Advisory Council (Russia)

On this page you will find statements and opinions by members of Rights in Russia's Advisory Council (Russia).

Lev Ponomarev: We cannot allow the authorities to operate outside the law

posted 18 Feb 2018, 09:53 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 18 Feb 2018, 10:08 ]

8 February 2018 

By Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the movement For Human Rights

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group (original source: SOL' media project

The capital's authorities have again refused to grant permission for the people's march 'For the rights of residents of the Moscow region' announced by Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov. The protest was due to take place on 10 February, with up to five thousand people taking part. They would have turned out with slogans including, 'We need meaningful elections, not sham ones!', 'Stop rising tariffs and fees!', 'Honour commitments to shareholders and people on waiting lists!', 'Stop the elections!', and so on.

Originally, the activists were meant to be going along Strastnoi, Petrovsky and Rozhdestvensky boulevards as far as Sakharov Prospect, where the rally was set to take place. Having been turned down by officials (on the grounds of: "Will obstruct pedestrians and vehicles"), the activist group proposed making changes to the route.

However, it turned out that on that very Saturday Muscovites and visitors to the city would be out in force celebrating Maslenitsa [Russian Shrovetide], two days ahead of Maslenitsa week. Consequently, the people's march would disrupt the celebrations.

The organisers of the march took the decision not to go ahead with unsanctioned protests on the given date, but to organise a mass filing of complaints with the Presidential Administration over the actions of the Moscow Mayor's Office.

SOL' media project heard the details from Lev Ponomarev, a member of the organising committee of the march, human rights defender, leader of the Movement For Human Rights, and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group:

"What surprises me the most is the outright refusal [to give permission for the people's march], which was a violation of the law. I don't even know what the aim was here. They could have suggested alternatives, like the Moscow suburbs. We could have said that we weren't going. Or, on the other hand, that we might have agreed. At least there would have been an exchange of views in accordance with the law. But to be so brazen about it, to violate the law so audaciously: that's what amazes me. It's as though they feel complete impunity. We will let the protest go ahead if we want to, and if we don't, we won't. They know that no one is going to take it up with them either. Perhaps they aren’t doing it on their own. Perhaps they have reliable protection from, say, the leadership of the FSB or from the FSB director... I don't know, maybe some high-ranking official gave them carte blanche in dealing with protest applicants.

"What is a people's march? The aim is to bring together people who are fighting for their rights in various areas. You'll find people who have bought property while it is still under construction who have been scammed; people who are fighting against infill developments, landfill sites and the construction of waste incineration plants; animal rights activists; and those who have mortgages in foreign currencies. There are also people who are being unlawfully evicted from housing projects... A wide range of social issues in Moscow have been piling up over the years without being resolved. However, since the refusal [to give permission for the people's march], I noticed, only yesterday, that an interview with Mayor Sobyanin had appeared in which he spoke in some detail about how the problems faced by those who have bought into property still under construction are being addressed. Specifically, he touched on the fate of the most vocal of these property investors from south Moscow, clearly setting out what the authorities intend to do.

"I understand that this was, effectively, a reply to their grievances. Although the protest wasn’t allowed to go ahead, the government is now sort of listening. It could be that they want to clear these issues up so that people don't go out on the streets. Now that the officials have got the message, they are responding, in a way. On the most significant demands, it seems they’re browsing the internet to see where the biggest protests are... In a sense, this could be a wise policy – from the government's perspective, I mean. But for us as organisers of civil society, we cannot allow the authorities to operate outside the Russian constitution and outside the law.

"In fact, we propose to hold a meeting with the leadership of the Moscow Mayor's Office to resolve all of these issues. Then there would be no need for a protest. If, instead of not giving permission for the protest the officials had said, 'Let's hear you out, and we will assemble representatives from all parts of government to discuss your proposals', I suspect that the march would have been cancelled.

"But we still have to cancel the march now because we don't intend to subject people to the policeman’s truncheon – unlike Navalny... Navalny, you see, has also had a protest illegally turned down, for 26 March [2017]. He got pretty much the same response, although it didn’t say 'Permission not granted' - the response came late, four or five days later... He thought that the protest could be held and so called on people to take part. We might have done the same thing in that situation. But the fact is that he has a single group of followers: the youth and so on, whereas we have all kinds of people and so couldn’t assume such responsibility.

"On Saturday, we will be taking the petitions, which will cover all of these points, to the Presidential Administration. That's the mass filing of petitions. So, this is what we have announced. It won't require approval because there’s no telling how many people will go to the Presidential Administration at any one time, is there? They could well be forming a queue. We don't know, for that matter, how many will come either. Lots of people were supposed to come to the rally, but only a few might come along to this protest."

Translated by Lindsay Munford

Boris Altshuler: American sanctions as a lifeline for poverty-stricken Russian families with children

posted 12 Feb 2018, 05:35 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Feb 2018, 05:40 ]

12 January 2018

By Boris Altshuler, chair of the board of the Regional Non-Governmental Organisation “Right of the Child”, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, holder of the prize “Hurry to Create Wonders!” of the Human Rights Ombudsman for the Russian Federation (2017): 

American sanctions as a lifeline for poverty-stricken Russian families with children: from punishments targeted at individual oligarchs and kleptocrats to international cooperation aimed at overcoming corruption and monopolies

Question from a journalist: “Will we soon see light at the end of the tunnel of Russia’s reforms?” Expert’s answer: “We haven’t even entered the tunnel yet.”
A joke from the 1990s which is still relevant today

Baron Munchausen: “…The horse did not make it to the opposite bank, and we hurtled backwards into the wet mud… I lifted myself out of the bog by my pig-tail, together with my horse, whom I gripped tightly using my knees like a pair of tongs.”

The ultimate goal of human rights activities is to help citizens whose rights are being infringed. If this proves impossible within the framework of existing laws and circumstances, we should not let this put us off; instead, we should search for unconventional ways to solve this problem, which may include appealing to the highest political instances in our country and abroad.

The house of the Likanov family in Tver region burned down over 20 years ago, but the family and their many children still lack a permanent home and a fixed address for registration purposes. Similarly, the Yermakova-Broyko family has been living in a garage in Sochi for 10 years with multiple children. Two large families living in one 18m2 room have been in the queue for over 10 years, three large families in a one-room apartment have been on the waiting list for 27 years, and so on (Moscow). The authorities refuse to put a single mother living with four small children in a 9m2 apartment riddled with damp and mould on the waiting list (Moscow Region), and so on. A similar impasse exists in relation to the poverty of families with children and the widespread chronic malnutrition of children owing to the gap between families’ incomes and the cost of basic necessities. The State Duma even held special hearings several years ago about malnutrition of pregnant women as a cause of neonatal illness. And what has happened? Nothing.

Two and a half years ago, the Ministry of Industry and Trade developed a programme of electronic food vouchers for those living in poverty, based on the experiences of other countries around the world and also aimed at supporting the industrial farming sector. The programme was blocked by the Ministry of Agriculture, the main aim of which is to pump billions of roubles out of the budget and into the pockets of a small number of agri-oligarchs, the leading representative of whom is Agriculture Minister Aleksandr Tkachev.

Almost six years ago, Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, issued a “housing” decree (Decree No. 600 of 7 May 2012), in which he gave instructions to build more housing “for low-income citizens,” to ensure the accessibility of residential rental properties, and to take effective measures to overcome monopolies and unfair competition in the housing construction sector. Yet nothing has come of these fine words, and the man responsible for thwarting these measures is Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, the ideologist-in-chief and enforcer of extortionate mortgages at prices which have been driven up by monopolies – and also the owner of a well-appointed house in London with a view of the Thames.

The artificially high prices for life’s necessities (housing, foodstuffs, medicines) which have been driven up by cartels, the pressure exerted by monopolies on small and medium-sized businesses and the undercutting of free competition – these are the fundamental reasons for extreme poverty and intolerable living conditions of millions of Russian families with children. The scale of the problem is acknowledged at the very highest political echelons:

- in announcements by Igor Artemyev (Director of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, FAS) and in the FAS 2017 Speech, which include references to “price fixing by cartels with the involvement of state bodies”, affecting up to 80% of economic activity in a number of sectors, whereby the FAS specifically criticised the construction and pharmaceutical industries (it is evident that the prohibitions imposed by Article 178 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Restrictions on Competition”) and elsewhere are not working!);

- the instructions issued by the President of the Russian Federation on 5 August 2017 (No. 1525), for “the Russian Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, together with the Russian Ministry of the Interior, the Russian FSB and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, with the involvement of the General Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation, to develop an inter-departmental programme of measures for the identification and discontinuation of the activities of cartels and, where necessary, to establish an inter-departmental coordinating body for this purpose, by 1 October 2017”;

- the announcement of 11 September 2017 by the Specialised Commission of the Security Council of the Russian Federation on the threat posed to Russia’s economic safety by cartel price fixing, and the international cooperation required to combat this phenomenon;

- the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 21 December 2017 No. 618 “On the main priorities of state policy for the development of competition”.

Sad to say, there is little doubt that these high-level anti-corruption and anti-monopoly decrees will remain ink on paper like so many before them, since Russia lacks an instrument for ensuring their implementation. Elsewhere this role is invariably played by the law enforcement and judicial systems, but in modern-day Russia these bodies are unfortunately often “part of the problem” themselves. “The paralysis of the bodies intended to protect the law and the Constitution represents a threat to every citizen of the Russian Federation and Russia as a whole” was the title of the speech I gave at the “All-Russian Congress in Defence of Human Rights” in November 2017.

Here’s where we have to put our house in order!

An easy enough task, you’d think. After all, other countries have managed to set things up so that corrupt acts are inevitably brought to light and the liability is quite considerable. In Germany, for example, if a judge gets a telephone call attempting to influence the court’s decision and the judge doesn’t report it to the proper authorities within half an hour, the result is the judge’s disqualification for life. Indeed, in the USA and everywhere there is permanent internal departmental and, most important, interdepartmental preventive surveillance of employees — what you might call “targeted preventive operational investigatory activity”—TP OIA. I don’t know whether US citizens, when they join the police, FBI, CIA, and so on and so forth, are required to sign a voluntary consent to this violation of the principle of the inviolability of one’s personal life, i.e., to the TP OIA as applied to themselves and their closest relatives. In any case, though, they keep an efficient eye out there and punish severely. Whereas our Federal Antimonopoly Service, despite all its support from the Russian President—is still a dwarf, a pygmy, compared to the potential of analogous services in the USA and other countries.

The fact is evident: for some reason we have not been able to put our house in order despite all attempts of the highest level, despite the fact that the Russian Federation’s entire population suffers from this. As the poet said: “We have our own reckoning, our own art, / Our own carrots, our own dill. / Away! detested Russophobe.” It is no accident that it hasn’t worked, of course, but it is in accordance with Newton’s fundamental laws of mechanics, which say that it is impossible to pull oneself out of a swamp by one’s own hair—cf. the epigraph from Baron Munchausen.

Speaking of targeted employee surveillance, it is useful to recall that proposals for a cardinal improvement in the anticorruption efficiency of the Interior Ministry’s Internal Security Service [ISS] back in December 2009 were made public in Rossiiskaya gazeta by then Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev, who proposed subordinating the entire ISS exclusively to the Interior Ministry’s central office—so that even the directors of that Ministry’s Main Internal Affairs Administration in Moscow and other Russian regions wouldn’t know who was watching them. This is a half-measure, of course. The point is that this is external oversight independent of any department. But even this half-measure might have cardinally reduced corruption in the police locally. However, the proposal was not supported by the Interior Ministry’s top personnel, who had no desire to “crawl out of the swamp"--again, cf. the epigraph.

Yes, an external fulcrum is needed. Therefore, foreign sanctions against super-influential Russian corruptionists and oligarch-monopolists in combination with the use of foreign Know-How in this sphere (cf. above about the call by the Russian Federation Security Council commission for international cooperation in the fight against cartels) could be a lifesaver both for impoverished families with children and for Russia as a whole. Here it is essential to note that the “Kremlin Report” recently published in the USA is not sanctions. Sanctions are still to come. And the report itself is extremely formal, contains names that deliberately do not fall into the desired categories, and “forgets” some who certainly ought to have been included on that List.

As for the utility of the sanctions, I will cite the opinion of Federation Council Chair Valentina Matvienko, who three years ago justly noted that the restrictions on shipments of foreign food to the RF would help the fatherland's agriculture. It’s just a pity that this “gift” didn’t prevent the total degradation of the countryside, didn’t help the Fatherland’s mass farmer, and its result was not a “New NEP [New Economic Policy]” filling the stores with affordable products. Why? For the usual reasons. Because monopolies reign everywhere—in the production and in the sale of food. Suffice it to say that the result of the federal laws on markets lobbied for by networker-monopolists was the fourfold reduction over the last ten years in the total area of Russia’s agricultural food markets!

Meanwhile, desperate pleas for help from impoverished families with children on housing problems, too, continue to come in to us, to other NGOs, to the federal human rights ombudsperson, to the federal children’s rights ombudsperson, to the Moscow human rights ombudsperson, to the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, and so on. And no one can help these families. Construction monopolists, among others, conspiring with the officials protecting them, continue to get wildly rich off the people’s misfortune.

In this situation, in October 2017 I wrote the attached letter of thanks to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the main initiators of the law on sanctions. The letter’s English-language original was posted on the Internet as an attachment to a translation of an article, "On the centenary of the October Revolution: Total monopolism as the reason for national misfortune in the past and today,” which talked about the same thing as this article. That is, about how “we have yet to enter the tunnel"--cf. the epigraph.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds and Marian Schwartz

Organising committee of Boris Nemtsov Memorial March informs Moscow authorities of plans to hold event on 25th February

posted 12 Feb 2018, 05:00 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Feb 2018, 05:07 ]

30 January 2018

This is not an official notification - by law, that can only be filed 10 days before an event. March organisers warn the authorities in advance about their plans, so that they can prepare the city’s services for the mass event.

Under this letter are the signatures of members of the organising committee and of people who support this initiative.


To the Mayor of Moscow,

S.S. Sobyanin,

Mr Mayor,

27th February 2018 marks the third anniversary of the murder of our comrade and close associate, the well-known Russian politician Boris Nemtsov, killed in the centre of Moscow on Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge.

We wish to inform you that on the anniversary of this monstrous crime we intend to hold the ‘Nemtsov March.’ This event, which is, by nature both memorial and political in nature, has been planned by us to take place on Sunday 25th February.

We intend to march along a route which is already traditional for protests in Moscow. The procession will start from October Square, and after traversing Yakimanka Street and Bolotnaya Square, will culminate at Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge. This is so that that tens of thousands of people have the opportunity to honour the memory of Boris Nemtsov at the site of his murder.

Many members of opposition parties and movements, civic activists, human rights defenders and figures from the arts have already expressed their desire to participate in the preparation of the event. An official notification will be submitted to the Moscow Mayor's Office within the statutory deadline.

Mr Mayor, you, as Head of the Moscow city government, must, by law, ensure the implementation of the constitutional right of citizens of our country to conduct peaceful demonstrations, on the territory under your control. As such, we expect the various structures of the Moscow Government, under your direct control, to render all possible assistance and support to the march, both at the preparation stage and at the time it takes place along the aforementioned route.

For our part, we are ready to guarantee that the march on 25th February will be exclusively peaceful and that we will cooperate with authorised representatives of the Moscow Government at all stages of the march, both during its preparation and while it takes place.

Liudmila Alekseeva, human rights defender;
Liya Medzhidovna Akhedzhakova, actress;
Garri Yakovlevich Bardin, film director - animator;
Sergei Sergeevich Boiko, chair of the Libertarian Party of Russia;
Vladimir Nikolaevich Voinovich, writer;
Vyacheslav Vasilievich Volkov, advisor to President Boris Yeltsin 1996-1998;
Svetlana Alekseevna Gannushkina, human rights defender;
Leonid Yakovlevich Gozman, politician;
Evgeny Shlemovich Gontmakher, economist;
Ruslan Grinberg, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences;
Gennady Vladimirovich Gudkov, politician;
Dmitry G. Gudkov, politician;
David S. Konstantinovich, member of the 5 December Party's permanent committee;
Ivan Y. Zhdanov, lawyer at Anti-Corruption Foundation;
Andrei Borisovich Zubov, politician, historian;
Vladimir Vladimirovich Kara-Murza, chair of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation;
Mikhail Mikhailovich Kasyanov, chair of the People's Freedom Party ("PARNAS");
Sergei Markovich Lukashevsky, director of the Sakharov Center;
Elena Anatolievna Lukyanova, professor of law;
Konstantin Eduardovich Merzlikin, deputy chair of PARNAS;
Vladimir Stanislavovich Milov, politician;
Vladimir Vladimirovich Mirzoev, film and theatre director;
Aleksei Anatolyevich Navalny, leader of Progress Party;
Andrei Nechaev, chair of the Civic Initiative Party;
Vadim Yuryevich Prokhorov, lawyer;
Irina Dmitrievna Prokhorova, publisher;
Lev Aleksandrovich Ponomarev, human rights activist;
Rubinstein Lev Semenovich, writer;
Vladimir Aleksandrovich Ryzhkov, chair of the Choice of Russia Movement;
Aleksander Yurievich Ryklin, member of the bureau of the political council of the Solidarity Movement;
Zoya Feliksovna Svetova, journalist, human rights defender;
Emilia Eduardovna Slabunova, chair of the Russian Democratic Party Yabloko;
Lyubov Eduardovna Sobol, civil society activist, lawyer at the Anti-Corruption Foundation
Ksenia Anatolievna Sobchak, politician;
Sokolov Sergei Yuryevich, head of Konkovo ​​Municipal District in Moscow;
Aleksander Yuryevich Soloviev, chair of the Open Russia Movement;
Oleg Nikolaevich Sysuev, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation 1997-1998;
Sergei Aleksandrovich Filatov, head of the presidential administration of Boris Yeltsin 1993-1996;
Aleksander Vladimirovich Cherkasov, chair of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre;
Viktor Anatolyevich Shenderovich, writer;
Ilya Valeryevich Yashin, chair of the political council of the Solidarity Movement

Translated by Matthew Quigley

Igor Averkiev on the Perm school massacre: "Whatever we do now we will certainly not make the city better, but we could make it worse."

posted 5 Feb 2018, 06:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Feb 2018, 07:21 ]

15 January 2018 

By Igor Averkiev, executive director and expert at Perm Civic Chamber 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Internet-zhurnal 7х7

A miracle (if we avoid mysticism) is a very rare, almost incredible confluence of actual circumstances. If the miracles concern people, then they can be divided into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. What happened at the school in the city's Motovilikhinsk district is a bad miracle, a nightmare. It is foolish to look for social, political, cultural or other causes in this very rare confluence of personalities, motives and circumstances. More precisely, this bad miracle could be explained by almost anything. Everything that’s bad in our society and the whole world could be used to explain the massacre. And so? Are we going to fix the country? Put the whole world to rights?

I know for sure that everything which is going to be DISCOVERED about this unfortunate school will be present in the majority of schools in Perm, Sverdlovsk, Samara, Irkutsk, and other regions. But in those schools there has been nothing similar to this event, and there won’t be, even if all the necessary conditions were found to be right there. This is the essence of any random event – when disentangling cause and effect, the event seems to be a result of certain predictable processes, yet in a million other places this cause and effect relationship for some reason turns out differently. But nobody will think in that way. In fact, everyone will think entirely differently.

The flywheel has already been set in motion. Now society and the authorities will make of this rare INSTANCE a social PHENOMENON – they cannot do otherwise, because they are afraid of it happening again, and in order to prevent a repetition they have to find reasons, patterns and conditions. And so they will turn the random into the predictable. Only with respect to a predictable event can we take measures, and only taking measures will rid us of fear. 

After this massacre, whatever we do now we will certainly not make the city better, but we could make it worse.

The main thing:

Putting up fences around our schools, with actual checkpoints, turning them into closed institutions with real security, daily inspection of children’s personal belongings, the toughening of police oversight of disadvantaged adolescents, and many other things that especially anxious parents and especially diligent officials can think up – all this is not worth the absolutely illusory, phantom fear of a repetition of the event. These and similar nightmarish miracles do not happen twice, at least in one and the same city. To count on a repetition is morbidly and ignorantly obtuse.

Being, in a social and moral sense effectively half-people, adolescents naturally and frequently exhibit ruthlessness and immorality, in any country and at any time. But to count on the idea that many of them are capable of such a massacre is a total falsehood and stupidity. And it’s stupid to base an overhaul of school life for many millions of school children on the fact that a tiny number of individuals are capable of such things.

Turning our schools into barracks, plunged into fear and endless bureaucratic over-caution about security – that’s the worst thing we could do with our schools and the children in them.

Translated by Anna Bowles

Pavel Chikov: "Encouraging trends in Russia: fewer prisoners and prosecutions of activists, a reduction in crime and the number of police officers"

posted 1 Feb 2018, 12:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Feb 2018, 12:59 ]

18 December 2018 

By Pavel Chikov, Head of the Agora International human rights group 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: online magazine '7х7'

The nation’s prison population continues to decline

As of 1 January 2018, the prison system held 602,176 people. At the start of 2017, there were 630,000 prison inmates in Russia. Five years ago, there were 701,000 prisoners, and 10 years ago 886,000 (figures from the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia.) The second half of 2012 witnessed a surge in the number of arrests, followed by an increase in the number of those held in pre-trial detention centres (against a fall in the number of convicts in penal colonies), which resulted in the majority of cells becoming overcrowded by 10-25%. From late 2017, for the first time in five years, the number of those held on remand also began to fall.

Cutbacks in the number of police personnel continue

Quietly, year after year, with the dismantling of redundant institutions (the Federal Migration Service), the shutdown of certain areas of activity (for example, Highway Patrol checkpoints), the transfer of functions to other departments (the Russian National Guard), dismissals on grounds of re-attestation procedures, a reduction in vacancies and direct staff cutbacks, the number of police personnel has been reduced over the past decade by 40-50%.

Crime is falling

There is much about crime statistics that one could justifiably find fault with. However, for many years now there has been a trend towards a decline in the number of recorded crimes. Crime today has reached a low point compared with Soviet times. In addition, the primary indicator most favoured by police chiefs with every fibre in their being is on the rise: the detection rate.

Criminal cases against activists continue to remain at a low level

Counter-extremism centres have noticeably curtailed their activities, and yet the opposite would usually be the case on the eve of a wide range of elections. Politically motivated prosecutions are looking for new areas of application, such as prosecution on the basis of religious principles or links to terrorist activity.

The reasons for each, and all, of the above developments do, of course, vary hugely; one could write academic articles and dissertations on them. This is not a post in support of the political regime, nor one that praises all, or particular, law enforcement officials. Rather, these are comments in the margins that add to the picture and lend it substance.

Translated by Lindsay Munford

Svetlana Gannushkina: The help of all true Chechen patriots is needed

posted 1 Feb 2018, 12:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Feb 2018, 12:50 ]

14 January 2018 

By Svetalana Gannushkina, head of the Committee for Civic Assistance and board member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Ekho Moskvy

We are appealing to motorists who are residents of the Chechen Republic for help.

Memorial Human Rights Centre and the Committee for Civic Assistance asks for help in protecting Oyub Titiev, head of Memorial ‘s regional office in Chechnya, in whose car en route between the villages of Kurchaloi and Mayrtup on 9th January a packet of drugs was planted

The arrest of Oyub based on a gross fabrication. In fact, police stopped his car around 9am on the section of the route between Kurchaloi and Mayrtup. It was then that the packet was planted in Oyub’s car and where they then “accidently discovered” the drugs.

Oyub Titiev and his car were taken to the Kurchaloi police station. There Oyub stated that the search and his arrest were illegal, if only because there were no witnesses. To this the police replied, “If you want things done in accordance with the law, then they will be.”

Oyub and his car were once again taken, around 10:20am - 10:35am, to the same spot between Kurchaloi and Mayrtup, where he was detained for the first time. Here, but this time with false witnesses, the packet of drugs was again “discovered” in the car. The search of the car, writing out of a protocol, etc., took place around midday. After this, Oyub and his car were again taken to the Kurchaloi police station.

To expose this falsification it is extremely important to obtain evidence that Oyub and his car were examined twice and taken to the Kurchaloi police station. Consequently, we are requesting the help of all motorists who were travelling along the route between Kurchaloi and Mayrtup between 8.30am and 1pm. Please, check the records of your dashcams. And if during this period, your camera has caught Oyub Titiev’s car, then please pass on this record to us, colleagues.

By passing such recordings to us, you will help to protect a good person from those who have fabricated a criminal case, and at the same time take a real step in combatting violations of the rights of residents of the Chechen Republic. 

Translated by Chloe Tennant

Statement by Human Rights Defenders on Relations between the Council of Europe and Russia

posted 1 Feb 2018, 12:37 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Feb 2018, 12:40 ]

22 January 2018 

Ladies and Gentlemen! 

We, Russian human rights defenders, would like to attract your attention to an issue which is important for both citizens of Russia and the whole of Europe. 

For the past three years, the Russian Parliamentary Delegation has not been able to participate fully in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). 

The reasons for this are well known. Among the signatories of this letter are people who assess these reasons differently. At the same time, we are certain that international and political crises (including European ones) should be resolved at the interstate level, using the mechanisms that have been created for such crises. In this case, it is, above all, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). 

At the same time, the main task of the Council of Europe, an organisation focused on supporting and monitoring democratic and humanitarian standards, is primarily the protection of human rights. 

In this context, we are extremely concerned that every day the likelihood of a complete breach in relations between the Council of Europe and Russia is increasing. This would lead to the winding down of joint work in a whole series of areas that are highly important for legal and humanitarian progress at a pan-European level. Such a breach would, among other things, signal the termination of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the territory of the Russian Federation. This, undoubtedly, would drastically reduce the ability of Russians to assert their rights. 

Russia is a large and complex country. There are forces within it that would be only too happy to see Russia leave the European system of human rights protection. We would like to believe that not all our European colleagues wish to see such a counterintuitive unanimity with what are, in essence isolationist and anti-democratic forces. 

We call on the governments and parliaments of all 47 Council of Europe member states to find a rational solution to the current situation so that the Council of Europe can act as a single entity throughout the European space and that its structures, such as the PACE and the ECHR can continue in the highest degree to be fully-fledged and legitimate bodies whose opinions are taken into account in all the countries of Europe without exception. 


Liudmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group 
Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of Golos, the Movement for the Protection of the Rights of Voters 
Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the Movement for Human Rights 
Andrei Babushkin, chair of the Committee for Civil Rights 
Aleksandr Verkhovsky, director of the Sova Centre for Information and Analysis 
Liliya Shibanova, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group, member of the Presidential Human Rights Council 
Genry Reznik, attorney, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group 
Karinna Moskalenko, lawyer, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group 
Yury Larin, lawyer 
Marina Zakharina, lawyer 

Translated by Matthew Quigley

Liudmila Alekseeva on Oyub Titiev: “To defend human rights in Chechnya is real heroism"

posted 29 Jan 2018, 08:19 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Jan 2018, 08:25 ]

12 January 2018 

Liudmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, on the arrest of Oyub Titiev, the head of the Grozny office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre and the need for solidarity in advocating for his release 

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group  Video: Dmitry Borko 

The Russia in which we live today, alas, is not a democratic country and there is no rule of law. But Chechnya is an unusual place even in Russia. It is a place that is governed by totalitarian principles, run by a cruel and evil ruler who disregards the law and all principles of humanity.

Things are difficult for all those in Russia who defend human rights. But to defend human rights in Chechnya is real heroism, a feat. And Oyub Titiev is a hero and a champion. For many years, ever since the death of the irreplaceable Natasha Estimirova, he has been Memorial’s main representative in that region. He is not a boy, he is a grown man, and he was fully aware of the dangers he faced. But that did not deter him.

And now that his life is in mortal danger all of us in Russia and throughout the entire world must make saving Oyub Titiev a priority. He has deserved it. We must be his worthy contemporaries.

Translated by Rose Glickman

Boris Altshuler: To Vladimir Bukovsky on his 75th birthday

posted 29 Jan 2018, 05:03 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Jan 2018, 05:10 ]

30 December 2018

By Boris Altshuler, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and chair of the board of the NGO, Right of the Child

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Novye Izvestiya]

My dear Vladimir, my very best wishes on your seventy-fifth birthday!

Which is really not all that much—I reached it three years ago. It’s so happened that we have been walking through our forest, where the “law of the taiga” reigns, along on the same paths, but we have never once met. Only at a distance, including when I was the co-anthologist of the book “Elena Bonner: Life was Typical, Tragic, and Beautiful,” scheduled for publication in 2018. And I want to say thank you for your wonderful interview from 2011, “How Elena Bonner was an aunt to Edik Kuznetsov and others,” which we included in the book.

I called one of my reminiscences of Sakharov, “The scientific method of producing miracles.” But Andrei Dmitrievich was not the only one who worked miracles. In December 1970, you were able to arrange “direct transmission” to the West from the courtroom of the “pilots” trial, the result of which was that Kuznetsov and Dymshitz’s death sentence, handed down on 24 December, was already commuted on December 30!!

All of our human rights activities are “the production of miracles.” In this New Russia, where I work to protect children and families with children, I have been trying unsuccessfully for eight years now to produce a miracle so that homeless families with many children living in garages would have the legal right to a roof over their heads. And there are thousands of such situations, which are shameful for the country that has the most natural resources of any country in the world.

In my attempt to find a way out of this impossible situation, I recently even revisited my younger days by writing a letter to Charles Grassley, chair of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. I expressed my twofold gratitude to him: for his enormous help thirty-five years ago, and for the “life belt” that he and his colleagues in Congress today threw to suffering Russian families with children – in the form of new sanctions against corrupt Russians in the highest echelons of power (see the attachment to the publication

Once again – happy birthday, and wishing you the very best of health! 

Translated by Julie Hersh 

‘What’s happening in Chechnya is monstrous’ - Svetlana Gannushkina on the detention of Oyub Titiev, head of Memorial in Chechnya

posted 26 Jan 2018, 11:59 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 26 Jan 2018, 12:04 ]

9 January 2018 

By Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of Civic Assistance, member of the board of Memorial Human Rights Centre and head of the Centre's Migration and Law network

On 9th of January Oyub Titiev, head of the Chechen branch of the Memorial Society, was arrested in Chechnya, and charged with illegal drug dealing. Svetlana Gannushkina, a Moscow Helsinki Group prize-winner, chair of Civic Assistance, member of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Centre and head of the Centre's Migration and Law network, speaks of of Titiev as a person and his actions as a human rights activist, and of the likelihood of the criminal charges brought against him being true.

‘What happened today to Oyub is an aggressive and obvious attack upon Memorial. Oyub was the key individual in the Chechen Memorial Society, and its only public figure. Of course he was known. According to our sources, Kadyrov mentioned him on several occasions over the years. At first not by name, then by name, despite the fact that Memorial has never been and is not engaged in any illegal activity either in Chechnya or anywhere else. Memorial is an organization that defends human rights and monitors the observance of these rights.

Oyub is a very strong individual. He possesses those characteristics which I value above any others, particularly in men: reliability and the taking of personal responsibility. We have known each other since the early 2000s when our offices opened in Chechnya. Then, during those better times, we had four offices, now only one remains. Oyub began to work in the Gudermes office, and immediately got involved in human rights activity. For him it wasn’t just a place to work. From the start he was very energetic, and not readily accepted by everyone because without hesitation he would state his views on what and how things were being done.

Since then we have worked together. He works with us on a project ‘Defending the inhabitants of the North Caucasus from discrimination in the penal system’. He has a telephone hot line which enables prisoners’ relatives to contact him, and sometimes the prisoners themselves ring him. This project has been going on for many years. It started in 2000. There was the first, then the second Chechen war, then the fighting seemed to die down. But a good number of those living in Chechnya ended up in prison, and their situation there was dire.

They and their relatives began to turn to Civic Assistance for help, although, actually, our organization only helped migrants. It was through working with Oyub that the idea came of a project that offered assistance to prisoners.

Chechen presidents, starting with Kadyrov-the-father, then Alu Alkhanov, then Kadyrov-the-younger, have stated that they will help Chechens who are in prison, that they will defend them from discrimination and check that their cases have a legal basis. But none of them did or have done this. But Oyub has, he has tried to help to the extent that we are able to do so.

We have known for a long time that Oyub was in a dangerous situation. For a time he and his family lived in Europe. But then they came back. Because they are, after all, patriots. Chechens find it very hard to live in emigration, they are very attached to their homeland. Of course, if his family were abroad, it would be easier. It’s the family that, first and foremost, becomes an object to use to exert pressure. All Chechens recognize that those close to them are in danger. You should know that if you don’t admit that they were your drugs, your sister will be raped or your children murdered. And in Chechnya everyone knows that these are not empty threats.

I have not the slightest shred of doubt that the drugs were planted on him. And no one in Chechnya doubts that for a single minute. There’s a well-established system of fabrication which is used for those who are a nuisance. The same happened to the journalist Gireev and to the human rights activist Ruslan Kutaev. Kutaev is an advocate of a healthy life-style, he doesn’t smoke or drink, he even ticked me off once for taking so little exercise. Oyub, I know, won’t sit at a table if there’s wine there. And it is absolutely out of the question that he would have anything to do with drugs. It’s a dirty and obvious fabrication of the sort that is used against those whom Kadyrov sees as some kind of an opponent. So – that’s how they decided to celebrate the New Year.’

News of the arrest of the head of Memorial in Chechnya, Oyub Titiev, appeared on the morning of 9th January. He was detained by individuals in uniforms of law enforcement agencies on his way to work from the village of Kurchala in the Chechen republic. Later his car was discovered outside the Kurchala district police station. The detainee’s lawyer was not given access to him that day. Towards evening his lawyer learnt that Titiev had been charged with a criminal offence under Article 288 of the Criminal Code (illegal drug dealing). Representatives of the Chechen police stated that ‘a polythene packet with material of a vegetable nature with the specific scent of marijuana weighing approximately 180 grams’ had been found in his car. 
The chair of the President’s Council on Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, and the Ombudsman for human rights, Tatyana Moskalkova, have been notified of the activist’s detention. 

Translated by Mary McAuley

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