On the good side. In modern Russia

Feb 02 2016

At first glance, Putin’s Russia might give one an erroneous impression that the majority of active citizens have already left the country, and those who stayed behind are all packed and ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice.

However, this is not true.  Despite overwhelming pressure, many genuine citizens keep trying to do something useful for their country.

For instance, Alexei Navalny, a blogger and head of the Anticorruption Foundation, has been promoting the idea of anticorruption investigations.  He demonstrated by personal example that any Russian citizen can control officials and legislators through the use of simple procedures and basic skills. This is why volunteers have taken such a liking to the state procurement (government purchases) website.

The practice of election observation—that is, the struggle for the key right to the freedom of choice—was brought into fashion by Alexandra Krylenkova’s St. Petersburg Observers.  Activists from this movement virtually went through the school of life by first memorizing laws and becoming familiar with corrupt and unfair practices often used by chairmen of election commissions, after which they were thrown to the wolves, that is, sent to polling places.

The May 6 Committee, created to support people arrested and later convicted for their involvement in the so-called riots that took place on May 6, 2012 on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow (when in fact it was a large-scale peaceful demonstration against the aforementioned election fraud at polling places) showed the opposition’s willingness and capability to defend its fellow citizens.   Civic activists provide moral, legal, and informational support to those opposed to the regime and its practices. RosUznik (Russian Prisoner,) a nonprofit organization offering support and assistance to people detained during civic and political protests, is involved in similar activities. This organization’s website can be used, for instance, to send messages of encouragement to political prisoners.

All in all, projects directed at providing help to prisoners are in high demand in Russia because Russian citizens, who are already very often subjected to abuse by the authorities, become completely deprived of any rights behind bars.  And this is not only a question of politics.

The MediaZona (Media Penal Colony) website, for instance, covers the cases of human rights abuse in Russian prisons.   This site was launched by a nongovernmental human rights organization, Zona Prava (Justice Zone,) founded by members of the notorious punk group Pussy Riot immediately following their release after a prison sentence for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk prayer.” Olga Romanova, a renowned Russian journalist, and her civil rights movement Rus Sidyaschaya (Russia Behind Bars,) whose goal is to provide support to many wrongfully convicted people in Russia, are involved in similar activities.

Maria Berezina, founder of the Russian Ebola project, works closely with MediaZona. The 26-year-old Maria was the first human rights activist in Russia to gather statistics from public sources relating to deaths in police custody, pretrial detention, and police cars.  The young woman admits that doing this kind of work is morally difficult, since behind each death, there is a real person, who had a family and friends. She says, however, that such monitoring is vitally important, because in order to treat a disease, one first has to make a correct diagnosis.

As for humanitarian projects, media resources are being created to promote charity work. Such projects include, for instance, the Takie Dela (So It Goes) website, which is an online resource of the Nuzhna Pomosch (Help Needed) charity foundation established by well-known photographer and volunteer Mitya Aleshkovsky.

“We focus on people and their lives in the midst of events. Our project promotes the idea of mutual aid and self-organization.   We develop the projects of charity foundations throughout the country by raising awareness and seeking public financing for these initiatives,” is how the creators of Takie Dela describe their information resource. Journalist Andrei Loshak is chief editor of the Takie Dela online outlet.

It has to be said that charity in Russia is rather poorly developed. According to the World Giving Index produced by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF,) Russia ranks 129th on the list of 145 countries surveyed.

However, this fact did not deter activists from the St. Petersburg organization Nochlezhka (Flophouse) that helps the homeless from unfolding truly large-scale activities with the help of Yulia Titova, owner of a chain of charity shops Spasibo!  (Thank you!)

“The main common task of charity shops is to turn good but unwanted items into a useful resource for other people,” Titova explains.  “Charity shops in different countries have similar purposes but slightly different routines. The work of the Spasibo! chain is organized as follows: City residents bring in unwanted items in perfect condition. These items are then sorted.   Ninety percent go to various charitable organizations and are distributed among those in need, and 10 percent go to Spasibo! stores, where these items are later sold.  The money left over after all expenses have been met is then donated to charity. Unusable clothing items are recycled.”

As for Nochlezhka itself, this project is quite unique for Russia, if only because activists come up with all sorts of outside-the-box solutions in order to involve as many people as they can in their activities. It is considered proper among Russian Facebook users to support at least one of their initiatives. For example, on a particular day, people are invited to get a cup of coffee in cafes and restaurants participating in the Express-Help event launched by Nochlezhka.  All proceeds from selling coffee that day are later transferred into the organization’s account.  In late 2014, renowned Russian rock-musicians, including Yuri Shevchuk, Maxim Pokrovsky, and Sergei Shnurov recorded a cover version of a Russian folk song Oy, Moroz, Moroz calling on their fans not to be indifferent but to help people who “have no home and no one to wait for them.” Nochlezhka provides those in need with food, warming centers, and shelters.

09

Liza Alert, a nonprofit search-and-rescue volunteer organization, is yet another project pursuing a humanitarian purpose. This volunteer group that dedicates itself to preventing child deaths was founded by ordinary Muscovites.  Liza Alert was launched in 2010, when volunteers—just ordinary Moscow residents at the time—failed to find in time the 5-year-old Liza Fomkina, who had gotten lost in the woods. The group’s founders admit that had they been better coordinated and begun the search earlier, they could have possibly saved the child.

Yet another volunteer-based NGO operating in Russia’s second-largest city, Deti Peterburga (Children of St. Petersburg,) is worth mentioning when speaking about children-oriented nonprofit organizations. It offers assistance to the children of immigrants, for example, by providing free Russian-language education. “All our lessons and activities are free for children of any nationality and social status,” the Deti Peterburga website emphasizes.

Some liberal activists, disenchanted with politics and trying to focus on smaller-scale goals, are now teaching at the Deti Peterburga school.   Sisters Katya and Yulia Alimov are playing a leading role in the organization. The young women devote all of their free time to children because all St. Petersburg residents “should communicate and find common ground.”

Lessons take place in libraries. Children were almost thrown out of a library once because its director turned out to be a racist who believed that people should “take care of their own children—not burden everyone with somebody else’s.”   Activists retorted that you cannot divide kids into “ours and somebody else’s.”

The staff of the educational and social habilitation center Anton Tut Ryadom (Anton is Right Here) helps adults with autism to socialize.  The idea of this foundation belongs to renowned Russian film director Lyubov Arkus, who noticed that society is trying to wall off people with special needs. However, contact could probably be established, if people with autism received appropriate training and assistance in finding the right job, and if society were better educated about autism.   Many Russian show business and movie stars, such as Danila Kozlovsky, one of the most popular Russian actors, support the organization.  However, Russian businessmen have not been showing much enthusiasm in supporting Anton Tut Ryadom, because people with autism cannot be cured, and thus there is “no point in getting involved.”

The founders of Otkrytaya Biblioteka (Open Library) also consider it their goal to educate and raise awareness. On the last Saturday of every month, they invite St.Petersburg residents to one of the libraries downtown, where they get to meet Russia’s best-known people, including filmmakers, actors, writers, journalists, legislators, musicians, officials, and scientists, and pose them questions, for example, about the country’s future. Despite the claims by government propaganda, judging by the number of participants, who usually barely fit in the auditorium, the public shows definite interest in such discussions.

biblioteka-15

The initiators of yet another project called Dissernet also focus on “informed exposures.” Experts who launched this initiative check Russians’ master’s theses and Ph.D. dissertations for plagiarism.  Unfortunately, in Russia, academic credentials do not necessarily guarantee that people actually wrote their dissertations or theses themselves.   Politicians and businessmen often defend theses or dissertations containing extensive plagiarism just to make their resumes look more attractive.  Journalists once witnessed a comical scene that took place in Russia’s Constitutional Court. State Duma Member Dmitri Vyatkin was trying to lose a tail in the person of Dissernet founder Andrei Zayakin, who was following him and reading aloud extracts from Vyatkin’s thesis that the legislator had stolen from different authors, and demanding that Vyatkin accept responsibility for theft.  Dissernet creators highlight an old problem. Unscrupulous Russian officials and legislators do not consider it a crime to steal not only money from the country’s budget, but also other people’s intellectual property.

One of Dissernet’s cofounders, journalist Sergei Parkhomenko, reminds his fellow citizens of the country’s history by installing, together with the Memorial society, plaques on buildings known as the Last Addresses of people who were murdered or left to rot in prison camps by Stalin’s regime. Such commemorative plaques stating names, professions, and the dates of birth, execution, and rehabilitation of those arrested can be seen in Moscow, St.Petersburg, Tver, Perm, Taganrog, and other Russian cities.

“Maybe around 10,000 people walk through Myasnitskaya Street or Pokrovka [Street] in one day,” Parkhomenko says.  “One person, then maybe another one and yet another one will stop and read the name on the plaque, then maybe search for it online and pause to think that there is nothing more precious than life. This idea somehow fails to take root [in our country]. Thus, the concept of our project: One name, one life, one sign.”

maxresdefault

Outside of the educational format, a few initiatives directed at preserving the environment are worth mentioning.   The aforementioned sisters Alimov coordinate the RazDelni Zbor (Separate Collection) campaign in one of St. Petersburg’s districts. Once a month, ordinary city residents take recyclable paper, used batteries and plastic to collection stations. For a country that has no culture of separate waste collection, this initiative directed at encouraging environmental responsibility is a very important step forward. Ecologists working at collection stations accept recyclable material no matter the weather.   Former opposition municipal legislator Alexander Shurshev is an active supporter of the initiative.  Some believed that after his term in office expired, and election fraud prevented him from being reelected, Shurshev, having no more need for PR, would abandon the campaign.  The young man, however, continues to support the waste collection initiative, since this is “truly important for our city.”

Despite deteriorating conditions, propaganda, and increasing censorship, media managers and journalists are striving to deliver quality products.  While the aforementioned Takie Dela project covers issues faced by ordinary people, the relatively recently created Meduza website discusses politics and the economy.  The core team of this independent media organization is composed of staff members from the once-popular Lenta.ru website, who left that media outlet in protest against the dismissal of its chief editor, Galina Timchenko.  Meduza is based in Riga, Latvia.

Thus, one may conclude that there are tens of thousands of people in Russia who remain involved in public life and are willing to contribute to making their country a better place because, as they say, Russia is their home and “why should I move away and leave my home for crooks and thieves to pillage?”

by Aleksandra Garmazhapova
columnist of Free Russia Foundation

However, this is not true.  Despite overwhelming pressure, many genuine citizens keep trying to do something useful for their country.

For instance, Alexei Navalny, a blogger and head of the Anticorruption Foundation, has been promoting the idea of anticorruption investigations.  He demonstrated by personal example that any Russian citizen can control officials and legislators through the use of simple procedures and basic skills. This is why volunteers have taken such a liking to the state procurement (government purchases) website.

The practice of election observation—that is, the struggle for the key right to the freedom of choice—was brought into fashion by Alexandra Krylenkova’s St. Petersburg Observers.  Activists from this movement virtually went through the school of life by first memorizing laws and becoming familiar with corrupt and unfair practices often used by chairmen of election commissions, after which they were thrown to the wolves, that is, sent to polling places.

The May 6 Committee, created to support people arrested and later convicted for their involvement in the so-called riots that took place on May 6, 2012 on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow (when in fact it was a large-scale peaceful demonstration against the aforementioned election fraud at polling places) showed the opposition’s willingness and capability to defend its fellow citizens.   Civic activists provide moral, legal, and informational support to those opposed to the regime and its practices. RosUznik (Russian Prisoner,) a nonprofit organization offering support and assistance to people detained during civic and political protests, is involved in similar activities. This organization’s website can be used, for instance, to send messages of encouragement to political prisoners.

All in all, projects directed at providing help to prisoners are in high demand in Russia because Russian citizens, who are already very often subjected to abuse by the authorities, become completely deprived of any rights behind bars.  And this is not only a question of politics.

The MediaZona (Media Penal Colony) website, for instance, covers the cases of human rights abuse in Russian prisons.   This site was launched by a nongovernmental human rights organization, Zona Prava (Justice Zone,) founded by members of the notorious punk group Pussy Riot immediately following their release after a prison sentence for their performance of an anti-Putin “punk prayer.” Olga Romanova, a renowned Russian journalist, and her civil rights movement Rus Sidyaschaya (Russia Behind Bars,) whose goal is to provide support to many wrongfully convicted people in Russia, are involved in similar activities.

Maria Berezina, founder of the Russian Ebola project, works closely with MediaZona. The 26-year-old Maria was the first human rights activist in Russia to gather statistics from public sources relating to deaths in police custody, pretrial detention, and police cars.  The young woman admits that doing this kind of work is morally difficult, since behind each death, there is a real person, who had a family and friends. She says, however, that such monitoring is vitally important, because in order to treat a disease, one first has to make a correct diagnosis.

As for humanitarian projects, media resources are being created to promote charity work. Such projects include, for instance, the Takie Dela (So It Goes) website, which is an online resource of the Nuzhna Pomosch (Help Needed) charity foundation established by well-known photographer and volunteer Mitya Aleshkovsky.

“We focus on people and their lives in the midst of events. Our project promotes the idea of mutual aid and self-organization.   We develop the projects of charity foundations throughout the country by raising awareness and seeking public financing for these initiatives,” is how the creators of Takie Dela describe their information resource. Journalist Andrei Loshak is chief editor of the Takie Dela online outlet.

It has to be said that charity in Russia is rather poorly developed. According to the World Giving Index produced by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF,) Russia ranks 129th on the list of 145 countries surveyed.

However, this fact did not deter activists from the St. Petersburg organization Nochlezhka (Flophouse) that helps the homeless from unfolding truly large-scale activities with the help of Yulia Titova, owner of a chain of charity shops Spasibo!  (Thank you!)

“The main common task of charity shops is to turn good but unwanted items into a useful resource for other people,” Titova explains.  “Charity shops in different countries have similar purposes but slightly different routines. The work of the Spasibo! chain is organized as follows: City residents bring in unwanted items in perfect condition. These items are then sorted.   Ninety percent go to various charitable organizations and are distributed among those in need, and 10 percent go to Spasibo! stores, where these items are later sold.  The money left over after all expenses have been met is then donated to charity. Unusable clothing items are recycled.”

As for Nochlezhka itself, this project is quite unique for Russia, if only because activists come up with all sorts of outside-the-box solutions in order to involve as many people as they can in their activities. It is considered proper among Russian Facebook users to support at least one of their initiatives. For example, on a particular day, people are invited to get a cup of coffee in cafes and restaurants participating in the Express-Help event launched by Nochlezhka.  All proceeds from selling coffee that day are later transferred into the organization’s account.  In late 2014, renowned Russian rock-musicians, including Yuri Shevchuk, Maxim Pokrovsky, and Sergei Shnurov recorded a cover version of a Russian folk song Oy, Moroz, Moroz calling on their fans not to be indifferent but to help people who “have no home and no one to wait for them.” Nochlezhka provides those in need with food, warming centers, and shelters.

09

Liza Alert, a nonprofit search-and-rescue volunteer organization, is yet another project pursuing a humanitarian purpose. This volunteer group that dedicates itself to preventing child deaths was founded by ordinary Muscovites.  Liza Alert was launched in 2010, when volunteers—just ordinary Moscow residents at the time—failed to find in time the 5-year-old Liza Fomkina, who had gotten lost in the woods. The group’s founders admit that had they been better coordinated and begun the search earlier, they could have possibly saved the child.

Yet another volunteer-based NGO operating in Russia’s second-largest city, Deti Peterburga (Children of St. Petersburg,) is worth mentioning when speaking about children-oriented nonprofit organizations. It offers assistance to the children of immigrants, for example, by providing free Russian-language education. “All our lessons and activities are free for children of any nationality and social status,” the Deti Peterburga website emphasizes.

Some liberal activists, disenchanted with politics and trying to focus on smaller-scale goals, are now teaching at the Deti Peterburga school.   Sisters Katya and Yulia Alimov are playing a leading role in the organization. The young women devote all of their free time to children because all St. Petersburg residents “should communicate and find common ground.”

Lessons take place in libraries. Children were almost thrown out of a library once because its director turned out to be a racist who believed that people should “take care of their own children—not burden everyone with somebody else’s.”   Activists retorted that you cannot divide kids into “ours and somebody else’s.”

The staff of the educational and social habilitation center Anton Tut Ryadom (Anton is Right Here) helps adults with autism to socialize.  The idea of this foundation belongs to renowned Russian film director Lyubov Arkus, who noticed that society is trying to wall off people with special needs. However, contact could probably be established, if people with autism received appropriate training and assistance in finding the right job, and if society were better educated about autism.   Many Russian show business and movie stars, such as Danila Kozlovsky, one of the most popular Russian actors, support the organization.  However, Russian businessmen have not been showing much enthusiasm in supporting Anton Tut Ryadom, because people with autism cannot be cured, and thus there is “no point in getting involved.”

The founders of Otkrytaya Biblioteka (Open Library) also consider it their goal to educate and raise awareness. On the last Saturday of every month, they invite St.Petersburg residents to one of the libraries downtown, where they get to meet Russia’s best-known people, including filmmakers, actors, writers, journalists, legislators, musicians, officials, and scientists, and pose them questions, for example, about the country’s future. Despite the claims by government propaganda, judging by the number of participants, who usually barely fit in the auditorium, the public shows definite interest in such discussions.

biblioteka-15

The initiators of yet another project called Dissernet also focus on “informed exposures.” Experts who launched this initiative check Russians’ master’s theses and Ph.D. dissertations for plagiarism.  Unfortunately, in Russia, academic credentials do not necessarily guarantee that people actually wrote their dissertations or theses themselves.   Politicians and businessmen often defend theses or dissertations containing extensive plagiarism just to make their resumes look more attractive.  Journalists once witnessed a comical scene that took place in Russia’s Constitutional Court. State Duma Member Dmitri Vyatkin was trying to lose a tail in the person of Dissernet founder Andrei Zayakin, who was following him and reading aloud extracts from Vyatkin’s thesis that the legislator had stolen from different authors, and demanding that Vyatkin accept responsibility for theft.  Dissernet creators highlight an old problem. Unscrupulous Russian officials and legislators do not consider it a crime to steal not only money from the country’s budget, but also other people’s intellectual property.

One of Dissernet’s cofounders, journalist Sergei Parkhomenko, reminds his fellow citizens of the country’s history by installing, together with the Memorial society, plaques on buildings known as the Last Addresses of people who were murdered or left to rot in prison camps by Stalin’s regime. Such commemorative plaques stating names, professions, and the dates of birth, execution, and rehabilitation of those arrested can be seen in Moscow, St.Petersburg, Tver, Perm, Taganrog, and other Russian cities.

“Maybe around 10,000 people walk through Myasnitskaya Street or Pokrovka [Street] in one day,” Parkhomenko says.  “One person, then maybe another one and yet another one will stop and read the name on the plaque, then maybe search for it online and pause to think that there is nothing more precious than life. This idea somehow fails to take root [in our country]. Thus, the concept of our project: One name, one life, one sign.”

maxresdefault

Outside of the educational format, a few initiatives directed at preserving the environment are worth mentioning.   The aforementioned sisters Alimov coordinate the RazDelni Zbor (Separate Collection) campaign in one of St. Petersburg’s districts. Once a month, ordinary city residents take recyclable paper, used batteries and plastic to collection stations. For a country that has no culture of separate waste collection, this initiative directed at encouraging environmental responsibility is a very important step forward. Ecologists working at collection stations accept recyclable material no matter the weather.   Former opposition municipal legislator Alexander Shurshev is an active supporter of the initiative.  Some believed that after his term in office expired, and election fraud prevented him from being reelected, Shurshev, having no more need for PR, would abandon the campaign.  The young man, however, continues to support the waste collection initiative, since this is “truly important for our city.”

Despite deteriorating conditions, propaganda, and increasing censorship, media managers and journalists are striving to deliver quality products.  While the aforementioned Takie Dela project covers issues faced by ordinary people, the relatively recently created Meduza website discusses politics and the economy.  The core team of this independent media organization is composed of staff members from the once-popular Lenta.ru website, who left that media outlet in protest against the dismissal of its chief editor, Galina Timchenko.  Meduza is based in Riga, Latvia.

Thus, one may conclude that there are tens of thousands of people in Russia who remain involved in public life and are willing to contribute to making their country a better place because, as they say, Russia is their home and “why should I move away and leave my home for crooks and thieves to pillage?”

by Aleksandra Garmazhapova
columnist of Free Russia Foundation

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.