Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

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

Statement of Free Russia Foundation Condemning the Massive Missile Strike on Ukrainian Territory

Oct 10 2022

On the morning of October 10, the Russian military launched missile strikes against Ukrainian cities. They targeted Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Khmelnytskyi, Ternopil, Lviv, Zhytomyr, Kremenchuk, Kryvyi Rih, Konotop, Odessa, Rivne, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Poltava. According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, more than 80 rockets were fired at the territory of Ukraine. A total of eleven people were killed and dozens were injured.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the strikes were carried out strictly against military, communications, and energy facilities in Ukraine. This is not true: museums, philharmonic halls, business centers, residential buildings, parks, and public transport stops are not military targets. One video circulated on social media shows a huge shell crater on a children’s playground. Fear, death and destruction have once again come to the capital of Ukraine. This is yet another demonstration of the Kremlin’s absolute cruelty and Vladimir Putin’s determination to continue his inhuman war against the sovereign state and its people.

We are deeply shocked by today’s large-scale missile attacks of the Russian Armed Forces on Ukrainian cities, which have caused widespread damage and resulted in the death and injury of many innocent people. We mourn the victims and express our sincere condolences to all Ukrainians who have suffered today. 

The Russian Federation’s escalation of war in Ukraine is unacceptable and must cease immediately. We call on world leaders, governments, and international human rights organizations to pressure the Kremlin to stop attacks on civilian infrastructure, withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine, and resume diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the war. We also demand that Vladimir Putin and all those involved in today’s attack be prosecuted for war crimes.

The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Human Rights Activists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. A Congratulatory Letter from Free Russia Foundation

Oct 07 2022

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Ukrainian human rights organization Center for Civil Liberties, Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, and Russia’s Memorial HRC.

The Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties is engaged in promoting human rights and democracy in the country, assistance programs for “Kremlin prisoners” — Ukrainian political detainees held in Russian jails, investigation of war crimes, tracing missing citizens, and providing assistance to thousands of Ukrainians affected by the war unleashed by the Putin regime.

Ales Bialiatski was one of the initiators of the democratic movement that emerged in Belarus in the mid-1980s. He devoted his entire life to the promotion of democracy and peace in his country. The Human Rights Center ” Viasna,” which he founded in 1996, collected information about those detained at the protests and torture in detention centers, provided help to the victims of law enforcement excesses.

Memorial, Russia’s most important human rights organization, was founded in 1987 by a group of likeminded activists who wanted to commemorate the victims of Soviet-era political repression. Members of the movement created a complex of sites dedicated to the victims of repression, and held demonstrations, exhibitions, and seminars on the subject of state terror. The first chairman of Memorial’s board was Andrei Sakharov, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

In announcing the winners, Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, stated that “the Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power.”

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation, in congratulating her fellow human rights activists on their award, noted that the protection of civil liberties should be the space that can still unite the citizens of post-Soviet countries, dragged by the will of one man into the most grievous of conflicts.

“I welcome the decision of the Nobel Committee and salute all the laureates for the recognition of their merits. The award goes to people who embody not only the struggle for truth and justice, but also the very fundamental notion of freedom. It is also an indication of the plight of civil society in our countries, divided by the will of one man and now separated by history for decades to come. Just look at where we are today: the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, headed by Oleksandra Matviychuk, has been investigating the thousands of war crimes committed by Putin’s army on Ukrainian soil since February; Viasna, Belarus’ leading human rights organization, has been demolished, with Ales Bialiatski and many of its staff arrested; Memorial has been fined and liquidated, its assets have been seized by the authorities, and its team has been forced to flee the country. But I believe that we will not allow this regime to finally destroy our lives and the historical destinies of our peoples. Protecting basic human rights is still the space that unites us in 2022. I congratulate you, colleagues! Peace, freedom, and justice to our countries!”

Free Russia Foundation Condemns Expansion of Charges Under the Politically-Motivated Criminal Prosecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza and Demands His Immediate Release

Oct 06 2022

Today, Russian media outlets have reported that new charges of high treason (Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code) have been filed against opposition politician, human rights activist, and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza.

Vladimir Kara-Murza’s attorney Vadim Prokhorov confirmed that the charges of state treason have been filed against the politician on three counts. They allege speeches criticizing the Russian authorities at public events in Lisbon, Portugal; Oslo, Norway; and Washington, DC. According to the lawyer, the speeches, that indeed took place, posed no threat to the security of Russia, on the contrary, they were aimed at protecting the interests of Russia and its citizens and at correcting the current catastrophic situation.

The pro-democracy leader faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Vladimir Kara-Murza has pleaded not guilty.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation, in her comments on the new charges expressed outrage at the illegal prosecution of Kara-Murza.  “Charges of state treason for public speeches are absurd especially with regards to Vladimir, who is globally recognized as a true patriot of Russia and revered for his work in defense of the interest of the Russian people and democratic principles.”

Arno noted that Vladimir Kara-Murza served as Foundation’s Vice President, but was relieved from that position on August 3, 2021. “This decision was made by our board in recognition of the fact that Vladimir had been spending most of his time working in Russia, that was his main focus and his plan,” she explained.

The Foundation considers the criminal case against Vladimir Kara-Murza fabricated and politically motivated, a retribution for his work in support of human rights and his courageous quest against Putin’s autocracy.

“It has been absolutely clear from the very beginning that the detention and persecution of Kara-Murza is part of the wider campaign by the Russian authorities to punish and suppress any dissent,” said Natalia Arno.

“Today, accusations of discrediting the Russian military and participating in activities of an undesirable organization have been further inflated by charged of high treason, one of the most severe criminal offenses that can send a person to prison for decades. Vladimir Kara-Murza is a Russian patriot who has fought for many years for a prosperous future for his country. For this, the Kremlin tried to kill him twice, but, having failed to achieve its aim, arrested him and is now persecuting him on false charges that could lead to years of unjust imprisonment.

This is a tragic case  that shows us the ways Vladimir Putin’s dictatorial regime is suppressing all opposition in order to sow fear among Russians and remain in power at any cost. For years, Vladimir Kara-Murza has been one of the most consistent and determined advocates of democracy and human rights in Russia. His bogus arrest only underscores the importance of the idea of justice for the people of Russia and Ukraine, who have suffered too long from the actions of the Kremlin kleptocracy.” Free Russia Foundation, which supports Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, considers the charges against Vladimir Kara-Murza unjust and politically motivated, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release. We demand the Russian authorities to stop manipulating the law to achieve false, illusory goals that destroy the very foundations of democracy and international security.

Free Russia Foundation Condemns the Signing of the Treaty on the “Incorporation of New Territories into Russia,” De Facto the Annexation of the Occupied Territories of Ukraine

Sep 30 2022

On Friday, September 30, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the heads of the self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic,” as well as the occupation administrations of Zaporizhia and Kherson regions, signed treaties in the Kremlin on “joining Russia.”

Free Russia Foundation strongly condemns the decision of Vladimir Putin and his administration to continue the illegal annexation of the occupied territories in Ukraine. The forcible change of international borders at the expense of another sovereign state and the so-called “referenda” that preceded it are a serious violation of the foundations of international law and cannot be recognized under any circumstances.

Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation: “Today Vladimir Putin has de facto announced the illegal annexation of the occupied territory of a sovereign state. The signing of this treaty is a blatant violation of the fundamental norms of international law and the Charter of the United Nations, of which Russia is a member. Such actions by the Russian President, together with previously announced military mobilization and nuclear blackmail, only lead to an escalation of the conflict and new human sacrifices. In the modern world, borders cannot be redrawn at gunpoint. Russia’s actions are illegal and unacceptable to the civilized world.”

Free Russia Foundation, which provides support to Russian activists, journalists, and human rights defenders, calls on all countries and international organizations to join us in resolute and public condemnation of Russian military aggression and its illegal actions to tear away the territory of sovereign Ukraine. We urge you to call on the Kremlin to cease its hostilities and leave the territories it has seized.

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.