Archive for July 2010
The Russian blogosphere is discussing the Nashi’s latest faux pas: The young Putin’s followers opened an installation at the Seliger Camp that presents a number of Russian and foreign individuals as wearing Nazi hats. Among the “nazists” is the highly respectable lifelong human rights activist and vocal critic of the Kremlin Lyudmila Alexeeva as well as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Boris Nemtsov etc. (some photos and a description in Russians are here).
It’s not surprising at all to see Nashi calling Kremlin’s opponents fascists. In fact, Nashi have been doing this ever since they themselves were compared to Hitlerjugend in April 2005 (for instance, I was an organizer of one such action). The best way to fight such accusations, they concluded, is to call oneself an Antifascist Movement. As a proverb says, attack is the best form of defense.
There is another problem that some bloggers point to. The Seliger Camp is not a Nashi’s own playground. Thanks to their leader Vasiliy Yakemenko’s position in the government they made it an official state-sponsored event. It means that taxpayers’ money have been spent on mocking and blackmouthing political opposition and human rights activists. One can wonder how it goes with the principles of pluralism and impartiality of the state embedded in the Russian Constitution. Others would just say that instead of wasting budget money on this propaganda crap, the government should have spent them on pensions or, say, repairing roads in the province.
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.
From The Huffington Post.
July 12, 2010.
The building of autocracy in Russia is done in small steps. One brick was added to the wall this Friday by the State Duma. An act that further restricts public gatherings and protests in the country passed in its first hearing.
The most widely discussed “innovation” of the new act is that it obliges organizers of all actions involving cars or any other means of transportation (including trains, bycicles etc.) to de facto receive approval from the authorities. It is an apparent response to recent protests of car owners (the so-called “blue buckets”) and opposition actions in Moscow trains. The government and police found it difficult to stop or persecute participants of those protests, so now they’ll have a pretext.
Another paragraph of the act bans people who have previously (within one year) violated the law on public gatherings from organizing any public actions at all. Given the way Russian courts operate in such cases (i.e. simply approve police reports without checking them or listening to the other side), it’s going to become a handy means to prevent unwanted “troublemakers” from holding any legal protests. For instance, I will be personally affected by this law: I won’t be allowed to organize any more protests. This is an obvious violation of the Russian Constitution, by the way, as this ban is imposed without an explicit court rule. But who cares about the Constitution?
I think the world needs to know the authors of this act. Representatives of three parties signed it, namely, of United Russia, Just Russia and LDPR. The LDPR guy, Pavel Tarakanov recently called off his signature and the party surprisingly decided to vote against this act. A Just-Russia co-author, Mikhail Emelyanov, was in Unted Russia until 2007 and in Yabloko earlier.
But the most vocal apologist of the act is Sergey Markov. He is a former NDI (National Democratic Institute of the US) and Carnegie Center fellow turned Kremlin’s hardliner and United Russia’s deputy. He writes books on how to prevent “coloured revolutions” and tells Ukraine how they should teach their students history. He is also a member to the Ministry of Truth Presidential Commission for Prevention of Falsification of History to the Prejudice of Russia’s Interests and the Presidential Council for Facilitating the Development of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights of the Russian Federation. He is a frequent guest at international conferences and meetings. So if you meet him, please ask him to try and explain how he pushes for less freedom of assembly while still calling himself a democrat.