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‘Foreign agents’ as reflected in a sociological survey

posted 23 Feb 2017, 02:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2017, 02:41 ]

13 February 2017


The Yury Levada Centre has conducted a survey on Russian attitudes to the ‘foreign agent’ law and to those who have suffered as a result of its implementation.

The results of a sociological survey by the Levada Centre on public attitudes to amendments to the law ‘on non-profit organizations’ are included among materials published by the permanent commission on the development of NGOs, which is attached to the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (the ‘Human Rights Council’). The survey was carried out in December 2016 in 48 regions of the country. The results show that, despite the law having been in existence for 5 years, and 150 organizations being listed in the Ministry of Justice’s register, the majority of Russians – nearly 70% of those surveyed – are unaware of its existence. Roughly 20% of those answering the survey had heard of the law but have no clear idea of what it is about. Only 2-3% think that they do have a clear understanding.

Among those who had heard of the law, more than half (56%) are convinced that the law is intended ‘to limit the West’s negative influence on our country’. Given that few knew of the law, people were asked of their reaction to the expression ‘foreign agent’. The following emerged: the expression has a wholly negative connotation for the population (despite all the assertions of the chair of the Constitutional Court that today the phrase has lost the negative connotation it had in the Soviet period). For almost 60% of those surveyed the expression has negative associations, for 30% - none in particular – and for 3% (yes, there are such) it has a positive meaning.

The most widespread category of notions connected with the expression ‘foreign agent’, which appeared when the survey used an open question (respondents answer without suggestions offered by the sociologists) is related to espionage: in this group a foreign agent is ‘a spy working for foreign intelligence,’ ‘a CIA guy,’ ‘a double agent,’ ‘a recruiter’, and ‘an infiltrator,’ and so on. These descriptions are shared by 45% of respondents.

The next most widely held group of notions, shared by 7% of respondents, is connected with ‘an enemy of the people’ (‘an enemy of Russia’, ‘traitor’, ‘renegade’), while 4% proffered neutral images associated with economic activities. For 3% of the population the term ‘foreign agent’ is associated with the James Bond and Stirlitz films.

Even the asking of questions relating to ‘foreign agents’ produced negative and aggressive responses from some.

Translated by Mary McAuley

Public approval of Stalin highest for 16 years

posted 23 Feb 2017, 02:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2017, 02:18 ]

15 February 2017


Sociologists have reported that “public approval of Stalin’s activities has reached its highest point in 16 years” among Russians surveyed in the provinces.

In January 2017, 46% of Russians surveyed approved of the dictator’s activities, reports RBK, citing the results of the survey carried out by the Levada Centre.

In March 2016, 37% of those questioned regarded Stalin with “admiration”, “respect” and “affection”.

At the same time, Dozhd notes that the number of respondents who have a negative view of his activities has increased by 4% to 21% compared with 2016.

According to Aleksei Grazhdankin, deputy director of the Levada Centre, the positive attitude of Russians towards Stalin is related to the fact that they associate him with order in the country. “The worse the situation in the country and the more challenges being faced by the state, the more a need for leaders with a hard-line position takes hold in the public consciousness,” noted Grazhdankin.

According to those questioned, their top three leaders also included Leonid Brezhnev and Vladimir Putin.

Translated by Nicky Brown

Human Rights Council monitoring prosecution of historian Yury Dmitriev

posted 23 Feb 2017, 01:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2017, 02:00 ]

13 February 2017


Sergei Krivenko (pictured): The Presidential Council for Human Rights is monitoring the investigation into the case against the Karelian historian Yury Dmitriev

Sergei Krivenko, a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights of the Russian Federation, announced during a joint meeting with the Human Rights Council of Karelia that the members of the Standing Committee of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights on Precedents are monitoring the case brought against Yury Dmitriev, the head of the Karelian branch of Memorial, against whom pornography charges have been brought.

The website of the Presidential Council for Human Rights quotes Sergei Krivenko as saying, “The committee began monitoring the case as soon as the news broke about Yury Dmitriev’s arrest. All Russian citizens are entitled to protection…. Certain groups of people, such as solicitors, lawyers, journalists and human rights activists, stand apart from the rest, and cases involving individual members of these groups should be handled with particular care in order to ensure that they are not being persecuted for their activities.”

He said that human rights activists who had visited Karelia between 8 and 10 February 2017 had discussed the case with representatives of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and Dmitriev’s defence team.

According to Krivenko, “We visited the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Child Protection Services, and we met Yury Dmitriev’s lawyer and talked to members of his family. The documents which we saw suggested that the case had been trumped up, to put it mildly. Investigations are now underway, and we very much hope that the forthcoming examination by the court will be impartial.”

According to the information provided by representatives of the agencies in charge of the custody and guardianship of minors, no criticisms were lodged during the entire period the foster child was living with Dmitriev, who acted in the capacity of official guardian; this is confirmed by the exclusively positive testimonials received by the Child Protection Services from the child’s polyclinic and school.

Yury Dmitriev is a former recipient of the literary prize “Golden Pen of Rus” and a father of three children, as well as being a leading investigator into sites of political repression in the region.

Dmitriev is most famous for his work as the driving force behind the setting up of the Sandarmokh memorial complex, the largest in Karelia, which was built on a site where thousands of political prisoners were executed and buried during the Soviet era. A Day of Remembrance and Mourning is held there every year on 5 August, attended by people from all over the world.

The Human Rights Council had previously asked the Investigative Committee to review the legality of the criminal case instigated against the human rights activist; the latter confirmed that such a review had been set in motion, and that its outcome would be forwarded to the Council.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Lawyer Karinna Moskalenko on the case of blogger Aleksandr Lapshin [30 Jan]

posted 19 Feb 2017, 07:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Feb 2017, 07:12 ]

30 January 2017


Prominent Russian lawyer Karinna Moskalenko has called on Russian officials to prevent the extradition of blogger Aleksandr Lapshin to Azerbaijan, Radio Svoboda reports.

In an appeal addressed to the head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, Mikhail Fedotov, and the Ombudsperson for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Tatyana Moskalkova, Karinna Moskalenko said that “Russia has been consistently fighting any attempts to extradite its citizens to other countries.”

The text of the appeal was published on Aleksandr Lapshin’s Facebook page which is being updated by Lapshin’s close friend after he was remanded in custody.

According to Karinna Moskalenko, the extradition of Lapshin from Minsk to Baku violates the Agreement on the creation of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. The lawyer noted that citizens of the Union State possess equal rights and bear equal obligations on the territory of the other member state.

The Russian constitution forbids the extradition of Russian citizens to other countries, and therefore Moskalenko believes that extraditing a blogger to Azerbaijan would be contrary to the principles of the Union State.

Aleksandr Lapshin was arrested in Minsk in mid-December 2016 at the request of the Azerbaijani security authorities. In Baku, the blogger was accused of “illegally visiting” Nagorno-Karabakh and “illegally entering” Azerbaijan on a Ukrainian passport (Lapshin has citizenship of three countries: Russia, Israel and Ukraine).

The authorities of Russia, Israel and Armenia have stated their opposition to the extradition of Aleksandr Lapshin. A US State Department representative also spoke in defence of the blogger.

Despite this, on 17 January 2017, the Prosecutor General of Belarus made the decision to extradite Lapshin to Azerbaijan. The appeal by Lapshin’s lawyers against this decision was rejected on 26 January.

Translated by Kate Goodby

The “Different wars” Exhibition in St Petersburg

posted 19 Feb 2017, 05:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Feb 2017, 05:24 ]

7 February 2017 


The EU-Russia Civil Forum, the St Petersburg Academy for Postgraduate Teacher Training and the Russia office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation issued invitations to the opening ceremony of the exhibition "Different wars: national school history textbooks about World War II", which will open at 16:00 hours on 13th February 2017, in the exhibition hall of the Academy (Room 429, 11-13 Lomonosov St., St. Petersburg, 11-13).

The exhibition “Different wars” explores different approaches with regard to perception and presentation of the history of World War II through a comparison of modern textbooks written for senior high school students in Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic.

The choice of this theme for comparison is not accidental, since World War II remains the most painful and controversial event in the history of European countries. In Russia, victory in this war is one of the most important pages in the history of the country. In the exhibition different interpretations of the history of the war as presented by school textbooks are considered, compared and contrasted. Here are presented national and thematic stories, including the coverage of little-known aspects of the memory of World War II. Visitors have the opportunity to flick through the pages of textbooks and teaching methods and get acquainted with the history of the different European countries.

The exhibition was prepared by the Working Group on historical memory and education of the EU-Russia civil forum, in close collaboration with historians, civil society activists, teachers and lovers of history from all six participating countries. The Russian version of the exhibition has already been put on show in Moscow, Ekaterinburg, Perm, Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. In the countries of the European Union, the English language version of the exhibition has been shown with success in Prague, Strasbourg and Milan.

The exhibition will be opened by Stepan Zholovan, Principal of the Academy of Postgraduate Teacher Training, Elena Belokurova, member of the steering committee of the EU-Russia Civil Forum, and Alicja Vantsezh-Gluza, historian and officer of the KARTA Centre in Warsaw, one of the sponsors of the exhibition. Representatives from the consulates of Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic, as well as from the German office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, were invited to the opening event.

Robert Latypov, chairman of Perm region affiliate of the Memorial International Society and one of the creators and the curators of the exhibition, will lead the first tour around the exhibition.

The exhibition will run at the Academy until April 21, 2017. The exhibition will be open from 9.30 am to 6:00 pm on weekdays (Monday-Friday) for individual visitors. And it will be possible for seminars to be arranged for organized groups (pupils, students, teachers) by appointment.

Admission to the exhibition is free.

Contact: Anna Rapoport, associate professor of cultural education, St. Petersburg Academy for Postgraduate Teacher Training, Tel. +7 -921 -348 -94 -94, anna. rapoport @ gmail . com

We would like to draw your attention to a small selection of publications in the Russian media about the exhibition "Different wars”
Presentation in Moscow
Presentation in Ekaterinburg
Presentation of the exhibition in Perm
Presentation in Novosibirsk

You can find more useful information in English about the exhibition at HERE 

Translated by Graham Jones

Agora publishes report on the state of the Internet in Russia

posted 16 Feb 2017, 07:58 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Feb 2017, 08:06 ]

7 February 2017


The international human rights group Agora has registered more than 116,000 cases of restrictions on freedom of the internet in Russia in 2016. This is almost eight times more than last year.

This is detailed in Agora’s annual report, published on 7 February, reports Radio Svoboda.

In particular, according to the organisation, the number of cases of administrative pressure has increased more than 10 times (up to 53,000), the number of cases of a court ban on information threefold, and the restriction on access to the internet more than 20 times (up to 35 thousand in 2016).

As Damir Gainutdinov, Agora’s representative, has noted, objectively there have been more cases of criminal proceedings brought in relation to internet activity. The number of known cases in which individuals were sentenced to deprivation of liberty has risen from 18 to 29. Three internet users were sentenced to forced medical treatment.

According to the human rights defenders, in Russia just 13.5 million individuals enjoy relative freedom of the internet, while 82 million Russians live in regions where there are serious restrictions on internet use.

In comparison to 2015 the situation regarding freedom of the internet has significantly worsened in 18 Russian regions, and has improved in just one.

Read the report in Russian here

Marietta Chudakova tells of officials’ seizure of school students’ history questionnaires

posted 16 Feb 2017, 07:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Feb 2017, 07:49 ]

9 February 2017


Officials of the education department of the city of Rybinsk in Yaroslavl region have seized questionnaires completed by students at the request of the literary scholar Marietta Chudakova prior to her visit to the town. In the forms the children answered questions about their attitude to politicians: Vladimir Lenin; Josef Stalin; and Boris Yeltsin.

The Internet journal "7х7", reports on the incident and Chudakova herself tells of the meeting with readers in Yaroslavl on 7th February.

According to Chudakova, the collection of students’ opinions is a tradition, and the literary scholar seeks to add to the feedback she gathers on these questions in each city she visits. Chudakova specified that from the start the municipal education department supported her initiative. However, afterwards as the meetings with her were cancelled in some municipal institutions, the employees of the department took away the questionnaires directly from the librarians who were typing up the students’ answers from their papers.

In all my trips throughout the country I have never asked for help from officials, and I was certain that this time it would not turn out well,” Chudakova said. “The librarians who were typing out my questionnaires told me that they were left with “a very strong impression.” They managed to type out about half of the questionnaires until they were ordered to hand over the paper copies of the answers. The thought this is some sort of fetishism, as in a primitive society, they think that if they take away the manuscripts of the questionnaires, then something is resolved.”

The cancellation of all Chudakova’s planned events in Rybinsk was reported on 2nd February. The online newspaper “Cheremukha” published the response from the town hall’s press office:

They sent the applications to some organisations too late, there were already other events that were planned there, because these plans were made earlier. As for School No.2, the situation there was a bit different. Because we are now carrying out routine measures for flu prevention in educational establishments, events with large numbers of people are restricted at the moment.”

The president of the board of the NGO “Open Rybinsk”, Andrei Chekanov, said that all applications had been handed in in good time.

Translated by Frances Robson

Russia Again Refuses to Transfer Sentsov and Kolchenko to Ukraine

posted 16 Feb 2017, 06:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Feb 2017, 06:23 ]

6 February 2017


Russian officials have again refused to transfer the defendants in the Crimea case, Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko, to Ukraine. Memorial Human Rights Centre has declared them political prisoners.

According to OVD-Info, the Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine, Sergei Petukhov wrote about this on his Facebook page on February 6.

In the post, he attached a photograph of the document from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in which it said that Russia considers Sentsov and Kolchenko citizens of the Russian Federation, and that there is no agreement between Ukraine and Russia on dual citizenship and no mechanism for the transfer of prisoners.

In October 2016, Ukraine had already received a similar response from Russia on the request for the transfer of Kolchenko and Sentsov. According to Russian authorities, “A. A. Kolchenko obtained Russian citizenship in accordance with the law ‘On the Accession of the Republic of Crimea to the Russian Federation and the Formation of New Subjects – the Republic of Crimea and the Federal City of Sevastopol.” The bottom line is that Kolchenko and Sentsov did not refuse in writing the automatic granting of Russian citizenship to all inhabitants of Crimea in 2014.

On August 25 2015, Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko were sentenced to 20 and 10 years respectively in a strict regime penal colony for alleged terrorist activities through setting fire to the doors of the United Russia office in Crimea and also for allegedly preparing terrorist acts and unlawful trafficking of explosives.

Oleg Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko have been declared political prisoners by Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow).

FAQs from Memorial Human Rights Centre on the Sentsov-Kolchenko case

Translated by Nathalie Corbett

Letter of appeal to President Putin concerning threats to editor of ‘Kavkazsky Uzel’ (Caucasian Knot)

posted 13 Feb 2017, 04:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Feb 2017, 04:55 ]

1 February 2017


Human rights defenders have delivered an open letter to the public reception office of the Russian President regarding threats made by the Speaker of the Chechen Parliament against the editor of the Internet publication ‘Kavkazsky Uzel’ (Caucasian Knot), Grigory Shvedov.

Memorial Human Rights Centre reports.

The letter was signed by Sergei Kovalev, chair of the Memorial Historical, Educational and Human Rights Advocacy Society of Russia; Aleksandr Cherkasov, chair of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Centre; Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the All-Russian Movement For Human Rights; Ludmila Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Svetlana Gannushkina, chair of the Civic Assistance Committee; and Oleg Orlov, a human rights defender.

Emails in support of the letter were received from Georgy [Yury] Dzhibladze, president of the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights; Igor Kalyapin, chair of the Committee ​for the Prevention of Torture; journalist and human rights defender Magomed Mutsolgov; human rights defender Valery Borshchev; the writer Vladimir Voinovich; and Yury Ryzhov, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

* * * 

Open letter to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin

Dear Mr President,

On 6 January 2017, the Speaker of Parliament of the Chechen Republic, Magomed Daudov, made a blunt and cynical death threat on his Instagram account against the chief editor of the Internet publication ‘Kavkazsky Uzel’ [Caucasian Knot], Grigory Shvedov. The threat was crudely disguised, but the reader can be in no doubt that it was specifically directed at the chief editor of ‘Kavkazsky Uzel’, and that the text is calling for the use of violence. Particularly disturbing is the fact that the call to violence comes from one of the top officials of the Chechen Republic.

Mr President, you will be well aware that this is hardly the first time that senior Chechen officials have publicly incited unlawful violence, reprisal and assassination, either directly or obliquely. Unfortunately, we are not aware of any instances in which you or the law enforcement agencies under your command have adequately responded to such calls.

Mr President, we cannot help but recall that a series of political murders and attempted murders has been carried out in Russia and abroad in which there was more than good reason to suggest that the Chechen leadership, or people close to it, were involved in carrying them out. In the Republic itself, unlawful violence is practised systematically against those whom the republican authorities consider their enemies.

This makes Magomed Daudova's public appeal all the more dangerous, and yet, once again, we do not hear adequate responses being made, either by you or the officials under you.

Your continued silence will mean that the responsibility for anything that happens to Grigory Shvedov and the staff of ‘Kavkazsky Uzel’ will fall to you, Mr President.

Delivered to the public reception office of the Russian President on 31 January 2017.

S. A. Kovalev, chair of the Memorial Historical, Educational and Human Rights Advocacy Society of Russia
A. V. Cherkasov, chair of the board, Memorial Human Rights Centre
L. A. Ponomarev, executive director of the All-Russian Movement For Human Rights
L. M. Alekseeva, chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group
S. A. Gannushkina, chair of the Civic Assistance Committee
O. P. Orlov, human rights defender

The following individuals sent emails expressing their support for the letter of appeal:

G. D. Dzhibladze, president of the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights
I. A. Kalyapin, chair of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture
M. A. Mutsolgov, journalist and human rights defender
V. V. Borshchev, human rights defender
V. N. Voinovich, writer
Y. A. Ryzhov, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences 

Translated by Lindsay Munford

Memorial Anti-discrimination Centre on rights violations against vulnerable groups

posted 13 Feb 2017, 04:24 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 13 Feb 2017, 04:25 ]

1 February 2017


A new shadow report has been published by the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre on Russia's compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The shadow report, entitled ‘The Russian Federation: violations of the economic and social rights of the Roma (Gypsies) and indigenous minor peoples, and discrimination against vulnerable groups in the workplace’, was compiled by Memorial ADC in order to draw up a list of issues that the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is to send to the Russian Government.

The poor socio-economic situation of vulnerable groups such as ethnic minorities like Gypsies, indigenous minority peoples and migrant workers has been compounded by an overall increase in poverty in the country, including among the working population.

This is due to the global economic crisis, as well as the sanctions against Russia that resulted from the annexation of the Crimea (2014) and military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the counter-sanctions imposed by Russia on other countries, which in turn led to high inflation and a general deterioration in the economic situation of the country.

The report by Memorial ADC deals with violations of the rights of Russia's Roma population: the disconnection of Gypsy settlements’ communications; demolition of homes and eviction of residents - including children, often in the coldest part of the year; denial of the rights of Roma children to education (segregation into so-called 'Gypsy classes', or even 'Gypsy schools’, and the very low level of education, which prevents children from going on to secondary school); and a lack of government programmes aimed at overcoming structural discrimination against the Roma in Russia caused by repressive anti-Gypsy practices in various regions of the country.

The report raises the issue of the violation of the social, economic and cultural rights of Russia's indigenous minority peoples. Such violations include the predatory activities of mining companies, which cause irreparable damage to territories of traditional habitation and Territories of Traditional Natural Resource Use, the displacement of indigenous communities from lands that they have historically occupied, the destruction of holy sites, inadequate measures to sustain languages and cultures, and the persecution of activists trying to protest against violations of the rights of indigenous peoples.

The issues of discrimination against vulnerable groups in the workplace that are being examined include the list of professions that are prohibited to women, the harassment and dismissal of teaching staff in high schools and higher education institutions on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, the harassment of teachers and pre-school staff on the grounds of their religious affiliation, and the violation of the economic and social rights of migrant workers.

The government report, along with Russia's responses to the list of issues, are to be considered at the 62nd session of UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in September 2017.

Translated by Lindsay Munford

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