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

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.

Free Russia Foundation’s Press Release on Submission of Article 15 Communication to the International Criminal Court

Oct 06 2020

On 21 September 2020, the Free Russia Foundation submitted a Communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office (in The Hague, Netherlands) seeking accountability for Crimean and Russian authorities concerning international crimes perpetrated during Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. The Communication was prepared in cooperation with Global Rights Compliance and Center for Civil Liberties and is based on a focused inquiry conducted over the past year. In our inquiry, we documented crimes as part of a systematic, planned attack by the Russian state against civilians and groups in Crimea in order to discourage them from opposing the illegal occupation of Crimea and to force their departure from the peninsula. Crimes against civilians included unlawful arrests, beatings, torture, enforced disappearances, and other inhumane acts causing severe mental and/or physical pain. In particular, the crimes targeted the Crimean Tatars, a native ethnic group who had only recently returned to their homeland, having previously been forcefully and brutally displaced by the Soviet Union in 1944.

One of the principal coercive acts was the illegal detention and concomitant violence before, during, and after the imprisonment of political prisoners. Most of those detained were arrested by Russian and Crimean authorities on terrorism charges, but it was their legal, pro-Ukrainian advocacy that led to their imprisonment. In addition, trials of those arbitrarily detained were conducted in wholesale disregard of their fair trial rights. For example, some of those illegally imprisoned were denied a speedy trial, access to independent lawyers, and the opportunity to defend themselves against their arrest in a courtroom.

In order to force those illegally detained to confess to crimes they did not commit, Russian and Crimean authorities also perpetrated acts of torture and cruel or degrading treatment, the levying of additional charges against them, even more inhumane prison conditions, denial of communications with their families and threats made against them, enforced disappearances, and even, in at least one case, a mock execution.

Other inhumane acts include “punitive psychiatry” and the denial of adequate prison conditions, including the following: (i) feeding people inedible food or, at times, no food at all; (ii) facing severe overcrowding in prisons; (iii) denial of regular water supply; (iv) threats of assault against them by prison cellmates; and (v) adding pork to food – prohibited for observant Muslims. Further, medical attention was systematically inadequate or denied for many individuals.

Concerning acts of torture, it was perpetrated by different Russian authorities, including the FSB. Allegations include the use of electric shocks in an effort to get an accused to confess. One was beaten in the head, kidneys, arms and legs with an iron pipe. With another, fingers were broken. Still another endured spinal bruises and having a plastic bag placed over his head to the point of unconsciousness. Further, threats of sexual violence against a detained man were made. Murder as well. Hands were broken, teeth were knocked out in still another.

Trials were largely held behind closed doors for illegitimate reasons, and many of the witnesses were secret not only to the public but also to the Accused. Further, credible allegations exist that, at times, there were FSB or other agents in the room, silently instructing witnesses what to say and how the judges should rule. This adds credence to words, according to the Kyiv Post, heard by Arsen Dzhepparov from a senior FSB lieutenant who stated “I will prove by all possible – and impossible – means that [an Accused is] guilty – even if he isn’t guilty”.

Concerning the crime of persecution, nearly all of these deprivations of fundamental rights were carried out with discriminatory intent. Specifically, these groups were targeted due to their political view – namely, by peacefully opposing the illegal occupation of their country. Some were targeted on ethnic grounds or religious grounds on the basis of their Crimean Tatar background.

War crimes, another group of crimes punished at the ICC, were also perpetrated in addition to or in the alternative to the crimes against humanity. This includes the crime of torture, outrages against personal dignity, unlawful confinement, wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of a fair and regular trial, and the transfer of the occupying power of parts of its population into the territory it occupies or the deportation of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.

All these crimes had the ultimate objective of the criminal enterprise – the removal of pro-Ukrainian elements out of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation without opposition, including the installation of pro-Russian elements, which include the emigration of more than 70,000 Russians, the illegal imposition of Russian law in the occupied territory, forcing Russian nationality on many Crimeans, and the appropriation of public property.

Ultimately, we hope that all the information gathered by the ICC in the context of its preliminary investigation will lead the ICC to investigate mid- to high-level Russian and Crimean officials on this basis. The international community expects responsible global leadership that follows the rule of law and expects it – no matter the situation – to be respected, especially from a state that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. When this fails to happen, the international community must demand accountability. We hope that an investigation can be opened and responsible officials of the Russian Federation will be investigated. After an investigation that conforms to international best practices, responsible persons should be charged with the systematic perpetration of international crimes.

Novichok Use Implicates Putin’s Government in Navalny’s Poisoning

Sep 02 2020

Today, the German government has announced that Russian pro-democracy leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned by Novichok. Novichok is a deadly nerve agent developed by the Soviet government chemical weapons program and used on several occasions by the Russian government to kill its critics in the recent years.

To restate the obvious, Novichok is a poison that can only be accessed with the authority of the Kremlin. Therefore, today’s announcement by German officials  directly implicates the Kremlin and Putin in the high-profile assassination attempt on Navalny.

The choice of Novichok was not just a means  to silence Mr. Navalny, but a loud, brazen and menacing message sent by Putin to the world: dare to criticize me, and you may lose your life.

The announcement by the German government of its intent to formally notify the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (‘OPCW’) of the use of Novichok against Navalny is a meek bureaucratic half-measure that fails to acknowledge the extraordinary threat to human life posed by Putin’s regime everywhere. Taken together with Angela Merkel’s promise earlier this week to help Putin finish his Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite an international outcry amounts to condoning the poisoning and normalizing it into a new modus operandi where Putin’s murders go unpunished. Free Russia Foundation urges the leaders of the EU, its Member States and the U.S. Government to take an urgent and drastic action to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime not only to serve justice, but to establish a powerful deterrent against new attacks by Putin’s regime globally.

Free Russia Foundation Statement on Kremlin’s Interference in Elections in Georgia

Aug 26 2020

We are deeply concerned with information recently distributed by the well-respected authoritative source Center “Dossier.” According to “Dossier,” the Kremlin is using Russian political expert Sergey Mikheev and consulting company “Politsecrets” to manipulate Georgian society, distribute disinformation and anti-democratic narratives, undermine Georgia’s Western aspirations, and interfere in free and fair elections in Georgia scheduled for October 2020.

More

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Investigation into Alexey Navalny’s Poisoning

Aug 20 2020

Free Russia Foundation is gravely concerned about the life and safety of Alexey Navalny. More