‘Unprecedented’ pressure on Russia’s opposition, as NDI deemed undesirable


The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has declared the activities of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs to be undesirable in the latest of a series of measures designed to curb democracy assistance and suffocate civil society.

“Having studied the materials, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office decided to recognize undesirable in Russia the activity of a foreign non-governmental organization, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs,” says a statement posted on the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office’s official website.

“It has been established that the activities of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs poses a threat to the basics of the constitutional system of Russia and to state security,” the Office said. “A notification of the decision made has been dispatched to the Justice Ministry for including the aforesaid organization in the list of foreign and international non-governmental organizations whose activity is recognized as undesirable in the territory of the Russian Federation.”

The announcement coincides with a spate of attacks on journalists and human rights workers in Russia’s North Caucasus region.

The Kremlin is putting “unprecedented” pressure on opposition activists as President Vladimir Putin prepares for his toughest electoral test amid Russia’s longest recession in two decades, according to his former prime minister.

“The authorities understand that 2016 will be decisive because the economic and political situation is acute,” Mikhail Kasyanov [right], who was premier from 2000 to 2004 and is now one of Putin’s harshest critics, said in an interview in Moscow. “They are tightening the screws, and if they don’t allow the opposition to engage in politics and compete in elections, all this will soon lead to a revolution.”

For all the similarities between the Soviet era and present-day Russia, there is one major difference, notes Vladimir Kara-Murza (left), a long-time colleague of Boris Nemtsov (above), deputy leader of the People’s Freedom Party and national co-ordinator of the Open Russia movement. While members of the Soviet Politburo were silencing dissent and persecuting opponents, they did not store their money, educate their children or buy real estate in the West. Many of the current officials and Kremlin-connected oligarchs do, he writes:

This double standard must end. Those who trample on the most basic norms of the free world should not enjoy the privileges the free world has to offer. It is time for Canada to lead, as Mr. Nemtsov had urged. It is time to end the impunity for those who abuse the rights and plunder the resources of Russian citizens. It is time to pass this law in memory of Sergei Magnitsky – and in memory of Boris Nemtsov.

NDI is a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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