Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Russian Internet: the Gov. vs the People?

Oct 29 2015

Twenty-five years have passed since the internet began uniting the world in a single network.  We began to live in an era of information and communication. For those of us who were born and grew up with the net, it was a fantastic opportunity to communicate with each other, to get instant access to any information or knowledge, to live in a free world without borders.

Today’s world is becoming something we used to read about in science fiction- a fully-fledged cyberspace.

Despite the invention of the internet, those linked with military companies and the state, likely sponsors and potential beneficiaries, have continued to lag behind progress, and the net, even despite its global growth, still belonged to the inventors. In effect, the main conflict of interests lies in the freedom of transmission and distribution of information: some (i.e. the state), think that information needs to be controlled, others (i.e. the inventors), understand that the net is built in such a way that renders total technical control impossible.

Years of existence in a communal space has not only changed our habits, but it has also opened up possibilities. The speed of the spread of messages, such as the news, is astonishing. The speed of the organization of events, where the number of those ‘attending’ doubles every hour, clearly demonstrates this process. We have started to communicate personally more:  the number of horizontal links that are represented online today through our devices have been increased significantly since last 20 years.

Web 2.0 and social networks present a great opportunity for some (i.e. us). For others, the net has become a threat. If we remove the typical set of cyber-crimes, then freedom of access to information and freedom of communication will remain a major threat.

How this works in Russia: the government department RosKomnnadzor, independently or at the request of other government departments, adds sites to the register of banned websites: a list of sites which all internet providers are obliged to block. RosKomnnadzor itself rarely really blocks sites. And if you want to get on any of the sites on this register, then it is likely you will see the message: “This resource is blocked by the state authorities”. However it’s possible you won’t see it and the site will work. Immediately you will see links to applications which will rid you of the message and any restrictions on the network. RosKomnnadzor is a department which, on its own behalf or at the request of others, goes through the net and seeks to delete or change information which it believes violates legislation.

This is usually the case when it comes to suicide (in Russia this is a difficult topic due to a large increase in suicide rates) and drugs (for some reason the Federal Drug Control Service focusses its energies on marijuana on the internet, and not on the street).  But the most striking and, unfortunately, now the most numerous are political blocks and bans: from song lyrics to political figures’ last words in court (Alexei Navalny’s speech at one of his trials was blocked at the request of the Prosecutor General).

The main mistake of the conservative-minded state representatives is thinking that all of this somehow helps. These tasks designed to control don’t solve the problem, because the environment changes in such a way that this control becomes meaningless. These laws are simply all harmful: investment is becoming less appealing, the market is becoming impoverished, the population is getting angry, and alternative means of communication are growing.

Today in Russia there are two internets: one that the government wants to build itself, and another, ours- a shared internet. The attempt to control the net in such an original way honestly seemed a worthy but pointless task. The net is constructed in such a way that it is technically impossible to control anything.

A couple of years ago I wondered about the possibility of blocking Facebook or Wikipedia or some other infrastructural resource. And all these years, in spite of all the madness of the legislative and executive authorities, I still reply: no, it isn’t possible. Because at today’s usage levels, there is scope everywhere. Such a block causes irreparable damage to its creators. For users, the potential is there but technically it goes unnoticed. As discussed above, blocks are merely a formality.

Facebook, Wikipedia, and Twitter are all in the top 50 most popular sites in Russia. Not only is Alexei Navalny on Facebook, but Dmitry Medvedev is too. Not only does Charas have a Wikipedia entry, but the giant panda Mei Xiang does too. It’s not just Anonymous International who have a Twitter account (which internet users with a Russian IP address can’t see), but also the press secretary of the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin. The media, government departments, as well as small and large businesses are on all these services.

Today Facebook or Twitter is not only a way to post a funny picture, but also a way of communicating. Lots of people use Facebook Messenger for work, and many use Wikipedia for their studies, and so on and so forth. When any of these services goes down, everything stops: life, work, studies.

And do you really believe that people in the government  are that crazy (of course, after the annexation of Crimea and the adoption of all these brutal laws everything is believable – but we are in the internet)?

The era of social networks is giving way to the era of real-time chats. We are beginning to communicate right here and right now, to come together in big or small groups, to communicate anonymously and safely with each other. Thanks to FireChat – we can do this even without the net. This is further confirmation that the internet has proved its right to freedom.

by Anton Merkurov

Today’s world is becoming something we used to read about in science fiction- a fully-fledged cyberspace.

Despite the invention of the internet, those linked with military companies and the state, likely sponsors and potential beneficiaries, have continued to lag behind progress, and the net, even despite its global growth, still belonged to the inventors. In effect, the main conflict of interests lies in the freedom of transmission and distribution of information: some (i.e. the state), think that information needs to be controlled, others (i.e. the inventors), understand that the net is built in such a way that renders total technical control impossible.

Years of existence in a communal space has not only changed our habits, but it has also opened up possibilities. The speed of the spread of messages, such as the news, is astonishing. The speed of the organization of events, where the number of those ‘attending’ doubles every hour, clearly demonstrates this process. We have started to communicate personally more:  the number of horizontal links that are represented online today through our devices have been increased significantly since last 20 years.

Web 2.0 and social networks present a great opportunity for some (i.e. us). For others, the net has become a threat. If we remove the typical set of cyber-crimes, then freedom of access to information and freedom of communication will remain a major threat.

How this works in Russia: the government department RosKomnnadzor, independently or at the request of other government departments, adds sites to the register of banned websites: a list of sites which all internet providers are obliged to block. RosKomnnadzor itself rarely really blocks sites. And if you want to get on any of the sites on this register, then it is likely you will see the message: “This resource is blocked by the state authorities”. However it’s possible you won’t see it and the site will work. Immediately you will see links to applications which will rid you of the message and any restrictions on the network. RosKomnnadzor is a department which, on its own behalf or at the request of others, goes through the net and seeks to delete or change information which it believes violates legislation.

This is usually the case when it comes to suicide (in Russia this is a difficult topic due to a large increase in suicide rates) and drugs (for some reason the Federal Drug Control Service focusses its energies on marijuana on the internet, and not on the street).  But the most striking and, unfortunately, now the most numerous are political blocks and bans: from song lyrics to political figures’ last words in court (Alexei Navalny’s speech at one of his trials was blocked at the request of the Prosecutor General).

The main mistake of the conservative-minded state representatives is thinking that all of this somehow helps. These tasks designed to control don’t solve the problem, because the environment changes in such a way that this control becomes meaningless. These laws are simply all harmful: investment is becoming less appealing, the market is becoming impoverished, the population is getting angry, and alternative means of communication are growing.

Today in Russia there are two internets: one that the government wants to build itself, and another, ours- a shared internet. The attempt to control the net in such an original way honestly seemed a worthy but pointless task. The net is constructed in such a way that it is technically impossible to control anything.

A couple of years ago I wondered about the possibility of blocking Facebook or Wikipedia or some other infrastructural resource. And all these years, in spite of all the madness of the legislative and executive authorities, I still reply: no, it isn’t possible. Because at today’s usage levels, there is scope everywhere. Such a block causes irreparable damage to its creators. For users, the potential is there but technically it goes unnoticed. As discussed above, blocks are merely a formality.

Facebook, Wikipedia, and Twitter are all in the top 50 most popular sites in Russia. Not only is Alexei Navalny on Facebook, but Dmitry Medvedev is too. Not only does Charas have a Wikipedia entry, but the giant panda Mei Xiang does too. It’s not just Anonymous International who have a Twitter account (which internet users with a Russian IP address can’t see), but also the press secretary of the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin. The media, government departments, as well as small and large businesses are on all these services.

Today Facebook or Twitter is not only a way to post a funny picture, but also a way of communicating. Lots of people use Facebook Messenger for work, and many use Wikipedia for their studies, and so on and so forth. When any of these services goes down, everything stops: life, work, studies.

And do you really believe that people in the government  are that crazy (of course, after the annexation of Crimea and the adoption of all these brutal laws everything is believable – but we are in the internet)?

The era of social networks is giving way to the era of real-time chats. We are beginning to communicate right here and right now, to come together in big or small groups, to communicate anonymously and safely with each other. Thanks to FireChat – we can do this even without the net. This is further confirmation that the internet has proved its right to freedom.

by Anton Merkurov

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.

Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Vladimir Milov as Vice President for International Advocacy

Sep 01 2022

September 1, 2022. Washington, DC. Free Russia Foundation announces the appointment of Russian politician, publicist, economist, and energy expert Vladimir Milov as FRF Vice President for International Advocacy.

In her announcement of Vladimir’s new role, Natalia Arno, President of Free Russia Foundation, remarked: “I am delighted to welcome this distinguished Russian civil society leader to our team. I am certain that Vladimir will become our force multiplier and make a profound contribution to FRF’s mission, including strengthening civil society in Russia, standing up for democracy defenders who oppose war, both inside and outside the country, building coalitions and mobilizing supporters. Vladimir Milov’s professional skills and extensive experience in human rights advocacy will help us come up with effective and innovative approaches to combat the authoritarian regime and repression that the current Russian government has unleashed against citizens of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.”

Vladimir Milov was born on June 18, 1972. From 1997—2002 he worked in government agencies, more than 4 years of which were in senior positions, from assistant to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Commission to the Deputy Minister of Energy of Russia.

Vladimir Milov has bravely and publicly called out the authorities for monopolizing the economy, and encroaching into public and political life of Russian citizens. Milov’s profile as an opposition leader rose thanks to his joint project with Boris Nemtsov. The report titled “Putin. Results,” condemned the activities of the Russian government during Putin’s presidency. In 2010, Mr. Milov headed the Democratic Choice movement, which later served as the basis for the creation of a political party with the same name.

In 2016, Mr. Milov became an associate of the unregistered presidential candidate Alexei Navalny. On May 11, 2017, he began hosting a weekly segment on the economy, “Where’s the Money?” on the NavalnyLIVE broadcast on YouTube.

In April of 2021, he left Russia for Lithuania amidst persecution of Alexei Navalny’s organizations. In February of 2022, he categorically condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. On May 6, 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice added Vladimir Milov to the list of media outlets considered as “foreign agents.” Vladimir Milov is a regular guest expert for the world’s leading media outlets — CNN, CNBC, The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal.

Kara-Murza faces a new charge as the Kremlin cracks down on its opponents

Aug 04 2022

Russian pro-democracy politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who’s been in jail since April for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military, now also stands accused of “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization,” which names Free Russia Foundation in the newly filed charge.

Free Russia Foundation, unconstitutionally designated as an “undesirable” organization by the Russian government in June 2019, did not organize an event on political prisoners in Moscow in 2021. FRF does not have any presence or programs inside Russia. Additionally, FRF has never conducted any work in the State of Arizona.

FRF strongly condemns the new charges brought against Vladimir Kara-Murza by Russian authorities and demands the dropping of all charges against him and calls for his immediate release.

“All actions of the Kremlin directed against Russian opposition politicians and activists have nothing in common with establishing the truth. They are instead aimed solely at getting rid of opponents of Putin’s regime,” FRF President Arno stated.

Free Russian Foundation and Boris Nemtsov Foundation launch “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign

Jul 25 2022

Russia is not Putin. We are Russia.

We aim at sharing this message with our friends around the world — therefore, in cooperation with Boris Nemtsov Foundation we are launching “Russians for Change” fundraising campaign.

We are going to be telling the stories of active pro-democracy anti-war Russians who have not lost their hope. US nationals also participate in this campaign: Francis Fukuyama, investigative journalist Casey Michel, and alumni of Boris Nemtsov Foundation media school.

Thank you for your donation:

The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom honors the political legacy of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian liberal opposition politician assassinated in Moscow in 2015. It promotes freedom of speech and education along with the vision that Russia is a part of Europe.