Tag Archives: Germany

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.

The coronavirus pandemic has continued to have an effect on numerous aspects of our lives. A large number of NGOs have also been affected by it.  A significant number of processes have gone online – seminars, conferences and presentations have been cancelled, postponed, or reformatted taking into account the new realities. A number of NGOs were practically forced to cease their work; others, on the contrary, successfully learned or developed new technological approaches and continued their activity in new formats.

Many NGOs are successfully overcoming technical difficulties and the pause in travel. Some of them are beginning to work with new topics – for example, human rights under pandemic conditions or the NGO’s digital transition. Changes in approaches to strategy, planning and communications are being discussed actively.  All this has yet to be comprehended in detail, so this study is intended to provide a preliminary overview of the current state and possible topics for future research.

More than 100 NGO representatives were interviewed in the process of this research both through surveys (a survey with 27 questions and more than 100 options for answers), as well as through interviews of leaders and representatives of NGOs (10 questions in each). More than 50 publications were monitored devoted to the problems NGOs faced in the pandemic. Thus, the methods of monitoring, survey and expert interviews were used. NGOs from Germany, Czech Republic, Lithuania, the USA, Russia (more than 30%), Ukraine and Kazakhstan took part in the research.

The PR Campaign:

April 2020 has witnessed a conspicuous uptick of publications in Western and Russian media in support of the Nord Stream 2 project:

All of these publications reference the release of results of an opinion poll and in English.

Who Paid for the PR Campaign? 

The poll was commissioned by the German Eastern Business Association (Ostausschuss – Osteuropaverein der Deutschen Wirtschaft, OAOEV)

OAOEV is a fairly new NGO that promotes German business in “Eastern” countries – from Russian to China. It was founded in 2018 through the partnership of the German Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations (Eastern Committee) and the Eastern Europe Business Association of Germany.

In December 2019, several OAOEV members met with Vladimir Putin. Following the meeting, OAOEV published a press release.

The press contact for the Nord Strom 2 Survey listed on the OAOEV website is Andreas Metz. Metz is described by Politico Europe as “member of Berlin-based lobbying group Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, which supports the pipeline Nord Stream 2.”

This OAOEV survey coincided with the November 1, 2019 appointment of Mario Mehren as the new spokesperson of its Russia working group. Mehren is a member of the shareholders committee of Nord Stream 2.

Mr. Mehren is also the Chairman and CEO of the natural gas and crude oil company Wintershall Dea – one of the two German companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 project (the second is E.On). It is a joint venture of a German concern BASF (67%) and LetterOne (33%) co-owned by Russian oligarchs with strong ties to the Kremlin, – Mikhail Fridman, Petr Aven and German Khan.

There is overwhelming evidence suggesting that these oligarchs have close ties with the Putin’s regime and its intelligence services.

Wintershall Dea owns stakes of gas reserves in Russia and chemical factories in Germany that rely on the export of that gas.

In this role as the head of Wintershall Dea, Mario Mehren met with the CEO of Gazprom Alexei Miller numerous times:

Mr. Mehren has been on the record lobbying for Nord Stream 2 for a few years now. For example, he is a co-author of a 2018 disinformation piece about Nord Stream 2 in a US outlet.

Given the above connections of the oligarchs to the Kremlin and conflicted interests of the Wintershall Dea shareholders and top leadership, it is reasonable not to be believe in the independent nature or objectivity of this research poll.

Who Executed the Polls?

The Nord Stream 2 survey was executed by an infamous commercial polling agency Forsa Politik- und Sozialforschung AG, which had been accused of data manipulations in several of its past projects. In 2009, for example, the firm was involved in a scandal concerning a methodologically flawed survey whose cooked results claimed disapproval of the 2007 railroad operators’ strike and approval of privatization of the railway. It was uncovered that the biased study had been secretly funded by Deutsche Bahn.

Survey Claims:

Forsa’s Nord Stream 2 poll is based on a phone interview of 1,006 Germans and purports them to reflect the attitudes of the entire German population.

While neither the full Nord Stream 2 survey data nor its methodology have been made public, the Wintershall Dea website features the most extensive write-up of the Forsa Nord Stream 2 survey.

The Wintershall Dea website highlights the interpretation of data according to which the majority of German people do not see the U.S. as a reliable partner and juxtapose it to Putin’s Russia. Its title is “Forsa: less and less confidence in the U.S.

The survey’s other published findings also reinforce the anti-US and pro-Russian narrative through claims such as:

  • Only 10% of Germans regard the United States as a reliable energy supplier. That puts the U.S. behind the Middle East (with 14% of German citizens having confidence in the Middle East as a reliable energy supplier);
  • Over half (55%) of German citizens want closer economic ties with Russia;
  • More than three quarters (77%) of respondents say that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline construction should continue despite US opposition.

What Are the Prospects for Nord Stream 2?

With just a hundred miles of seabed pipeline construction remaining, the work on the Nord Stream 2 project was abruptly halted by US sanctions introduced in December 2019. The sanctions threaten to blacklist any foreign companies collaborating on the construction of the pipeline. This caused all foreign partners to pull-out from the construction and left Russia with no foreign vessels willing to complete the pipe-laying, according to analysis by Benjamin L. Schmitt published by the Jamestown Foundation.

Neither the sanctions, the Coronavirus Pandemic nor the perturbations on the global energy market seem to have any affect, as Putin vowed to finish the pipeline no later than the first quarter of 2021. Such a timeline, however, seems overly optimistic, for two reasons.

Firstly, Russia needs to receive a permit from Denmark to deploy in its territorial waters. Such a permit (given Denmark’s appreciation for the true nature and purpose of Nord Stream 2) is far from certain, and even if granted, may be issued with a significant delay. The Danish Energy Agency (DEA) had spent two and a half years evaluating Gazprom proposals before finally granting permission to build the pipeline in its waters in October 2019.

In February 2020, the Danish Energy Agency said it began negotiations with Nord Stream 2 AG regarding the unfinished Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, but the involvement of any specific new vessels has not yet been discussed.

Secondly, Russia currently has no vessels equipped to carry on the construction. According to a European energy expert and Jamestown Foundation Senior Fellow Margarita Assenova, Russia has two ships it may potentially use to complete the project: Akademik Chersky and Fortuna.

Akademik Chersky, a vessel owned by a Moscow-based construction firm with a loan from Gazprombank, set sail from Russia’s Far East toward the Suez Port in Egypt in March 2020 and after several peculiar route diversions headed to Las Palmas in early April. It possesses dynamic positioning stipulated by Danish authorities. Chersky, however, requires a technology upgrade to be able to lay pipes. An upgrade can potentially be performed in two to three months. It would then take additional time for Akademik Chersky to reach the Baltic, said Assenova.

Fortuna, located in the Baltic Sea, does not have dynamic positioning. As explained by a CEPA report, “dynamic positioning is a computer-controlled system that automatically maintains the vessel’s position and heading, without the need to use anchors to maintain its course in deep waters. Avoiding anchors in the Baltic Sea is a key environmental and security requirement of Danish authorities for drilling platforms, research ships, and cable-laying and pipe-laying vessels.” Gazprom has floated an idea of attaching a tugboat with dynamic positioning to Fortuna, as reported in the Russian media.

Even if either of these schemes is successful, the vessels would still have to be insured, and its insurers would fall under the US sanctions. Russia has been developing its own instruments for insuring vessels under the new sanctions regime, according to Mikhail Korchemkin from East European Gas Analysis group.

What are the Objectives of this PR Campaign?

With its publicity campaign, Wintershall Dea has attempted to improve the political and social dynamics in Europe to facilitate the quickest completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline so badly wanted by the Kremlin.

While revenues from gas exports are not essential for the Russian federal budget, the sector has become the primary instrument of expropriating state resources and channeling them into the accounts of Putin’s’ cronies. As such it is one of the key factors to the ability of Putin to remain in power.

Putin’s regime simply cannot afford to lose its market share to a highly competitive US LNG. Gas price manipulation has proved an effective strategy for Gazprom in the past decade. By completing Nord Stream 2, Gazprom is hoping to brainwash European consumers in its ability to sustain high volumes of affordable gas supply for the long term while in reality Russian gas has always come with the political strings attached, bringing corruption and subversion of democratic institutions.

With this PR campaign, the Kremlin attempts to shift the focus away from its track-record of price manipulation and to the commercial aspects of this partnership with the EU, as well as convince the society that the Nord Stream 2 is a purely commercial project and not a political weapon of the Kremlin.

A special report by the EEAS on Coronavirus Disinformation offers a thorough analysis of tactics, strategies and vectors of effort by  Kremlin-controlled media on the issue of Coronavirus. During the past three months, the agency has documented over 110 instances of disinformation (i.e. excluding reposts and secondary materials citing them). Such a significant volume suggests that the Kremlin has a strategy and a plan on how to use the pandemic to advance its political agenda in Europe.

How is this strategy manifested and executed in Germany? And who are the prime targets for the Kremlin-controlled media in Germany?

In Germany, there are in essence two main target audiences – the German-speakers and the Russian-speakers. A great volume of German-language materials is generated by outfits such as RT Deutschland и Sputnik DE. Their level of activity is so massive (for RT Deutschland, for example, – up to 10 new videos per day and for Sputnik DE up to 30 published stories per day) that the German law enforcement now has several formal efforts dedicated to addressing their challenge. In March 24, 2020, the Federal Criminal Police and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution announced the start of programs to monitor fake news materials “whose spread may pose a threat to the societal order and security.”

Organic audiences (in German Top-100 in social nets) cultivated by RT and Sputnik as part of Russian campaigns to interfere in the EU in 2019 and German Parliamentary elections in 2017, today are used to spread the coronavirus disinformation throughout the German society. For the most part, they are people with far-right political orientations, those who support populist leaders, harbor anti-American sentiments and embrace conspiracy theories of various sorts.  Many of them have voted for the AfD party. This is not surprising, given that RT served as a de-facto party channel during the 2017 Bundestag elections campaign – it provided AfD candidates unrestricted publicity with an opportunity to discuss any issue, while completely ignoring all other parties and candidates.

Germany’s Russian-speaking community, of course, is also an important audience for the Kremlin propaganda outlets.  According to various statistics, Germany is home to between 3-5 mln Russian-speakers:

– About 3 mln arrived through the repatriation programs for Soviet Germans;
– About 300,000— are refugees of Jewish ethnic origins;
– About 300,000 ethnic Ukrainians;
– According to the official information published by the Russian Embassy in Germany — 500,000 remain citizens of the Russian Federation;
– Additionally, citizens from various former Soviet republics such as Moldova, Latvia, etc.

This amounts to a sizeable audience for whom Russian is the primary language used at home, as well as the main language for receiving important information and the news.

In addition to the Russian-language media outlets, the Kremlin aggressively employs social media platforms to shape opinion among the Russian-speaking audience in Germany. The Russian Odnoklassniki (translates as “classmates”) has at least 2.6 mln accounts based from Germany;  an online group “Russian Germans for AfD” has over 20,000 members; and the pro-AfD and pro-Putin group “Russian Germany” has more than 60,000 members.

Four narratives dominate within the continuous barrage of coronavirus-related disinformation and manipulation advanced by the Kremlin-controlled media in Germany:

1. Lack of unity in Europe and the absence of collective support and plan dealing with the coronavirus among the EU states.

In a weekly program Vesti Nedeli (which has about 5.7 mln viewers) broadcast by Russia’s First Channel on March 22, 2020, Dmitry Kiselev is speculating on the geostrategic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic: 

“The Schengen Area regime was the first one to collapse.  Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland and Lithuania have reinstated control of their national borders. That means that the Schengen Area with the freedom of movement between its 26 members states no longer exists. Those are just the first few steps in the direction of giving up the spoils of civilization in favor of reinstating sovereign nation-states. In fact, this is the crash of the European Idea and transition to a new political culture with a different value system.

All the lip-service to solidarity, collective assistance, shared values, human rights and humanism, has gone with the wind the moment when Italy, who lost more people to coronavirus than China, asked the EU for help, and was rebuffed. Italy requested personal protection items and medical equipment, specifically lung ventilators. In response, Germany and France curbed their exports of medical masks.”

One would be hard-pressed to find “analysis” with a comparable concentration of lies.  Firstly, the Schengen agreements include clauses governing possible limitations and temporary moratoriums on travel, as well as governing the travel of non-EU citizens. Secondly, the European Commission urgently appropriated 50 million euros to help Italy.  Finally, France and Germany limited their national exports of medical masks due to their domestic deficits.

Similar materials and reports surfaced on the German-language Sputnik DE on March 19, 2020 and RT Deutschland on March 30, 2020. Some outlets have gone further and proclaimed the end of the European Union.

Alexander Nosovich commented in his March 13, 2020 editorial published by RuBaltic.Ru: “The Coronavirus response has demonstrated that the European Union does not exist in the minds of Europeans. When it is time to act, the Union ceases to exists as a political reality.”

VestiFM (ВестиFM) went even further and in all seriousness discussed the inevitable exit of Italy and Germany from the EU.

The nexus between the German right populists politicians and the Russian medical envoy to Italy deserve a special mention, as it played a key role in Putin’s decision to do so.

Turns out, the impetus was the March 20, 2020 letter penned by the Bundestag AfD member Ulrich Oehme (infamous for his pro-Russian stance and his travel to the occupied Crimea) and his Italian colleague, ultra-right populist from the Lega Nord party Paolo Grimoldi (who founded a “Friends of Putin” Caucus in the Italian Parliament) addressed to Roman Babayan (a Moscow City Duma Deputy and an anchorman of the NTV show “Your Own Truth”) and to Leonid Slutskiy (Chair of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, PACE delegate, member of the Russian right-wing Liberal-Democratic Partyparty, and named on the international list of sanctions adopted by the US, EU and Canada for his official legislative role in the Russian annexation of Crimea).

Babayan read the letter during a live broadcast of his show, which received wide coverage throughout the Russian media. For the Russian audience, a spectacle was played out where a teary plea from the Europeans was met with an immediate and gracious response from Russia.  It’s important to acknowledge that this narrative may be aimed more at the Russian domestic audience, as opposed to the Russian diaspora in Europe, though it permeates both.

2. Germany moves to rescind sanctions against Russia due to the pandemic.

Calls by three marginal Bundestag Members – Robby Schlund, AfD (who became famous for his effort to open an AfD office in Russia), Anton Friesen, AfD, and Alexander Noy, Left – are presented by the Kremlin media as the onset of a serious discussion to end sanctions against Russia. It has been peddled most actively by RIA News and Izvestia (and then reprinted by dozens of less prominent outlets such as regnum.ru, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, gazeta.ru and among the German-language outlets, such as  Sputnik, RT and Junge Welt who also touted that the tiny German Communist Party called to end sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Russia. It is important to clarify that such statements and calls are made by individual members of the Bundestag and fractions several times a day and do not amount to a formal legislative discussion or movement.

Against this backdrop, a significant reactivation of the Nord Stream 2 lobbying efforts have taken place. The pretext of this campaign was the publication of survey results prepared by Forsa, a leading German market research and opinion poll agency, and dealing with German attitudes on energy policy issues. Rossiyskaya Gazeta, whose editorial focus usually echoes the sentiments inside the Kremlin, immediately reported on the study: “Against the difficult economic situation related to coronavirus, the support for construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has grown. Three quarters of respondents (77%) support the most expedient completion of the Russian-European project, despite the limitations announced by the United States.”

In Germany itself, however, this information has been ignored by prime outlets and only featured only by marginal portals covering economic beats (such as finanzen.net.)

3. German lack of preparedness for the Coronavirus pandemic and shortage of doctors.

One would assume that the Kremlin propaganda machine would not waste time on spreading lies that are easily factchecked and quickly dismissed as disinformation. Nevertheless, an entire program on Vesti FM on February 29, 2020, did exactly that. Other peddled themes include the so-called “negative pandemic scenario” projecting that 50 million Germans will inevitably become infected and 1 million will die, which at this point is a mere hypothesis. Some Russian outlets such as Nezavisimaya Gazeta engage in despicable speculation on the circumstances of the suicide of a German state minister with headlines such as “The German Hysteria”.  Again, here, it is the Russian domestic audience that may have been the primary target, though the Russian-language audiences in Europe have been also been affected.

While most Kremlin-controlled media outlets have advanced the narrative of the German panic, Alexander Rahr, the darling of the Russian propaganda and an expert on all possible issues, offered an extensive commentary: “ It is improper to say that one does not feel the panic here.”

4. Refugees and Quarantine.

Russian disinformation outlets have been pushing a narrative that refugees in Europe violate quarantine.  Komsomolskaya Pravda has hired an AfD activist  Eugen Schmidt who has churned out several reports supporting this theme. Such narratives target Russian audiences with anti-migrant and racists views.

An anti-migrant publication germania.one is also advancing a similar line. On the other hand, Sputnik DE is vocal in its criticism of the failure of the German government to sustain safety and enforce quarantine measures inside refugee camps and asylum-seekers’ housing.

What are some of the preliminary conclusions and observations that could be made from the review of the fake, half-truth and misleading materials?

It is clear that the Kremlin-controlled outlets seek to sow uncertainty, fear of the future and distrust among the German population toward its government. At the same time, materials aired and published frequently contradict each other.  RT Deutschland, for example, is criticizing the German government for harsh restrictions, while Sputnik DE is criticizing it for lack of preparedness and inability to enforce quarantine. However, this is precisely the mechanism used by the Kremlin to execute its strategy of sowing uncertainty and even panic. Once the environment is right, it aims to push for the removal of sanctions under the pretext of helping the German economy recover. To shift attention away from its own fake news, RT Deutschland is claiming  that prominent Western outlets such as Tagesspiegel , FAZ, AFP  и DW  are spreading fake news against RT Deutschland.

Despite all of these efforts by the Kremlin-controlled media, the rating of the ruling coalition continues to grow, and the majority of Germans approve of measures taken by state and federal governments. According to a recent poll conducted by ARD-Deutschlandtrend (02.04.2020), 72% are satisfied with the crisis management measures adopted by the government in response to coronavirus pandemic. Likewise, the support is strong for the overall performance of the ruling coalition of parties (government): 63% are satisfied with its work (which is a 28% from a similar poll 02.03.2020)

The phenomenon of modern political emigration from Russia is still causing some doubts, but most likely so as of now just in the details of it. The flow of those who are leaving the authoritarian country is increasing, a lot of people leave due to the direct, or indirect threats and persecution. Germany is attractive to quite a lot of political emigrants (if not the majority of them). The strongest economy of the European Union, and the developed civil society along with the most voluminous Russian – speaking community make this choice well – grounded. In this article are going to examine the reasons and specific characteristics of the political emigration to Germany.

The “Swamp Case” has become a trigger for the newest wave of political emigration from Russia. It exactly after that case had been initiated that the activists, who might have been persecuted began to leave the country, and some of them did get persecuted for some mythical participation in the mass riots, or for organizing them. More than 600 people were detained right on the spot while they were demonstrating on the very same day when the rally took place, some of those later have become defendants in that criminal case. There were searches and cross – interrogations that were conducted in more than 10 cities among 300 activists. There are more than 30 guilty verdicts that were carried out by the court in the case. The case has not been closed yet – there are court hearings and active investigations still going on in full swing. Photos of more than 80 people, who are considered to be perpetrators involved in that case were published on the website of the Investigative Committee. More than 30 people have received international protection in the EU countries.

The events of the year of 2014 in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine have increased both the number of emigrants, and the number of persecution cases. Included among those cases are also the ones based on the absurd, the so-called “separatist activities incriminating article,” in accordance with which any single doubt about the legality of the occupation of the Crimea is considered to be a criminal offense. The law on “foreign agents” and on “undesirable organizations”, as well as the pressure, in general, that was applied towards the NGO sector has increased the number of causes based on which the state can persecute anybody, having, therefore, increased the number of potential and real emigrants from Russia as well.

The political crisis of the year 2014 has led to an economic crisis in Russia, which in its turn resulted in a growth of the numbers of political and economic emigrants. This is the part of the medium and small scale business that has already been strongly dissatisfied with the political situation in the country as it was, and the impossibility to conduct a more or less normal business practices that have shaped their final decision to leave Russia. In accordance with some preliminary data in the year of 2016 more than a million people left the Russian Federation.

For a more profound in-depth comprehension of the problem we hereby offer to characterize political emigrants by certain typology categories.

The first type is comprised of political refugees, in other words, they are the citizens of the Russian Federation, who for one reason or another (that we shall analyze separately) have asked for the international protection in Germany, and they are now either in the process of their application case still being considered, or they have already since received a positive approval response.

The second type is comprised out of factual political emigrants. They have grounds to be afraid of staying further on in the Russian Federation (these might be direct or indirect threats), but they do not perceive their situation hard enough, or they do not believe that the situation warrants for them to make a request to obtain the international protection grant. That is why their official reason for staying in Germany is not seeking political asylum grant, but to work or to study, for instance.

The third type is made of atmospheric emigrants, in other words they are the citizens of the Russian Federation, who due to the specific nature of their professional occupation or their points of view, can no longer stay in the authoritarian regime environment, and prefer to leave Russia in order to continue their business activities in Germany. 

Refugees

  1. The refugees from the republics of the North Caucasus of Russia (predominantly from Chechnya and Dagestan) – this group is not the theme of this article and it calls for a separate research.
  2. LGBT refugees – their percentage is higher here than it is in the other countries because German authorities have found the law on the so-called “Propaganda of homosexuality” to be a discriminatory one.
  3. Political asylees proper – political and public activists, who have had politically instigated criminal cases initiated against them, and who have received life threats and threats to their health and wellbeing in conjunction with their public and political activities, and who quite possibly might have been attacked.

There is a particularly peculiar feature of the situation in Germany: Russian citizens from the Northern Caucasus file several thousand applications for asylum per year, in certain instances up to 10 thousand. Some of the applications from certain groups of refugees make hundreds of cases, and perhaps by the year of 2017, they might even rise up to a thousand. In other words, a particular stereotypical picture is being created about the citizens of Russia, who are seeking asylum in Germany. Also, it is difficult to talk about special attention being paid to political cases (politically motivated criminal cases, etc.), since from an official point of view all of the applicants from Russia make up for one single group.

One should also provide a clarification in regards to the system of considering and granting international protection status (asylum) in Germany.

There is no further subdivision into humanitarian and political refugees, in Germany. All of the cases are processed together. Every case is being considered on an individual ad hoc basis. There are no set up timeframes within which the application for asylum ought to be processed, that is why some people are waiting for the decision on their claims for years.

As a type of a decision on his case an asylum seeker may be granted a full asylum status or a minor asylum status. A minor asylum status is issued for a certain period of time, for example for one year or two, with the possibility of getting an extension on it and it does not provide all the levels of the international protection that a full refugee status does. While submitting an application for an asylum, one cannot make a request for a minor asylum status, this decision is taken solemnly by the granting institution. Minor asylum status is being granted in those cases, where the asylum status is being sought by the representatives of a group that is being discriminated against, or for instance when humanitarian refugees ask for shelter. In other words, the threat for this group to which they belong does exist, but it is not aimed at any concrete individuals in particular.

There have been some positive changes underway in the legislation on refugees in Germany in the last three years. As of now, asylum seekers can move across the entire territory of Germany without the special permit, and they also can receive a work permit within 3 months upon the submission of the application for one.

The LGBT refugees

Minor asylum status has been granted to some LGBT refugees from Russia, who had not been directly persecuted, and did not participate in any activities to defend the rights of the LGBT community.

We know about more than 100 cases of asylum requests that were filed by the LGBT refugees from Russia in the Federal Republic of Germany. The majority of such applications get a positive response. Therefore, one may already speak about the creation of a Russian-speaking LGBT community in Germany.

Dmitry Chunosov (LGBT activist): “In Germany, at first you are mandated to reside in a camp. After we filed the application for asylum, they gave us a ticket to go to Friedland. That is in Lower Saxony, right in the center of Germany, one of the oldest refugee camps, that was opened in 1945. A month later we received a transfer to Luneburg, where we have been living up until now. And one month later we passed the interview, and in 18 more months, we have gotten our status of the refugees. “

Regretfully so, homophobia in the refugee camps still continues to be one of the crucial problems for the LGBT refugees. In the year of 2015 there were more than 60 incidents of attacks and threats that were reported.

The political Refugee

Their number in Germany has been on a fast rise ever after the year of 2014 – the occupation of the Crimea, and the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. At the present moment, we have the knowledge of more than two hundred cases that were filed with the request to provide international protection due to the politically motivated persecution in Russia. Among the major reasons for the persecution, there are the initiation of a criminal prosecution case or a threat of a criminal prosecution. A smaller portion of the cases is compiled from asylum grant requests that are not based on the investigation of the life threats and health and wellbeing threats of the asylum seeker. In the majority of cases, applicants from Russia receive positive responses.

The main problems for the asylum seekers in Germany are: the long waiting period to get a decision on the case, the absence of a possibility for free (or accessible) ways to learn German language, and the problem of getting a job while in the waiting process looking forward to getting the decision to be made on their case.

A more global issue for the political emigration from Russia (for those numbers of public activists and reporters) is their factual falling out of the loop due to the absence from the public life in Russia, which is equated to the prevailing victory of the law-enforcement agencies at power, since it was their objective from the get-go to put an end to a certain activity of a definite person. Many people continue to keep working on their old projects, however, that work, as usual, becomes less systematic and with the lack of the financial support, it quickly ceases to exist.

Political emigrants from Russia

Those political emigrants who have not requested asylum status for themselves because of one reason or another are placed in very different situations. And at the very same time, it happens so that in the majority of the cases it is not in their own best interest to go back to Russia. Their number is much grander in its magnitude than that one of the refugees, in other words, we are speaking about thousands of them. They depend on their migration status and their level of economic independence. In other words, some of them do not have any problems, maybe the only issue for them is the learning of the German language. Meanwhile, there are some other people facing the need to renew their residence permit on a regular basis, and having to prove that they are economically viable, which is causing them stress and apathy.

That is why a role of crucial importance is played by the initiatives of the primary consultation assistance, as well as the possibility to continue working (in the very least within the framework of some internship arrangements) in some familiar socially significant fields. To have an opportunity to use the workplace with the Internet access and social interactions in one’s professional environment may be very important at the initial stages, especially for those ones who left in a hurry. 

The “atmospheric” emigrants

A great deal of them represents the so-called “middle class,” which did not have time enough to mature into some powerful and influential part of the Russian society, and is forced now to find solutions for the issues of their economic future in other countries and to do so on their own.

The majority of them are mainly scientists, people representing creative fields and high-tech occupations, along with some representatives of small and medium – scaled businesses, who have managed to save up and accumulate a small amount of capital. They do not seek asylum, but rather they leave the country to commence a new life in a healthy, competitive environment. And at the very same time, most of them do not forget about Russia and put their best efforts into exploring all the venues available to them in order to keep informed about what is going on there.

Alexey – an entrepreneur: “I had a business in Moscow, we developed Internet projects and various online solutions for business. In the beginning of 2012, I started thinking about opening an account in Lithuania and about transferring some part of the cash proceeds through it for a rainy day, so to speak. After the referendum in the Crimea, I decided that the time has come to get ready for the move. I researched the conditions of doing business in Germany, Lithuania and a couple of other countries, and I picked Germany. By that time, I had accumulated a sufficient amount of money to open my own company over there and I moved, taking several of the managers along with me. The remaining part of the company is working in the remote locale regime, so I did not have to rebuild the team all over again. In Berlin we began to expand into Europe, in here everything is so much easier to do and to resolve the problems. Quite frequently the officials themselves help us out, and tell us about the best way of doing things.”

In general, modern political emigration from Russia has become a prominent phenomenon in Germany. Structurally so, it is still at the stage of its evolving development, but as far as its numbers are concerned it quite possibly is the biggest one in Europe after Ukraine. It is exactly Germany that might become some kind of a reserve center for a new, democratic Russia, preserving, and possibly perhaps even empowering the potential of the scientists, journalists, environmentalists, human rights advocates and many other people, who were forced to leave Russia but have plans to go back there.

Putin’s cronies. Putin’s proxies. Putin is a Kleptocrat. These terms could have shocked us a decade ago, but thanks to recent outstanding investigations and civic initiatives, they have entered into the routine experts’ narrative.

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