The Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Ivan Lyubshin, a resident of Kaluga, as a political prisoner. The criminal case against him should be closed, he should be immediately released, and his allegations of torture should be objectively investigated.Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Ivan Lyubshin
Despite of the obvious political motivation of the criminal charges against Airat, on August 24, 2020, the Central District Military Court sentenced Airat Dilmukhametov to 9 years in a strict regime colony. He was found guilty on four counts: public calls for separatism, public justification of terrorism, public calls for extremism and its financing. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Airat Dilmukhametov
The Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines, recognized Oleksandr Marchenko as a political prisoner. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Oleksandr Marchenko
On June 06, 2020, Pskov City Court sentenced Gennady Shpakovsky, 61-year-old Jehovah’s Witness and a political prisoner from Pskov, western Russia, to six and a half years’ imprisonment for his faith. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Gennady Shpakovsky
The Memorial Human Right Center recognized Aitahadzhi Khalimov, a Kazakhstan citizen living in Russia, convicted to 3.5 years in prison for justifying terrorism by keeping video files on his social network page as a political prisoner. Aitahadzhi Khalimov saved three videos with archival footage from the first Chechen war on his VKontakte profile. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Aitahadzhi Khalimov
The Memorial Human Right Center has recognized Nikolai Platoshkin – a left-wing politician and video blogger – as a political prisoner. Platoshkin is unjustly accused of planning mass riots. This charge is politically motivated and related to his oppositional social and political activities. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Nikolai Platoshkin
On July 15, PEN America, PEN Belarus, and Free Russia Foundation will host a discussion on the ongoing political crackdowns in Belarus leading up to the country’s August 9, 2020 presidential election. In addition to exploring the recent wide-scale attacks on political opposition and the press, the conversation will examine broader trends of suppression of freedom of expression and the public’s right to information in Belarus, along with President Lukashenka’s relationship with the Kremlin.
The live Webex session, which will take place on Wednesday, July 15 at 10am EST / 16:00 CET, will include an extensive Q&A session. You may submit your questions in advance at registration or during the session.
In order to attend, please register before the event.
On June 19, Belarusian authorities arrested hundreds of opposition supporters who had lined the streets of Minsk to support petitions for opposition leader campaigns in the upcoming election. Many of those arrested were journalists and other members of the media. Among those who remain imprisoned since June 19 is prominent opposition leader Viktar Babaryka – the prime opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential election. President Lukashenka has so far ignored requests for Babaryka’s release.
Featured speakers will include Taciana Niadbaj, a poet, translator, and current executive director of PEN Belarus; Franak Viacorka, a Belarusian journalist and media expert; Natalia Arno, president of Free Russia Foundation; and Polina Sadovskaya, Eurasia program director at PEN America. The event will be moderated by Michael Weiss, senior editor for The Daily Beast and a frequent national security analyst and contributor for CNN.
On October 2, 2019, Nariman Memedeminov, a dual citizen of Ukraine and of the Russian Federation, a resident of Crimea, activist of the Crimean Solidarity movement, and a citizen journalist, was sentenced to two years and six months in a penal colony and banned from administering websites for two years in accordance with Part 1 of Article 205.2 of the Criminal Code (“Public calls for terrorist activities”).
In 2013, Mededeminov published videos of events hosted by the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (an organization that was legally operating in Ukraine but banned in the Russian Federation) on his YouTube channel. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Nariman Memedeminov
In accordance with international guidelines defining the term, Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Rakhmiddin Kamolov, a human rights activist and a Uzbekistan national serving a 16-year prison term in Russia, as a political prisoner. We believe that Kamolov was persecuted for political reasons in connection with a non-violent exercise of his rights such as freedom of conscience, religion, speech and association. Also, his right to a fair trial was violated. The purpose of the persecution was to force Kamolov to halt his public activities. Memorial Human Rights Center urges for the immediate release of Rakhmiddin Kamolov. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Rakhmiddin Kamolov
In accordance with international guidelines defining the term, Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Alexander Gabyshev, a shaman from a Siberian region of Yakutia, as a political prisoner. Deprivation of liberty was applied to him solely because of his political and religious beliefs, as well as a non-violent exercise of freedom of movement, expression, peaceful assembly, conscience, and religion. We urge for the immediate and unconditional release of Gabyshev and his full rehabilitation with redress. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Alexander Gabyshev
In accordance with international guidelines defining the term, Memorial Human Rights Center considers Aleksandr Atamanov, a resident of Pyatigorsk, a political prisoner. Aleksandr was charged with recruiting people into the Ukrainian Right Sector and possessing drugs. The guilt of Aleksandr Atamanov has not been proved and key pieces of evidence in the case were fabricated. Aleksand repeatedly said that violence was used against him in pre-trial custody and threats were made against his relatives. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Aleksandr Atamanov
According with international guidelines and definitions, Memorial Human Rights Center considers two residents of Sevastopol, Crimea Aleksei Bessarabov and Vladimir Dudka political prisoners. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Aleksei Bessarabov and Vladimir Dudka
On June 2, 2020, Free Russia Foundation hosted a congressional discussion on the Fate of Crimean Tatars in the Aftermath of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. Continue reading The Fate of Crimean Tatars in the Aftermath of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
On May 28, 2020, Russian civil and human rights activist Sergei Mokhnatkin died at the age of 66. Mokhnatkin died in a hospital suffering from complications from a spinal injury received in prison.
The Crimean Tatars are a Muslim ethnic minority indigenous to the Crimean Peninsula. They have been among the most vocal critics of the Russian occupation of Crimea, and as a result, the Russian authorities have relentlessly persecuted them.
On Thursday, May 21, 2020, at 16:00 (Kyiv time) / 9:00 AM (Washington, DC) an international online forum will be held with the participation of human rights activists and scholars from Kyiv, Simferopol, Paris, Berlin, Moscow, and Washington DC.
Forum participants will talk about the Kremlin’s implementation of hybrid deportation of Crimean Tatars and public activists on the peninsula, for which a whole system of political repression has been launched. The issue of defining the criteria for the status of a “political prisoner” will be raised and lists will be formed. The participants of the online forum will also announce the work on the introduction of new international sanctions against Russian officials who are directly involved in the organization of political persecution. Human rights activists will spread the awareness of the global petition to the UN, the Council of Europe, the European Union, and the OSCE to save the lives of thousands of illegally detained in Russia, the Russian-occupied Crimea, and part of the Donbas from the threat of COVID-19 infection in prisons. The petition can be signed by following the link.
● Oleksandra Matviychuk, Chairwoman of the Center for Civil Liberties NGO (Kyiv);
● Sergey Davidis, Head of the Political Prisoners Support Program, Member of the Council at the Memorial Human Rights Center (Moscow);
● Natalia Arno, President and Founder of the Free Russia Foundation (Washington);
● Ilya Nuzov, Head of the Eastern Europe-Central Asia Desk at the International Federation for Human Rights (Paris);
● Lilia Hemedzhy, a lawyer of the Crimean Solidarity initiative (Simferopol);
● Wilfried Jilge, a historian of Eastern-Central Europe and Ukraine (Berlin);
● Simon Papuashvili, Programme Director of the International Partnership for Human Rights (Brussels).
Event languages: Ukrainian and Russian.
The international online forum will be held on the second anniversary of the arrest of Server Mustafayev, coordinators of the Crimean Solidarity, which has united the relatives of political prisoners and activists in the occupied Crimea. According to his colleagues, he was the engine that drove the association. Since May 2018, Server has been held behind bars.
The event is organized by the global campaign #PrisonersVoise (formerly #SaveOlegSentsov) as part of the Week of Solidarity with the Crimean Tatars “Common Pain. Common History.” Informational support was provided by the PR agency KRASNI.
Live broadcast is available at the link.
Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Oleg Dmitriev, Oleg Ivanov, and Sergei Ozerov, supporters of a group called Artpodgotovka, convicted of preparing a terrorist act in the center of Moscow on November 5, 2017, as political prisoners.
Despite numerous initiatives to amnesty prisoners, including political prisoners, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Victory Day, commemorating the victory of the Soviet Union and the Allies over Nazi Germany, the State Duma refused to give amnesty this year. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: Victory Day’s Amnesty Cancelled
Earlier this week The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a new annual report on the state of religious freedoms across the globe. According to the report, religious freedom conditions in Russia deteriorated in 2019. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: Prosecution of Religious Minorities in Russia in April 2020
Please join us in signing this petition to help end the illegal detention of Yury Dmitriev, a 64-year old historian and a political prisoner, whose deteriorating health is now gravely endangered by the coronavirus pandemic. Continue reading Sign a Petition to Save Yury Dmitriev
Gennady Kravtsov is a radio engineer who was sentenced to six years in prison in a maximum-security colony on charges of committing a crime under Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code (‘High Treason’). He has been in custody since May 27, 2014. Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized Gennady Kravtsov as a political prisoner because the actions he was accused of never took place and his right to a fair trial was violated. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Gennady Kravtsov
The Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized another 130 Jehovah’s Witnesses as political prisoners and politically persecuted. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Azat Miftakhov, a graduate student at the engineering mathematics faculty at Moscow State University and a supporter of anarchist views, is under investigation on two counts. He has been charged under Article 213, Section 2, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Hooliganism by a group of people by prior agreement,’ for which the penalty is up to seven years of prison) and is a suspect of an offence under Article 223.1, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Illegal preparation of explosive substances and explosive devices,’ for which the penalty is up to six years of prison). Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Azat Miftakhov
Maxim Smyshlyaev, a resident of the city of Rostov-on-Don of left persuasions. At the time of his arrest, he worked at a McDonald’s outlet and studied extramurally at the Institute of History and International Relations of the Southern Federal University. He was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment in a strict-regime penal colony under Part 3 of Article 205.1 (‘Complicity in the preparation of a terrorist act’) of the Russian Criminal Code for having allegedly aided Artur Panov, a minor holding the citizenship of Ukraine, in the preparation of a terrorist act that did not take place. Smyshlyaev has been held in custody since April 22, 2016. The Memorial Human Rights Center recognizes Maxim Smyshlyaev as political prisoner. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Maxim Smyshlyaev
The Memorial Human Rights Center has recognized a Russian citizen Vladimir Domnin as a political prisoner. He was accused of having fought in Donbass region on Ukrainian side. We believe that Vladimir was in the war zone for a short time, but did not directly participate in war actions and does not pose danger to the society. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Vladimir Domnin
77-year-old scientist sentenced to 7 years in a strict regime prison colony for passing software to China. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Vladimir Lapygin
The Memorial Human Rights Centre has recognized four residents of Kaliningrad charged in the case of the Baltic Avant-garde of the Russian Resistance (BARS) as political prisoners. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of BARS
On March 5, 2020, a Russian-controlled court in Ukraine’s Crimea sentenced Sergei Filatov, a Jehovah’s Witness from Dzhankoy, a town in the north of occupied Crimea, to six year in prison for organizing activities of an extremist organization, which, according to an investigation, consisted of “holding meetings, religious speeches, as well as promoting religious ideas.” Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Sergei Filatov
On February 21, 2020, on the second day of the Winter Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, a side event was held in Vienna on the problem of political prisoners in the OSCE area. Continue reading How to Address the Issue of Political Prisoners in OSCE Participating States?
Feminist artist Yulia Tsvetkova from Komsomolsk-on-Amur was accused of illegally producing and distributing pornographic materials on the Internet (Paragraph “b”, Part 3 of Article 242 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, punishable by up to six years of prison). The charges were connected to her role as an administrator of a feminist body-positive online page ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ which has published abstract depictions of female sexual organs and items similar to those either drawn by Tsvetkova or posted earlier on the Internet with the aim of removing the taboo surrounding female physiology. Tsvetkova has been under house arrest since November 23, 2019.Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Yulia Tsvetkova
Olexander Shumkov, a Ukrainian citizen from the city of Kherson who was serving in the Ukrainian armed forces at the time of his kidnapping, was kidnapped at the border between Ukraine and Russia in August 2017. After that he was relocated to Russia and charged with committing a crime under Article 282.2, Section 2 of the Russian Criminal Code (taking part in activities of an extremist organization) on the grounds that, allegedly, he is a member of Right Sector, an organization banned in Russia. On December 4, 2018 Olexander Shumkov was convicted to 4 years of prison by a judge Victor Ruhmakov of Sevsky regional court in Branskaya oblast. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Olexander Shumkov
The Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Eduard Nizamov, who was accused of heading the Russian branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, as a political prisoner. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Eduard Nizamov
Earlier this week new charges have been brought by Russian authorities against four leaders of the Ingush protest movement. A criminal case opened on December 27, 2019 implicated that eight activists and community organizers created and operated an extremist group against the republic’s authorities. In the near future, it’s expected that the others will be charged too.
Petr Parpulov was born in 1955. A resident of the city of Sochi. From the 1980s to his detention in 2014, he worked as an air traffic control officer at the airport in Sochi although he had already reached pensionable age. He was sentenced to 12 years in a strict-regime penal colony under Article 275 (‘High treason’) of the Russian Criminal Code for divulging unidentified classified information that was nonetheless published in the newspaper ‘Krasnaya Zvezda’ (‘Red Star’) and therefore available to the general public. Parpulov has been in custody since March 4, 2014. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Petr Parpulov
A criminal case of violence against government officials and the riots in Moscow, which allegedly occurred on July 27, 2019 during the largest “unsanctioned” protest rally, was opened on July 30. More than 20 people were accused during this investigation.
On December 11, Free Russia House held a discussion, “Kremlin hostages: Victories, difficulties, new challenges” as part of the 4th human rights non-conference organized in Kyiv. The discussion was joined by Ilya Novikov, a lawyer to a number of Ukrainian political prisoners, and Igor Kotelyanets, head of the Association of Relatives of Political Prisoners.
Participants discussed multiple aspects of further tactics for the public campaign dedicated to the release of Ukrainian political prisoners still kept behind bars after the big exchange that happened in September. Special attention was drawn to the Normandy format meeting held in Paris on December 9, attended by Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Volodymyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin.
Igor Kotelyanets plays a leading role in the informal association of the relatives of Ukrainian citizens persecuted in Russia and Crimea on political grounds. He is a cousin of one of the political prisoners who was lucky to be released during the autumn big exchange. He also cooperates closely with the Ukrainian government, speaks on international political platforms, and actively lobbies for legal amendments to Ukrainian laws related to the political persecution of Ukrainians in Russia. According to various estimates, there are from 90 to 114 Ukrainian political prisoners on the lists of human rights organizations and the Office of the Ukrainian Ombudsman for Human Rights. As well as many others, Igor was attentively following the news after the Normandy meeting, as he knew that agreements on the new exchange were already in place.
At the Normandy meeting it was announced that an agreement had been reached on the exchange of “all for all.” Even though this wording sounds very promising, in fact it brings a lot of uncertainty as everyone understands it in a different manner. Several hours later, at a briefing by Vladimir Zelensky with the Ukrainian media, it finally became clear that the “all for all” format actually implied war hostages in the Donbass region, leaving political prisoners out of the equation. “I have no doubt that Zelensky passed the complete lists, including both prisoners of war and political prisoners. Therefore, we can probably conclude that it was Russia who did not agree to the exchange of truly ‘all to all.’ The release of political prisoners in the Crimea and the Russian Federation will, apparently, be the subject of discussion at the further Normandy meetings,” Igor Kotelyanets concludes sadly.
Ilya Novikov, the lawyers of Nadia Savchenko, Ukrainian sailors brutally detained in the Azov sea and other Ukrainian prisoners, believe that the situation will not change before the end of the year, even though there were rumors after September that a second wave of prisoners’ release would have been launched before 2020. “Putin,” says Novikov, “understands this ‘exchange fund’ as a tool for strengthening his position in the negotiations. And here arises the following logical question. Notwithstanding the monumental effort Ukraine makes to free its citizens from Russian prisons, is it even possible that the country can achieve results on its own without external help or Western assistance in the person of Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron or even Trump is an indispensable prerequisite?”
An illustrative case in this regard happened a couple of years ago and involved Norway. On December 5, 2017, a Norwegian citizen, Frode Berg, was arrested in Moscow on suspicion of espionage and Novikov was hired to represent him before the court. From the very beginning it was clear that Berg would be convicted, as no single case of free pardon happened in Russia under this article since 2000. Thus, from the very first day, the Norwegian government, for which it was the first shocking case of such a nature, took this matter as seriously as possible. The Lithuanian side was involved in the process, as Norway did not have its own “exchange fund”. Lithuania gave Russia two Russian agents, and in return received two Lithuanian citizens and Mr. Berg. In order to make this exchange possible, Lithuania had to amend the legislation on the pardon procedure. Russia attempted to force Americans, through the Norwegians, to organize the release of Viсtor Bout. His return is idée fixe for Russia, but the Americans uncompromisingly responded, “It’s out of option.”
In the end, the trigger for the release of Mr. Berg was an accidental combination of circumstances which was helpful only against the background of long preliminary preparations by Norway and Lithuania. On October 24, 2019, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov arrived in the hometown of Mr. Berg – Kirkenes – on the occasion of the 75th anniversary from the date of the liberation of northern Norway by Soviet troops from the Nazis. The celebration was attended, among others, by the King of Norway. Appropriate location, together with the presence of high-ranking state officials and public pressure, preceded by long negotiations and legislative changes, lead to the successful release of Frode Berg.
Apart from minor disagreements in the Barents Sea regarding fisheries, Norway does not have any other serious conflicts with Russia. The Berg case was nothing compared to the Ukrainian situation. But even against this background, the release of one person required two years of hard work, involvement of a third party and changes in the legislation, and yet the result was uncertain until the very end. The only dubious advantage for Ukraine in comparison with Norway is that Ukraine has a considerable “exchange fund.” But for Russia, Russian citizens have no value.
There were only two persons important to the Putin administration – Vyshinsky and Tsemakh. Negotiations on the September exchange got off the ground when the question about Vyshinsky was finally raised. Before that moment, the situation dragged on for the previous three years without any progress.
The Memorial Human Rights Center, in accordance with international guidelines, recognizes the antifascists Maksim Ivankin, Vasily Kuksov, Mikhail Kulkov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, Arman Sagynbayev, Andrei Chernov, Ilya Shakursky, and Igor Shishkin as political prisoners. We demand their immediate release and that all charges against them for alleged involvement in a terrorist group be dropped.
Memorial Human Rights Center (HRC) included a well-known Russian opposition activist Mark Galperin in the list of political prisoners for the second time. Previously, Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Galperin as a political prisoner in 2018 when he was under a house arrest on charges for extremism.
The Memorial Human Rights Center recognized Vladislav Sinitsa, a Moscow-based blogger, known under the pseudonym Max Steklov, a political prisoner. On August 3, 2019, Vladislav was detained on charges of inciting hatred and hostility with the threat of violence. On September 3, a court sentenced the blogger to five years in a penal colony under paragraph A of Part 2 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Today, on December 6, courts in Moscow sentenced 7 activists and participants of the summer protests against the denial of opposition candidates to run in the Moscow City parliament’s election. A few dozens of people have been charged in mass-rioting or police assault in connection with the Moscow protests.
We are presenting a summary of the most complete list of people prosecuted for their involvement in the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami organization (hereinafter referred to as HT) in Russia and the annexed Crimea. Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami organization was recognized in Russia as a terrorist organization and banned on this basis.
The Crimean Tatars are “a Muslim ethnic minority indigenous to the Crimean Peninsula.” They have been among the most vocal critics of the Russian occupation of Crimea, and as a result, the Russian authorities have “relentlessly persecuted” them.
Ivan Matsitsky is the spiritual leader of the Church of Scientology of St. Petersburg. He has been detained since June 2017, facing criminal charges relating to his involvement with Scientology.
Memorial Human Rights Center (HRC), in accordance with the international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ has recognized Yuly Boyarshinov and Viktor Filinkov as political prisoners. We demand their immediate release and that the criminal charges against them for alleged involvement in a terrorist group be dropped.
The total number of Jehovah’s Witnesses currently being prosecuted for their faith in Russia has reached 206.
Today, we’d like to remind people who respect human rights once again about The Kremlin’s political prisoners. The very fact people are imprisoned in today’s Russia for their political and religious beliefs shouldn’t be tolerated by the world.
There is a bittersweet development we believe is important to write about today. Yesterday, Konstantin Kotov, 34, imprisoned under the “Moscow case,” married a 19-year-old suspected extremist, Anna Pavlikova, at Moscow’s infamous Matrosskaya Tishina jail.
Eduard Malyshevsky and Nikita Chirtsov were the last to be detained in the Moscow Case. They have been charged under Article 318, Section 1, of the Russian Criminal Code (‘Using force against a public official without endangering life or health’).
On March 27, 2019, in Magas, Ingushetia, clashes occurred between participants of a protest rally and The National Guard (RosGvardiya) and police officers after they tried to disperse the rally. 10 police and RosGvardiya officers reportedly received various injuries. The Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on the use of violence against law enforcement officers.
Memorial Human Rights Centre, in accordance with international guidelines defining the term ‘political prisoner,’ has declared Abdulmumin Gadzhiev a political prisoner. We demand his immediate release.
On Thursday, September 12, 2019, a prosecutor asked the court to sentence Pavel Ustinov to six years in jail. According to investigators, the man was an active participant in an unauthorized rally in central Moscow on August 3, 2019. While under arrest, Ustinov resisted a National Guard officer causing the officer to suffer a dislocated shoulder. The defendant pleads not guilty. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Pavel Ustinov
Yulia Galyamina, a Municipal Deputy and unregistered candidate for the Moscow City Parliament, has been jailed for a third consecutive time this week on the same charge of “organizing an unsanctioned rally.” Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: #MoscowElectionCrisis The Case of Yulia Galyamina
Over the last weekend, as the Kremlin continued its crackdown on recent protests calling for free elections in the city, police in Moscow arrested 1,001 demonstrators, according to independent monitoring group OVD-info. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: #MoscowElectionCrisis Continues
Fearful of independent voices even at local levels, Putin’s regime disqualified every single pro-democracy candidate from participating in the Moscow City Council elections. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: #MoscowElectionCrisis
Ten opposition-minded residents of Moscow and Moscow region have been charged with creating an extremist group, ‘New Greatness,’ (Novoe Velichie) in December 2017, allegedly for the purposes of the violent overthrow of the government and constitutional order of Russia (Article 282.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of New Greatness
On November 5, 2017, Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov attempted to hold a protest demanding the resignation of the regional government. In preparation, they had made two posters and about 30 flyers and purchased a megaphone. However, soon before they began protesting, they were arrested. They were subsequently charged with attempting to organize and participate in mass riots – punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment – and have been detained ever since. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Cases of Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov
Vladimir Kara-Murza, Vice President of the Free Russia Foundation, stated during his presentation at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council that in the past four years, the number of political prisoners in Russia has increased by six times. Continue reading Vladimir Kara-Murza: In four years, the number of political prisoners in Russia has risen by six times
Svyatoslav Bobyshev is a professor and scientist at the D. F. Ustinov Baltic State Technical University (Voenmekh). He was arrested in March 2010 and charged with treason (Criminal Code Article 275) for allegedly selling information about the Bulava missile system to China during an academic collaboration with a Chinese polytechnic institute.
Yuri Dmitriev was born on January 28th, 1956 and lives in the city of Petrozavodsk. He is a historian, investigator and researcher of the burial places of victims of political repression, the chairman of the Karelian branch of the Russian civil rights society “Memorial,” and a member of the Commission for Restoring the Rights of Rehabilitated Victims of Political Repressions under the Government of the Republic of Karelia.
On June 4, 2020, the Orenburg Region Administration’s Commission on Pardon Issues denied pardon to former Yukos staffer Alexey Pichugin, who has been in jail since 2003. Memorial Human Rights Center has acknowledged him as a political prisoner. Pichugin is serving life in prison, and this is his third pardon denial.
Vladimir Balukh is a Ukrainian farmer who was convicted of illegal possession of ammunition (Criminal Code Article 222(1)) and disrupting the activities of a detention center (Article 321(2)). In reality, he is being punished for his outspoken pro-Ukraine activism. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Vladimir Balukh
Igor Rudnikov is a prominent opposition politician in the Kaliningrad region and was the editor of Noviye Kolyosa, a now-closed independent newspaper renowned for its investigative journalism, particularly on government corruption. Rudnikov has been in custody since November 1, 2017, awaiting trial on extortion charges (Criminal Code Article 163(3)). Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Igor Rudnikov
Dennis Christensen is a Danish citizen and Jehovah’s Witness who was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on extremism charges (Criminal Code Article 282.2) in February 2019. His case has come to represent the ongoing persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia.
CASE UPDATE: Yesterday, September 10, 2020, was 600 days since Anastasia Shevchenko, an activist with the Open Russia movement, was placed under a house arrest. Continue reading The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: The Case of Anastasia Shevchenko
As protests rage across Russia in response to a Kremlin-backed law to erect a digital Iron Curtain, authorities are preparing a “cyber-defence test” to shut down the Russian Internet – a step that may result in isolating the country from the rest of the online world.
At risk: Russia’s fundamental freedom of speech. As one human rights activist told international journalists, “The [Russian] government is battling freedom…, I can tell you this as somebody who spent a month in jail for a tweet.”
For those of us born in Russia who seek a regime that respects human rights, the Putin regime’s aggression abroad has its parallel in repression at home. Last month, Russian civil society activist Anastasia Shevchenko faced a parent’s worst nightmare: her special-needs teenage daughter had been hospitalized and was near death. But Shevchenko – under house arrest for the absurd charge of collaborating with an “undesirable” foreign organization – was prevented by the local Russian court from visiting her dying daughter until just hours before the girl passed away.
What were the charges against Shevchenko? Organizing debates, coordinating educational lectures for voters, and participating in pro-democracy meetings. Though these activities are internationally guaranteed rights — and protected by the Russian Constitution itself — Shevchenko could face six years in a Russian jail.
This type of senselessly cruel treatment from Russian authorities against human rights defenders and activists in Russia is increasingly common. Just two months ago, 77-year-old Lev Ponomarev, a veteran rights defender, served 16 days in prison for the crime of sharing a Facebook blog. Despite strong international condemnation over his arbitrary detention, the judge who convicted him showed no leniency, refusing to let him attend the funeral of his friend and activist Ludmila Alexeyeva.
In fact, human rights are under assault in Russia in nearly every way, as President Putin and his allies have used their power to pass repressive laws that ensnare citizens of Russia and other areas it occupies. One of the Kremlin’s preferred methods of repression is to detain political opponents and activists on spurious criminal charges. We are jailed for exercising our fundamental rights, for peaceful protest, for texting our friends, and for holding dissenting political opinions. This is part of a larger campaign by the authorities to crush civil society and stifle dissent in my home country.
Six years ago last December, I fell victim to this brutal campaign. I was given 48 hours to leave Russia, or spend twenty years in jail for state treason for my work for an American democracy-promotion organization. Now my son cannot see his father and friends and I do not know when I will be able to watch the sunset again over Lake Baikal, near my birthplace. But I continue to fight tirelessly for this day to come – and for the day when Russia will no longer have political prisoners.
While my organization, Free Russia Foundation, and other rights groups in Russia and abroad have worked on behalf of these victims to bring rights violations to the public’s attention and help them through legal action, there are limits to what our advocacy can achieve. We ourselves often become targets – imprisoned, exiled, or even murdered.
Discrete actions by the broader international community alone will not be enough to make a fundamental change in Russia. There is a need for a common and coordinated advocacy strategy among civil society organizations around the world in order to make the Kremlin heed our calls to release political prisoners.
A dozen rights groups across Russia, Europe, and North America have now joined together as a Coalition to say “enough.” From Moscow, Kyiv and Tallinn to Berlin, Ottawa, and Washington, D.C., the newly-launched “Coalition to Free the Kremlin’s Political Prisoners” will organize collectively to call out abuses of authority and push for the release of the Kremlin’s political prisoners. At a time in which attacks on civil society are at an all-time high, our goal is to join together across borders to stand up for the future of Russia’s people.
The Coalition is hitting the ground running. According to the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center, Russian authorities currently hold 233 political prisoners, with targeted groups including rights defenders, such as Shevchenko and Oyub Titiev, who headed the Memorial branch in Chechnya when he was arrested last year; Ukrainian hostages held by the Kremlin, including Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film-maker imprisoned because he opposed Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea; and Alexey Pichugin, who – after being framed for several murders and attempted murders and having served more than 15 years in prison on a life sentence – has become Russia’s longest-serving political prisoner.
As Russia seeks increasingly to cut itself off from the world, one of the Coalition’s primary tasks will be to shed light on the stories of these and other prisoners with targeted media campaigns. For the sake of all political prisoners held by the Kremlin, we will stand as one – and we urge other civil society organizations to join our efforts and governments worldwide to support our cause.
Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker imprisoned by Russian forces in 2014, is on the verge of death. More than one hundred days ago, he began a hunger strike to demand that Russian President Vladimir Putin free sixty-four Ukrainian political prisoners being held in Russia. Since then, Sentsov has lost almost 70 pounds and suffered cardiac complications. In early August, he confided to his lawyer that “the end was near” and this week he told his cousin that his limbs are going numb. Unless the international community takes urgent action, his uncompromising commitment to freedom will soon kill him.
Policy makers and human rights activists face an all-too-common decision: Do we raise our voices loudly and in unison now, when it can potentially spare one life, or honor yet another opponent of tyranny with a street name following his death? We’ve got enough streets named after dead democrats and courageous freedom fighters. Let’s make an uproar now if only to say we shed a light on those unfairly held in Russia’s modern gulag.
Sentsov’s trouble began soon after Russia illegally annexed Crimea. He was arrested on May 10, 2014, by Russian FSB security forces for peacefully protesting the illegal Russian takeover of Crimea. From his home in the Crimean city of Simferopol, he was jailed and held incommunicado for three weeks. During this time, prison authorities physically abused him, including by suffocation, and threatened him with torture, rape, and murder in an attempt to get him to “confess” to terrorism. The Russian authorities proceeded to strip him of his Ukrainian citizenship—a blatant violation of international law—and tried him in a military tribunal in Moscow as a Russian citizen. Despite a lack of evidence—including from the main witness against him who retracted his testimony after admitting it had been made under torture—Sentsov was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to twenty years in prison.
Sentsov’s case is far from unique. Convicting political opponents on manufactured charges and bogus evidence is one of the hallmarks of Putin’s regime, and there are more than 183 political opponents currently imprisoned in Russia. In an attempt to wear them down, they are regularly subjected to torture; inhumane transport, including month-long transits in cramped trains with little access to water and sanitation; and imprisonment in “gulag-like” prison colonies.
So far, Putin has managed to repress dissent, and Sentsov’s ongoing struggle is an attempt to change this. Sentsov hopes to force Putin to answer for the numerous Ukrainian activists he has imprisoned. Selflessly, Sentsov has not even demanded his own release; rather, he will only end the hunger strike if all other Ukrainian political prisoners are released, and he is willing to obtain his own freedom through death should Putin choose to ignore his demands.
Unfortunately, Putin appears ready to let Sentsov die. Perhaps Sentsov’s case is a matter of pride. As a Ukrainian prisoner from Crimea, releasing Sentsov to the Ukrainian authorities might undermine Russia’s claim over Crimea. Or perhaps Putin simply wants to show the world that nothing, not even the death of an innocent man, can make him change.
Whatever the case, we must not let Putin have his way. It is time for the international community to stand in solidarity with all of Russia’s political prisoners and take concerted actions to hold Putin accountable. Sentsov’s life depends on it. If we don’t, it’s a defeat for those who believe in human rights and a victory to those who traffic in tyranny.
As an urgent first step, if Sentsov is to be saved, the world must unequivocally call for his immediate release. As Sentsov’s situation has grown increasingly precarious, a handful of organizations and world leaders, including Amnesty International and French President Emmanuel Macron, have already done so. But to get Putin to listen, we need the United States and other countries and organizations that value democracy and human rights to prioritize Sentsov’s case.
Second, Russia must face serious and tangible consequences. Putin has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not act out of compassion or shame, so we must force him to do what is right. The United States should lead the charge by using all the tools in its arsenal—including significantly expanding sanctions—to force Putin to meet our demands for freedom.
Finally, we must not lose sight of what is at stake. Sentsov may be fighting to free Ukrainian political prisoners specifically, but this fight transcends national boundaries. It is a timeless and universal fight for freedom and justice—the very values that our society is built on. Sentsov has not weeks, but fleeting days left. And if he dies, so does a part of our humanity.
This article originally appeared on the Atlantic Council’s website
The main photo: Barbed wire and placards with images of Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov are seen after a rally demanding the release of Sentsov, who was jailed on terrorism charges and is currently on hunger strike in Russian jail, in front of the Russian embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo
To governments and legislators of democratic countries, to democracy promotion and human rights organizations, to all democracy-minded people, journalists, and public opinion leaders.
Is the world listening? Does the name Oleg Sentsov cross the consciousness of global leaders every morning they wake up? It should. There is a very urgent task for all of us right now – to save Oleg Sentsov from death in a remote Siberian prison.
Oleg Sentsov, who was arrested and jailed for merely opposing Russia’s takeover of Crimea in 2014 while making a documentary, has been on a hunger strike since May 14. Not a hunger strike to compel a brutal regime to free him, but the selfless act of demanding the release of 64 other Ukrainian political prisoners held in Russian jail cells.
Sentsov is a manifestation of our conscience. And Putin’s repressive machine is methodically killing our conscience at the moment. To save Sentsov is to save the others. Will the world challenge Vladimir Putin, the petty dictator less and less bound by a moral compass, or will Sentsov be another name we celebrate posthumously like a Soviet dissident Anatoly Marchenko?
Since Sentsov began his hunger strike on May 14, many of us have been counting the days of it: Day 1, Day 23, Day 57, Day 107 today… But his health has become so dire that now the countdown goes to minutes, not days.
So, all leaders of the free world, all governments, all legislators, all democracy agencies and human rights organizations, all media outlets, all democracy-minded people worldwide should come together and put Sentsov life as priority Number One, above all other things on their agendas, until he’s released. We will all regret we didn’t do enough to save him if he dies.
It’s Sentsov’s deliberate decision to end his unfreedom with death in order to force the release the other Ukrainian hostages of the Kremlin. It seems like Putin has made his deliberate decision, too — to let Sentsov die as a signal to the world that his regime is unshakable and can care less about a human life.
It appears the Sentsov case is too personal for Putin, some sort of vendetta with those who oppose to him; or perhaps Putin doesn’t have a say here because the Sentsov case was initiated by the FSB and is under its close supervision. Maybe the allegedly all-powerful dictator doesn’t dare to interfere in FSB’s business.
Like Marchenko, Sentsov is determined to give meaning to his own death. Are we ready to lose him though? What else can be more valuable for us, democracy-minded people, than a person’s life?!
So many people in the world have requested, begged, and demanded the Kremlin set Sentsov free. The Kremlin is mercilessly deaf to all statements and pleas to free Sentsov. The international community does a lot in trying to save Sentsov, but it’s still not enough. Are our voices to release Sentsov too scattered and not convincing enough? Are we sending raindrops instead of unifying into the tsunami against the Kremlin?
Last Friday, Vladimir Kara-Murza, twice poisoned in Russia himself, held the second ceremony of opening a new Boris Nemtsov square in memory of his friend, a slain Russian opposition leader. The first unveiling of Nemtsov Plaza took part in Washington, DC and last week it happened in Vilnius. Do we really want to have a reason to push governments of Western countries to start opening Sentsov plazas? Do we want to start advocating for a Sentsov sanction list? Shouldn’t we prefer to have Sentsov alive?!
Let’s all unite our efforts and act right now and act every moment. I urge the U.S and other democracies to try all methods with the Kremlin — both carrots and sticks, but with all means to save Sentsov. Threaten to impose more sanctions, but NOW when Sentsov is still alive. Or promise not to impose some. It can all be re-evaluated later. If Putin wants to exchange him for somebody – start discussing it NOW when Sentsov is still alive. Nothing is more important and urgent right now than Sentsov’s life. I hope I’ll meet him one day to thank him for his fortitude.
In the spring of 2014 in Crimea, Russian federal security service arrested Ukrainian citizen Oleg Sentsov due to suspicion of terrorism.
Oleg is a film director. During the period of the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, he was an auto Maidan activist, carrying food and supplies to the Crimean military units blocked by Russian troops.
In August of 2015, he was sentenced for 20 years in prison. Oleg did not admit to his guilt; he stated that he was tortured to make him plead guilty. Court sessions had a lot of legislation infringements. Materials within the criminal case contain signs of falsification.
Oleg is recognized as a political prisoner by Memorial (the most respectful Human Rights NGO in Russia). Apart from him, there are 71 more Ukrainian citizens in Russian prisons arrested on political motives. Oleg says there are about 64 Ukrainians; data may vary, and one of the lists of Ukrainian citizens held in Russia as political prisoners is presented by OVDinfo – a Russian human rights organization.
On the 14th of May 2018, Oleg went on hunger strike with the demand for the release of all Russian political prisoners of which are Ukrainian citizens.
Stanislav Zimovets (a Russian citizen and Russian political prisoner, arrested during the anti-Putin demonstration on the 26th of March 2017), Alexander Shumakov (a Ukrainian citizen and Russian political prisoner), Alexander Kolchenko (a Ukrainian citizen and Russian political prisoner, treated by the Russian court as an accomplice of Oleg Sentsov), Stanislav Klih (a Ukrainian citizen and Russian political prisoner) also went on a hunger strike in support of Oleg’s demand. Moreover, a Ukrainian citizen and Russian political prisoner in Crimea Vladimir Baluh has been on a hunger strike for 2.5 months, against the illegal verdict.
The only person in Russia who is capable of meeting Oleg’s demand is Putin. Until the demand is met, those gone on hunger strike will continue and will die eventually.
On May 4th, Oleg Sentsov, the film director, announced a limitless hunger strike with the demand to release all Ukrainian political prisoners from Russian prisons (64 people total). On May 31st, Ukrainian activist OlexanderKolchenko announced the hunger strike with a demand to release film director Oleg Sentsov. VolodymyrBalukh, OlexanderShumkov, Stanislav Zimovets also went on hunger strike.
On June 2nd, acts of solidarity both with Sentsov and the political prisoners in Russia with the demands to release them took place in more than 70 cities in Europe, Asia, America and Australia. Updated information on these acts of solidarity can be found here.
All these events have made the issue of political prisoners in modern Russia relevant again.
Who are political prisoners? The definition by the “Memorial” Human Rights Center, which is deeply involved with this issue, is: “Political prisoners are the two categories of people who are subject to criminal prosecution (on a politically motivated basis).
The first group is those oppressed solely for the practice of their civil rights, and for being of a particular nationality, religion or another group, for their beliefs and views (also known as prisoners of conscience, according to Amnesty International).
The second group is those persecuted due to significant violations of the law, selectively, or according to the political motivation of the authorities.
An extensive definition can be found in the Guide to the Definition of a Political Prisoner issue (In Russan).
According to “Memorial”, there are more than 50 political prisoners in Russian prisons today, more than 100 people persecuted for their religious convictions and more than 70 people with clear signs of politically motivated cases. Here you can find the Sentsov’s case analysis on the “Memorial” website (In Russian).
The “Bolotnaya Square case” became the first large politically motivated case in modern Russia. The “political prisoners” term returned in current journalistic and activist vocabulary due to this case. The absolute evidence of falsification of the case, inhumane treatment conditions, and the feeling of belonging in every sense of the word (a lot of people participated in the “white-striped protests” and many of them were on Bolotnaya Square on May 12, 2012) provoked a lot of outrage. This led to a protest and a solidarity campaign, both quite effective and noticeable, being brought to life. It is important to note that many of those affected by the “Bolotnaya Square case” are former political prisoners now engaged in human rights activities and provide assistance to political prisoners and those persecuted for political reasons.
Ivan Nepomnyashiy, ex-political prisoner:
“It was very important for us to know, – during the trial and after the verdict – that there are many people who consider the case and the sentence to be absurd and fabricated, and that they appealed to the authorities to recognize this and to make us free. And this is the minimum we can do now for Oleg Sentsov, OlexanderKolchenko and many others who are unfairly detained in Russian prisons.”
The ongoing issue has another important aspect: five people went on a hunger strike. The management of Sentsov’s penal colony has already declared that they are ready to use forced feeding and infusions. The hunger strike is one of the extreme measures available for those in prison. It is easy to remember the hunger strike of Anatoly Marchenko, the Soviet dissident, and the tragedy at the end of it. The hunger strike of Vasily Aleksanyan, one of the “Yukos’ case” political prisoners was not successful either. It is still unclear whether the Russian government is ready to react to such actions. But one point is obvious – this situation is very dangerous for the life of political prisoners.
Sergey Sharov-Delaunay, human rights defender:
“The authorities are not going to drop back, for sure. The only way to force it is to make the intense pressure on this power rise from the inside, and from the outside, all over the world. For the outside pressure, which is really important for Ukrainian authorities, as well, it is necessary for us to support the demands of Oleg Sentsov. This is the starting point for everything. Without it, this demand will never become actual or satisfied.“
That is the reason that urgent and regular acts of solidarity are becoming more important than ever. Join the #SaveSentsov campaign!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
March 26, 2017 became the day of the most massive protest rallies since the protest wave of 2011-201 2 in Russia. According to some characteristics, the protests on March 26 did not have precedents over the past decades.