Advisory Committee (International)

On this page you will find statements and opinions by members of Rights in Russia's Advisory Committee (International).
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Andreas Umland: The Flaws of the Putinversteher’s Russian Hermeneutics (extract)

posted 17 Jan 2016, 22:49 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 17 Jan 2016, 22:53 ]

17 January 2016

By Andreas Umland

Below is an extract from: Andreas Umland, 'The Flaws of the Putinversteher’s Russian Hermeneutics. How the escapist axioms of Western apologies of Kremlin policies distort our understanding of the origins and motives of Russia’s current domestic and foreign behavior,' Intersection, 17 January 2017

"[...] The leitmotif of today’s Kremlin administration is not true patriotism, but tactical pragmatism, characterized by a degree of cynical expedience, barely comprehensible to many Western Europeans. To sustain its regime, this unprincipled approach adopts for its purposes both nationalistic ideas, and internationalist slogans. Without a second thought, Putin’s regime proclaims fundamental religious, or profoundly Enlightenment-related, motives. It often resorts to uncompromising moralism in its arguments, but does not hesitate to openly demonstrate cold-blooded amorality in its actions. Depending on the situation, it refers either to universal human values, or particularly Russian national interests. At times it advocates objective historical truths, and on other occasions, defends the right to selective interpretations of Soviet and tsarist history. It sees no major contradiction between Russia’s former desire for accession to NATO, and its demonization of the Alliance today. Contemporary European Union standards can serve both as a role model for Russia, and as a manifestation of the abhorrent degradation of the West. Russia positions itself as a European nation on some occasions, and as a Eurasian civilization on others. Sometimes it presents itself as a profoundly Orthodox, and other times as a modern progressive country. The choice depends on which image is beneficial in a given situation, what is most appropriate at a given moment, or what best suits the expectations of the audience. [...]"

Evgen Zaharov: The Minsk Agreement format should change

posted 6 Jan 2016, 00:31 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Jan 2016, 00:44 ]

5 January 2016

By Evgen Zaharov

Source: Human Rights in Ukraine

At the end of November a Bundestag deputy told me quite directly and pragmatically that we have nothing besides the Minsk Agreement. If Ukraine refuses to implement it, it will be left alone with its opponent, without European support. Peace is the most important thing. It’s therefore necessary to implement them, regardless of all concerns and difficulties.

On 30 December, the Presidents of Ukraine, Russia and France and Germany’s Chancellor had a telephone conversation in which they extended the Minsk Agreement to 2016. And the Foreign Minister of Germany which is now also the Chair of the OSCE in 2016 has just expressed satisfaction with the observance of the ceasefire in Donbas over recent days. “This gives us the hope that the sides to the conflict will also discuss other difficult steps which need to be taken in order to fully implement the Minsk Agreement, with the will to find constructive decisions which will make it possible to overcome the crisis and finally defuse the conflict”, Frank-Walter Steinmeyer’s statement reads.

Most regrettably our European partners don’t want to acknowledge the real situation, namely that it is entirely useless to demand unilateral implementation of the Minsk Agreement by Ukraine if the Russian side doesn’t fulfil them. Moreover, Ukraine can also not implement the Minsk Agreement simply because Russia is obstructing this. [Read more]

Jens Siegert: The (Economic) Crisis and Protest in Russia

posted 28 Dec 2015, 12:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Dec 2015, 12:23 ]

15 December 2015

By Jens Siegert

Source: Heinrich Boell Russia Blog

Two months ago I wondered (here) why, in spite of the economic crisis, Russia has not yet seen any major social protest. As most other commentators, I predicted that it would not happen in the foreseeable future.

My answer to the self-posed question was, to cut a long story short, as follows: “the TV set has so far prevailed over the fridge”. The propaganda of pride has, at least so far, been more effective than the fear of, or anger over, the lowering of the living standards. Let me now elaborate on why this is the case and how long this state of affairs is likely to last.

But first we need to take another look at Putin’s propaganda. It consists of several distinct, partly intertwined but also partly contradictory, ideological components. I will briefly mention three of them, which strike me as crucial.

The first is the idea of a humiliated and, additionally, divided nation. Humiliated allegedly by the West at the time of Russia’s weakness following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Divided because, in the Kremlin’s reading, some 50 million ethnic Russians (or rather, people who, from the Moscow perspective, are ethnically Russian and also feel Russian) have found themselves outside the Russian Federation, the new Russian “fatherland”. For many years the new Russian state did not care much for these ‘fellow countrymen’, as they are referred to in current Russian usage. More recently, however, the Kremlin has discovered them as a political resource. Putin complains about the Russians being “the greatest divided nation” in the world. Experience has shown that their alleged plight in the countries of their residence and the discrimination they have suffered due to alleged and, often genuine, “Russophobia” can be exploited to create a distraction in Russia.

The second component is geopolitics. The Kremlin presents the world exclusively in terms of a geopolitical struggle for survival and influence. Thus all other countries are potentially or actually hostile. In response to this the nation has to unite to make sure it doesn’t perish in this Darwinian world of the survival of the fittest as it is in a permanent state of war (an extended interpretation of this term, in which every political confrontation and every difference of interest equals “war” serves as further justification). And so anyone who upsets or threatens this unity and criticizes the state is defined as belonging to a “fifth column” – whereby some who belong to it are merely “useful idiots” while others are “paid agents” – playing on the side of the enemy.

The third component might be referred to as neotraditionalism. It is the largely, though not purely rhetorical, attempt to opt out of modernity, perceived and reviled as western. The Kremlin rejects and opposes nearly everything that represents a tolerant and open society as un-Russian and incompatible with the country’s traditions.

The propaganda defines and presents these three components predominantly as anti-Western (or, more precisely, anti-US). Hand in hand with this goes the striving to make any internal stratification within Russian society appear illegitimate. While this mix certainly involves a sizeable dose of totalitarianism, Russia is still some way from being a wholly totalitarian state.

Of course, there is nothing new about anti-Western propaganda in post-Soviet Russia. Waves of anti-Western, especially anti-American mobilization, mostly generated by state propaganda, have occurred regularly since as early as the late 1990s (this, and the following facts are based on figures from a talk given by Lev Gudkov, director of the Levada Centre, at the “Green Russia Forum”, organized by Memorial and the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Moscow in early December, 2015).

It all started in 1999 when Serbian cities were bombed by NATO, probably preventing genocide and/or the total expulsion of the Albanian population of Kosovo. It happened again in 2003 at the outbreak of the Iraq war (on that occasion, France and Germany were exempted, since they did not join the war effort), and then again in 2008 in the context of the brief war with Georgia. On those occasions, however, public disapproval of the West and of Western actions did not last long. Quite soon opinion polls would again show that most Russians generally had a positive attitude to the US and EU countries.

Roughly since 2007 (the key event being Vladimir Putin’s famous Munich speech), however, approval rates of the West, also outside the context of the crises (of relationship) have fallen noticeably short of previous highs. The downward trend has further intensified since the 2012-2013 winter of protest, which saw a political rollback against democratic opposition inside the country and the West as the external political enemy, and it increased again after the Maidan revolution and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. This can be ascribed to the fact that state propaganda has continued almost unabated ever since then, compared to previous crises, when it stopped quite soon after their resolution. The other reason might be a long-term cumulative effect.

What is interesting in this context is that the Levada Center has simultaneously noted a continuous and so far almost unbroken basic identification with the West. North America and the EU continue to serve as the main “utopia of a normal life”. At the same time, however, polls reflect an “awareness” that Russia is not the West’s equal. As a result, the Western concept of life is negated and denounced and the Russians' own inadequacy is projected onto it. In psychological terms this may be a kind of defence mechanism.

So far, as I have said earlier, the TV set has edged out the fridge. Or to put it differently: world power beats prosperity. But how long can this state last once the state runs out of money? There is probably no theoretical answer to this question. There are, however, quite a few indications that in years to come the going could get tougher for the Kremlin.

Of course, those in charge are also aware of this and they have tried to take preventive action. This has included a constant stream of new repressive laws (which, exceptionally, I won’t go into in this piece), enacted just in case an emergency should arise. From the Kremlin’s point of view, it would be preferable if an emergency (i.e. fresh mass protests by whoever and for whatever reason) could be avoided altogether. But it may be difficult to prevent. Low oil prices – which, at least for the moment appear to be longer term – have deprived the state of its business model. It will now have to find a new one. So far the Russian state has been financing itself without, as it were, relying on its citizens. Most of its income has come from sales of oil, natural gas and other raw materials. Taxes and dues levied directly on the population have been correspondingly low.

However, now that the revenue from raw materials has started to decline, the state needs to compensate for the loss. As things stand, this can only take the form of higher taxes and levies. Yet nobody in the world likes higher taxes and levies without a sound and generally accepted justification from the state. Comprehensive and well-functioning public services, such as in the Scandinavian countries, could provide such a justification. But in Russia this is out of the question. On the contrary: experience and a realistic assessment have instilled in the population a widespread conviction that the state doesn’t really care about its people. Hence the propaganda along the lines of “things may be bad in this country but they aren’t much better elsewhere, plus they are alien and hostile elsewhere.” This has worked so far but may not work forever.

That is why the Kremlin has been cautiously tapping new sources of income. It has been working its way from outside in, so to speak, trying to avoid linking the tax and levy hikes to the crisis of its business model. The launch of its first trial balloon has been quite successful. Since the beginning of this year a new monthly fee per square metre for so-called cardinal refurbishment of houses has been imposed on all flat owners (i.e. the majority of people in Russia) in many regions, including Moscow. In Moscow this can easily amount to half of the utility costs. And although some people have tried to resist the new payment, the protests have been tentative and isolated. Some people have simply not paid and they have got away with it – so far. This is another sign that the state feels rather apprehensive about interventions of this kind.

The next step hasn’t gone down so well. Since mid-November a new road tax on lorries has been introduced. Lorries weighing 10 tonnes or more have to pay for each kilometre driven on federal roads under a new taxation system charmingly named Plato. Long-distance lorry drivers across the country have organised rallies in protest. Retailers have warned of price increases and 70 per cent of people in an opinion poll were opposed to Plato. The fact that the son of one of the two Rotenberg brothers, billionaire friends of Vladimir Putin, was granted the licence to collect the tax, hasn’t helped either. In this case, too, the state has so far been rather restrained, making small concessions and obviously betting that people will get used to the measure. An aggravating factor for the state is that the lorry drivers don’t exactly fit the image of a smug, Westernized middle class that can readily be accused of Western, un-Russian behaviour.

The next blow will follow soon. In fact, it has already become law and once in force it will also affect owners of flats, houses, as well as land. As of 1 January 2016 the property tax is going up steeply; in some, probably not rare, extreme cases it will be increased tenfold. Admittedly, the so-called “technical inventory value” of properties, on which the taxation is based, has been way below market value. Yet what will cause unrest is not just the hike in absolute terms but rather the enormous increase accompanied by decreasing wages and property prices.

Additionally, two groups of people who have formed the backbone of the regime, have been affected by the budget crisis: since 2015 the salaries of state employees (“biudzhetniki” in Russian, i.e. all those whose salaries are covered by the state budget, such as teachers or the police) and soldiers are no longer been index-linked, i.e. they have gone up at a slower rate than the rate of inflation. Nor does the 2016 budget include any provisions for index linking. Since the early 2000s all these people, who could hitherto always rely on special privileges in exchange for their loyalty, have for the first time had to accept losses in real income.

Leading economists including those working for the ministries in the economy sector, have by now come to regard tax increases as unavoidable and have been saying so publicly. An income tax might even have a certain popular appeal provided that it is based on a progressive rate, rising proportionally with income, since many regard the current 13 per cent flat rate, which has been in place since 2001, as unfair. A redistribution of the tax burden alone, however, will not have much impact, unless income tax is increased across the board.

However, it is the constantly growing hole in the state pensions fund that constitutes a much more serious problem for the state. This has been thrown out of kilter by the pension age, which, as a legacy of the Soviet days, remains very low compared to other countries (55 for women, 60 for men) and has been accompanied by a simultaneous, rapid decrease in the number of people who are fit to work (some 600,000 to 800,000 individuals annually) and an otherwise welcome, if very modest, increase in life expectancy. The state has sufficient reserves to subsidise the pension office in 2016 and maybe in 2017. But at that point, at the very latest, money will get tight unless the economy improves, something that many economists still hope for but nobody is really counting on.

But that is precisely how long the money will have to last. The next Duma election is scheduled for September 2016 and the next presidential election for March 2018. In spite of President Putin’s extremely high personal approval rate, neither of these is a no-brainer. Everyone remembers the 2011 Duma election, the 2012 presidential election and the protests that followed. For that reason alone there has to be as little open cheating as possible. But that is costly. That is why the state has to pull together all its available resources to scramble past these two milestones. The bills will have to be paid later. But nobody is planning that far at this stage. And besides, the screws can always be tightened even further after the election.

This is another reason why we are not likely to see any large-scale protest – social or political – before 2018. The tried and tested methods should be sufficient to quell smaller-scale unrest similar to the current mini-uprising of lorry drivers.

Translated by Julia Sherwood

Andreas Umland: 'Towards a Regime Change in Russia: A Brief Prognosis'

posted 21 Dec 2015, 01:11 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Dec 2015, 01:23 ]

'Putin’s regime is on the verge of a deep transmutation or even full-scale transition. There are now so many things simultaneously going wrong in Russian domestic and foreign affairs that the current system will sooner rather than later break down, if it does not substantially adapt, fundamentally transform and eventually transit to a different regime, in the near future. The question is merely whether the revolution will come from below or from above. The perception of a rapid accumulation of political, economic and social problems seems now to be spreading in Russia’s elite. So far the power vertical holds. My guess is that the current system, however, will not any longer exist by 2019, and either collapse or be replaced via guided transition, by liberal reformers, from above – perhaps, even much earlier. Two of the many recent news leading me to this conclusion: 'Над пропастью во лжи. 5 фактов, которые переврал Путин на пресс-конференции' || The Insider – ; 'Выступление Председателя правления Сбербанка Германа Грефа на 383-м заседании Совета Федерации' || Совет Федерации'

    - Andreas Umland, Senior Research Fellow at Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation

Source: Andreas Umland, 'Towards a Regime Change in Russia: A Brief Prognosis,' Andreas Umland: Comments and Links on Contemporary Russian and World Affairs, 18 December 2015

Andreas Umland: 'Russia’s educated classes will note the world’s growing distrust towards the Kremlin' (via Le Monde)

posted 3 Dec 2015, 09:44 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Dec 2015, 09:52 ]

1 December 2015

Source: Le Monde Diplomatique [English edition]

An extract from: Andreas Umland, 'What the Russo-Turkish incident could mean for Russia,' Le Monde Diplomatique [English edition], 1 December 2015

"Russia’s recent military adventures in Georgia, Ukraine and Syria were adventurous but not that risky. The recent clash with Turkey shows more forcefully than earlier international entanglements that the Kremlin is ready to play with fire. The relatively minor clash between Russia and a NATO country increases the stakes of Putin’s foreign confrontations [...]. Russia’s educated classes will note the world’s growing distrust towards the Kremlin. While the Kremlin’s new stand-off with the Turkish government will not topple Putin, it may signal the beginning of the end of his rule over Russia."

Robert van Voren: Is Putin poisoning his opponents?

posted 1 Jun 2015, 04:55 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Jun 2015, 05:07 ]

1 June 2015

By Robert van Voren

Robert van Voren is Chief Executive of Human Rights in Mental Health-FGIP and professor of political science at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas (LT) and Ilia State University in Tbilisi (GEO), and visiting professor at the Grinchenko University in Kyiv (Ukraine). He is also Vice-President for Europe of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH).

Russian journalist and opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza remains in critical condition after having fallen ill as a result of what is feared to be poisoning. Having fallen ill in his Moscow office with what first appeared to be heart problems, he was hospitalized in a Moscow hospital. Doctors at the hospital claim it looks like a case of “double pneumonia” or “pancreatitis”, however there are sufficient indicators to believe that Kara-Murza was poisoned with an unknown toxic substance. Attempts to have blood samples taken out of the country for analysis were first blocked by the hospital, and later claimed to have been unsuccessful “for technical reasons”.

Kara-Murza, born in 1981 in a well-known Moscow family of intellectuals, graduated in history at Cambridge University and in 2012 became a senior policy advisor to the Institute of Modern Russia, an organization in the United States established by the son of Russian oligarch and then still political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky. After returning to Moscow, he represented the organization “Open Russia” established by Khodorkovsky after his release. Kara-Murza was hospitalized in serious condition during the morning of May 27, after his blood pressure unexpectedly went up to dangerous levels. In hospital his condition continued to worsen and after kidney failure he was put on artificial dialysis and respiration. Since he has been kept in artificial coma to avoid brain damage.

The case of Kaza Murza does not stand alone, and there is sufficient reason to believe there is foul play in this case. Over the past decade more opponents of the Putin regime became unexpectedly and unexplainably ill and either miraculously survived or died as a result of poisoning. Almost forgotten is the case of then opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, who was poisoned in 2004 with dioxin during the Ukrainian election campaign for Presidency against Putin’s choice Viktor Yanukovich. He miraculously survived, yet not unscathed.

The most well known case is that of former KGB-officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, who died in 2006 in London as a result of poisoning with a radioactive substance. Litvinenko had been an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin, accusing him not only of corruption on a grand scale, but also of having orchestrated the bombings of Moscow apartment buildings in which hundreds of people died, only to have a pretext to start the second Chechen War.

The inquest in Litvinenko’s death started in July 2014, with the first series of public hearings haven taken place this spring and to be resumed in July this year, but already now there is overwhelming evidence Litvinenko was killed with Polonium-210 put in his tea during a meeting with two Moscow agents, one of whom is now a member of the State Duma.

The case of Yury Shchekochikhin

Three years earlier, in 2003, one of the founders of the independent newpaper "Novaya Gazeta" and member of the State Duma, Yury Shchekochikhin, died 12 days after being hospitalized in a Moscow clinic. Shchekochikhin worked for Novaya Gazeta since 1996 as deputy-editor, covering dangerous assignments such as the Chechen conflict, high-powered corruption, arms trade, and organized crime. During the years leading up to his death he published a series of detailed reports on corruption case that involved a Moscow furniture store known as Tri Kita (Three Whales). While the Tri Kita case initially seemed like a regular business fraud case, it involved high-ranking FSB officials who were found to have used the furniture business to launder hundreds of millions of dollars through the Bank of New York in the late 1990s. In February 2002 Shchekochikhin revealed evidence that the Prosecutor General's Office had received two million US dollars in bribes in order to stop the Tri Kita corruption investigation.

In April 2002 Shchekochikhin wrote President Vladimir Putin to request he take the case under his personal control. President Putin responded positively, but as of June 2003 the case had gone nowhere. On June 2, 2003, Shchekochikhin published another detailed article on the Tri Kita affair - his last one. Two weeks later, while on a business trip in the city of Ryazan, Shchekochikhin suddenly felt sick with flu-like symptoms. He returned to Moscow that day with a fever, sore throat, body aches, and a burning sensation all over his skin. Shchekochikhin's health rapidly deteriorated in the next few days and he was hospitalized on June 21. In the next 12 days, the journalist's organs failed one by one - his skin literally peeled off his body; he lost all of his hair; his lungs, liver, kidneys, and, finally, his brain stopped functioning.

The allergen that caused the reaction was never identified. Shchekochikhin's clinical test results were classified as "medical secret." All attempts to investigate his murder and, specifically, how he might have been poisoned - as seemed likely - were frustrated. In particular, the samples and medical documentation mysteriously disappeared and were unavailable for examination and analysis by a prominent UK specialist.

Failed poison attempt leads to assassination

Earlier, in 2004, the Moscow journalist Anna Politkovskaya was poisoned on a flight to Rostov on Don, when she was trying to get to Beslan after the hijacking of a school by Chechen terrorists that left more than 300 hostages including almost 200 schoolchildren dead. Politkovskaya was investigating allegations that not only the storming of the school had been seriously flawed, but also that the FSB might have been involved in the whole affair as a pretext for a further clampdown on the Chechnyan insurgence against Moscow’s rule.

Politkovskaya, a special correspondent for the same newspaper “Novaya Gazeta”, was well known for her investigative reports on human rights abuses by the Russian military in Chechnya. In seven years covering the second Chechen war, Politkovskaya's reporting repeatedly drew the wrath of Russian authorities and of Russian President Vladimir Putin personally. During her reporting in Chechnya she was repeatedly detained and threatened, yet that did not deter her from continuing her investigative work.

After drinking tea on her flight to Rostov Politkovskaya became seriously ill and was hospitalized--but the toxin was never identified because the medical staff was instructed to destroy her blood tests. However, the fact that she was immediately taken to the American Medical Center probably saved her life, albeit not for long: in 2006 she was assassinated in the doorway of her Moscow apartment.

Are there more?

With more and more oppositionists suddenly falling ill with unexplainable symptoms, people concerned have started to dig into sudden deaths in the past, and have come to information that gives a very disturbing picture. For instance, during a recent inquest in the United Kingdom it was revealed that the Russian businessman Alexander Perepilichny, who in 2012 collapsed and died outside the mansion he was renting on a luxury private estate near London, did not die of a heart failure. There was not conclusive evidence that in fact he had been poisoned, probably during a sudden and mysterious business trip to Paris shortly before his death. After his return he had felt very ill and went out jogging on the estate to recuperate, only to be found dead on the grounds later that day. Traces of “heartbreak grass”, a poisonous plant found only in China, were found in his stomach. Perepilichny appears to have been poisoned, and not for nothing. He had been given asylum in the UK after exposing Russian officials complicit in a tax scam involving some 200 million euro, in which high-up Russian officials were involved. He had been helping a Swiss investigation into this Russian money-laundering and also provided evidence against Russian officials linked to the 2009 death of anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail.

Among those opposing the Putin regime, either for political reasons of because of more “economic” ones, e.g. fraud, corruption and theft on a major scale, it is feared that this is not the end of it, and that more cases will appear – involving both people deceased in the past and people suddenly falling ill, like Vladimir Kara-Murza who is now fighting for his life in a Moscow hospital. 

Jens Siegert: NGOs and the Kremlin – fresh plans to tighten up the NGO law

posted 4 Sep 2014, 12:54 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Sep 2014, 12:55 ]

31 July 2014

Source: Boell Foundation Russia Blog

It would appear that the repressive tactics employed by the Russian state against NGOs with links abroad have been ramped up a level. It started back in early June with amendments to the NGO law which gave the Ministry of Justice the power to impose the label of “foreign agent” on any NGOs which (also) receive money from abroad, whether they agree or not. The Ministry of Justice has exercised this right on 10 occasions already. At around the same time, the tax authorities also began to scrutinise the finances of many NGOs and to demand that tax be paid on donations, contrary to previous practice (and previous case law). [Read more]

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Jens Siegert: Interview with Zurich Tages-Anzeiger on Yukos ruling by Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague

posted 3 Sep 2014, 14:11 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 3 Sep 2014, 14:18 ]

28 July 2014

Jens Siegert

Source: Boell Foundation Russia Blog

In a ruling published today, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ordered the Russian state to pay around USD 50 billion in compensation to former shareholders of the Russian oil concern Yukos, which was dissolved in 2004. They had appealed for compensation from the government on the grounds that the breaking up of the company formerly headed by the government critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky had lost them a great deal of money. Khodorkovsky himself has welcomed the ruling, but emphasised that he himself did not submit a claim and did not intend to derive any material benefits from the ruling. In an interview with the Zurich Tages-Anzeiger, I made a first attempt at analysing the consequences of the ruling.

Tages-Anzeiger: Mr Siegert, Russia has been ordered to pay a huge sum of compensation in the Yukos case. What does this ruling mean for the Kremlin?

Jens Siegert: Alarm bells will be ringing even louder among the political classes. The Kremlin is already under pressure as a result of the US and EU sanctions, and a further penalty of over USD 50 billion would be a harsh blow. [Read more]

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Jens Siegert: What are the consequences of the downing of the Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine? First thoughts

posted 31 Jul 2014, 08:35 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 31 Jul 2014, 08:36 ]

18 July 2014

By Jens Siegert

Source: Boell Foundation Russia Blog

It was only yesterday morning that I very carefully wrote down my impression here that several signs in Russia were pointing towards a “slight relaxation” in the Ukraine conflict. In the evening the terrible news came of the Malaysia Airlines passenger plane crashing near Donetsk with almost 300 people on board. It quickly became clear that the plane had been shot down. But by who? And what comes next? Where do these new deaths leave us? (Though we must not forget the many other victims up to this point – among them also certainly a few perpetrators – from Maidan to the towns and villages of eastern Ukraine.) [Read more]

Translated by Helen Corbett

Jens Siegert: New repressive action - 5 more NGOs declared to be “foreign agents”; one required to pay tax

posted 28 Jul 2014, 02:22 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Jul 2014, 02:25 ]

21 July 2014

By Jens Siegert

The Russian Ministry of Justice has ruled that five more NGOs are so-called “foreign agents” and has put them on the state register of “foreign agents”, against their will. The five NGOs are Memorial Human Rights CentreEcodefence (a women’s group from Kaliningrad), the police and justice watchdog Public Verdict, the Agora Human Rights Association and Lawyers for constitutional rights and freedom (Jurix). This means that these NGOs are bound to put the tagline “this organisation carries out the functions of a foreign agent” on all public statements they make, with immediate effect. If they do not comply, they will be liable to pay hefty fines, and if it happens again the organisation could be closed and its president imprisoned. [Read more]

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts 

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