Kremlin exploiting West’s legal institutions to its advantage


Russia has spent years exploiting institutions and legal systems in the West to target critics, invalidate court decisions and roll back sanctions, according to allegations in a new analysis, NPR’s Sasha Ingber reports:

The report by the Free Russia Foundation describes the lengths to which it says the Kremlin has gone to undermine the West using international law and accounting firms, foreign officials, think tanks and nongovernmental organizations from New York to Latvia, NPR reports. Among many accusations, the foundation says that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has deported “hundreds” of Russians seeking refuge, based on Moscow’s abuse of international protocols, including Interpol’s “red notice,” which allows a member country to seek an arrest by another member.

“The Kremlin understands psychology. They understand Western fears — security, the fight with terrorism,” Foundation president Natalia Arno says. “They are infiltrating the fabric of democracy.”

Meanwhile, an all-party group of Canadian MPs is throwing its support behind a landmark report that names 16 individuals in Russia as responsible for the persecution of 296 political and religious prisoners, and calls on Canada to sanction all of them, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to reports: 

The report is entitled “The Kremlin’s Political Prisoners: Advancing a Political Agenda by Crushing Dissent.” Released in April, it was commissioned by a group of human rights organizations including the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. Billed as the first comprehensive summary of the cases of political prisoners, it documents the cases of dissidents, Ukrainian citizens, ethnic and religious minorities, LGBT individuals and human rights defenders imprisoned under Putin’s government.

“We have identified the individual architects of this repression, and are calling for their targeted sanctioning under Magnitsky legislation,” said Irwin Cotler, director of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre, and a former Liberal justice minister. “Naming and shaming these human rights abusers is a crucial expression of solidarity with their victims and of ending the culture of impunity that underpins such criminality.” Cotler said the report shows a sixfold increase in the number of political prisoners in the last four years, from 50 to 297.

Free Russia Foundation

The Free Russia Foundation’s Arno described how, in 2012, she was told at gunpoint that she could work for Russia’s security services, spend 20 years in prison or leave the country in 48 hours. Since then she has worked to document what she calls abuses by the Russian government under Putin, NPR adds:

Researchers also accuse Russia of using Western policymakers “to actively defy their own legal traditions.” That was what happened in Belgium and France after the Russian government grabbed Yukos, an oil company. A court in The Hague gave Yukos shareholders a major victory, ordering Moscow to pay them more than $50 billion or have foreign assets seized. The Russian Foreign Ministry threatened to snatch the Belgian Embassy in Moscow, inciting a series of maneuvers by the Belgian government to stop some of its own enforcement efforts. In the wake of similar retaliatory threats, French lawmakers adopted legislation to protect foreign assets against seizures, dubbed the “Putin amendment” by detractors.

Putin has spent the past decade “going global” after destroying Russia’s nascent rule of law and democracy, said Josh Rudolph, an illicit-finance fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy.

“The Kremlin and its proxies now undermine democracies everywhere by enriching elites, bankrolling illiberal populists, building energy dependence, funding networks of friendly non-governmental organizations and media outlets, and empowering fringe elements like paramilitaries,” he told NPR.


Please join a public discussion of the Kremlin’s attacks on legal institutions and processes in the West, and consideration of effective counter strategies that can be adopted by government agencies, social media platforms and the civil society. Featuring Sen. Whitehouse, Rep. Kinzinger, Rep. Rooney, GEC Principal Deputy Coordinator Kimmage, current and former military and intelligence officials, and social media companies’ representatives.

At the conference, Free Russia Foundation will release its groundbreaking report detailing Russian attempts to influence Western judicial outcomes and the Kremlin’s active measures campaigns against Western policymaking institutions. Report’s authors Ilya Zaslavskiy, Head of Research, Free Russia Foundation (Russia, US), Jakub Janda, Director, European Values Think Tank (the Czech Republic), Martin Vladimirov, Analyst, Center for the Study of Democracy (Bulgaria), John Lough, Associate Fellow, Chatham House (UK) and Neil Barnett, Founder, Istok Associates (UK) will discuss the results of their investigations in a Q&A session with the audience. Speakers include Miriam Lanskoy, Senior Director for Russia and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R- Ill., and Daniel Kimmage, a leader of the State Department unit charged with combating foreign propaganda. RSVP

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