Free Russia Foundation Launches #NoToWar Campaign

Summit of democracies — an opportunity for global democratic coordination

Nov 09 2021

By Vladimir Milov, Expert of Free Russia Foundation, Russian prodemocracy politician, publicist, economist and energy expert

According to Freedom House, global freedoms and democracy have been retreating for 15 consecutive years. While the conventional wisdom points to the imperfections of the democratic systems themselves as the main reason, coordinated and orchestrated efforts of global autocratic regimes have played the key role in this process. Equipped with advanced technology and commanding trillions of dollars derived from unprecedented economic growth of the past few decades, contemporary autocracies are capable not only to suppress the natural demand for democratization from their own societies, but also to go on the global offensive. They interfere with domestic policies of the democratic societies, launch cyberwars, propaganda and disinformation attacks, sow division, civic apathy and distrust in democratic institutions, paving the way for new authoritarian trends in societies previously considered solid democracies.

These efforts are well-coordinated. Autocracies continuously learn from each other, adopting ‘best practices’ of oppression to be used against their own societies— sharing the data harvested through surveillance, leveraging law enforcement mechanisms and physical policing hardware, to coordinating cyber and disinformation attacks.

Several autocracies, which should have fallen under the pressure from their own societies demanding democratic changes, have managed to stay afloat and keep dictatorships in place merely due to massive and coordinated support from foreign powers. Syria, Venezuela, Belarus, Myanmar— these regimes wouldn’t hold, were it not for a coordinated intervention of autocratic foreign powers such as Russia, China and Iran to save them.

The international community should recognize this trend as a grave breach of national sovereignty and address it head-on.  Allowing autocracies to continue such anti-democratic interventions will lead to their rapid proliferations, taking down fragile democracies one by one like dominoes.

Global coordination to defend democracies against autocratic onslaught is a matter of self-preservation for democratic systems. Such coordination should be formalized in structure and be continuous, and not pop up ad-hoc at summits. It should be organized along the following vectors of effort:

1. Coordinating international political positions and legal actions

It is extremely important to counter global anti-democratic actions of autocracies in the international public space and legal forums.

Systemic interference by autocracies in domestic politics of democratic countries, or interventions of foreign autocratic powers to protect dictatorial regimes like Venezuela, Syria, Belarus or Myanmar have not been raised even once at the U.N. Security Council or other important international bodies.

The democratic world must muster the courage to acknowledge the autocratic threat for what it is and address the systemic nature of the problem at the global stage.

We must develop an international legal framework to punish political interference in domestic affairs of democratic countries. Sanctions should be adopted against autocracies complicit in interventions aimed at saving individual dictatorships despite broad democratic aspirations of the people.

We must clarify the definition of national sovereignty. Autocracies interpret national sovereignty as the right of those who have grabbed power to do as they wish within their national borders. This interpretation contradicts even their own constitutions and national statutes who assert that sovereignty is derived from the free will of the people.

2. Coordinating defense against attacks on democracy

Permanent mechanisms should be established to facilitate information exchange and coordinate best response to autocratic cyberwars, disinformation and propaganda wars, weaponization of migration, drug traffic sponsored by autocracies, and other malign activities in specific areas.

3. Using economic power to halt the autocratic offensive

Democracies dominate the global economy, generating well over 70% of the global GDP. Therefore, they command an enormous economic leverage over autocracies. If used collectively and wisely, this leverage can proof to be powerful enough to create both the incentives for nations to join the democratic community, as well as effective checks on the aggressive behavior of the autocracies. Some ways in which economic leverage can be used include:

  • Promoting free trade and investment between democratic nations first, to make sure that democracies enjoy the advantages of free flow of goods, services and investment to a significantly higher extent than autocracies;
  • Promoting human rights clauses to free trade and investment agreements as a universal approach— which would end the debate as to whether oppressive regimes should be allowed access to free trade, defining the boundaries purely in legal terms. So far, human rights clauses to FTAs is an option which remains mostly on paper— but can emerge as a powerful leverage over global trade and investment processes.

4. Reaching out to civil societies of the oppressed world

Democracies should clearly distinguish between autocratic regimes and their oppressed peoples— who also want to join the world of democracies but are denied the opportunity to realize their aspiration by brutal self-proclaimed autocratic rulers.

The democratic world should coordinate efforts aimed at:

  • Providing global access to free information for oppressed peoples living under autocratic regimes— an extremely important goal, especially in the environment of intensified efforts by autocrats to block their populations from access to free information;
  • Providing a wide range of legal and other forms of support to the oppressed people living under autocratic regimes;
  • Addressing the demand of the people of non-free societies for enlightenment, education on the principles and foundations of democracy, self-government, and other forms of knowledge that will help them build prosperous democratic societies in the future;
  • Actively working with global diasporas of the non-democratic nations to help them become forces of positive change in their own societies;
  • Creating new international justice mechanisms for peoples of the non-free societies who lack legal and judicial protection in their own countries, especially important as autocracies have been actively retreating from international justice mechanisms like ECHR, Roman Statute of the ICC, etc.

5. Preventing access to potentially oppressive technologies

Democracies should improve the coordination of their efforts to prevent access for autocracies to products and technologies which can be used to enhance oppressive techniques against their own societies. It is no secret that the bulk of technologies and tools used for domestic repression used by autocracies— from public space surveillance to sophisticated hacking tools to police hardware— originate in the democratic world.

The democratic world should monitor the markets of oppressive tools and techniques and develop an effective mechanism of collective sanctions against domestic producers of equipment and technology, who supply these products to autocratic regimes to be used for malicious purposes.

6. Coordinated sanctions for human rights abuses

Sanctions against individuals and entities involved in human rights abuses in autocratic countries will be more effective if coordinated across the democratic world. Particularly effective are the sanction tools which prevent exports of corrupt capital from autocracies to the free world where money and property is protected by the rule of law. There is an urgent need to develop mechanisms like the Global Magnitsky Act to send a clear signal to autocrats— you and your family cannot count on a good life and well-being in the democratic societies with corrupt money earned through repression and attacks against the democratic world.

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.