention facility where she was being held.

On June 26 court bailiffs blocked Ionov’s pension card for the non-payment of administrative penalties. He is virtually deprived of his pension.

At the time of writing this article, the seventy-six-year-old opposition activist Ionov has been hospitalized with a preinfarction syndrome and is in intensive care.

Mark Galperin

Mark Galperin is a regular participant in the solo pickets on Manezhnaya Square and a moderator of protest groups on social networks. After Ionov, he became the second defendant to be arrested under Article 212.1. He is threatened with five years imprisonment. Here is one of the episodes in the case: Galperin was detained on March 23 as a result of a provocation at a solo picket on March 21. Two unknown people approached Galperin with placards, but they were later nowhere to be seen among those detained at the Tver police department. So this scheme had already been worked out with the provocateurs, who help the police detain political activists under formal pretexts.

 

And on Friday, the State Duma approved at its second, third and final readings, a law that gives the Federal Constitutional Court the right to recognize the enforcement of international court decisions in Russia as impossible if they violate the supremacy of the Russian Constitution, RIA Novosti reports. In other words, from now on activists can no longer even appeal to international courts or the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) since these institutions’ decisions would not be recognized by Russia anyway.

Due to this, those wrongfully convicted under Russian law have lost their last hope for justice. This is yet another step towards Russia’s self-isolation, by way of repression and degradation. One more indicator that the constitution is simply a tribute to the “democratic vogue”, a decorative document that developed states are “supposed to have”. But no one in power thinks to look back on its articles during the decision-making process.

The Russian justice system has remained at the level of Stalinist repressive principles, operating according to denunciations, arresting people on trumped-up charges, and turning back the clock to the worst period of Stalinism. The USSR’s economy was built on two pillars: prisoners’ labor and the sale of raw materials and minerals abroad. Now we see that oil prices are moving steadily downward, and there is no indication that they will begin to increase in the near future. This means that once again slave labor will be necessary, once again the repressive machine will make money through the supply of prisoners in new GULAGs. Our task is to prevent it.

by Ekaterina Ponomareva

Lukashenka’s Ryanair Hijacking Proves Human Rights is a Global Security Issue

May 24 2021

The forced diversion and landing in Minsk of a May 23, 2021 Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania, and the subsequent arrest of dissident Roman Protasevich who was aboard the flight, by the illegitimate Lukashenka regime pose an overt political and military challenge to Europe, NATO and the broad global community.  NATO members must respond forcefully by demanding (1) the immediate release of Protasevich and other political prisoners in Belarus, and (2) a prompt transition to a government that represents the will of the people of Belarus. 

The West’s passivity in the face of massive, continuous and growing oppression of the Belarusian people since summer 2020 has emboldened Lukashenka to commit what some European leaders have appropriately termed an act of “state terrorism.”

The West has shown a manifest disposition to appease Putin’s regime —Lukashenka’s sole security guarantor. It has made inappropriate overtures for a Putin-Biden summit and waived  Nord Stream 2 sanctions mandated by Congress. These actions and signals have come against the backdrop of the 2020 Russian constitutional coup, the assassination attempt against Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment on patently bogus charges, the arrests of close to 13,000 Russian activists, and the outlawing of all opposition movements and activities. All this has led Putin and Lukashenka to conclude that they eliminate their political opponents with impunity.  

Today’s state-ordered hijacking of an international passenger airplane—employing intelligence agents aboard the flight,  and accomplished via an advanced fighter-interceptor—to apprehend an exiled activist, underscores that violation of human rights is not only a domestic issue, but a matter of international safety and security.  Western governments unwilling to stand up for the victims of Putin’s and Lukashenka’s regimes are inviting future crimes against their own citizens. 

Absent a meaningful and swift response, the escalation of violence and intensity of international crimes committed  by Lukashenka’s and Putin’s regime will continue, destabilizing the world and discrediting the Western democratic institutions. 

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS – THE KREMLIN’S INFLUENCE QUARTERLY

May 20 2021

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlin’s 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 Kremlin’s 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 Kremlin’s 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.

Criminal operations by Russia’s GRU worldwide: expert discussion

May 06 2021

Please join Free Russia Foundation for an expert brief and discussion on latest criminal operations conducted by Russia’s GRU worldwide with:

  • Christo Grozev, Bellingcat— the legendary investigator who uncovered the Kremlin’s involvement, perpetrators and timeline of Navalny’s assassination attempt. 
  • Jakub Janda, Director of the European Values Think Tank (the Czech Republic) where he researches Russia’s hostile influence operations in the West
  • Michael Weiss, Director of Special Investigations at Free Russia Foundation where he leads the Lubyanka Files project, which consists of translating and curating KGB training manuals still used in modern Russia for the purposes of educating Vladimir Putin’s spies.

The event will take place on Tuesday, May 11 from 11 am to 12:30pm New York Time (17:00 in Brussels) and include an extensive Q&A with the audience moderated by Ilya Zaslavskiy, Senior Fellow at Free Russia Foundation and head of Underminers.info, a research project on post-Soviet kleptocracy

The event will be broadcast live at: https://www.facebook.com/events/223365735790798/

  • The discussion will cover Russia’s most recent and ongoing covert violent operations, direct political interference, oligarchic penetration with money and influence; 
  • GRU’s structure and approach to conducting operations in Europe
  • Trends and forecasts on how data availability will impact both, the Kremlin’s operations and their investigation by governments and activists; 
  • EU and national European government response and facilitation of operations on their soil; 
  • Recommendations for effective counter to the security and political threats posed by Russian security services. 

YouTube Against Navalny’s Smart Voting

May 06 2021

On May 6, 2020, at least five YouTube channels belonging to key Russian opposition leaders and platforms received notifications from YouTube that some of their content had been removed due to its being qualified as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

They included: 

Ilya Yashin (343k YouTube subscribers)

Vladimir Milov (218k YouTube subscribers) 

Leonid Volkov (117k YouTube subscribers)

Novaya Gazeta (277k YouTube Subscribers) 

Sota Vision (248k YouTube Subscribers)

Most likely, there are other Russian pro-democracy channels that have received similar notifications at the same time, and we are putting together the list of all affected by this censorship campaign. 

The identical letters received from YouTube by the five account holders stated:

“Our team has reviewed your content, and, unfortunately, we think it violates our spam, deceptive practices and scams policy. We’ve removed the following content from YouTube:

URL: https://votesmart.appspot.com/

YouTube has removed urls from descriptions of videos posted on these accounts that linked to Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting website (votesmart.appspot.com).

By doing this, and to our great shock and disbelief, YouTube has acted to enforce the Kremlin’s policies by qualifying Alexey Navalny’s Smart Voting system and its website as “spam, deceptive practices and scams”. 

This action has not only technically disrupted communication for the Russian civil society which is now under a deadly siege by Putin’s regime, but it has rendered a serious and lasting damage to its reputation and legitimacy of Smart Voting approach. 

In reality, Smart Voting system is not a spam, scam or a “deceptive practice”, but instead it’s a fully legitimate system of choosing and supporting candidates in Russian elections who have a chance of winning against the ruling “United Russia” party candidates. There’s absolutely nothing illegal, deceptive or fraudulent about the Smart Voting or any materials on its website.

We don’t know the reasons behind such YouTube actions, but they are an unacceptable suppression of a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the Russian people and help the Kremlin’s suppression of civil rights and freedoms by banning the Smart Voting system and not allowing free political competition with the ruling “United Russia” party. 

This is an extremely dangerous precedent in an environment where opposition activities in Russia are being literally outlawed;  key opposition figures are jailed, exiled, arrested and attacked with criminal investigations; independent election campaigning is prohibited; and social media networks remain among the very few channels still available to the Russian opposition to communicate with the ordinary Russians.

We demand a  swift and decisive action on this matter from the international community, to make sure that YouTube corrects its stance toward Russian opposition channels, and ensures that such suppression of peaceful, legal  pro-democracy voices does not happen again. 

FRF Lauds New US Sanctions Targeting the Kremlin’s Perpetrators in Crimea, Calls for Their Expansion

Apr 15 2021

On April 15, 2021,  President Biden signed new sanctions against a number of officials and agents of the Russian Federation in connection with malign international activities conducted by the Russian government.

The list of individuals sanctioned by the new law includes Leonid Mikhalyuk, director of the Federal Security Service in the Russian-occupied Crimea.

A report issued by Free Russia Foundation, Media Initiative for Human Rights and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in December 202, identified 16 officials from Russian law enforcement and security agencies as well as the judiciary operating on the territory of the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula currently occupied by the Russian Federation. These individuals have been either directly involved or have overseen political persecution of three prominent Crimean human rights defenders – Emir-Usein Kuku, Sever Mustafayev and Emil Kurbedinov.

Leonid Mikhailiuk is one of these officials. He has been directly involved and directed the repressive campaign in the occupied Crimea, including persecution of innocent people on terrorism charges and massive illegal searches. The persecution of Server Mustafayev was conducted under his supervision. As the head of the FSB branch in Crimea, he is in charge of its operation and all operatives working on politically motivated cases are his subordinates. 

Within the extremely centralized system of the Russian security services, Mikhailiuk is clearly at the top rank of organized political persecution and human rights violations.

Free Russia Foundation welcomes the new sanctions and hopes that all other individuals identified in the report will also be held accountable.