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Lev Ponomarev: "For Human Rights" is under threat of closure

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

26 November 2014

Source: (info
Head of the NGO For Human Rights, human rights defender Lev Ponomarev, has said the organisation will be forced to close if it is added to the register of “foreign agents”.

According to Radio Svoboda, Ponomarev told Interfax that For Human Rights is facing a “real threat of liquidation”.

Last week the Ministry of Justice, at the request of the Prosecutor General, began an unscheduled inspection of possible participation by foreign partners in the activity of the human rights organisation.

For Human Rights was created in 1997. It consists of a network of more than 120 human rights organisations which support and protect the rights of Russian citizens, including people with disabilities, prisoners, as well as people who work in the public sector and in the arts.

Translated by Ana-Maria Sirbu

Statement by St Petersburg Human Rights Council on harassment of civil society activists and NGOs

posted 26 Nov 2014 14:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Nov 2014 14:40 ]

24 November 2014

Source: (info
St Petersburg Human Rights Council has published a public statement regarding the harassment of human rights activists and civil society organizations.

"It is the constitutional obligation of the State to recognise, maintain and protect civil and human rights and freedoms. In the execution of this duty, the State must use the law and law enforcement mechanisms. However, today we are seeing the opposite— the Russian State uses the law and law enforcement mechanisms to suppress dissent and the independence of civil society.

"In recent months, we have witnessed a new round of State repression against civil activists and non-governmental organizations in Russia. This includes the extension of the register of so-called 'foreign agents', another wave of 'extraordinary' inspections of NGOs, and the defamation of civil activists for their activity, some apparently 'unpatriotic' or 'immoral.' 

"Non-governmental organizations have defended their right to operate independently from the State and to protect the public interest, in accordance with international law and the Russian Constitution. Receiving funds from various, including foreign, sources is one of the safeguards of this independence.

"The authorities have launched a campaign to persecute so-called 'foreign agents' which, in fact, aims at the destruction of independent human rights organizations. The authorities have repeatedly made clear that they believed that the State should be the only source of funding for Russian non-governmental organizations.

"In this we see the danger of an excessive encroachment of the State on society and, thereby, a return to totalitarian rule.

"Civil society activists are entitled to their opinion, even if it is contrary to the opinion of the authorities or of the notorious 'majority.' The duty of the State is to protect the right to dissent.

"Instead, the Russian Government persecutes dissidents under the guise of the 'protection of the national interest', 'patriotism' or 'traditional values.' Thus the State violates the Constitution, which proclaims: "man, his rights and freedoms are the highest value".

"This means that the opportunities for citizens to express their opinions on any issues, including issues of governmental domestic and foreign policy, is more important than any considerations of 'national security', 'patriotism' or 'traditional values.' 

"When the letter and spirit of adopted laws and the content of government policies are focused upon the destruction of dissent and independent civil society, only the solidarity and the self-organization of those who value freedom and equality can make a difference.

"We call upon all organizations and civil society groups to support each other to continue to work in the public interest. We have already succeeded before by developing joint positions, the exchange of ideas and the successful coordination of activities to oppose the arbitrariness of the authorities. Let us use and increase this experience so that today we do not let them 'divide and rule.' 

"We call upon all citizens, whose conscience prevents them from accepting this situation, and whose reason tells them that the move back towards totalitarianism is a movement towards disaster both for individuals and for the country, to join together to help those who are being persecuted for their beliefs and activities. We should all be ready to assist individuals and organizations with moral, financial and any other feasible support." 

Human Rights Council of St. Petersburg 

23 November 2014 

Translated by Graham Jones

Teatr.doc donates income from play to support political prisoners

posted 26 Nov 2014 14:03 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Nov 2014 14:05 ]

24 November 2014

Source: (info
On 24 November 2014, Teatr.doc put on the play Vyatlag (taking its name from the Soviet Vyatka labour camp), all of the proceeds of which go towards supporting political prisoners in Russia. 

Radio Svoboda report that at the heart of the piece was the diary of a prisoner in Vyatlag, Latvian Artur Stradinsha, an accountant who in 1941 became one of thousands of prisoners sent to the GULAG for "participation in a counterrevolutionary organisation". 

The director of the play, Boris Pavlovich, was personally confronted with political repression — one of the main themes of the play — not long ago. One of his students, Leonid Kovyazin, was arrested in connection with the Botolnaya Square case. Kovyazin's wife Evgeniya Tarasova was involved in the play. 

Before the end of the year, Teatr.doc will host the play's official premiere which will be dedicated to the Bolotnaya prisoners. 

Translated by Helen Corbett 

Ministry of Justice sets up section on ‘foreign agents’

posted 24 Nov 2014 04:11 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Nov 2014 04:12 ]

19 November 2014

Source: (info)
The Ministry of has set up a “section for foreign agents” within its department for non-profit organizations, Pavel Chikov, head of the Agora human rights organization has reported on Twitter.

According to Chikov, a phone call "from the foreign agents’ section" was made to Agora’s lawyer, Ramil Akhmetgaliev in connection with the case of the Golos Association for the Protection of Voters’ Rights, which had previously demanded that they be removed from the register of foreign agents, Mediazona reports.

опровергают сведения об иностранном финансировании. 1 сентября этого года Мосгорсуд признал незаконным привлечение "Голоса" и его главы Лидии Шибановой к административной ответственности за неисполнение обязанностей иностранного агента, однако НКО до сих пор не исключена из реестра.

"The caller identified himself as an official from the section for foreign agents and asked us to wait for an answer on the question raised by Golos since they have, and I quote, ‘so many court cases now that we can hardly keep up’,” said Chikov. Chikov added that the new section falls within the department for nonprofit organizations headed by Vladimir Titov.

The press service of the Ministry of Justice was not available for comment at the time, and the Ministry’s official website there is no information about the creation of the new section.

The law on "foreign agents" has been in operation in Russia for more than eighteen months. According to this law, the receipt of money from abroad by organizations engaged in political activities should be included in a special register of "foreign agents". Many organizations that appear on the register are contesting their inclusion. Some NGOs do not accept that their activities are political; others, including Golos, deny that they receive funding from abroad.

On 1st September this year, Moscow City Court ruled that the prosecution under administrative law of Golos and its director Lidiya Shibanova for failing to comply with the requirements of a foreign agent had been unlawful. However, the NGO has yet to be removed from the register.

Translated by Graham Jones

Human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina on the plight of Ukrainian refugees

posted 24 Nov 2014 03:32 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Nov 2014 03:40 ]

17 November 2014

By Svetlana Gannushkina

In the words of Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the Civic Assistance Commiteee: "Up until 22 July, refugees from Ukraine were granted temporary refuge. This is not the same as being given the status of 'refugee', a status granted only in cases where an individual is subject to persecution or serious danger; it is an extra form of protection for those at risk because of the general situation prevailing in the region where they live.

Decree No 691 adopted on 22 July 2014 by the Government of the Russian Federation confirmed that Ukrainian citizens arriving in Russia in large-scale emergency displacements would be allocated to the various subjects of the Russian Federation, but stated that Moscow, the Moscow and Rostov regions and St Petersburg, as well as the Crimea and Sevastapol, would be wholly absolved from any obligation to accept would-be refugees.

The Decree gives no clue as to the meaning of the words 'The subjects of the Russian Federation shall accept Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons in 2014', or the obligations incumbent upon the authorities of these subjects in this respect.

The Moscow Administration of the Federal Migration Service issued an immediate and categorical refusal to work with anyone arriving from Ukraine or to accept any documents relating to their status. A number of Ukrainian citizens who contacted us and who had parents or wealthy children in Moscow were able to obtain assistance from the Russian Federal Migration Service.

St Petersburg appeared until recently to comply with the announcement regarding the granting of temporary refuge by providing applicants with nothing more than the relevant legal status. This interpretation of Decree No 691 was confirmed by the Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Migration Service, Nikolai Matveyevich Smorodin. It is however now apparent that St Petersburg is following in Moscow’s footsteps.

The Crimea is even refusing to accept Ukrainian citizens whose close relatives live there and who were until recently citizens of the same country". 

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Rodion Suliandziga: “I’ve been put on a blacklist.”

posted 24 Nov 2014 01:31 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Nov 2014 01:39 ]

19 November 2014

Source: (info
A court found no evidence of criminal action in the activities of the passport control officials at Sheremetyevo Airport after an investigation which revealed that the director of the Centre for the Promotion of Indigenous Peoples with Small Populations of the North, Rodion Suliandziga, had a page torn out from his passport, which prevented him from flying to a UN conference.

As reported by Rosbalt, Suliandziga said that the decision of the Court of Appeal was that: "The case is closed. It turns out that ‘no one is to blame.’ The page of my passport was not torn out by me, nor by passport control. It tore itself out."

The civil society activist pointed out that he had now "learned from bitter experience" and that in advance of each inspection of his travel documents, he would make a special request that it be verified all the pages of his passport are in order. "I got a new passport, but I remain on the blacklist. At every passport control, I was checked very carefully. Everyone is looking for something," he said.

Earlier it had been reported by participants in the UN Conference on Indigenous Issues that they had their passports taken away at Sheremetyevo Airport and had them returned damaged, and they were informed that it is not possible to travel abroad with such documents. A representative of the Crimean Tatar people, in turn, spoke about the theft of his passport by an unknown person, and a representative of the Mejlis was taken off a train from Kiev to Crimea and was also deprived of her passport. The President of the Sami Parliament of the Kola Peninsula was stopped several times by highway patrol police, and in one incident she was attacked by unknown persons.

Translated by Graham Jones

International Letter of Solidarity with Russian NGOs delivered to President Putin

posted 24 Nov 2014 01:13 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Nov 2014 05:23 ]

19 November 2014

Source: (info
On 20th November 2014 Amnesty International representatives will deliver a letter of solidarity with Russian NGOs signed by more than one hundred civil society organizations from various countries to the presidential administration.

These signatures were collected in the framework of the week-long campaign held from 6 October to 12 October 2014 to demonstrate solidarity with Russian civil society.

For the last two years the Russian authorities have been putting unprecedented pressure on independent Russian NGOs, including smear campaigns in some Media outlets and the so-called law on “foreign agents”.

Since 2012, when the law was adopted, the authorities have been carrying out unexpected “inspections” of hundreds of NGOs. This letter is to be delivered to mark the second year of the adoption of the “foreign agent” law.

What: The letter, written on a large-format poster, will be delivered to the offices of the Presidential Administration.

Where: Presidential Administration, Moscow, Ilinka Street, building 23/16, Entrance 11.

When: 20 November 2014 at 15:00 Moscow Time

By whom: Representatives of Amnesty International, activists of the organisation

The director of the representative office of Amnesty International in Russia will be available for interviews.

For all interview requests please contact: Moscow, Sergei Nikitin, +7 903 286 2559

Translated by Olga Cable

Is head of League of Women Voters being forced to leave Russia?

posted 24 Nov 2014 00:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Nov 2014 00:56 ]

19 November 2014

Source: (info)
The head of the League of Women Voters Tatiana Dorutina left Russia three days ago. At the moment Dorutina is in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and does not know when she will return to Russia. Journalists believe that the civic activist “couldn’t stand the pressure from security officials, who have been persecuting the League of Women Voters for some time now”.

“I have a feeling that in Russia a ‘cleansing operation’ against non-profit organisations has begun. As for the League, every time we approached our office, we used to be met by prosecutors and police officers. It seemed like there was a hidden camera installed somewhere or they had an informer.” says Ms Dorutina. “The residents of the building where our office has been located for 10 years told me that we are constantly being watched, asked about, and reported on, with one or two people at a time making enquiries about us on a daily basis.”

She reports that the Prosecutor’s Office tells the League that the inspection is being carried out on the basis of complaints, the content of which the prosecution officers refuse to disclose. Dorutina suspects that they intend to initiate a criminal case against the League or against herself. reports that on 19th November the legal representative of the League is to visit the Prosecutor’s Office of Admiralteisky district which is dealing with the case to find out more information.

“We are concerned about everything that’s happening at the moment. For example, the incident with the director of the Regional Press Institute Anna Sharagradskaya (according to, her computer and documents are being investigated by the FSB at the moment. In June at Pulkovo airport on her trip to the USA to give lectures, Sharagradskaya was subjected to a search). What happens to organisations given the life-long status of foreign agent... What kind of a law is that? Most of all I’m concerned about the fact that some of my friends begin to say: “Why can’t you live with this status? Foreign agent, so what?” The people’s mentality is being changed.

“You live under constant pressure and fear. Moreover, I heard that some of those who were called foreign agents have been fined an enormous amount. I’ve never had a big salary and the organisation hasn’t any projects at the moment, consequently there’s no money to pay any fines,” says Tatiana Dorutina. “At the moment I just want to get away from this situation and have some rest. I’m not in the right state at the moment to return to that situation of pressure. My colleagues in the League, the women I started this work with, are afraid to go to the office. We didn’t know that our work will turn into this nightmare.”

On 6th November 2014 the police unexpectedly search the office of the League of Women Voters, confiscating the computer together with accounting documents. The League is subject to two inspections by the Prosecutor’s Office. The first started in April, the second in the autumn of 2014. The inspectors, acting on the basis of the law on non-profits, seek for grounds to declare the League a foreign agent. The second inspection, the reason of which was an anonymous compliant, was postponed until 15th November.

Translated by Olga Cable

Aleksei Venediktov appeals against warning by Roskomnadzor

posted 21 Nov 2014 09:29 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Nov 2014 09:32 ]

18 November 2014

Source: (info) 
The chief editor of the Ekho Moskvy radio station, Aleksei Venediktov, filed a complaint against the warning issued by Roskomnadzor against a broadcast by the radio station on the events in Donetsk, Aleksei Venediktov has written on Twitter. 

According to Radio Svoboda the lawsuit in Tagansky court was filed by Venediktov in his own name, as General Director of the radio station, Ekaterina Pavlova, categorically refused to appeal against the actions of Roskomnadzor, considering them justified. 

At the end of October, Roskomnadzor issued a written warning to both Ekho Moskvy and the station’s website over the programme “Svoimi Glazami” (“With our own eyes”). According to Roskomnadzor, the programme contained information “justifying the practice of war crimes”. The discussion was called “The Battle for Donetsk airport”. The Los Angeles Times correspondent, Sergei Loiko and the journalist Timur Olevsky, who works for the radio station and for the Dozhd (“Rain”) TV channel, took part. The programme was hosted by Sofiko Shevardnadze and Aleksandr Plyuschev. The transcript of the programme, which was later published on the website, has been removed at the request of Roskomnadzor. 

At that time Venediktov announced he would appeal against the decision of Roskomnadzor in court, since the warning does not indicate specific violations of the law and the interview was live. Information can be either true or false and he does not understand what "information justifying the practice of war crimes" means, said the chief editor of "Ekho Moskvy". 

This is the first warning issued by Roskomnadzor against Ekho Moskvy in the entire history of the radion station. 

Translated by Ana-Maria Sirbu

Freedom of Speech – Ekho Moskvy Board of Directors to hold vote

posted 21 Nov 2014 09:24 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Nov 2014 09:28 ]

17 November 2014

Source: (info
The chair of the Board of Directors of the radio station Ekho Moskvy Mikhail Lesin has notified the station’s editor Aleksei Venediktov that the board will hold a vote on 21st November 2014 regarding three questions: appointment of the editor, appointment of the editorial team, and the broadcasting format.

A copy of the notification was published on the Facebook page of Ekho journalist Irina Vorobieva.

As Mediazona noted, earlier last Friday Ekho Moskvy said it would not appeal against the warning from Roskomnadzor issued after the live broadcast of the programme “With my own eyes”. According to representatives from the agency, the programme contained “information justifying the practice of committing war crimes”, but they did not produce any specific examples or quotations to justify the warning. The current editor of Ekho Moskvy Aleksei Vendiktov at that time announced the radio station would go to court.

Venediktov’s assistant Lesya Ryabtseva said on Twitter that the station’s general director, Ekaterina Pavlova, had refused to lodge such an appeal.

Translated by Chloe Cranston

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