A law beyond improvement; Defining “political activity” may seem like an academic exercise, but in Russia, it is an existential one.

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

Defining “political activity” may seem like an academic exercise, but in Russia, it is an existential one. (opendemocracy.net – Tanya Lokshina – February 8, 2016) Tanya Lokshina is Russia program director at Human Rights Watch. In May 2013, as Russia was craving positive international publicity before the Sochi Olympic Games, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Thorbjorn Jagland, […]

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Virtual Stalinism

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – February 2, 2016) Russian officials seem to have developed an execution fetish of late. One example, of course, is the disturbing video Ramzan Kadyrov posted on Instagram showing opposition figures Mikhail Kasyanov and Vladimir Kara-Murza in the crosshairs of a sniper’s rifle. Another is the bizarre series of animated clips Vladimir Putin’s All-Russian […]

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Just How Bad is Putin? Ever More People Are Counting the Ways

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, January 31, 2016) As the number of Vladimir Putin’s violations of international law and normal morality grows, ever more people are offering lists of the actions for which he must be held accountable. Three particularly interesting examples of that trend have been offered over the last several days. Russian journalist Oleg Kashin […]

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Russians do not want authorities to have access to non-public personal data

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

(Interfax – January 31, 2016) Most respondents surveyed by the Public Opinion Foundation (58%) believe the state should not have access to non-public personal data and people’s correspondence on social networking sites and via email, while 24% believe it violates human rights and 22% believe it constitutes privacy invasion and is not ethical. The poll, which surveys 1,000 respondents who […]

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Ever more Russians are at risk of repression as Putin’s Russia heads toward totalitarianism

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – January 27, 2016) There is an old observation that in a democracy, anything that isn’t prohibited is permitted; in an authoritarian system, anything that isn’t permitted is prohibited; and in a totalitarian one, anything that is permitted is compulsory and any failure to go along can result in arrest or worse. Judging from […]

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As Ruble Nosedives, Russians Are Priced Out Of Live-Saving Western Treatment

Medical Symbol with Pole, Serpents, Wings, adapted from image at lanl.gov

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Claire Bigg – February 1, 2016) As the ruble continues its catastrophic tumble, hitting another historic low last month, the pain is being felt keenly across Russia. Among those worst hit are patients in need of urgent surgery abroad or other life-saving treatment billed in foreign currencies. “It all started with a bad cough and a […]

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Fukuyama: ‘Putinism,’ Radical Islam No Alternative To Liberal Democracy

Putin Descending a Staircase

(RFE/RL – January 29, 2016) Russian President Vladimir Putin and the extremist Islamic State group are sworn enemies that might seem to have little in common. But both are engaged in efforts at state building that U.S. political scientist Francis Fukuyama says share two qualities: each seeks to create a political alternative to a modern liberal democracy, and each is […]

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Russian Investigative Committee gives ICC data on S. Ossetia conflict crimes

Georgia Map

(Interfax – January 28, 2016) The Russian Investigative Committee has provided the International Criminal Court (ICC) with the files of a criminal case opened into the crimes committed during the 2008 armed conflict in South Ossetia, Investigative Committee director Alexander Bastrykin has said. “The Investigative Committee of Russia conducted a thorough investigation into the crimes committed by the Georgian military,” […]

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Article on Russian-Chechen Tensions Draws Chechen Ire

Caucasus Map of Chechnya and Caucasus Environs

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Anna Dolgov – January 27, 2016) Chechnya’s regional legislature has demanded an investigation for possible “extremism” into an article by a Russian political analyst who wrote that mutual resentment between Russians and Chechens has been growing and was on the verge of an “explosion.” Magomed Daudov, speaker of the Chechen parliament, said political analyst Andrei […]

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NEWSLINK: “How a liberal bastion is persevering in an increasingly illiberal Moscow. The Andrei Sakharov Center, one of the last safe spaces for Russia’s liberal community, has been fined and fined again for its purported ‘political activity.’ But celebrity support and crowdsourcing have kept it alive.” – Christian Science Monitor

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VIDEO: What the Litvinenko assassination accusation means for the Kremlin

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PBS interviews former Ambassador Mike McFaul and Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times about a British investigative report into the assassination of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, including implications for the Russian government and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Video below; click here for original post and transcript. MICHAEL MCFAUL…: … it’s very important, even if nothing more comes […]

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Grounds For (A Little) Optimism? Russian public opinion on human rights

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

Despite Putin’s clampdown on Russian civil society, public opinion trends point to growing support for civil liberties. A contribution to the openGlobalRights debate on public opinion and human rights. (opendemocracy.net – Theodore P. Gerber – January 18, 2016) Theodore P. Gerber is the Director of the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia and Professor of Sociology at the […]

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Confrontation between Chechnya leadership, non-systemic opposition causes concern, exchange of insults cannot solve political problems – Pamfilova

Ramzan Kadyrov file photo

MOSCOW. Jan 20 (Interfax) – Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson Ella Pamfilova has expressed concern about the ongoing confrontation between leadership of the Chechen republic and members of the non-systemic opposition. “What really worries me is the escalating confrontation between the leadership of Chechnya and members of the non-systemtic opposition,” the press service of the ombudsperson’s office quoted Pamfilova as saying […]

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Agents of Change: Promoting Tolerance and Acceptance in Russia

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Vasily Kolotilov – January 18, 2016) A rehearsal is being held in a large hall – light streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows onto the performers. Some dance, some sit sprawled across the floor watching their compatriots. “Kostik, stand up, you’re going to get cold,” the choreographer scolds. A young man slouched on the wooden parquet […]

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Pamfilova criticizes Kadyrov’s words about non-system opposition

Ramzan Kadyrov file photo

MOSCOW. Jan 13 (Interfax) – Russian human rights ombudsman Ella Pamfilova has criticized the statement made by Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya, saying that representatives of the non-system opposition are “enemies of the people” who should face trial for sabotage. “Such statements are not only pointless, but also harmful because they render a disservice to the country’s president and […]

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Law Guaranteeing Phone Call After Arrest Comes Into Force in Russia

Russian Jail File Photo Showing Outer Wall, Windows, Barbed Wire

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 11, 2016) A law outlining the right of a detainee to make a phone call no later than three hours after being arrested has come into force in Russia, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta state-owned newspaper reported Sunday. “A suspect as soon as possible, but not later than three hours after he [or she] was arrested, […]

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Russia’s politics of paranoia

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

Russian society tries to keep its nerve. The Kremlin thrives on it, the papers amplify it-but nobody can quite control this profound paranoia. (opendemocracy.net – ANNA ARUTUNYAN – December 22, 2015) Anna Arutunyan is a Russian-American journalist and the author of The Putin Mystique. She is currently a fellow at the Kennan Institute in Washington. Russian society tries to keep […]

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Magnitsky’s mother asks Chaika to confirm publicized facts concerning her son

Memorial Flowers and Photo of Sergei Magnitsky

(Interfax – December 22, 2015) The mother of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died at a Moscow jail in 2009, has asked the Russian Prosecutor General, Yury Chaika, to provide evidence for the claims he made in a letter to the Kommersant daily regarding her son and the activity of the fund’s head, William Browder. “The information you disseminated […]

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RBTH: “Russia and the EU: United by the refugees’ tragedy; Similar approach to border controls is key to managing migration.”

Europe Map

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – DMITRY BABICH, SPECIAL TO RBTH – December 8, 2015) Dmitry Babich is a political analyst at Sputnik International. In recent years, Russia and the European Union have developed a taste for stressing what divides them, particularly the “differences in values” which presumably make us two worlds apart. But there is at least one […]

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RBTH: “Russia can now ignore rulings by European human rights court”

European Court of Human Rights Building file photo

The Russian State Duma has passed a law making it possible to recognize, upon a motion from the president or the government, some rulings by international courts as unenforceable in Russia. While critics say the law is aimed at limiting the powers of the European Court of Human Rights, an RBTH source says the state is merely defending its sovereignty […]

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Russia’s Supreme Court overturns ruling to fine “foreign agent” NGO

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Interfax – December 7, 2015) The Russian Supreme Court has revoked a ruling to fine a St Petersburg-based NGO, Institute of Regional Press, over its refusal to be labelled a “foreign agent”, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 7 December. “The judges failed to find formal components of the crime in the actions of the rights activists. It is […]

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Two-thirds of Russians feel free – poll

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

MOSCOW. Dec 8 (Interfax) – The percentage of Russians who feel free has grown from 52% in 2013 to 66% now, and 27% do not have this feeling compared to 39% two years ago, the Levada Center told Interfax. According to the sociologists, a fifth of Russians (22%) think that a dictatorship is possible in Russia within a few years, […]

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NGO U.S. Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and Rule of Law recognized as undesirable in Russia

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

MOSCOW. Dec 4 (Interfax) – The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has recognized a non-governmental organization (NGO) from the United States – the U.S. Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law (USRF) – as an undesirable organization in Russian territory, Prosecutor General’s Office spokesperson Marina Gridneva told Interfax on Friday. “The president of the foundation is a U.S. […]

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We’re right here; Building a society inclusive of autism in Russia involves battling with myths, superstition and the Soviet legacy. But civil society is forging ahead.

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(opendemocracy.net – Natalia Antonova – December 2, 2015) Natalia Antonova was born in Kyiv and grew up in North Carolina. She works as a journalist and playwright. All over the world, autism is a condition that attracts scrutiny and controversy-it is both highly variable and often poorly understood. In Russia, a society still struggling with inherited Soviet disdain of anything […]

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Russian Minister: Security Concerns Justify Restricting Civil Rights

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Anna Dolgov – November 28, 2015) Russia’s interior minister said restricting civil rights is justifiable if security considerations demand it, according to a television interview that was broadcast Thursday night and prompted criticism from human rights advocates. Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev told NTV television that police and security agencies must “tighten the screws” in case […]

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Soros Foundation recognized as undesirable in Russia

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Interfax – November 30, 2015) The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has recognized undesirable several foreign non-profit organizations, such as the Open Society Foundation and the Assistance Foundation in Russia. “This decision was taken, following an address by the Federation Council of the Russian Federal Assembly to the Russian general prosecutor, foreign minister and justice minister to inspect the organizations, which […]

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NEWSWATCH Reuters: “Surviving Crew Member of Russian Jet Says No Warning From Turkey”

Turkey map

Reuters covers Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian military plane. Turkey shot down the Russian plane near the Syrian border on Tuesday, saying it had violated its air space, in one of the most serious publicly acknowledged clashes between a NATO member country and Russia for half a century. Turkey and Russia are disputing details of the incident. Ankara has said […]

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Two Anniversaries, Two Countries – Ukraine’s Maidan at Two, Russia’s Foreign Agents Law at Three

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, November 22, 2015) Anniversaries are occasions for recalling the past and thinking about the future, and they are especially instructive about both when two or more of them occur at the same time. That is the case this weekend when Ukrainians mark the second anniversary of the Maidan and Russians take note […]

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Russian Justice Ministry Report on NGO Memorial Heads to Court

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Joanna Kozlowska – November 21, 2015) The Justice Ministry report accusing the rights group Memorial of “undermining the constitutional order and calling for the overthrow of the Russian government,” following the ministry’s inspection of the NGO’s activities and dated Oct. 30, has been sent to a magistrates’ court in Moscow’s Tverskoy district, the RIA Novosti […]

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Kremlin proceeds from moratorium on death penalty in Russia

Sergei Mironov

MOSCOW. Nov 20 (Interfax) – Russian presidential press officer Dmitry Peskov has refrained from giving detailed comments on the proposal made by Sergei Mironov, chairman of the State Duma faction A Just Russia, to use the death penalty on terrorists, saying that the Kremlin currently proceeds from a moratorium on this measure of punishment. “It’s a very complex issue. There […]

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Russian ombudsman probes into high-profile prisoners’ complaints

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Interfax – November 17, 2015) Russian Commissioner for Human Rights Ella Pamfilova has sent an official letter to the Russian prison authorities asking them to provide urgent medical help to the brother of prominent opposition activist Aleksey Navalnyy – Oleg Navalnyy, who is serving his prison sentence after being convicted for embezzlement, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax news agency reported […]

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Russian Justice Ministry Accuses Memorial Of Calling For Regime Change

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – RFE/RL’s Russian Service – November 10, 2015) Russia’s Justice Ministry has accused the prominent nongovernmental organization Memorial of “undermining the foundations of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation” and of calling for “a change of political regime” in the country. The ministry sent the Memorial Human Rights Center notification of the accusations on November 9 […]

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Ukraine: Europe’s forgotten refugees

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

While the world focuses on refugees arriving in Europe from warzones in the Middle East, the plight of those fleeing war in Ukraine has been forgotten. (opendemocracy.net – Sara Cincurova – November 20, 2015) Sara Cincurova is a freelance journalist focusing on human rights. She is a former family support worker and holds a Master’s degree from the Paris Descartes […]

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New Museum Stakes Claim to Russia’s Gulag Legacy

File Photo of Gulag Victim Ivan Burylov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Howard Amos – November 5, 2015) [Photos here http://www.themoscowtimes.com/arts_n_ideas/article/new-museum-stakes-claim-to-russias-gulag-legacy/542211.html] Russia’s largest museum devoted to the horrors of the Soviet gulag has opened, even as many Muscovites remain unwilling to talk about political repression. Moscow’s new Gulag Museum opened Friday even as the country remains polarized by the legacy of its brutal system of Soviet-era prison […]

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Détente NOW!

Europe Map

Subject: Détente NOW! Date: Fri, 30 Oct 2015 From: “Dr. Christian Wipperfürth” <cwipperfuerth@email.de> Your readers might be interested in the “Détente NOW!” – Initiative by leading members of the Social Democratic Party (which takes part in the German government), the industrie and NGOs. It can be found at http://www.cwipperfuerth.de/2015/10/detente-now-english/ —- Pax Christi Press Release (translation) Berlin, October 2015 For a […]

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Case against Moscow’s Library of Ukrainian Literature may be closed

Vladimir Markin file photo

(Interfax – October 30, 2015) A criminal investigation launched against the director of the Moscow-based Library of Ukrainian Literature, Natalya Sharina, who is a suspect in a case opened into the spreading of extremist literature, may be closed, a source in law enforcement agencies told Interfax. “The case against Sharina may be closed on the basis of the Prosecutor’s Office’s […]

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Smooth censorship in Russia

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

Everybody understands everything, everybody knows everything, and no one says anything aloud. (Opendemocracy.net – Gregory Tumanov – October 27, 2015) Grigory Tumanov is a Moscow based journalist and blogger. He is a staff correspondent for Kommersant daily, one of Russia’s most respected publications. Follow him on Twitter @scumsquad The history of censorship in Russian media runs for pages and pages. […]

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New bankruptcy law may bring Russians relief from debt collectors

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – OLEG YEGÓROV, SPECIAL TO RBTH – October 26, 2015) Debt collectors in Russia often exceed their authority and resort to bullying, intimidation and even physical violence in order to force individuals to pay. However, a new law on individual bankruptcy is designed to help borrowers avoid such unpleasant encounters, though critics fear it […]

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Russia’s secret treason investigations; In Russia, the number of state treason cases is rising. Secret service tactics mean we know less and less about who is under investigation

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(opendemocracy.net – Gleb Belichenko – October 22, 2015) Gleb Belichenko is a journalist and former member of the activist group Team 29, which works to further freedom of information in Russia. Statistics for the past few years show that, in Russia, four to six people a year are put on trial for state treason. In 2014, this number rose sharply: […]

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Russia’s Sole Sexual Assault Center Struggles to Make Ends Meet

Kremlin and Saint Basil's

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Vasily Kolotilov – October 21, 2015) Russia has only one organization that exists specifically to help victims of sexual assault, and today, its fate hangs in the balance. The Sisters sexual assault recovery center in Moscow is eking out an existence, depending on modest donations and barely able to cover the rent and phone bill […]

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Justice Ministry Wipes 10 NGOs Off ‘Foreign Agents’ List

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – October 13, 2015) Russia’s Justice Ministry has deleted 10 NGOs from the list of “foreign agents,” the Gazeta.ru news website reported Monday. Four of them were excluded from the list because they “stopped performing the functions of a foreign agent,” while the other six were removed because they had closed down for good. The report […]

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Justice Ministry Refuses to Remove Elections Monitor Golos from ‘Foreign Agents’ List

Arm and Torso of Person in Brown Sweater Placing Paper Ballot into Ballot Box

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – October 8, 2015) Russia’s Justice Ministry has refused to exclude independent elections watchdog Golos from the list of “foreign agents,” the Vedomosti newspaper reported Wednesday. Golos said on Twitter back in July that the ministry had begun the process of removing it from the list. Ruling that its inclusion was an “error,” the ministry also […]

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Putin Promises to Rewrite ‘Foreign Agents’ Law

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Daria Litvinova – October 2, 2015) President Vladimir Putin met with the presidential Human Rights Council on Thursday and promised to rewrite the so-called “foreign agents” law requiring that all NGOs which receive funding from abroad and are engaged in political activity to register as “foreign agents,” a term widely associated in Russia with espionage, […]

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