Soldiers' Mothers organisation in St. Petersburg comes under pressure

posted 9 Sept 2014, 13:21 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Sept 2014, 09:10 ]
8 September 2014

Source: (info)
In recent days the pressure on the NGO Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg has increased. The human rights organisation believes that the authorities are possibly seeking to prevent them from speaking out. Immediately after the head of the organization, Ella Polyakova, made public information about those Russian military service personnel who were injured and killed, it is assumed, on the territory of Ukraine, she began to receive threats.

On 29 August 2014, on the basis of a request by St. Petersburg prosecutors, the Ministry of Justice entered Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg into the register of ‘foreign agents’.

On the evening of 5 September a film crew from NTV forced their way into the group’s office. One of the TV crew, Roman Igonin, immediately began to ask provocative questions, accusing the Soldiers’ Mothers of ‘destroying the army’ and ‘engaging in politics’ by taking part in pickets and petitions.

For their part, the staff of Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg proposed that the film crew attend a press conference set for 8 September that they had announced the previous day.

The same day, late in the evening, unidentified persons tried to enter the apartment of the former staff member of Soliders’ Mothers, Elena Popova, pretending to be journalists. In particular one woman ‘journalist’ asked whether Elena Popva worked for the Soldiers Mothers organization.

On the night of 5-6 September unknown persons broke the windows of a car belonging to Olga Alekseeva, executive director of Soldiers’ Mothers of St.Petersburg. Olga Alekseeva had parked the car late at night not far from her home and found in the morning that the windows had been broken, but nothing had been taken from the car.

‘After the invasion of the office by NTV and the subsequent attempt by unknown persons to force their way into the apartment of a former staff member of Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg, I cannot exclude that the events are all part of a pattern of increased pressure being put on our organisation,’ Alekseeva said. ‘On 6 September I made a statement to the local police department. We are very worried about the series of events and the real threat to the security of the organization’s staff.' 

On 1 September 2014. Front Line Defenders issued a public statement in support of Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg.

In its appeal to the President of the Russian Federation and the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN Office in Geneva, Front Line Defenders states that the harassment of NGOs sharply increased following the adoption of the so-called ‘foreign agent’ law, and staff of human rights organizations are being increasingly subjected to persecution.

Front Line Defenders links the registration of Soldiers' Mothers as 'foreign agents' to the publicity the organisation gave to violations of the rights of Russian soldiers in the course of the worsening of the conflict in the south-east of Ukraine.

Front Line Defenders also called on the  Russian authoriteis to ensure in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Russia are able to conduct their lawful, human rights work without any limitations and without fear of reprisals.

However, for the time being pressure on the human rights defenders from St Petersburg is only increasing.  

Source: Citizen and Army