The Bolotnaya Square Case 2.0: Top Ten Takeaways

Aug 05 2019

The political crisis in Moscow is unraveling at a dizzying speed, and it is doing so along the worst possible scenario.

By Alexander Morozov

The political crisis in Moscow is unraveling at a dizzying speed, and it is doing so along the worst possible scenario.

It had been anticipated that the Mayor’s Office would adopt a measured, technical approach to solving its elections “challenges”: disqualify some of independent candidates by claiming their voters’ pre-registration signatures are invalid; remove other candidates on procedural irregularities later in the game; and the remaining candidates will just wash away on their own, unable to compete with the Kremlin’s candidates’ government financial backing.

We will never know whether this approach had ever even been considered.

Instead, the Moscow Election Commission skipped all the expected niceties and invalidated the preregistration signatures of all major independent candidate right of the bat, in a manner unabashed, utterly outrageous and blatantly illegal. This was a powerful message from the Kremlin and the Mayor’s Office to Russia’s civil society – the political challenge posed by independent candidates will be neutralized by force.

While the Chair of the Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova and the Chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov are lying low, Putin’s punitive arms – the Investigative Committee and the FSB are going full throttle. The Kremlin’s spokesmen have already asserted that independent candidates are “agents of foreign-sponsored Orange Revolution”. Home searches have commenced. Having carried out night raids on homes of independent candidates and their relatives, as well as on party headquarters and field offices, the siloviki leadership are now busy fabricating “coup collusion” cases – they are alleging that the July 27 protest participants (who came out to streets to protest illegal removal of independent candidates from the race) were really planning to storm and take over the Mayor’s Office building and the Moscow Election Committee office.

This time, the authorities have jailed not only Alexei Navalny and his associates, as they had done many times before, but even Vladimir Milov, who did not participate in the July 27 protest, and instead was leading live coverage of it on his YouTube channel. The police showed up even at the Dozhd TV bureau (previously assumed as enjoying a somewhat protected semi-sanctioned status among opposition outlets). Jail terms served by Navalny, Yashin, Galyamina, Gudkov, Yanauskas and others range from 10 to 30 days.

The Libertarian Party was in discussions with the Mayor’s Office for organizing a protest on July 3. When Mikhail Svetlov, who was conducting negotiations, refused the Mayor’s Office’s proposal to hold the protest at the Sakharov’s Prospect, he was arrested right as he was exiting the meeting, and locked up for a 30-day term.

So what we have looming ahead of us, is the second “unsanctioned” protest, and with it, mass repressions of pro-democracy Russians – the Bolotnaya Square 2.0.

To all involved, it is abundantly clear that the Kremlin and the Mayor’s Office are engaged in an unfathomable act of depravity – they are fully aware that there were absolutely no mobilized groups or organizations among the protestors on July 27 and that there were no plans to storm government buildings or even resist law enforcement representatives. Muscovites have learned through bitter experience of the Bolotnaya Square persecution that every instance of resistance is recorded by numerous cameras from many angles. They also know that they are not a match for the army of riot police deployed to squash their protests. But more importantly, it is obvious that the most that the milieu of people who came out to protest was capable of was to climb a light post, but nothing even close to engaging in physical confrontation with commando units. The police handling of the protestors was unquestionably excessive in its brutality.

It is pointless to ask “how is that possible?” No, the Kremlin is not ashamed, and no one has the capacity to make it feel even the slightest remorse.

Those who came out to the streets on July 27 have shown remarkable courage. The follow-on protest will require even a higher level of valor. The Investigative Committee has opened several criminal cases against protest participants alleging “violence against the police”, and even some involving Article 211 of the Criminal Code – organization of massive social unrests. In other words, the authorities are fabricating the second Bolotnaya Case, but this time on a much more massive scale. Last time, persecuted were common citizens who accidentally got folded into the mangle of the police provocation. This time, the government is moving with criminal persecution of candidates, and possibly even against the media (Vladimir Milov, Mikhail Svetov, one of the leaders of the Libertarian Party, and Alexandra Perepelova, the Editor in Chief of Dozhd TV did not participate in street protests, they were covering protests from their respective bureaus.

A slew of Kremlin’s talking heads are helpfully suggesting – everything has been organized with foreign money, from one source of financing. Sergey Mironov, a leader of A Just Russia party in Russian Parliament, Sergey Markov, a political scientist and a Kremlin apologist, are already on the record saying just that. And that means that the Investigative Committee will now attempt to link the leaders of groups who were standing up to protect their voting rights with Soros, Khodorkovsky and the U.S. State Department.

It is very likely that despite the government’s attempts to smother protests, sanctioned and non-sanctioned protests will continue. The people are very angry. No matter how massive those protests will be, they still won’t force the government to change its position. But they would be critical to help support candidates already imprisoned and those who are being investigated.

What else can help the pro-democracy forces in Russia?

Candidates’ Solidarity. Those candidates who have managed to register to run, must withdraw their candidacies in solidarity. This gesture alone would, by no means, paralyze the election campaign, but it would send a powerful message to the Russian society.

Publication of the “Sobyanin’s List”. For the moment, public attention is fixed on those who have not been allowed to run. But the media should hit back against the Moscow government and dissect the Sobyanin’s List – those candidates who are being sneaked into the Moscow City Council to take up the spots of the disqualified, arrested and persecuted candidates. Spoilers should be exposed to public scrutiny.

As even pro-Kremlin observers admit, the Mayor’s Office has made a big mistake by disqualifying candidates based on validity of signatures en-masse. This move strikes at the core of the current Kremlin’s political strategy of advancing self-nominated candidates. Now it is impossible to explain how all of the “sanctioned” candidates have managed to collect impeccable signatures (while no one has witnessed their signature collectors or campaign staff), while the true fighters whose volunteers had tirelessly canvassed streets for weeks have “fake” signatures. This is why, these self-nominated candidates and spoilers should be thoroughly and publicly examined.

More Publicity. Russian media outlets have demonstrated an exceptional level of solidarity to stop the government prosecution of the anti-corruption investigative journalist Ivan Golunov in June 2019. The events surrounding July 27 protests feature even more flagrant instances of suppression of freedom of the press, i.e. – raids on live broadcast centers, including even the Dozhd TV station. Dozhd executed an ambitious task – it conducted live coverage from four locales simultaneously. However, it cannot be the only outlet covering follow-on protests on August 3, 10 and so on.

Russia is in the midst of a major political crisis. Key global outlets, such as CNN, ARD and BBC must carry live coverage of these events. We need the support of prominent international journalist associations and media outlets – in form of statements condemning the government strongarm attempts to shut of their Russian colleagues who want to show in detail what is going on.

Kafelnikov et al. Public statement of the famous Russian tennis player Evgeni Kafelnikov commanded much spotlight. We hope that other world-famous Muscovites and Russians join him. Such statements are truly invaluable – they are an immense moral support to those who are fighting for their rights while being under attack of a brutal and cynical government.

Preparedness by International Organizations. Many international organizations have already issued statements on the crisis in Moscow. Some would say that the Kremlin has been ignoring such statements in the recent years, and they would be right. But right now it is hard to predict how many red lines the siloviki leadership is prepared to cross and how many taboos to break in its fight against the Muscovites in the coming weeks. That is why, PACE, OSCE, the European Commission, Reporters Without Borders, the International Helsinki Commission, international election monitoring agencies, European Ministries of Foreign Affairs – they all must be engaged now, at the very first stage. It is irrelevant whether they can or cannot do anything constructive at this point. We already have the precedent of the Bolotnaya Square cases – there will be new political prisoners, there will be political refugees. And they would need support. And that’s why international humanitarian organizations must get ready now.

Who is Peddling the Orange Revolution Ruse? Andrey Pertsev’s exposé of the chaos at the Sobyanin’s campaign headquarters that led to the political crisis during the elections. To save face and cover up the fall outs of this mistake, siloviki are peddling the Orange Revolution story to Putin. Yes, the deal has both the seller and the buyer. A concerted journalistic effort should be made to clarify specifically who is responsible for the political mistake at the Mayor’s Office, how the decision-making process took place, who tasked the head of Moscow Election Commission Gorbunov, and exactly who is trying to sell to Putin the “Orange Revolution” ruse. All involved, including members of prosecution teams, loud-mouthed spokesmen and deputies should be added to the meticulously substantiated List of the Bolotnaya 2.0 Perpetrators.

Lubov Sobol’s Hunger Strike – this is much more important than seems at the first glance. She is ready to continue all the way up to elections, which is almost forty more days.

Political hunger strikes had global resonance not only during the Soviet dissidents’ era (i.e. Mustafa Dzhemilev, Andrey Sakharov), but also later. In 2010, a political hunger-strike of Guillermo Hernandez has led to the release of 52 political prisoners; and in April 2011, the hunger strike of an Indian anti-corruption movement leader Anna Hazare has pushed the government to adopt an anti-corruption legislation. Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike had a strong international resonance.

Therefore, Lubov Sobol’s hunger strike should be viewed in a broader context, without possible reservations against Navalny.

“Wetbacks”. A significant portion of protestors came from other cities – this is what the siloviki have said, and then Sobyanin echoed in his public remarks – and we must take it at face value. The crisis in Moscow, therefore, is the whole Russia protesting, not just Moscow. Not at the very least because the actions of the Mayor’s Office and siloviki is also a model for the Russian regions. Everyone understands that “if it goes in Moscow, it is acceptable in any other major Russian city.” Civil rights are equal for all. And they must be defended regardless of one’s propiska.

No Illusions. Old-timers should patiently explain to the youth that today’s protest are unlikely to bring down the current regime, regardless of how many people come out to the street and how violently they protest. Comparisons to the Kyiv’s Maidan or the Arab revolutions are naïve.

Mass protests become important when there are: 1. A split within the regime, a presence of an influential fraction that is advocating non-violent solutions; or a weak leader whose grip is loosening (as it was the case with the Velvet Revolutions of 1989, during the defeat of the Putsch in Russia, with Ukraine’s Yanukovich in 2014, etc); 2. A number of organizations, not necessarily large, who are pre-mobilized, have experience of violent clashes (sports clubs, veterans groups, soccer fans, right and left radical groups, etc); 3. A fixed undivided attention of the international community on the developments that demoralizes the regime; 4. A critically important sense shared by the protest participants that their actions are far-reaching and supported by other cities; and finally, 5. Frequently decisive is the extraordinary violence by the government that leads to mass mobilization.

When these factors are absent, we have a different historic scenario at play: one million gets together, protests and then goes home at night; or violently clashes with the police, without influencing the overall political situation in the country.

Not a single of the above described factors is present in today’s Russia.

This does not mean that citizens cannot or should not go to the streets en masse to protest government despotism. It only means that the efforts should be focuses not on futile hopes, but on rational defense measures against the Bolotnaya Square 2.0 cases, from a new wave of oppression from the government.

No Resistance [while protesting]. People should be on the lookout for provocations. This means that every participant of protests should denounce attempts at resistance. A winning strategy today is keep one’s arms up, (the way it was done by the protestors at the Bryusovo’s Intersection) and chant “we are unarmed”, and not attempt to put up any resistance.

This Article first appeared in Russian at the Republic

By Alexander Morozov

The political crisis in Moscow is unraveling at a dizzying speed, and it is doing so along the worst possible scenario.

It had been anticipated that the Mayor’s Office would adopt a measured, technical approach to solving its elections “challenges”: disqualify some of independent candidates by claiming their voters’ pre-registration signatures are invalid; remove other candidates on procedural irregularities later in the game; and the remaining candidates will just wash away on their own, unable to compete with the Kremlin’s candidates’ government financial backing.

We will never know whether this approach had ever even been considered.

Instead, the Moscow Election Commission skipped all the expected niceties and invalidated the preregistration signatures of all major independent candidate right of the bat, in a manner unabashed, utterly outrageous and blatantly illegal. This was a powerful message from the Kremlin and the Mayor’s Office to Russia’s civil society – the political challenge posed by independent candidates will be neutralized by force.

While the Chair of the Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova and the Chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Council Mikhail Fedotov are lying low, Putin’s punitive arms – the Investigative Committee and the FSB are going full throttle. The Kremlin’s spokesmen have already asserted that independent candidates are “agents of foreign-sponsored Orange Revolution”. Home searches have commenced. Having carried out night raids on homes of independent candidates and their relatives, as well as on party headquarters and field offices, the siloviki leadership are now busy fabricating “coup collusion” cases – they are alleging that the July 27 protest participants (who came out to streets to protest illegal removal of independent candidates from the race) were really planning to storm and take over the Mayor’s Office building and the Moscow Election Committee office.

This time, the authorities have jailed not only Alexei Navalny and his associates, as they had done many times before, but even Vladimir Milov, who did not participate in the July 27 protest, and instead was leading live coverage of it on his YouTube channel. The police showed up even at the Dozhd TV bureau (previously assumed as enjoying a somewhat protected semi-sanctioned status among opposition outlets). Jail terms served by Navalny, Yashin, Galyamina, Gudkov, Yanauskas and others range from 10 to 30 days.

The Libertarian Party was in discussions with the Mayor’s Office for organizing a protest on July 3. When Mikhail Svetlov, who was conducting negotiations, refused the Mayor’s Office’s proposal to hold the protest at the Sakharov’s Prospect, he was arrested right as he was exiting the meeting, and locked up for a 30-day term.

So what we have looming ahead of us, is the second “unsanctioned” protest, and with it, mass repressions of pro-democracy Russians – the Bolotnaya Square 2.0.

To all involved, it is abundantly clear that the Kremlin and the Mayor’s Office are engaged in an unfathomable act of depravity – they are fully aware that there were absolutely no mobilized groups or organizations among the protestors on July 27 and that there were no plans to storm government buildings or even resist law enforcement representatives. Muscovites have learned through bitter experience of the Bolotnaya Square persecution that every instance of resistance is recorded by numerous cameras from many angles. They also know that they are not a match for the army of riot police deployed to squash their protests. But more importantly, it is obvious that the most that the milieu of people who came out to protest was capable of was to climb a light post, but nothing even close to engaging in physical confrontation with commando units. The police handling of the protestors was unquestionably excessive in its brutality.

It is pointless to ask “how is that possible?” No, the Kremlin is not ashamed, and no one has the capacity to make it feel even the slightest remorse.

Those who came out to the streets on July 27 have shown remarkable courage. The follow-on protest will require even a higher level of valor. The Investigative Committee has opened several criminal cases against protest participants alleging “violence against the police”, and even some involving Article 211 of the Criminal Code – organization of massive social unrests. In other words, the authorities are fabricating the second Bolotnaya Case, but this time on a much more massive scale. Last time, persecuted were common citizens who accidentally got folded into the mangle of the police provocation. This time, the government is moving with criminal persecution of candidates, and possibly even against the media (Vladimir Milov, Mikhail Svetov, one of the leaders of the Libertarian Party, and Alexandra Perepelova, the Editor in Chief of Dozhd TV did not participate in street protests, they were covering protests from their respective bureaus.

A slew of Kremlin’s talking heads are helpfully suggesting – everything has been organized with foreign money, from one source of financing. Sergey Mironov, a leader of A Just Russia party in Russian Parliament, Sergey Markov, a political scientist and a Kremlin apologist, are already on the record saying just that. And that means that the Investigative Committee will now attempt to link the leaders of groups who were standing up to protect their voting rights with Soros, Khodorkovsky and the U.S. State Department.

It is very likely that despite the government’s attempts to smother protests, sanctioned and non-sanctioned protests will continue. The people are very angry. No matter how massive those protests will be, they still won’t force the government to change its position. But they would be critical to help support candidates already imprisoned and those who are being investigated.

What else can help the pro-democracy forces in Russia?

Candidates’ Solidarity. Those candidates who have managed to register to run, must withdraw their candidacies in solidarity. This gesture alone would, by no means, paralyze the election campaign, but it would send a powerful message to the Russian society.

Publication of the “Sobyanin’s List”. For the moment, public attention is fixed on those who have not been allowed to run. But the media should hit back against the Moscow government and dissect the Sobyanin’s List – those candidates who are being sneaked into the Moscow City Council to take up the spots of the disqualified, arrested and persecuted candidates. Spoilers should be exposed to public scrutiny.

As even pro-Kremlin observers admit, the Mayor’s Office has made a big mistake by disqualifying candidates based on validity of signatures en-masse. This move strikes at the core of the current Kremlin’s political strategy of advancing self-nominated candidates. Now it is impossible to explain how all of the “sanctioned” candidates have managed to collect impeccable signatures (while no one has witnessed their signature collectors or campaign staff), while the true fighters whose volunteers had tirelessly canvassed streets for weeks have “fake” signatures. This is why, these self-nominated candidates and spoilers should be thoroughly and publicly examined.

More Publicity. Russian media outlets have demonstrated an exceptional level of solidarity to stop the government prosecution of the anti-corruption investigative journalist Ivan Golunov in June 2019. The events surrounding July 27 protests feature even more flagrant instances of suppression of freedom of the press, i.e. – raids on live broadcast centers, including even the Dozhd TV station. Dozhd executed an ambitious task – it conducted live coverage from four locales simultaneously. However, it cannot be the only outlet covering follow-on protests on August 3, 10 and so on.

Russia is in the midst of a major political crisis. Key global outlets, such as CNN, ARD and BBC must carry live coverage of these events. We need the support of prominent international journalist associations and media outlets – in form of statements condemning the government strongarm attempts to shut of their Russian colleagues who want to show in detail what is going on.

Kafelnikov et al. Public statement of the famous Russian tennis player Evgeni Kafelnikov commanded much spotlight. We hope that other world-famous Muscovites and Russians join him. Such statements are truly invaluable – they are an immense moral support to those who are fighting for their rights while being under attack of a brutal and cynical government.

Preparedness by International Organizations. Many international organizations have already issued statements on the crisis in Moscow. Some would say that the Kremlin has been ignoring such statements in the recent years, and they would be right. But right now it is hard to predict how many red lines the siloviki leadership is prepared to cross and how many taboos to break in its fight against the Muscovites in the coming weeks. That is why, PACE, OSCE, the European Commission, Reporters Without Borders, the International Helsinki Commission, international election monitoring agencies, European Ministries of Foreign Affairs – they all must be engaged now, at the very first stage. It is irrelevant whether they can or cannot do anything constructive at this point. We already have the precedent of the Bolotnaya Square cases – there will be new political prisoners, there will be political refugees. And they would need support. And that’s why international humanitarian organizations must get ready now.

Who is Peddling the Orange Revolution Ruse? Andrey Pertsev’s exposé of the chaos at the Sobyanin’s campaign headquarters that led to the political crisis during the elections. To save face and cover up the fall outs of this mistake, siloviki are peddling the Orange Revolution story to Putin. Yes, the deal has both the seller and the buyer. A concerted journalistic effort should be made to clarify specifically who is responsible for the political mistake at the Mayor’s Office, how the decision-making process took place, who tasked the head of Moscow Election Commission Gorbunov, and exactly who is trying to sell to Putin the “Orange Revolution” ruse. All involved, including members of prosecution teams, loud-mouthed spokesmen and deputies should be added to the meticulously substantiated List of the Bolotnaya 2.0 Perpetrators.

Lubov Sobol’s Hunger Strike – this is much more important than seems at the first glance. She is ready to continue all the way up to elections, which is almost forty more days.

Political hunger strikes had global resonance not only during the Soviet dissidents’ era (i.e. Mustafa Dzhemilev, Andrey Sakharov), but also later. In 2010, a political hunger-strike of Guillermo Hernandez has led to the release of 52 political prisoners; and in April 2011, the hunger strike of an Indian anti-corruption movement leader Anna Hazare has pushed the government to adopt an anti-corruption legislation. Oleg Sentsov’s hunger strike had a strong international resonance.

Therefore, Lubov Sobol’s hunger strike should be viewed in a broader context, without possible reservations against Navalny.

“Wetbacks”. A significant portion of protestors came from other cities – this is what the siloviki have said, and then Sobyanin echoed in his public remarks – and we must take it at face value. The crisis in Moscow, therefore, is the whole Russia protesting, not just Moscow. Not at the very least because the actions of the Mayor’s Office and siloviki is also a model for the Russian regions. Everyone understands that “if it goes in Moscow, it is acceptable in any other major Russian city.” Civil rights are equal for all. And they must be defended regardless of one’s propiska.

No Illusions. Old-timers should patiently explain to the youth that today’s protest are unlikely to bring down the current regime, regardless of how many people come out to the street and how violently they protest. Comparisons to the Kyiv’s Maidan or the Arab revolutions are naïve.

Mass protests become important when there are: 1. A split within the regime, a presence of an influential fraction that is advocating non-violent solutions; or a weak leader whose grip is loosening (as it was the case with the Velvet Revolutions of 1989, during the defeat of the Putsch in Russia, with Ukraine’s Yanukovich in 2014, etc); 2. A number of organizations, not necessarily large, who are pre-mobilized, have experience of violent clashes (sports clubs, veterans groups, soccer fans, right and left radical groups, etc); 3. A fixed undivided attention of the international community on the developments that demoralizes the regime; 4. A critically important sense shared by the protest participants that their actions are far-reaching and supported by other cities; and finally, 5. Frequently decisive is the extraordinary violence by the government that leads to mass mobilization.

When these factors are absent, we have a different historic scenario at play: one million gets together, protests and then goes home at night; or violently clashes with the police, without influencing the overall political situation in the country.

Not a single of the above described factors is present in today’s Russia.

This does not mean that citizens cannot or should not go to the streets en masse to protest government despotism. It only means that the efforts should be focuses not on futile hopes, but on rational defense measures against the Bolotnaya Square 2.0 cases, from a new wave of oppression from the government.

No Resistance [while protesting]. People should be on the lookout for provocations. This means that every participant of protests should denounce attempts at resistance. A winning strategy today is keep one’s arms up, (the way it was done by the protestors at the Bryusovo’s Intersection) and chant “we are unarmed”, and not attempt to put up any resistance.

This Article first appeared in Russian at the Republic

Free Russia Foundation demands Navalny’s immediate release

Jan 17 2021

On January 17, 2021, Putin’s agents arrested Alexey Navalny as he returned to Russia from Germany where he was treated for a near-deadly poisoning perpetrated by state-directed assassins.

Navalny’s illegal arrest constitutes kidnapping. He is kept incommunicado from his lawyer and family at an unknown location and his life is in danger.

Free Russia Foundation demands his immediate release and an international investigation of crimes committed against him by Putin’s government.

The European Court of Human Rights Recognizes Complaints on Violations in “Ukraine v. Russia” as Admissible

Jan 14 2021

On January 14, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights published its decision on the case “Ukraine v. Russia”. The Grand Chamber of the Court has recognized complaints No. 20958/14 and No. 38334/18 as partially admissible for consideration on the merits. The decision will be followed by a judgment at a later date.

The case concerns the consideration of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights related to Russia’s systematic administrative practices in Crimea. 

The admissibility of the case is based on the fact that, since 2014, the Russian Federation has exercised effective control over the territory of Crimea, and, accordingly, is fully responsible for compliance with the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights in Crimea. The Court now needs to determine the specific circumstances of the case and establish the facts regarding violations of Articles of the Convention during two periods: from February 27, 2014 to March 18, 2014 (the period of the Russian invasion); and from March 18, 2014 onward (the period during which the Russian Federation has exercised effective control over Crimea).

The Court has established that prima facie it has sufficient evidence of systematic administrative practice concerning the following circumstances:

  • forced rendition and the lack of an effective investigation into such a practice under Article 2; 
  • cruel treatment and unlawful detention under Articles 3 and 5; 
  • extending application of Russian law into Crimea with the result that, as of  February 27, 2014, the courts in Crimea could not be considered to have been “established by law” as defined by Article 6; 
  • automatic imposition of Russian citizenship and unreasonable searches of private dwellings under Article 8; 
  • harassment and intimidation of religious leaders not conforming to the Russian Orthodox faith, arbitrary raids of places of worship and confiscation of religious property under Article 9;
  • suppression of non-Russian media under Article 10; 
  • prohibition of public gatherings and manifestations of support, as well as intimidation and arbitrary detention of organizers of demonstrations under Article 11; 
  • expropriation without compensation of property from civilians and private enterprises under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;
  • suppression of the Ukrainian language in schools and harassment of Ukrainian-speaking children under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1; 6 
  • restricting freedom of movement between Crimea and mainland Ukraine, resulting from the de facto transformation (by Russia) of the administrative delimitation into a border (between Russia and Ukraine) under Article 2 of Protocol No. 4; and, 
  • discriminating against Crimean Tatars under Article 14, taken in conjunction with Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention and with Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.

Cases between states are the rarest category considered by the ECHR. Almost all cases considered in Strasbourg concern individuals or organizations and involve illegal actions or inaction of the states’ parties to the Convention. However, Art. 33 of this Convention provides that “any High Contracting Party may refer to the Court the question of any alleged violation of the provisions of the Convention and its Protocols by another High Contracting Party.” In the entire history of the ECHR since 1953, there have been only 27 such cases. Two of them are joint cases against Russia, both of which concern the Russian Federation’s aggression on the territory of its neighboring states, Georgia and Ukraine.

New Year’s Blessings to All

Dec 30 2020

While 2020 gave us unprecedented challenges, it created transformative changes in the way we work and communicate. The hours of Zoom calls seemingly brought us all closer together as we got a glimpse into each other’s makeshift home offices along with interruption by kids and the family pets. Remote work also made us appreciate human interactions, in-person events and trips much more!

As 2020 comes to an end, we want to especially thank our supporters who continued to believe in our mission and the value of our hard work, and we hope the coming year brings all of us progress and growth for democracy throughout the world. We’d also like to thank our partners and staff in the U.S. and abroad, and we know how hard everyone has worked under difficult world changes to achieve so many of our objectives this year.

We send our best wishes to all who have stayed in the fight for democratic reforms and for the values of basic human rights. We look forward to a new year with the hope of many positive changes to come.

– Natalia Arno and the Free Russia Foundation team.

International Criminal Court Asks for Full Probe Into Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Dec 14 2020

On December 11, 2020, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Fatou Bensouda, issued a statement on the preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine by the ICC Office of the Prosecutor.

According to the findings of the examination, the situation in Ukraine meets the statutory criteria to launch an investigation. The preliminary examination of the situation in Ukraine was opened on 24 April 2014.

Specifically, and without prejudice to any other crimes which may be identified during the course of an investigation, Office of the Prosecutor has concluded that there is a reasonable basis at this time to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the Court have been committed in the context of the situation in Ukraine.

These findings will be spelled out in more detail in the annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities issued by the Office and include three broad clusters of victimization:

1.     crimes committed in the context of the conduct of hostilities;

2.     crimes committed during detentions;

3.     crimes committed in Crimea.

These crimes, committed by the different parties to the conflict, were sufficiently grave to warrant investigation by Office of the Prosecutor, both in quantitative and qualitative terms.

Having examined the information available, the Prosecutor concluded that the competent authorities in Ukraine and/or in the Russian Federation are either inactive in relation to the alleged perpetrators, or do not have access to them.

The next step will be to request authorization from the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open investigations.

The Prosecutor urges the international community, including the governments of Ukraine and Russia, to cooperate. This will determine how justice will be served both on domestic and the international level.

We remind you that on September 21, 2020, Free Russia Foundation sent a special Communication to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (the Hague, the Netherlands) asking to bring Crimean and Russian authorities to justice for international crimes committed during the Russian occupation of Crimea.

Comment by Scott Martin (Global Rights Compliance LLP):

As Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda reaches the end of her tenure as Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, she announced yesterday that a reasonable basis existed to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in relation to the situation in Ukraine. One of the most consequential preliminary examinations in the court’s short history, the Prosecutor will now request authorization from the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber to open a full investigation into the situation.

Anticipating that the Prosecutor’s request will be granted, the ICC Prosecutor’s office will be investigating the second group of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Russian Federation (the situation in Georgia being the other). This would make Russia the only country in the world facing two separate investigations at the ICC for crimes under its jurisdiction.

Call for Submissions – The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly vol. 3

Oct 26 2020

The Free Russia Foundation invites submissions to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly, a journal that explores and analyzes manifestations of the malign influence of Putin’s Russia in Europe.

We understand malign influence in the European context as a specific type of influence that directly or indirectly subverts and undermines European values and democratic institutions. We follow the Treaty on European Union in understanding European values that are the following: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Democratic institutions are guardians of European values, and among them we highlight representative political parties; free and fair elections; an impartial justice system; free, independent and pluralistic media; and civil society.

Your contribution to The Kremlins Influence Quarterly would focus on one European country from the EU, Eastern Partnership or Western Balkans, and on one particular area where you want to explore Russian malign influence: politics, diplomacy, military domain, business, media, civil society, academia, religion, crime, or law.

Each chapter in The Kremlins Influence Quarterly should be around 5 thousand words including footnotes. The Free Russia Foundation offers an honorarium for contributions accepted for publication in the journal.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter, please send us a brief description of your chapter and its title (250 words) to the following e-mail address: info@4freerussia.org. Please put The Kremlin’s Influence Quarterly as a subject line of your message.