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

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.

Free Russia Foundation’s Press Release on Submission of Article 15 Communication to the International Criminal Court

Oct 06 2020

On 21 September 2020, the Free Russia Foundation submitted a Communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office (in The Hague, Netherlands) seeking accountability for Crimean and Russian authorities concerning international crimes perpetrated during Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. The Communication was prepared in cooperation with Global Rights Compliance and Center for Civil Liberties and is based on a focused inquiry conducted over the past year. In our inquiry, we documented crimes as part of a systematic, planned attack by the Russian state against civilians and groups in Crimea in order to discourage them from opposing the illegal occupation of Crimea and to force their departure from the peninsula. Crimes against civilians included unlawful arrests, beatings, torture, enforced disappearances, and other inhumane acts causing severe mental and/or physical pain. In particular, the crimes targeted the Crimean Tatars, a native ethnic group who had only recently returned to their homeland, having previously been forcefully and brutally displaced by the Soviet Union in 1944.

One of the principal coercive acts was the illegal detention and concomitant violence before, during, and after the imprisonment of political prisoners. Most of those detained were arrested by Russian and Crimean authorities on terrorism charges, but it was their legal, pro-Ukrainian advocacy that led to their imprisonment. In addition, trials of those arbitrarily detained were conducted in wholesale disregard of their fair trial rights. For example, some of those illegally imprisoned were denied a speedy trial, access to independent lawyers, and the opportunity to defend themselves against their arrest in a courtroom.

In order to force those illegally detained to confess to crimes they did not commit, Russian and Crimean authorities also perpetrated acts of torture and cruel or degrading treatment, the levying of additional charges against them, even more inhumane prison conditions, denial of communications with their families and threats made against them, enforced disappearances, and even, in at least one case, a mock execution.

Other inhumane acts include “punitive psychiatry” and the denial of adequate prison conditions, including the following: (i) feeding people inedible food or, at times, no food at all; (ii) facing severe overcrowding in prisons; (iii) denial of regular water supply; (iv) threats of assault against them by prison cellmates; and (v) adding pork to food – prohibited for observant Muslims. Further, medical attention was systematically inadequate or denied for many individuals.

Concerning acts of torture, it was perpetrated by different Russian authorities, including the FSB. Allegations include the use of electric shocks in an effort to get an accused to confess. One was beaten in the head, kidneys, arms and legs with an iron pipe. With another, fingers were broken. Still another endured spinal bruises and having a plastic bag placed over his head to the point of unconsciousness. Further, threats of sexual violence against a detained man were made. Murder as well. Hands were broken, teeth were knocked out in still another.

Trials were largely held behind closed doors for illegitimate reasons, and many of the witnesses were secret not only to the public but also to the Accused. Further, credible allegations exist that, at times, there were FSB or other agents in the room, silently instructing witnesses what to say and how the judges should rule. This adds credence to words, according to the Kyiv Post, heard by Arsen Dzhepparov from a senior FSB lieutenant who stated “I will prove by all possible – and impossible – means that [an Accused is] guilty – even if he isn’t guilty”.

Concerning the crime of persecution, nearly all of these deprivations of fundamental rights were carried out with discriminatory intent. Specifically, these groups were targeted due to their political view – namely, by peacefully opposing the illegal occupation of their country. Some were targeted on ethnic grounds or religious grounds on the basis of their Crimean Tatar background.

War crimes, another group of crimes punished at the ICC, were also perpetrated in addition to or in the alternative to the crimes against humanity. This includes the crime of torture, outrages against personal dignity, unlawful confinement, wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of a fair and regular trial, and the transfer of the occupying power of parts of its population into the territory it occupies or the deportation of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.

All these crimes had the ultimate objective of the criminal enterprise – the removal of pro-Ukrainian elements out of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation without opposition, including the installation of pro-Russian elements, which include the emigration of more than 70,000 Russians, the illegal imposition of Russian law in the occupied territory, forcing Russian nationality on many Crimeans, and the appropriation of public property.

Ultimately, we hope that all the information gathered by the ICC in the context of its preliminary investigation will lead the ICC to investigate mid- to high-level Russian and Crimean officials on this basis. The international community expects responsible global leadership that follows the rule of law and expects it – no matter the situation – to be respected, especially from a state that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. When this fails to happen, the international community must demand accountability. We hope that an investigation can be opened and responsible officials of the Russian Federation will be investigated. After an investigation that conforms to international best practices, responsible persons should be charged with the systematic perpetration of international crimes.

Novichok Use Implicates Putin’s Government in Navalny’s Poisoning

Sep 02 2020

Today, the German government has announced that Russian pro-democracy leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned by Novichok. Novichok is a deadly nerve agent developed by the Soviet government chemical weapons program and used on several occasions by the Russian government to kill its critics in the recent years.

To restate the obvious, Novichok is a poison that can only be accessed with the authority of the Kremlin. Therefore, today’s announcement by German officials  directly implicates the Kremlin and Putin in the high-profile assassination attempt on Navalny.

The choice of Novichok was not just a means  to silence Mr. Navalny, but a loud, brazen and menacing message sent by Putin to the world: dare to criticize me, and you may lose your life.

The announcement by the German government of its intent to formally notify the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (‘OPCW’) of the use of Novichok against Navalny is a meek bureaucratic half-measure that fails to acknowledge the extraordinary threat to human life posed by Putin’s regime everywhere. Taken together with Angela Merkel’s promise earlier this week to help Putin finish his Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite an international outcry amounts to condoning the poisoning and normalizing it into a new modus operandi where Putin’s murders go unpunished. Free Russia Foundation urges the leaders of the EU, its Member States and the U.S. Government to take an urgent and drastic action to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime not only to serve justice, but to establish a powerful deterrent against new attacks by Putin’s regime globally.

Free Russia Foundation Statement on Kremlin’s Interference in Elections in Georgia

Aug 26 2020

We are deeply concerned with information recently distributed by the well-respected authoritative source Center “Dossier.” According to “Dossier,” the Kremlin is using Russian political expert Sergey Mikheev and consulting company “Politsecrets” to manipulate Georgian society, distribute disinformation and anti-democratic narratives, undermine Georgia’s Western aspirations, and interfere in free and fair elections in Georgia scheduled for October 2020.

More

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Investigation into Alexey Navalny’s Poisoning

Aug 20 2020

Free Russia Foundation is gravely concerned about the life and safety of Alexey Navalny. More