FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 25, 2021
Honourable Irwin Cotler, PC, OC, OQ, Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights
Natalia Arno, Free Russia Foundation
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