Distinguished Russian rights group dissolves amid crackdown | Europe| Information and present affairs from across the continent | DW


Simply earlier than the winter recess on the finish of final yr, Russian lawmakers rushed by means of a number of recent legal guidelines, together with an addendum to Russia’s “international brokers” regulation. Beforehand, solely registered organizations and media may obtain the label. Now people and even unregistered public actions concerned in politics and funded from overseas might be tagged.

The label “international agent” implies Chilly Conflict-type espionage, and in apply this may imply discrimination, punishing bureaucratic obstacles and fines.

The 2 current adjustments to the regulation appeared nearly tailored for well-known human rights activist Lev Ponomarev. In December, Ponomarev was one of many first 5 folks to be declared a “international agent media” in Russia – a label the activist describes as absurd and “nearly humorous”. He was on the record together with a feminist activist and three journalists.

Ponomarev is among the founding fathers of the Soviet and later Russian human rights motion. Together with two Moscow-based NGOs, the 79-year-old activist heads the Russia-wide human rights group, which has been working for greater than 20 years. She fights for constitutional rights and freedoms – and towards particular person and systematic human rights violations within the nation.

Ponomarev and his organizations have been underneath strain from the authorities for years

Ponomarev says the motion brings collectively round 1,000 activists throughout Russia. Now that he has been declared a “international agent,” he says, these activists will not be formally united underneath the aegis of his group. “The For Human Rights model and even my title as a reasonably well-known persona helped them. However now it should embarrass them, ”he stated.

On Tuesday, Ponomarev introduced he was disbanding the motion to keep away from it being labeled a international agent, which might lead to fines for regional activists. “The authorities haven’t but decided that this nationwide public group is a international agent. However I don’t wish to look forward to this. For me, it’s apparent that this may occur,” he instructed DW. “They’re doomed as a result of I’m the president of this motion and have the stigma of being a person international agent.”

Ponomarev insists that his activists throughout Russia will proceed their work and that he’ll assist them. “I’m within the technique of winding up the group to proceed working effectively,” he explains, laughing on the absurdity of the scenario.

Law enforcement officials block protesters during a rally in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg (Photo by Olga MALTSEVA / AFP)

Russian authorities crack down on activists following unauthorized protests in favor of opposition politician Alexei Navalny


Ponomarev has been taking part in a cat-and-mouse recreation with the authorities on “For Human Rights” for years. In 2013, the group was forcibly faraway from its Moscow workplaces. In 2014, he was first described as a “international agent”.

The Supreme Courtroom dissolved the group in 2019 for “violations” – with out giving particulars. Ponomarev resurrected “For Human Rights” by making a free motion that he didn’t register as a authorized entity.

However the newest guidelines are imprecise sufficient to use even to organizations that aren’t registered. “They selected me and hone their strategies on me,” he tells DW, explaining that he and his group had been usually among the many first to be struck by new legal guidelines.

In line with Jens Siegert, an impartial Moscow-based political analyst, it’s not clear why Ponomarev specifically has turn out to be “one of many state’s most outstanding targets”, betting it may very well be due to the “fame of the state”. activist and his many connections. “

Alexander Cherkasov, chairman of the board of administrators of the human rights group Memorial, argues that Ponomarev is a goal as a result of “he has at all times been somebody who doesn’t take into consideration his picture, who’s within the first place. plan, who remains to be probably the most uncomfortable character for the authorities. “

President Vyacheslav Volodin holds the closing spring session of the Russian State Duma (Anton Novoderezhkin / TASS / dpa)

Russian State Duma Speaker Says “Overseas Brokers” Laws Defend Russia’s Nationwide Pursuits

Huge assault?

“Virtually all human rights organizations in Russia at the moment are ‘international brokers’,” says Cherkassov – whose group was additionally declared a “international agent” a number of years in the past.

Political analyst Siegert agrees. “These assaults are international. All organizations coping with the topic [of human rights] had been fined and declared “international brokers”. They simply deal with the label in several methods, ”he tells DW.

Siegert headed the Moscow workplace of the Heinrich Böll Basis, one of many many political foundations run by main German political events. He says international political foundations have been cautious in Russia, as a way to shield their native companions. Siegert warns that international political foundations could quickly be labeled as international brokers as nicely.

Dimtry Kiselev, one of Russia's most powerful media figures, in a segment on the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal (RU-RTR Russian Television via AP)

State tv presenters like Dmitry Kiselev usually accuse the West of “Russophobia”, notably for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in 2018.

Russia towards the world?

Lately, Russian authorities and state tv have painted an image of Russia as a nation underneath siege. Western sanctions for the warfare in Ukraine, costs of state-sponsored doping and the obvious use of chemical weapons towards opponents like former spy Sergei Skripal or opposition politician Alexei Navalny – all of those instances are portrayed in Russia like baseless Russophobia. “

And critics of authorities in Russia – together with human rights organizations – are routinely portrayed as brokers of the West. Speaker of the decrease home of the Russian parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, stated in December that more durable legal guidelines on “international brokers” had been essential to guard “the pursuits of Russia”.

Analyst Jens Siegert believes that the strain on human rights organizations may enhance additional within the run-up to parliamentary elections. President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia celebration is pushing for a powerful majority within the Duma. “They may tighten the screws a bit extra […] as a result of the Kremlin is apprehensive, the outcomes may not find yourself being fairly what they need. “

Alexei Navalny inside a dock for defendants during the announcement of the verdict of the Moscow court (Press Service of the Simonovsky District Court / REUTERS)

State tv in Russia usually portrays opposition activists like Alexei Navalny as brokers of the West

A misplaced battle?

Lev Ponomarev is defiant within the face of rising strain towards him and his organizations – and has vowed to maintain working. He thinks the authorities are attempting to “scare younger folks away, to stop them from working with or for human rights organizations.”

“They may lose,” he stated.

However Ponomarev tells DW that the authorities’ actions concern him extra broadly for Russia. “Primarily, the human rights motion in Russia is being destroyed. It’s clear that ‘international agent’ means enemies. All human rights activists have been declared enemies and they’re being destroyed. “

Ponomarev insists that adherence to human rights is the idea of a peaceable post-war world order. “The trail Russia has chosen – considered one of complete self-isolation and a elementary refusal to guard human rights – is a harmful path. And it’s a path that leads on to this warfare. “


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