Posts Tagged ‘FSB’
These days I am participating in the Finnish-Russian Civic Forum in Helsinki. By coincidence (well, at least the organizers say it is a coincidence), Dmitry Medvedev and the Finnish President Tarja Halonen are also meeting not far from here. The participants of the Forum used this opportunity to adopt an address to the two:
Dear President Halonen,
Dear President Medvedev,
While you are meeting today in Finland, we, representatives of Russian and Finnish civil societies, are also gathering here to discuss how non-governmental actors can contribute to cooperation between our two nations and to building a common European space based on the principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights. We would like to draw your attention to the following concerns, which are in the center of our discussions today.
Like you, dear Presidents, we also want to see Russia a modern and prosperous country. However, we believe that without ensuring fundamental freedoms, building strong democratic institutions and an independent judiciary any technological modernization efforts will fail. It goes without saying that free and fair elections and independence of the media are essential to this process.
We want to share with you some of our immediate concerns, which require resolute actions that go beyond declarations.
In particular, we are convinced that the draft law granting new powers to the FSB contradicts not only the Russian Constitution but also recognized international norms. Therefore, it should not be signed by the President of the Russian Federation.
We are extremely concerned about continued persecution of human rights defenders, political activists, trade unionists and journalists in Russia. Instead of fighting terrorism and organized crime, thousands of law enforcement officials harass civic and political activists, often under the pretext of fighting extremism. This practice must be stopped. Murders of human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers must be effectively investigated, and perpetrators brought to justice. Impunity simply must come to an end.
Lack of fair trial and due process fundamentally undermine access to justice in Russia. This includes torture in pretrial detention centers, politically motivated trials in cases of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev and others; persecution of Alexey Sokolov and Oleg Orlov for their human rights work and Valentin Urusov for his trade union activism, as well as the lack of effective investigation of murders of Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova and Sergey Magnitsky. In the case of Magnitsky it is even more blatant because the names of those responsible for his death are well known. This list is by far not exhaustive.
Freedom of assembly continues to be denied to the Russian public. Across Europe we are united in support of Russian activists who convene peaceful gatherings in the framework of ”Strategy 31.” In a week from now, we will again express our solidarity with Russian people in Helsinki, Prague, Brussels, Berlin and other cities across the continent. We call on you, President Medvedev, to guarantee the freedom of assembly on 31 July and in the future.
We hope, President Halonen and President Medvedev, that these concerns close to our hearts will form an important part of your dialogue and that future Russian-Finnish modernization cooperation will include concrete projects in such areas as building independent judiciary, strengthening the rule of law and developing robust democratic institutions.
35 are said to be killed in blasts at two of the Moscow’s busiest metro stations–Lubyanka and Park Kultury. I am shocked by this tragedy like everybody in Moscow. I and my friends are calling citizens to come at 9 PM to Mayakovsky Museum (Lubyanka metro, exit to Myasnitskaya St.) with flowers and candles to mourn the victims.
It is too early to say who organized this terrorist attack. Russian bloggers discuss mainly two versions: Chechen rebels and the state security services. However weird it may sound, the latter version is at least as popular as the former one. In any case, the police and FSB were so corrupted and so busy fighting the opposition that they didn’t find time for the terrorists. By the way, chief of Moscow police was going to spend this day in Moscow City Duma promoting a bill introducing imprisonment for participants of banned peaceful rallies. He must have considered them the biggest danger for Moscow citizens. No surprise terrorists feel less restricted in Moscow than human rights activists.
Whoever organized this attack, the government will surely try to use this tragedy to further “tighten the screws” and secure their own power–the way they did after Beslan hostage crisis in 2004. The only question is what exactly they are going to do.
Civil solidarity is now needed more than ever: to show that we are stronger than the terrorists (whoever terorrists are) and to defend our freedom from those who failed to defend our security.
There is a lot of pessimists In Russia and abroad who say that our country is so badly lost, so hopeless that you can’t really change anything from below. I consider it just as wrong as the opposite extreme—bullish optimists who see no problems in Russia and believe that everything will be fine without our involvement. In fact, we have a lot of very serious and difficult problems and the powers that be are not going to resolve them (this is what my blog is about), but we are not helpless too. Even in an authoritarian and corrupt state like Russia we can change things. Some examples of these victories you can find in my blog. Here is a new one, which shows that bloggers in Russia are becoming an increasingly powerful community.
Here is an approximate chronicle of my struggle with FSB over my passport:
Wednesday, 12 PM: I visit my local FMS (Federal Migration Service) department to get my passport after almost two-month wait. Instead, I am given a formal notice that my application is postponed for unknown term because FSB is refusing to give their approval.
Wednesday, 4 PM: I file a complaint to the Prosecutor. They say, the investigation will take a month. But I have to go to the USA in 10 days.
Thursday, 11 AM: I visit the FMS department again, their officers say that I’ll have to wait at least a few months. They know that it is against the law (which only gives them one month to issue a passport), but they wouldn’t argue with FSB.
Thursday, 7 PM: I describe the situation on my blog and on Twitter. The post (in Russian) receives 100+ comments and is reposted by more than 60 bloggers.
Thursday, 7:40 PM: The post is first republished by the media, an online news Website Kasparov.ru.
Thursday, 9:30 PM: Echo Moskvy radio reports on the matter.
Friday, morning: Head of Russian FMS Konstantin Romodanovsky orders that the problem is settled immediately.
Friday, 3 PM: I am invited to the local FMS department and told that FSB gave all necessary permissions.
Friday, 5 PM: I receive the passport.
Thanks to the bloggers’ active support, we managed to defeat the seemingly undefeatable FSB machine—in this concrete case. Instead of silently and patiently waiting for months, we managed to solve the problem in less than 24 hours.
Of course, not every problem may be solved like this. In fact, I was lucky both because my post caused such an outcry (if I weren’t an activist, few would care) and because Gen. Romodanovsky decided that his agency shouldn’t be responsible for FSB breaking the law. However, the very fact that the civil society can make the powerful FSB reverse their decisions says that Russia is far from being hopeless.
When one speaks of advantages of the Putin’s regime over the Soviet system, one achievement is almost never disputed—the freedom to travel abroad. In the USSR, very few people were able to visit the Soviet Bloc countries, and only a tiny minority could see the “capitalist world.” But after the USSR collapsed, Russia opened its borders, removed numerous obstacles for international travel, and millions of Russians could travel the world. After Putin came to power most of the freedoms we had enjoyed were reduced or eliminated, but this one was left almost untouched.
For me, this freedom seems to be over. Yesterday, I was informed that FSB is refusing to give their approval for re-issuing of my passport. The official reason is, they failed to receive information about whether I had access to any state secrets during my military service (which I, of course, hadn’t). Ironically, I was drafted into the army two years ago with direct involvement of FSB when they tried to isolate me during the presidential campaign. Now, they use it as an pretext for not letting me out the country.
Unfortunately, the FSB’s decision is already ruining some of my plans. In early February, I was going to visit the USA to speak at American Enterprise Institute about the freedom of assembly in Russia and to read a lecture for students at Principia College. These events will now be postponed or cancelled.
FSB is violating the law, which clearly says that a passport has to be issued within a month (almost two months passed already). I have filed a complaint to the prosecutor, but officials say, “You can’t beat FSB, they will always win.” True, FSB as a KGB successor consider themselves above the law and never mind to violate it in their interests. But I will use any legal methods and will eventually make them obey the law.
PS: Thanks to Robert Amsterdam for writing about the story.
From The Huffington Post.
May 20, 2009.
He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.
Russia now has its own little Ministry of Truth. Dmitry Medvedev issued the decree to create a new body with a long but meaningful name: the Presidential Commission for Prevention of Falsification of History to the Prejudice of Russia’s Interests. This Commission will monitor “attempts to falsify historical facts and events” that may undermine “the international prestige of the Russian Federation” and coordinate efforts of government institutions of “adequate response to… and neutralization” of such attempts.
26 of 29 members of the Commission are either public servants or represent state bodies (or both), including FSB and SVR (External Intelligence Service). Head of Medvedev’s Administration will be the Chairman of the Commission. Only two professional historians are going to participate, both representing the semi-governmental Russian Academy of Science.
Although the Commission has no legal authority, there is no doubt that it may be very powerful thanks to its high status. Powerful–and useful for dealing with unwanted ideas. Since “falsification of history” is a very vague definition, their field of work is only limited by their own fantasy. Two topics are almost sure to be the first on the Commission’s agenda: Holodomor (famine in Ukraine and some other parts of the USSR, allegedly planned and organized by Stalin) and the occupation of Baltic states by the USSR. But soon, more subjects are probably to come. Russia’s newest history textbooks call Stalin an “efficient manager” and his mass political repressions “side effects of modernization”. KGB is rehabilitated and its proud successor FSB is the most powerful state agency. Any attempt to argue against these axioms will undoubtfully be considered a “falsifiaction of history” and equated with a thoughtcrime.
Below is my latest column for RobertAmsterdam.com dedicated to Dmitry Soloviev’s case and attempts of the FSB to crack down on bloggers.
FSB: a Final Solution for Bloggers
Dmitry Soloviev, a leader of the Oborona youth movement in Kemerovo region, faces criminal charges for criticizing the “siloviki” in a LiveJournal blog. He is accused by the regional prosecutor of posting information that “incites hatred, hostility and degrades a social group of people—the police and FSB”. According to the anti-extremist legislation introduced in 2006 (more specifically, the infamous paragraph 282 of the Criminal Code), he may face up to two years imprisonment if convicted.
The following account, my essay about my surveillance by the Russian KGB, was originally published by Grigori Pasko on Robert Amsterdam’s blog a few months ago:
On 24 November 2007 in Moscow, there took place “March of Those Who Disagree” – the largest action of the democratic opposition. I was one of its official organizers, and during the time of this March was detained by employees of the police upon the instructions of an UBOP [Administration for the Struggle with Organized Crime] operative. The court, which tried me in express mode without a lawyer and witnesses, issued a verdict – 5 days of arrest. Soon after leaving the special intake centre of the GUVD [City Administration for Internal Affairs] of Moscow, I noticed that outdoor surveillance of me had been established. The first time I uncovered it in the metro on the next day after release and two days before the elections – on 30 November. A tall man in a coat and with a bag on the shoulder was following me along the road from my home to the home of Garry Kasparov, with whom I was supposed to meet then.
On the next day, 1 December, a meeting of activists was taking place in the headquarters of «Oborona», dedicated to observing at the elections and to the actions planned for the next few days. Yulia Malysheva noticed a VAZ-2111 automobile of dark-green color with tinted windows (license plate P548PB97), in which two men were sitting. The car stood the entire evening adjacent to the entrance to the building where the headquarters of Oborona was found, while the men observed everyone entering and exiting from the door. After the close of the meeting, we decided to discuss certain questions in another place, inasmuch as the space of the headquarters, perhaps, is being bugged. Part of the people went there on foot, while I, Yulia, and another three of our activists rode there in Yulia’s car. A suspicious «Lada» drove off after us. In order to check if this was indeed surveillance, we did several circles and loops, in so doing the car did not stop following us. Any last doubts dissipated when we and they were standing at a traffic light, the light turned green, and Yulia decided to slow down. All the surrounding cars drove off ahead, while the car suspected by us stayed to wait for our maneuver.