Civil society crackdown: Kremlin pushing for Belarusian-style grip on power


Russian rights activists on Thursday condemned draft legislation including a significant expansion of who can be labelled a “foreign agent” as a new clampdown on dissent, Agence France Presse reports. Lawmakers in Russia’s lower-house State Duma last month proposed a series of bills that would give authorities sweeping powers to designate individuals as foreign agents and further limit public gatherings and content posted online.

“It’s an unprecedented restriction of our civil political rights,” activist Alexander Verkhovsky (above, left), who sits on President Vladimir Putin’s human rights council, said during an online press conference hosted by several of Russia’s top rights groups. “This is all a rather serious restriction on free speech,” he said. “And this is of course a clear restriction on the right to be elected.”

The Memorial Human Rights Center has published a statement signed by more than 20 Russian activists, calling on the authorities to cancel their decision to expel American human rights lawyer Vanessa Kogan from the country, Meduza adds.

The group of 20 human rights activists who signed the appeal published by Memorial includes the head of the movement Za Prava Cheloveka (For Human Rights), Lev Ponomarev; coordinator of the legal aid project OVD-Info, Alla Frolova; the head of the Committee Against Torture, Igor Kalyapin; and the co-chairs of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Vyacheslav Bakhmin and Valery Borshchev.

Russian authorities have informed Kogan, executive director of Stichting Justice Initiative (SJI), a prominent human rights group, that her Russian residence permit was revoked and she has two weeks to leave the country. Vanessa has lived legally in Russia for 11 years and is married with her family there. Now she must uproot herself and leave her life in Moscow behind. It is not clear if she’ll ever be allowed to return, but the prospects are dim, notes Damelya Aitkhozhina, Researcher on Russia for Human Rights Watch:

Vanessa is American, and her husband and children are Russian nationals. Several months ago, she applied for Russian citizenship. Today, the migration office informed her that her application was rejected and her current residence permit annulled based on a law permitting authorities to do so if a person is “advocating for violent change of constitutional regime or otherwise presents danger to the Russian national security or to its nationals.”…. For years, authorities have sought to hinder the organization’s work, through office raids and bureaucratic interference.  

The Kremlin is pushing for a never-ending Belorussian-style grip on power at a time when citizens are hoping for change instead, analyst writes for the Moscow Times. If orders call for United Russia to clinch a commanding triumph in the upcoming elections, the authorities will have to fudge the tallies no less than the authorities did in Minsk, at the risk of sparking a similar revolt by Russian voters.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email