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Svetlana Gannushkina: ‘They want to keep us in a state of fear, because they believe that is the way to hold on to their power’

posted 20 Jan 2020, 02:20 by Translation Service   [ updated 20 Jan 2020, 02:32 ]
31 December 2019

Svetlana Gannushkina is head of the Civic Assistance Committee that works to protect the rights of migrants and a board member of Memorial Human Rights Centre

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Deutsche Welle]

In connection with the 20th anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s assumption of the presidency of the Russian Federation, Svetlana Ganushukina, winner of a Moscow Helsinki Group prize, expressed concern about the atmosphere of fear sweeping over Russia. This interview with the Russian human rights activist was published on December 31 by the DPA newsagency.

Exactly 20 years ago at 12:00 p.m. Moscow time, Boris Yeltsin, the then president of Russia, announced his resignation. On the very same day it was Putin, who became acting president, who addressed Russian citizens in a televised New Year address.

‘They want to keep us in a state of fear, because they believe that is the way to hold on to their power,’ said Gannushkina. In her opinion, over the past two decades government institutions and the independent judicial system have been completely destroyed. She adds, ‘the destruction of the organisations making up civil society continues.’

‘This is capitulation’

At the beginning of November the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation liquidated the human rights movement For Human Rights, which was headed by the civil society activist Lev Ponomarev.

In October the composition of the Presidential Human Rights Council was changed. The chair, Mikhail Fedotov, was replaced, on the grounds that he had reached the age of seventy, by the former presenter of the TV news programme Vremya on Channel One, Valery Fadeyev.

Svetlana Gannushkina, who has been nominated more than once for the Nobel Peace Prize for defending the rights of migrants and refugees in Russia, commented that what was being seen in Russia was the destruction of the foundations of the existing state system.

‘This is the capitulation and complete destruction of the judicial system. Nowadays the state is always right,’ she added, referring to the unwillingness of judges to challenge government decrees and decisions. The defenders of the Putin system, Gannushkina is convinced, ‘are sawing off the branch on which they sit.’ ‘Not least out of fear of losing their power, they are becoming increasingly irrational,’ she added.

‘People are prepared to take to the streets’

At the same time, Gannushkina believes that in recent times there has been a growth in public awareness and self-confidence: ‘People today are more prepared to defend their rights and to take to the streets.’

In September Svetlana Gannushkina, a board member of Memorial Human Rights Centre, expressed the view that the recent Moscow protests were a sign Russian society is moving out of a period of stagnation and that ‘changes are looming’. Earlier in an interview with DW, Gannushkina said that she cannot imagine living ‘outside Russia’, but also explained why there is not a flood of migrants to Russia, as there are to Europe.

Vladimir Putin was officially elected as president on 26 March 2000, and re-elected in 2004, 2012 and 2018.

Translated by Rose Glickman