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

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

Apr 15 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joint Call of Parliamentarians on the condition of Alexei Navalny in prison

Apr 08 2021

April 8, 2021

We, the undersigned, are shocked and troubled by the most recent news of Alexei Navalny’s condition in prison. 

Russia’s leading opposition figure is reported to suffer severe back pain with losing sensitivity in parts of his legs. It is no more than six months since he survived a vicious poisoning attack with a nerve agent that has long-term crippling effects on his health. In prison, he is systematically denied any medical treatment. On top, prison guards wake him up every hour at night, a practice amounting to torture by sleep deprivation according to his lawyers. This is why medical experts called on the Russian authorities to allow Mr. Navalny’s treatment and why he himself now resorted to a hunger strike. Let’s not forget: Mr. Navalny’s incarceration itself is a travesty of justice – he was formally sent to prison for not checking in with Russian authorities on a fabricated case (as confirmed by European Court of Human Rights) when he was recuperating in Germany from poisoning and subsequent coma.

Russian authorities with its secret services tried to kill Alexei Navalny last August, they may now be attempting the same, in a slower, even more cynical way. 

Europe has offered Alexei Navalny a place to recover from the attempt at his life. Specialized labs in Germany, France and Sweden confirmed the assassination attempt used Novichok, an internationally banned chemical weapon. Angela Merkel personally met Mr Navalny in hospital and many other Western leaders expressed their solidarity after the poisoning attack. We need to intervene again. 

We urge Russia to immediately allow medical treatment of Alexei Navalny and release him from prison. We call on the EU Council as well as EU member states’ leaders to reach out to Russian authorities to request the immediate release of Alexei Navalny, which was mandated by European Court of Human Rights’ decision in February 2021. In addition, we demand the EU Council task EU ambassador to Russia to conduct, together partners from the UK, Canada and the US, a visit of the prison facility and meet Alexei Navalny. It is critical now that Alexei Navalny’s fate became the symbol of injustice many thousands face because of increasing brutality of Russian regime against its own citizens. 

In December 2020, the EU launched its Global Human Rights Sanction Regime modelled on so-called Magnitsky Act. This law has been inspired by one Sergei Magnitsky, a brave Russian lawyer who was tortured to death in prison in 2009 – he was systematically denied treatment when he developed a serious medical condition. We still can act now in case of Alexei Navalny so we avoid commemorating later.

Marek HILSER, Senator, Czech Republic

Andrius KUBILIUS, MEP, EPP, Lithuania

Lukas WAGENKNECHT, Senator, Czech Republic

Žygimantas PAVILIONIS, MP, Lithuania

Miroslav BALATKA, Senator, Czech Republic

André GATTOLIN, Senator, France

Mikulas BEK, Senator, Czech Republic 

Nicolae ŞTEFĂNUȚĂ, MEP, Renew, Romania

David SMOLJAK, Senator, Czech Republic 

Petras AUŠTREVIČIUS, MEP, Renew, Lithuania

Tomas FIALA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Liudas MAŽYLIS, MEP, EPP Lithuania

Zdenek NYTRA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Dace MELBĀRDE, MEP, ECR, Latvia

Jan SOBOTKA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Matas MALDEIKIS, MP, Lithuania

Jiri RUZICKA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Bernard GUETTA, MEP, Renew, France

Jaromira VITKOVA, Senator, Czech Republic 

Rasa JUKNEVIČIENĖ, MEP, EPP, Lithuania

Petr OREL, Senator, Czech Republic 

Tomasz FRANKOWSKI, MEP, EPP, Poland 

Miroslava NEMCOVA, Senator, Czech Republic

Hermann TERTSCH, MEP, ECR, Spain

Premysl RABAS, Senator, Czech Republic 

Aušra MALDEIKIENĖ, MEP, EPP, Lithuania

Ladislav KOS, Senator, Czech Republic 

Attila ARA-KOVÁCS, MEP, S&D, Hungary

Sarka JELINKOVA, Senator, Czech Republic

Erik MARQUARDT, MEP, Greens, Germany

Pavel FISCHER, Senator, Czech Republic

Pernille WEISS, MEP, EPP, Denmark

Helena LANGSADLOVA, MP, Czech Republic

Roberts ZĪLE, MEP, ECR, Latvia

Jan LIPAVSKY, MP, Czech Republic

Klemen GROŠELJ, MEP, Renew, Slovenia

Pavel ZACEK, MP, Czech Republic

Riho TERRAS, MEP, EPP, Estonia

Ondrej BENESIK, MP, Czech Republic 

Miriam LEXMANN, MEP, EPP, Slovakia

Frantisek KOPRIVA, MP, Czech Republic 

Sandra KALNIETE, MEP, EPP, Latvia

Petr GAZDIK, MP, Czech Republic 

Jerzy BUZEK, MEP, EPP, Poland

Tomas MARTINEK, MP, Czech Republic 

Janina OCHOJSKA, MEP, EPP, Poland

Jan BARTOSEK, MP, Czech Republic

Eugen TOMAC, MEP, EPP, Romania

Jan FARSKY, MP, Czech Republic

Ivan ŠTEFANEC, MEP, EPP, Slovakia

Roman SKLENAK, MP, Czech Republic

Krzysztof HETMAN, MEP, EPP, Poland

Frantisek VACHA, MP, Czech Republic

Ivars IJABS, MEP, Renew, Latvia

Marek VYBORNY, MP, Czech Republic

Franc BOGOVIČ, MEP, EPP, Slovenia

Zbynek STANJURA, MP, Czech Republic

Radvilė MORKŪNAITĖ-MIKULĖNIENĖ, MP, Lithuania

Petr FIALA, MP, Czech Republic

Raphaël GLUCKSMANN, MEP, S&D, France

Vít RAKUSAN, MP, Czech Republic

Juozas OLEKAS, MEP, S&D, Lithuania

Jaroslav VYMAZAL, MP, Czech Republic

Assita KANKO, MEP, ECR, Belgium

Adela SIPOVA, Senator, Czech Republic

Radosław SIKORSKI, MEP, EPP, Poland

Róża THUN UND HOHENSTEIN, MEP, EPP, Poland

Javier NART, MEP, Renew, Spain

Andrzej HALICKI, MEP, EPP, Poland

Alexander ALEXANDROV YORDANOV, MEP, EPP, Bulgaria

Ondřej KOVAŘÍK, MEP, Renew, Czech Republic

Andreas SCHIEDER, MEP, S&D, Austria

Leopoldo LÓPEZ GIL, MEP, EPP, Spain

Sergey LAGODINSKY, MEP, Greens, Germany

Antonio LÓPEZ-ISTÚRIZ WHITE, MEP, EPP, Spain

Marketa GREGOROVA, MEP, Greens, Czech Republic

Lolita ČIGĀNE, MP, Latvia

Marko MIHKELSON, MP, Estonia

Renata CHMELOVA, Czech Republic

Bogdan KLICH, Senator, Republic of Poland

Transatlantic Interparliamentary Statement on Unprecedented Mass Arrest of Russian Pro-Democracy Leaders on March 13, 2021

Mar 25 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 25, 2021

Contacts:
Honourable Irwin Cotler, PC, OC, OQ, Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights
+1 514.735.8778
Natalia Arno, Free Russia Foundation
+1 202.549.2417

TRANSATLANTIC INTERPARLIAMENTARY STATEMENT
On unprecedented mass arrest of Russian pro-democracy leaders on March 13, 2021

“We, the undersigned members of the foreign affairs committees of legislatures around the world – the duly elected democratic voices of our constituents and countries – unreservedly condemn the unprecedented mass arrest of Russian pro-democracy leaders. 

A violation of the Russian constitution and of the country’s international legal obligations, these unjust and arbitrary arrests are an assault on the last bastion of the Russian democratic movement. United in common cause, we call for an end to Putin’s punitive persecution and prosecutions of Russian civil society leaders, the release of all political prisoners, and the imposition of targeted Magnitsky sanctions against Russia’s architects of repression.

The crimes perpetrated by Putin’s regime against the Russian people and against the international community have been deadly and are well-documented. Left unchecked, its internal repression has often morphed into external aggression. Wars, murders, theft, embezzlement, nuclear blackmail, disinformation, election interference — they are so numerous and now so well-known, that we feel no need to enumerate all of them in this letter. Under the cover of Covid restrictions, we have seen a further intensification of these trends.

Last year, Putin’s regime illegally amended the Russian constitution, executing a constitutional coup, allowing Putin to stay in power indefinitely and thereby formalizing the Russian transition to authoritarianism. 

In January, he arrested Aleksey Navalny, who was punished with a nearly three-year prison term for not meeting his parole obligations because he was out of the country convalescing from a state-sponsored assassination attempt. Putin then brutally suppressed the nation-wide protests that emerged in Navalny’s support, arbitrarily arresting thousands, and launching criminal prosecutions against them.

On March 13th, security services entered a perfectly lawful Congress of elected municipal deputies and detained nearly 200 people for not adhering to the Kremlin’s command of how to interact with local constituents. In today’s Russia, disagreeing with Putin is not tolerated, and those who do find themselves in jail or worse.

Some of those detained included elected leaders like Ilya Yashin and Maxim Reznik, pro-democracy reformers Andrey Pivovarov and Anastasia Burakova, and popular politician Vladimir Kara-Murza. Mr. Kara-Murza is a top public intellectual and opposition leader whose transformative work on behalf of the Russian people has had a global resonance. His vision and values – eloquently conveyed with a uniquely compelling moral clarity and commitment, often before our respective legislatures – led to his earlier being targeted by the regime for assassination, attempts on his life that he survived twice. The work of such courageous leaders continues to be a source of inspiration in our pursuit of collective peace, security, and dignity for all.

For a society to succeed it must have a set of principles and values that guides it. Most notably, this includes a legal system that honors the rights of all its people and not solely for those who deem themselves leaders and the sycophants who profit from them.

Sadly, these recent developments demonstrate yet again that only Putin’s criminality and impunity prevail in Russia today. The way the regime runs its politics is indistinguishable from the way it runs its foreign policy and its business dealings. To indulge such malign behavior by the Kremlin toward those it disagrees with is to encourage its corrosive behavior in all these other areas.

The democracies of the world have a choice: maintain a normal relationship with a rogue state, continuing to send the message that its treatment of its own citizens is to be overlooked, and its malicious activities are to be condoned. Or, sending a clear and compelling message: that until the Kremlin reverses its troubling trajectory, the current status quo will be unacceptable. This includes targeted sanctions against Putin and his corrupt and criminal cronies – such as canceling access to our banking system, business ties, and safe harbor in our best neighborhoods and schools – ensuring that they cannot enjoy the liberties in our countries that they deny their compatriots in theirs. 

For the sake of a free Russia and a free world, we trust democracies will make the right choice.”

Rasa Jukneviciene, Member of the European Parliament

Andrius Kubilius, Member of the European Parliament

Miriam Lexmann, Member of the European Parliament

Pavel Fischer, Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security of the Senate of the Czech Republic

Marko Mihkelson, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Estonia

Richards Kols, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Seimas of the Republic of Latvia

Žygimantas Pavilions, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania

Bogdan Klich, Senator, Chairman of the Foreign and European Union Committee of the Senate of the Republic of Poland

Eerik Niiles Kross, Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Estonia

Emanuelis Zingeris, Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania

Benjamin L. Cardin, Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation; Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission)

Bill Keating, Member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Relations and Chair of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy, and the Environment

Brian Fitzpatrick, Member of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Relations

Kimberley Kitching, Senator, Chair of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee, Deputy Chair of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, Parliament of Australia

Chris Bryant, Member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the UK Parliament

Bob Seely, Member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the UK Parliament

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Urgent and Concrete Steps to Stop Putin’s Global Assassination Campaigns

Feb 11 2021

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent Russian pro-democracy advocate, was closely tracked by an FSB assassination squad when he suffered perplexing and near-fatal medical emergencies that sent him into coma in 2015 and 2017, establishes a new investigation by the Bellingcat group

Documents uncovered by Bellingcat show that this is the same assassination squad implicated in the August 2020 assassination attempt on Alexey Navalny and whose member has inadvertently confirmed the operation in a phone call with Navalny.   

Bellingcat has also established the FSB unit’s involvement in the murder of three Russian activists, all of whom died under unusual but similar circumstances. 

Taken together, these independent nongovernment investigations establish the fact of systemic, large-scale extrajudicial assassinations carried out by Putin’s government against its critics inside and outside of Russia, including with chemical weapons banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention. 

Free Russia Foundation calls on the international community to formally investigate and prosecute Putin’s government for these crimes. 

Free Russia Foundation calls on the Biden Administration to direct the FBI to release investigation materials surrounding the assassination attempts against Vladimir Kara-Murza that have been denied to him thus far. 

Free Russia Foundation calls on the international community to articulate measures to compel Russia to free Alexey Navalny from his illegal incarceration where his life remains in dire danger. 

Free Russia Foundation condemns in strongest terms today’s court sentence announced to Alexey Navalny

Feb 02 2021

Continued detention of Navalny is illegal and he must be freed immediately. Suppression of peaceful protests and mass arrests of Russian citizens must stop, and the Kremlin must release all those illegally detained and imprisoned on political motives. Free Russia Foundation calls on the international community, the US and European leadership, to move beyond expressions of concern and articulate a set of meaningful instruments to compel the Kremlin to stop its atrocities.