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

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.

Free Russia Foundation’s Press Release on Submission of Article 15 Communication to the International Criminal Court

Oct 06 2020

On 21 September 2020, the Free Russia Foundation submitted a Communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office (in The Hague, Netherlands) seeking accountability for Crimean and Russian authorities concerning international crimes perpetrated during Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. The Communication was prepared in cooperation with Global Rights Compliance and Center for Civil Liberties and is based on a focused inquiry conducted over the past year. In our inquiry, we documented crimes as part of a systematic, planned attack by the Russian state against civilians and groups in Crimea in order to discourage them from opposing the illegal occupation of Crimea and to force their departure from the peninsula. Crimes against civilians included unlawful arrests, beatings, torture, enforced disappearances, and other inhumane acts causing severe mental and/or physical pain. In particular, the crimes targeted the Crimean Tatars, a native ethnic group who had only recently returned to their homeland, having previously been forcefully and brutally displaced by the Soviet Union in 1944.

One of the principal coercive acts was the illegal detention and concomitant violence before, during, and after the imprisonment of political prisoners. Most of those detained were arrested by Russian and Crimean authorities on terrorism charges, but it was their legal, pro-Ukrainian advocacy that led to their imprisonment. In addition, trials of those arbitrarily detained were conducted in wholesale disregard of their fair trial rights. For example, some of those illegally imprisoned were denied a speedy trial, access to independent lawyers, and the opportunity to defend themselves against their arrest in a courtroom.

In order to force those illegally detained to confess to crimes they did not commit, Russian and Crimean authorities also perpetrated acts of torture and cruel or degrading treatment, the levying of additional charges against them, even more inhumane prison conditions, denial of communications with their families and threats made against them, enforced disappearances, and even, in at least one case, a mock execution.

Other inhumane acts include “punitive psychiatry” and the denial of adequate prison conditions, including the following: (i) feeding people inedible food or, at times, no food at all; (ii) facing severe overcrowding in prisons; (iii) denial of regular water supply; (iv) threats of assault against them by prison cellmates; and (v) adding pork to food – prohibited for observant Muslims. Further, medical attention was systematically inadequate or denied for many individuals.

Concerning acts of torture, it was perpetrated by different Russian authorities, including the FSB. Allegations include the use of electric shocks in an effort to get an accused to confess. One was beaten in the head, kidneys, arms and legs with an iron pipe. With another, fingers were broken. Still another endured spinal bruises and having a plastic bag placed over his head to the point of unconsciousness. Further, threats of sexual violence against a detained man were made. Murder as well. Hands were broken, teeth were knocked out in still another.

Trials were largely held behind closed doors for illegitimate reasons, and many of the witnesses were secret not only to the public but also to the Accused. Further, credible allegations exist that, at times, there were FSB or other agents in the room, silently instructing witnesses what to say and how the judges should rule. This adds credence to words, according to the Kyiv Post, heard by Arsen Dzhepparov from a senior FSB lieutenant who stated “I will prove by all possible – and impossible – means that [an Accused is] guilty – even if he isn’t guilty”.

Concerning the crime of persecution, nearly all of these deprivations of fundamental rights were carried out with discriminatory intent. Specifically, these groups were targeted due to their political view – namely, by peacefully opposing the illegal occupation of their country. Some were targeted on ethnic grounds or religious grounds on the basis of their Crimean Tatar background.

War crimes, another group of crimes punished at the ICC, were also perpetrated in addition to or in the alternative to the crimes against humanity. This includes the crime of torture, outrages against personal dignity, unlawful confinement, wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of a fair and regular trial, and the transfer of the occupying power of parts of its population into the territory it occupies or the deportation of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.

All these crimes had the ultimate objective of the criminal enterprise – the removal of pro-Ukrainian elements out of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation without opposition, including the installation of pro-Russian elements, which include the emigration of more than 70,000 Russians, the illegal imposition of Russian law in the occupied territory, forcing Russian nationality on many Crimeans, and the appropriation of public property.

Ultimately, we hope that all the information gathered by the ICC in the context of its preliminary investigation will lead the ICC to investigate mid- to high-level Russian and Crimean officials on this basis. The international community expects responsible global leadership that follows the rule of law and expects it – no matter the situation – to be respected, especially from a state that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. When this fails to happen, the international community must demand accountability. We hope that an investigation can be opened and responsible officials of the Russian Federation will be investigated. After an investigation that conforms to international best practices, responsible persons should be charged with the systematic perpetration of international crimes.

Novichok Use Implicates Putin’s Government in Navalny’s Poisoning

Sep 02 2020

Today, the German government has announced that Russian pro-democracy leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned by Novichok. Novichok is a deadly nerve agent developed by the Soviet government chemical weapons program and used on several occasions by the Russian government to kill its critics in the recent years.

To restate the obvious, Novichok is a poison that can only be accessed with the authority of the Kremlin. Therefore, today’s announcement by German officials  directly implicates the Kremlin and Putin in the high-profile assassination attempt on Navalny.

The choice of Novichok was not just a means  to silence Mr. Navalny, but a loud, brazen and menacing message sent by Putin to the world: dare to criticize me, and you may lose your life.

The announcement by the German government of its intent to formally notify the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (‘OPCW’) of the use of Novichok against Navalny is a meek bureaucratic half-measure that fails to acknowledge the extraordinary threat to human life posed by Putin’s regime everywhere. Taken together with Angela Merkel’s promise earlier this week to help Putin finish his Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite an international outcry amounts to condoning the poisoning and normalizing it into a new modus operandi where Putin’s murders go unpunished. Free Russia Foundation urges the leaders of the EU, its Member States and the U.S. Government to take an urgent and drastic action to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime not only to serve justice, but to establish a powerful deterrent against new attacks by Putin’s regime globally.

Free Russia Foundation Statement on Kremlin’s Interference in Elections in Georgia

Aug 26 2020

We are deeply concerned with information recently distributed by the well-respected authoritative source Center “Dossier.” According to “Dossier,” the Kremlin is using Russian political expert Sergey Mikheev and consulting company “Politsecrets” to manipulate Georgian society, distribute disinformation and anti-democratic narratives, undermine Georgia’s Western aspirations, and interfere in free and fair elections in Georgia scheduled for October 2020.

More

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Investigation into Alexey Navalny’s Poisoning

Aug 20 2020

Free Russia Foundation is gravely concerned about the life and safety of Alexey Navalny. More