Silencing Voices of Russian Opposition

Mar 18 2016

Putin’s Administration uses a variety of methods to silence those who disagree with the Kremlin’s policies, including political assassinations. Many Kremlin critics have been silenced by murder and the list is growing – Starovoitova, Yushenkov, Shchekochikhin, Politkovskaya, Litvinenko, Nemtsov and others.

Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB officer, died when he was poisoned with the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 (P-210) in the first ever nuclear terrorist attack in November 2006 in London. In 2014, the British Government established an official inquiry to investigate Mr. Litvinenko’s death. The inquiry established that Litvinenko was probably murdered on the personal orders of Vladimir Putin by two Russian agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun. The full verdict can be found here.

The case aroused widespread suspicion as Litvinenko said this before his death: “You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.”

Free Russia Foundation organized a visit of Marina Litvinenko, the widow of Alexander Litvinenko, to Washington, DC on March 14-15 to inform U.S. officials and policy-makers about the results of the inquiry and to seek for specific actions from the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration.

On Tuesday the 15th, the Atlantic Council hosted a panel discussion put together by the McCain Institute and the Free Russia Foundation regarding the Kremlin’s silencing of Russian opposition. Featured at the panel besides the wife of the murdered Aleksander Litvinenko, were Dr. Alex Goldfarb of the Litvinenko Justice Foundation, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, a member of Open Russia and the political party Parnas.

Kara-Murza recently survived a mysterious poisoning of his own. Although he survived, his case, as well as Litvinenko’s and many others, have become emblematic of the increasingly repressive and dangerous situation facing Russian opposition activists.

David Kramer of the McCain Institute moderated the event. He noted that repression of dissidents is not a new phenomenon under Vladimir Putin’s administration, but it was made clear at the opening of the panel that today it is “no longer an anomaly, but part and parcel of the Kremlin’s strategies.”

First to speak at the panel was Marina Litvinenko. She reminded that her husband’s murder was “the first ever act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of a major city.” Mrs. Litvinenko informed that at the time of Alexander’s poisoning her husband worked with British and Spanish authorities investigating connections between Mr. Putin and his circle with organized crime – these links were confirmed by Spanish investigators after his death. She believes that this work was the main motive for his murder.

Dr. Alex Goldfarb, Litvinenko s close friend was next to speak. Litvinenko’s poisoning in London sent a grave message; even western cities like London were no longer safe. Polonium was utilized since it would be difficult to detect, but it was detected, which Dr. Goldfarb explained makes the chances of something like this happening in the west again unlikely.

Poison made another appearance more recently in the Russian dissident community when Vladimir Kara-Murza suddenly fell violently ill in a meeting in Moscow. He was lucky to be rushed to a hospital and cured, but the poison had taken a toll on him as he walked with a cane and explained that heavy metals were found in his blood. Nevertheless, Kara-Murza pledged that he would return to Moscow. “They want us to run but I won’t give them that pleasure”, he thundered to some applause. He insists: “We must practice what we preach: democracy, anti-corruption are not just ideas, they’re practices”.

Kara-Murza was one of many opposition figures who was also openly threatened by thugs likely tied to Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen firebrand. He was asked what could be done from Washington, and his answer was simple. Let the opposition know they are not alone, but it is the Russian opposition’s job to bring democracy to Russia and no-one else’s. He did, however, praise the Magnitsky Act and his meetings with American politicians even taking the time to point out that the European Union had yet to pass anything like it, though he stated that the implementation of that “pro-Russian” law as he described was “feeble”.

Kara-Murza has spoke that West should include Russian propagandists which spread hatred in our country to the list of banned government figures as part of the sanctions. Russian politicians and propagandists like to criticize western values, but they will turn around and buy property and real estate in the West as well as send their children to American and European universities. “Russian governmentt officials who use media to create an environment of hate must be added to sanctions list…Russian authorities oppress citizens of Russia but invest stolen money in the West and educate their kids in the West”.

Kara-Murza also was keen to bring up the corruption that is pervasive in the Kremlin today. “Back in Soviet times there was an ideology to follow. Now the only ideology is money.”

Kara-Murza is right. The responsibility to bring democracy to Russia lies solely with the Russian people and those who strive for liberty within Russia. It’s time to turn away from the fear and hatred and mistrust of the present and look towards a brighter future that is out there for our country. Kara-Murza is also right that the Western measures against Russian corrupt officials have a very pro-Russian character, because the Russians who are involved in the fight against corruption, falsifications of elections and the illegitimate parliament are Russian patriots. They struggle for independent media, a media that informs rather than spreading propaganda. They are for dialogue and cooperation instead of threats, poisoning and murders.

by Kyle Menyhert

Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB officer, died when he was poisoned with the radioactive isotope Polonium-210 (P-210) in the first ever nuclear terrorist attack in November 2006 in London. In 2014, the British Government established an official inquiry to investigate Mr. Litvinenko’s death. The inquiry established that Litvinenko was probably murdered on the personal orders of Vladimir Putin by two Russian agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun. The full verdict can be found here.

The case aroused widespread suspicion as Litvinenko said this before his death: “You may succeed in silencing one man but the howl of protest from around the world will reverberate, Mr. Putin, in your ears for the rest of your life. May God forgive you for what you have done, not only to me but to beloved Russia and its people.”

Free Russia Foundation organized a visit of Marina Litvinenko, the widow of Alexander Litvinenko, to Washington, DC on March 14-15 to inform U.S. officials and policy-makers about the results of the inquiry and to seek for specific actions from the U.S. Congress and the Obama Administration.

On Tuesday the 15th, the Atlantic Council hosted a panel discussion put together by the McCain Institute and the Free Russia Foundation regarding the Kremlin’s silencing of Russian opposition. Featured at the panel besides the wife of the murdered Aleksander Litvinenko, were Dr. Alex Goldfarb of the Litvinenko Justice Foundation, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, a member of Open Russia and the political party Parnas.

Kara-Murza recently survived a mysterious poisoning of his own. Although he survived, his case, as well as Litvinenko’s and many others, have become emblematic of the increasingly repressive and dangerous situation facing Russian opposition activists.

David Kramer of the McCain Institute moderated the event. He noted that repression of dissidents is not a new phenomenon under Vladimir Putin’s administration, but it was made clear at the opening of the panel that today it is “no longer an anomaly, but part and parcel of the Kremlin’s strategies.”

First to speak at the panel was Marina Litvinenko. She reminded that her husband’s murder was “the first ever act of nuclear terrorism on the streets of a major city.” Mrs. Litvinenko informed that at the time of Alexander’s poisoning her husband worked with British and Spanish authorities investigating connections between Mr. Putin and his circle with organized crime – these links were confirmed by Spanish investigators after his death. She believes that this work was the main motive for his murder.

Dr. Alex Goldfarb, Litvinenko s close friend was next to speak. Litvinenko’s poisoning in London sent a grave message; even western cities like London were no longer safe. Polonium was utilized since it would be difficult to detect, but it was detected, which Dr. Goldfarb explained makes the chances of something like this happening in the west again unlikely.

Poison made another appearance more recently in the Russian dissident community when Vladimir Kara-Murza suddenly fell violently ill in a meeting in Moscow. He was lucky to be rushed to a hospital and cured, but the poison had taken a toll on him as he walked with a cane and explained that heavy metals were found in his blood. Nevertheless, Kara-Murza pledged that he would return to Moscow. “They want us to run but I won’t give them that pleasure”, he thundered to some applause. He insists: “We must practice what we preach: democracy, anti-corruption are not just ideas, they’re practices”.

Kara-Murza was one of many opposition figures who was also openly threatened by thugs likely tied to Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen firebrand. He was asked what could be done from Washington, and his answer was simple. Let the opposition know they are not alone, but it is the Russian opposition’s job to bring democracy to Russia and no-one else’s. He did, however, praise the Magnitsky Act and his meetings with American politicians even taking the time to point out that the European Union had yet to pass anything like it, though he stated that the implementation of that “pro-Russian” law as he described was “feeble”.

Kara-Murza has spoke that West should include Russian propagandists which spread hatred in our country to the list of banned government figures as part of the sanctions. Russian politicians and propagandists like to criticize western values, but they will turn around and buy property and real estate in the West as well as send their children to American and European universities. “Russian governmentt officials who use media to create an environment of hate must be added to sanctions list…Russian authorities oppress citizens of Russia but invest stolen money in the West and educate their kids in the West”.

Kara-Murza also was keen to bring up the corruption that is pervasive in the Kremlin today. “Back in Soviet times there was an ideology to follow. Now the only ideology is money.”

Kara-Murza is right. The responsibility to bring democracy to Russia lies solely with the Russian people and those who strive for liberty within Russia. It’s time to turn away from the fear and hatred and mistrust of the present and look towards a brighter future that is out there for our country. Kara-Murza is also right that the Western measures against Russian corrupt officials have a very pro-Russian character, because the Russians who are involved in the fight against corruption, falsifications of elections and the illegitimate parliament are Russian patriots. They struggle for independent media, a media that informs rather than spreading propaganda. They are for dialogue and cooperation instead of threats, poisoning and murders.

by Kyle Menyhert

Free Russia Foundation demands Navalny’s immediate release

Jan 17 2021

On January 17, 2021, Putin’s agents arrested Alexey Navalny as he returned to Russia from Germany where he was treated for a near-deadly poisoning perpetrated by state-directed assassins.

Navalny’s illegal arrest constitutes kidnapping. He is kept incommunicado from his lawyer and family at an unknown location and his life is in danger.

Free Russia Foundation demands his immediate release and an international investigation of crimes committed against him by Putin’s government.

The European Court of Human Rights Recognizes Complaints on Violations in “Ukraine v. Russia” as Admissible

Jan 14 2021

On January 14, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights published its decision on the case “Ukraine v. Russia”. The Grand Chamber of the Court has recognized complaints No. 20958/14 and No. 38334/18 as partially admissible for consideration on the merits. The decision will be followed by a judgment at a later date.

The case concerns the consideration of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights related to Russia’s systematic administrative practices in Crimea. 

The admissibility of the case is based on the fact that, since 2014, the Russian Federation has exercised effective control over the territory of Crimea, and, accordingly, is fully responsible for compliance with the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights in Crimea. The Court now needs to determine the specific circumstances of the case and establish the facts regarding violations of Articles of the Convention during two periods: from February 27, 2014 to March 18, 2014 (the period of the Russian invasion); and from March 18, 2014 onward (the period during which the Russian Federation has exercised effective control over Crimea).

The Court has established that prima facie it has sufficient evidence of systematic administrative practice concerning the following circumstances:

  • forced rendition and the lack of an effective investigation into such a practice under Article 2; 
  • cruel treatment and unlawful detention under Articles 3 and 5; 
  • extending application of Russian law into Crimea with the result that, as of  February 27, 2014, the courts in Crimea could not be considered to have been “established by law” as defined by Article 6; 
  • automatic imposition of Russian citizenship and unreasonable searches of private dwellings under Article 8; 
  • harassment and intimidation of religious leaders not conforming to the Russian Orthodox faith, arbitrary raids of places of worship and confiscation of religious property under Article 9;
  • suppression of non-Russian media under Article 10; 
  • prohibition of public gatherings and manifestations of support, as well as intimidation and arbitrary detention of organizers of demonstrations under Article 11; 
  • expropriation without compensation of property from civilians and private enterprises under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;
  • suppression of the Ukrainian language in schools and harassment of Ukrainian-speaking children under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1; 6 
  • restricting freedom of movement between Crimea and mainland Ukraine, resulting from the de facto transformation (by Russia) of the administrative delimitation into a border (between Russia and Ukraine) under Article 2 of Protocol No. 4; and, 
  • discriminating against Crimean Tatars under Article 14, taken in conjunction with Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention and with Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.

Cases between states are the rarest category considered by the ECHR. Almost all cases considered in Strasbourg concern individuals or organizations and involve illegal actions or inaction of the states’ parties to the Convention. However, Art. 33 of this Convention provides that “any High Contracting Party may refer to the Court the question of any alleged violation of the provisions of the Convention and its Protocols by another High Contracting Party.” In the entire history of the ECHR since 1953, there have been only 27 such cases. Two of them are joint cases against Russia, both of which concern the Russian Federation’s aggression on the territory of its neighboring states, Georgia and Ukraine.

New Year’s Blessings to All

Dec 30 2020

While 2020 gave us unprecedented challenges, it created transformative changes in the way we work and communicate. The hours of Zoom calls seemingly brought us all closer together as we got a glimpse into each other’s makeshift home offices along with interruption by kids and the family pets. Remote work also made us appreciate human interactions, in-person events and trips much more!

As 2020 comes to an end, we want to especially thank our supporters who continued to believe in our mission and the value of our hard work, and we hope the coming year brings all of us progress and growth for democracy throughout the world. We’d also like to thank our partners and staff in the U.S. and abroad, and we know how hard everyone has worked under difficult world changes to achieve so many of our objectives this year.

We send our best wishes to all who have stayed in the fight for democratic reforms and for the values of basic human rights. We look forward to a new year with the hope of many positive changes to come.

– Natalia Arno and the Free Russia Foundation team.

International Criminal Court Asks for Full Probe Into Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Dec 14 2020

On December 11, 2020, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on the preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor.

According to the findings of the examination, the situation in Ukraine meets the statutory criteria to launch an investigation. The preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine was opened on 24 April 2014.

Specifically, and without prejudice to any other crimes which may be identified during the course of an investigation, Office of the Prosecutor has concluded that there is a reasonable basis at this time to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed in the context of the situation in Ukraine.

These findings will be spelled out in more detail in the annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities issued by the Office and include three broad clusters of victimization:

1.     crimes committed in the context of the conduct of hostilities;

2.     crimes committed during detentions;

3.     crimes committed in Crimea.

These crimes, committed by the different parties to the conflict, were sufficiently grave to warrant investigation by Office of the Prosecutor, both in quantitative and qualitative terms.

Having examined the information available, the Prosecutor concluded that the competent authorities in Ukraine and/or in the Russian Federation are either inactive in relation to the alleged perpetrators, or do not have access to them.

The next step will be to request authorization from the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open investigations.

The Prosecutor urges the international community, including the governments of Ukraine and Russia, to cooperate. This will determine how justice will be served both on domestic and the international level.

We remind you that on September 21, 2020, Free Russia Foundation sent a special Communication to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (the Hague, the Netherlands) asking to bring Crimean and Russian authorities to justice for international crimes committed during the Russian occupation of Crimea.

Comment by Scott Martin (Global Rights Compliance LLP):

As Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reaches the end of her tenure as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, she announced yesterday that a reasonable basis existed to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in relation to the situation in Ukraine. One of the most consequential preliminary examinations in the court’s short history, the Prosecutor will now request authorization from the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to open a full investigation into the situation.

Anticipating that the Prosecutor’s request will be granted, the ICC Prosecutor’s office will be investigating the second group of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Russian Federation (the situation in Georgia being the other). This would make Russia the only country in the world facing two separate investigations at the ICC for crimes under its jurisdiction.

Call for Submissions – The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly vol. 3

Oct 26 2020

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlins Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.