Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Ukraine first anniversary of Russian invasion

February 24, 2023

One year ago today, Vladimir Putin launched a brutal attack on Ukraine.

Very sad.

One inoccent victim of Putin’s war criminals.

McDonald’s pulls out of Russia after 30 years

May 16, 2022

When McDonald’s opened in Red Square it was a symbol of the collapse of the Soviet Union, uncontrolled captilism red in tooth and claw. For Vladimir Putin it was the worst catastrophe to befall Russia, not only the collapse of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the Russian Empire.

We have now gone full circle, McDonald’s stopped trading in March, are now pulling out of Russia permanently.

Although as a Russian friend said to me, when they stopped trading, we will now have a healthier diet.

But, the following are still trading in Russia, complicit in Putin’s war crimes:

  • M&S
  • Burger King
  • Subway
  • Nestle
  • Total
  • Leroy Merlin

Please boycott any company trading in Russia.

If you miss Russian vodka, two recommendations for excellent vodka:

  • Amos Owen craft vodka
  • Dima’s three-grain Ukrainian vodka

When McDonald’s pulls out of Russia, you know Vladimir Putin has lost the war in Ukraine.

Nestlé chocolate

March 27, 2022

With added bitterness of Putin’s war crimes.

No surprise Nestlé refusal to pull out of Russia, Nestlé ranks as one of the world’s most evil corporations.

Nestlé not the only Western corporation refusing to pull out of Russia.

  • M&S
  • Burger King
  • Subway
  • Total

Find Nespresso shops in your locality. Leave 1* review on Google maps that Nestlé trading in Russia, complicit Putin’s war crimes.

In Russia, find Nespresso outlets on Google maps, leave a 1* review of Putin’s war crimes.

Note: Please do not review Putin’s war crimes on indie business in Russia, it will endanger them. The Truth in Russia a criminal offence, fifteen years in prison.

For Total, a French oil company with major stake in a Russian oil company, write a 1* review on TrustPilot.

If have a friend using vile undrinkable Nespresso, treat them to coffee from Mad Heads, excellent coffee.

Chocolate, treat yourself to bean-to-bar craft chocolate.

Vladimir Putin’s Adolf Hitler tribute act

March 19, 2022

Let’s just assume the Russia’s theories on their war crimes are lies and until they or their pro-Putin pals in the West produce direct evidence to support their conspiracy theories we can ignore their hustle and focus on documenting their crimes for accountability. — Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat

This is not about Ukraine at all, but the world order. The current crisis is a fateful, epoch-making moment in modern history. It reflects the battle over what the world order will look like. — Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister

Before a packed stadium, cajoled, bullied, bussed in, Vladimir Putin wearing a €12,700 Loro Piana jacket, paid for with money stolen from Russian people, Vladimir Putin performed his Adolf Hitler tribute act.

Meanwhile whilst the fascists cheered and Putin raved, close on 15,000 Russians killed in Ukraine, residential areas razed to the ground leaving rubble and burning apartment blocks, hospitals, school, kindagatens, a theatre sheltering children, targeted.

What is moving, woman and children walking to cross the border to countries bordering Ukraine, the children towing their luggage, and carrying their pets.

And the kindness of strangers from all over Europe, who meet them when they cross the border, and open not only their arms, but also their homes.

Then contrast with Putin’s war crimes.

Eliot Higgins, Bellingcat:

Let’s just assume the Russia’s theories on their war crimes are lies and until they or their pro-Putin pals in the west produce direct evidence to support their conspiracy theories we can ignore their hustle and focus on documenting their crimes for accountability.

Especially when it’s just recycling the same lies they told about Syria. Let’s not waste our time debating the same war crime denying idiots who lied about war crimes in Syria, and focus on accountability for those crimes.

It’s more convenient for them to turn the discourse over war crimes to a conspiracy fuelled debate over one incident, and make the entire debate about one thing, not a systematic pattern of crimes. Its exactly what they did in Syria, so let’s not repeat the same pattern ourselves.

They are not equipped, morally or intellectually, to engage in a serious discussion about war crimes and accountability, so they turn it into a one issue story, but we’re in the best position we’ve ever been to build cases for accountability, so let’s focus on that.

It’s fine to highlight disinformation and demonstrate the tactics used by those spreading it, but let’s not frame accountability efforts around the conspiracy theories of bad faith actors.

Putin is carrying out the same tactics he used in Aleppo and Grozny, war crimes, raze citeis to the ground, leave behind rubble and burning apartment blocks.

Putin has the same satellite imagery as the West, he can see the destruction wrought on Ukraine.

Syrians warned, do not identify your schools, hospitals, kindergartens, they will be deliberately targeted.

A month ago, early February, Ukraine was a free democratic European country. People led ordinary lives, went for a walk in a park, met friends in a coffee shop for a coffee.

Thursday 24 February 2022, war criminal Mafios thug Putin launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

Ukraine a free democratic European country, an affront to Putin, a beacon on the border to Russians as what their country would become once Putin deposed. Hence had to be destroyed.

A fascist rally, Putin’s Adolf Hitler tribute act, is what Putin wants Russians to see, beamed into their homes on every state TV channel. What he will not tolerate, independent media, brave protesters on the streets. 

End game: Overthrow Putin either with bullet through the head or on trial at The Hague. Detain his thugs and oligarchs, strip oligarchs of assets, release all political prisoners, hold free & fair elections. Those responsible for war crimes, issued orders, carried out, put on trial. 10km demilitarised strip established within Russian border. Sanctions on Russia should be tightened and remain in place until all these conditions met.

March of fools and future of Europe

March 26, 2017

#What are the leaders celebrating in Rome? These leaders are responsible for the disintegration of the EU. — Yanis Varoufakis

Europe is an idea, doesn’t know borders and we don’t accept borders in this continent. — Yanis Varoufakis

You can force the people into chains, but not very efficient. Or Manufacture Consent, they willingly forge their own shackles.

In London yesterday, we saw the march of the deluded, Green Party that has lost its way, LibDems who will jump on any passing bandwagon, an assorted rag tag, all united in their support of the EU.

The usual false claims made, prosperity, peace, democracy, betrayal of young people. They could not even differentiate between EU and Europe, the two are not the same.

War criminal Tony Blair spin doctor Alastair Campbell ‏claimed 16–17 year olds supported EU. Maybe he failed to tell them the number of children died in his illegal Iraq War, that it is young people in southern Europe who are bearing the brunt of EU austerity, in Athens young unemployed wander the streets looking lost, in Cyprus the young are a lost generation, no future thanks the the EU.

Yes, there was prosperity, that was across Europe, post WWII, whether in EU or not. UK saw creation of welfare state, expansion of universities, a growing economy, environmental legislation, before Edward Heath took UK into the EU.

Post-2008, post-capitalism, the EU has stagnated, if not gone backwards.

In Greece, the people dared challenge the EU, for that Greece had to be destroyed.
Peace in Europe, for that we have Nato to thank, not EU.

And are we forgetting the bloody break up of Yugoslavia, the criminal networks now based in the former Yugoslavia spreading their tentacles across Europe, the people traffickers?

Are we forgetting the civil war in Ukraine, the seizure of Crimea, the West almost brought to the brink of WWIII, a direct result of meddling by EU in Ukraine?

In Poland and Hungary, Fascist governments, crackdown on civil society.

In Turkey, a Fascist Islamist president, crackdown on civil society.

In Russia, gangster capitalism. Over the weekend, mass protest against corruption, brutal crackdown against any protest.

In Belarus, a brutal crackdown against the people by a Fascist regime. The street protests are against what has been called a ‘parasite tax’, if you are unemployed you are to be taxed for being a burden on society.

Across Europe, we are seeing a rise in Fascism, as a direct response to the EU.

In London over 20,000 a year die due to air pollution. The main cause, diesel fumes. The EU pushed diesel. Why? Because they were lobbied by VW. The same VW that fiddled its pollution tests. Small diesel cars are more polluting than lorries. Small diesel cars are 12–13 times more polluting than top of the range diesel cars.

In Rome, protest against the EU.

In Rome the EU meet to celebrate. It is businesses as usual.

In parallel in Rome, DiEM25 are meeting to offer an alternative, radical vision for Europe. Note Europe not EU.

Skip the first hour and a half and go straight to Yanis Varoufakis. The first hour is an empty venue filling up, next half hour waffle, though interesting points are made.

Many criticised Yanis Varoufakis for touring the UK with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to support UK remaining in the EU. Is he not one of its strongest critics, does he not bear the scars on his back?

Almost as an aside, Yanis Varoufakis explained why. It was not because he supports the EU, it was because he wanted the British on the inside to help with the fight against the EU. But, unlike those who took to the streets in London on Saturday, he recognises why people voted to Leave, it was not because they were racist (though some were), it was because they were saying enough is enough.

Anti-EU is not anti-Europe. Those who voted Leave, are saying the three million EU citizens living in UK should be granted the right to remain, they should not be treated as a bargaining chip.

But unlike those on the streets of London, Yanis Varoufakis recognises what could happen, 2008 could be our 1929, a rise of Fascism across Europe, which is why we need a progressive alternative to the EU, a progressive alternative for all of Europe.

It is for these reasons that DiEM25 are proposing change.

A Green New Deal, money to be pushed to the maintainers of society, to the innovators.

The maintainers are the nurses, the doctors, the teachers, the carers, the road sweeper, people who without society could not function.

The innovators are those who will take us to a greener, fairer society. They will create open source, open coop platforms, to enable participation, to put out of business Uber and Deliveroo.

Is it fair, as a speaker before Yanis Varoufakis asked, that the head of Fiat in Italy earns more in one day, than the lowest paid worker at Fiat would earn in 20 years?

We have to, as an earlier speaker said, redefine what we mean by work. That someone is not paid, does not mean they are not doing useful work.

This leads directly to the need for a Universal Dividend. Not as we have at present, forced to work to earn a living, precarious low paid soul destroying McShit jobs, serfs working for apps as we see with Uber and Deliveroo, bullshit jobs.

Leads also, as the speaker who followed Yanis Varoufakis, to DiEM Voice, art to drive a new agenda.

EU can try to punish UK in which case all will suffer, the German car worker, the French wine producer. Or we can all agree the existing trade arrangements remain in place.

We need democratic reform, power passed back to countries, that they recover their sovereignty, create a network of cooperating democratic sovereign countries, power passed down to cities and regions, as we see in Barcelona and Catalonia. Power passed down to ordinary citizens, participatory democracy, not the failed representative democracy. New political parties, as Podemos in Spain, or a reformed Labour Party as desired by the leadership and the new members, but blocked by the reactionary Labour Party Establishment.

EU is a cartel for Big Business, a democracy-free zone, a haven for tax dodgers and corporate lobbyists.

The EU experiment has failed. The EU is disintegrating.

What we have to ensure, is that it is replaced by something better, where all citizens are represented, where wealth is fairly distributed, where the environment is protected. We cannot for example deal with climate change at national level, or even European level, it has to be at global level, with countries cooperating.

If people across Europe, do not fight for this New Europe, you will be delivered into the hands of Nationalists and Fascists, delivered by the gullible fools we saw gather in London on Saturday, who should be fighting for change, not supporting the existing rotten system.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Fascist Islamist President of Turkey

November 27, 2015

The West turns a blind eye to the Fascist Islamist President of Turkey.

Slow erosion of women’s rights in Turkey.

Clampdown on the media, on journalists and freedom of expression.

Support for Isis. Arms, money, oil and people flow across the border with Syria to support Isis.

Meddling by Turkey has worsened the situation in Syria and Iraq.

Atrocities against the Kurds.

Shooting down of a Russian military plane, which will now incur economic sanctions against Turkey, and probably see the collapse of its tourist industry.

The recent bombings in Turkey were probably orchestrated by Erdoğan.

One of the reasons Greece is in debt, is due to a massive military budget to defend against the threat of Turkey. Turkey has regular, daily incursions into Greek airspace.

Turkey downs a Russian jet

November 25, 2015

Russian SU-24

Russian SU-24

Turkey supports Isis

Turkey supports Isis

Turkey supports Isis

Turkey supports Isis

Neither our pilots nor our jet threatened the territory of Turkey. — Vladimir Putin

We do not intend to go to war with Turkey. — Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister

If Greece had downed every turkish aircraft for THAT level of airspace violation, today Turkey would only fly kites. — Maria Topalidou

Yesterday the world awoke to the alarming news, Turkey had shot down a Russian military jet. An act of crass stupidity and naked aggression by Turkey.

There was no response from the Russian plane, no missiles fired,  no evasive action, which would appear to indicate the pilots assumed they were safe in Syrian territory.

The bombing of Syria by Russia, an act of crass stupidity and naked aggression. Large numbers of civilians killed, and not an iota difference made to ISIS.

Russia is bombing any opponent of Assad. Assad a brutal dictator who is quite happy to bomb his own people. It is the repression of Assad, marginalisation of Sunnis, that and drought, that has given rise to Isis in Syria.

It was obvious in September, Russia bombing Syria, possible excursions in Turkey, would increase tensions in the region.

The world moves closer to WWIII.

Vladimir Putin has promised strong action against Turkey, but has ruled out military action. It looks like, no Russian tourists to Turkey, which will cause the Turkish tourist economy to collapse.

Turkey, until a bomb attack in Turkey, was supporting Isis. They allow the flow of people, weapons, money and oil across the border. Action by Turkey is to attack the Kurds, the only effective force fighting ISIS.

But the Kurds are only interested in establishing and safeguarding Kurdistan, they are not interested in the rest of Syria.

What happened yesterday?

Turkey says they warned the pilots, that there was an excursion into their airspace. The surviving Russian pilot says there was no warning, and that they were not in Turkish airspace. Americans say Russian plane was in Turkish airspace for a matter of seconds.

The second pilot was shot by Syrian forces on the ground. This was a war crime.

A tiny sliver of Turkish land projects into Syria. This may explain the discrepancy, if it was crossed.

Russian bombers regularly probe UK airspace. They are intercepted and escorted away.  They are not shot down.

Russian submarines enter Swedish waters. Swedish warships drop depth charges.

Had Russia retaliated against Turkey, it would have been an attack on Nato.

Russia has ruled out a military response, instead it will use economic sanctions. A boycott by Russian tourists. Not that will be difficult, as they lack money. Turkish tourist industry will collapse.

There is little support in Nato for Turkey’s action. David Cameron has been stupid enough to offer his support.

If we are to defeat Isis, we need the support of Russia.

violations of Greek airspace by Turkey

violations of Greek airspace by Turkey

Turkey regularly enters Greek airspace. Turkish warships appear off the coast of Cyprus.

Turkey says it is not an aggressor. Support of Isis, atrocities against the Kurds, occupation of northern Cyprus, exposes that lie.

In 2012, Turkey accused Syria of shooting down one of their F-4 Phantoms. At that time,  then prime minister and now president Erdoğan jumped up and down and condemned the Syrian military for their rash action. Hmm.

“A short-term border violation can never be a pretext for an attack” were the words he chose at the time, words that will no doubt come back to haunt him.

Turkey is a country where abuse of human rights is the norm.

Library books

March 30, 2014

Russian library finds a use for its books

Russian library finds a use for its books

Russian library finds a use for its books.

Books prop up the architecture of a crumbling library in Samara.

How to Punish Putin

March 23, 2014

MOSCOW — AS I write this, I am under house arrest. I was detained at a rally in support of anti-Putin protesters who were jailed last month.

In September, I ran for mayor of Moscow as a pro-reform, pro-democracy opposition candidate and received almost a third of the vote despite having no access to state media. Today, my blog, which was until recently visited by over two million readers per month, has been blocked as “extremist” after I called for friendly ties with Ukraine and compliance with international law.

For years, I have been telling journalists that President Vladimir V. Putin’s approval rating would soon peak and then tumble. Russia’s economy is stagnant, I said, and the Russian people would soon weary of the president’s empty promises. Even a rally-round-the-flag military adventure — a “little war,” as it’s known in Russia — would be impossible, I believed. Russia no longer had enemies.

Then, on Feb. 28, Russia sent troops to Ukraine in precisely such a “little war.” I admit that I underestimated Mr. Putin’s talent for finding enemies, as well as his dedication to ruling as “president for life,” with powers on par with the czars’.

As a citizen and patriot, I cannot support actions against Russia that would worsen conditions for our people. Still, I recommend two options that, if successfully implemented, I believe would be welcomed by most Russians.

First, although Mr. Putin’s invasion has already prompted the European Union to impose sanctions on 21 officials, and the United States on seven, most of these government figures cannot be considered influential. They do not have major assets outside Russia and are irrelevant to Mr. Putin; sanctioning them will not change Russia’s policy. After all the tough talk from Western politicians, this action is mocked in Russia and even seen as a tacit encouragement to Mr. Putin and his entourage, who seem to possess some magical immunity.

Instead, Western nations could deliver a serious blow to the luxurious lifestyles enjoyed by the Kremlin’s cronies who shuttle between Russia and the West. This means freezing the oligarchs’ financial assets and seizing their property.

Such sanctions should primarily target Mr. Putin’s inner circle, the Kremlin mafia who pillage the nation’s wealth, including Gennady N. Timchenko, head of the Volga Group; Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, influential businessmen and former judo sparring partners of Mr. Putin; Yuri V. Kovalchuk, a financier believed to be Mr. Putin’s banker; Vladimir I. Yakunin, president of Russian Railways; the oligarchs Roman A. Abramovich and Alisher B. Usmanov; and Igor I. Sechin and Aleksei B. Miller, the heads of Rosneft and Gazprom, respectively.

The sanctions must also hit the oligarchs whose media outlets parrot the regime lines, and target Mr. Putin’s entire “war cabinet”: the TV spin doctors, compliant Duma members and apparatchiks of Mr. Putin’s United Russia Party.

The invasion of Ukraine has polarized members of Russia’s elite, many of whom view it as reckless. Real sanctions, such as blocking access to their plush London apartments, will show that Mr. Putin’s folly comes with serious costs.

Second, Western authorities must investigate ill-gotten gains from Russia within their jurisdictions. The Anti-Corruption Foundation, which I established in 2011, has revealed dozens of major cases of graft. In 90 percent of those cases, Russian money was laundered in the West. Sadly, American, European Union and British law enforcement agencies have stymied our efforts to investigate such criminal plunder.

“Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people,” Mr. Putin claimed this week. But even among the most nationalist and pro-Soviet of our people, a longing to restore Crimea to Russian rule faded years ago.

Yet Mr. Putin has cynically raised nationalist fervor to a fever pitch; imperialist annexation is a strategic choice to bolster his regime’s survival. Mobilizing the masses by distracting them from real problems like corruption and economic stagnation can take place only beneath the banner of fighting external enemies.

What is truly alarming in Mr. Putin’s rash behavior is that he is motivated by the desire for revenge against the Ukrainian people for revolting against a Kremlin-friendly government. A rational actor would know that the precedent of holding a local referendum to determine sovereignty is risky for Russia — a federation of more than 80 disparate regions, including more than 160 ethnic groups and at least 100 languages.

It is true that the consensus in both Russia and Crimea is that the peninsula has historically been closer to Moscow than to Kiev. But the notion that this reunification should be achieved at the end of the barrel of a gun is supported only by Mr. Putin’s hard-core base. The opposition has spoken clearly. The antiwar protest held in Moscow over the weekend was the largest in two years, and it exceeded any counterdemonstration mustered by pro-Kremlin movements.

There is a common delusion among the international community that although Mr. Putin is corrupt, his leadership is necessary because his regime subdues the dark, nationalist forces that otherwise would seize power in Russia. The West should admit that it, too, has underestimated Mr. Putin’s malign intent. It is time to end the dangerous delusion that enables him.

— Alexey A Navalny

Alexey A Navalny is a Russian lawyer, anti-corruption activist and opposition politician. He is currently under house arrest, his popular blog shut down.

Originally published by the New York Times.

Back to the (Soviet) Future

December 14, 2012

Russia clampdown on dissent

Russia clampdown on dissent

“So, let them put me in jail. I’m not afraid at all. I won’t last more than a few days, and frankly at my age I’m likely to die before they manage to throw me behind the bars,” 85-year-old Ludmilla Alexeeva told me nonchalantly in November. Widely referred to as the grandma of the Russian human rights movement, she leads the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), the oldest active civil society organization in Russia, founded along with several other Soviet dissenters back in the 1970s.

“I lived in a real totalitarian state and that was scary,” she said. “But now the country is different, people are different — you just cannot compare. Back in 1976, MHG was the only independent group in the USSR. Now things just aren’t the same.”

Things sure aren’t the same, but Alexeeva seems be faced with the very same dilemma she confronted all those decades ago: stop your work or pay a high price. During the Soviet period, she was fortunate enough to be offered exile as an alternative to imprisonment (she lived in the United States for almost 20 years before returning to Moscow after the fall of the USSR). Now she counts herself lucky because her old age won’t allow for prolonged imprisonment.

While today’s Russia cannot be compared to the Soviet Union, it is certainly moving in that direction. In fact, during the first seven months of Vladimir Putin’s new presidency, the echo of the old times has become alarmingly strong. So strong, in fact, that the most prominent human rights defender in the country is seriously contemplating the prospect of soon landing in jail. This is especially poignant since just a year ago, when mass public protests erupted in Moscow following the December parliamentary vote, Alexeeva and other human rights defenders were rejoicing about the awakening of Russian society and hoping for positive change.

Such hopes were apparently premature. In 20 years of on-the-ground human rights monitoring in post-Soviet Russia, Human Rights Watch has not seen a political crackdown as sweeping as the one we are witnessing today. The crackdown was foreshadowed in the lead-up to Putin’s May 7 presidential inauguration, when authorities in some cities repeatedly used beatings, threats from state officials, arbitrary lawsuits and detention, and other forms of harassment to intimidate political and civic activists and interfere with news outlets that are critical of the government. State-controlled media, including pro-government websites, did their best to discredit the Kremlin’s critics by subjecting them to venomous and often depraved smear campaigns.

The Kremlin tightened the screws as soon as Putin returned to power, possibly in response to the humiliation and threat posed by the growing protest movement. The government, it seems aspires to go back to the end of 2007, when Putin was finishing his second presidential term and the Kremlin utterly dominated public and political life.

Parliament has proven to be a particularly useful tool in Putin’s campaign to reinstate strong authoritarian rule. Since May, it has rammed through a raft of laws that set out broad new restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and assembly, and provide powerful mechanisms for putting pressure on civil society activists. One such piece of legislation, commonly referred to as the “foreign agents law,” requires non-governmental advocacy organizations that accept foreign funding to register with the Justice Ministry and identify themselves publicly as “foreign agents,” which of course demonizes them in the public eye as foreign spies. Groups are expected to register voluntarily and can have their work suspended or be taken to court if they don’t. If an NGO refuses to register, the head of the organization may face criminal sanctions and go to prison for up to two years. Meanwhile, if the institution registers as a “foreign agent,” the organization must deliver biannual reports on its activities and carry out an annual financial audit. It must also publicize details about the “agent” receiving the funds and the “principal” who’s providing them in a manner that sends a clear message: If you accept foreign funds, your donors are your master.

It’s not for fear of more cumbersome bureaucracy that leading human rights groups are refusing to embrace these requirements. It’s a matter of principle. As they work in the interests of Russian citizens and represent Russian civil society, they simply cannot register as something they clearly are not. Groups that work on controversial issues and do not receive adequate domestic funding are now forced to make an intolerable choice: face criminal sanctions, debase themselves as “foreign agents,” or severely reduce their work. Since the law came into force on Nov. 21, most prominent human rights defenders in the country — including Ludmilla Alexeeva and MHG — have asserted that their groups will not brand themselves “foreign agents,” no matter the consequences. It’s this stand that has Alexeeva anticipating criminal prosecution and the possibility of ending her days behind bars. So far, these actions have not provoked an official response.

The foreign agents law also appears designed to make human rights defenders reconsider a standard aspect of human rights work anywhere: seeking improvements through advocacy. That’s especially true if the foreign agents law is coupled with another dramatic legal novelty — the new law on treason, which conveniently came into force one week before the NGO legislation.

The country’s newly expanded definition of treason now includes “providing financial, technical, advisory or other assistance to a foreign state or international organization … directed at harming Russia’s security.” The overly broad and vague definition seems deliberately designed to make activists think twice before doing international human rights advocacy — and to make lay people think twice before approaching international human rights organizations. In Russia’s current political climate, there is little doubt that the authorities’ threshold for interpreting what “harming Russia’s security” means will be quite low. Those charged with treason face a prison sentence of 12 to 20 years.

When it introduced the treason law as a draft, the Federal Security Service (FSB, the KGB’s successor) issued an explanatory memorandum that justified the amendments by referring to the “active use by foreign secret services” of foreign organizations — governmental and non-governmental — to harm Russia’s security. The FSB contends that “claims about a possible twist of spy mania in connection with the law’s passage are ungrounded and based exclusively on emotions.” At the same time, law enforcement and security services will clearly be able to use the law to justify close surveillance of activists and non-governmental groups in the name of an inquiry, or to open a criminal case for alleged treason as a way of paralyzing a critic or political adversary.

In writing about the treason law and its destructive potential, I cannot help but think that the briefings on the status of Russian human rights defenders that I gave Council of Europe officials in Strasbourg, France in mid-October can now be viewed by Russian authorities as criminally liable. Likewise, the submission to the U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women I co-authored in early November or my testimony before the U.S. Congress during the Tom Lantos Commission’s “Human Rights in Russia” hearings on Nov. 15 could trigger criminal persecution if someone at the Kremlin were to conclude that the public exposure of the problems I described was “directed at harming Russia’s security.”

More to the point, my very job description could put me behind bars. As a researcher with Human Rights Watch, my mission is precisely to provide “assistance to an “international organization” — and the issues I focus on could be deemed sensitive from the perspective of national security since they pertain, for example, to abuses by law enforcement and security agencies during counterinsurgency operations in the North Caucasus. What was it again? Twelve to 20 years in prison? A very appealing prospect indeed. And unlike Alexeeva, I don’t have the benefit of old age to help come to terms with that possibility.

True, it’s not yet clear how, or whether, the treason law will be enforced. But that may be beside the point. Belarus, after all, adopted a very similar treason law last year and has to use it against anyone. But the legislation hangs like a sword of Damocles over human rights activists whom the government continues to hound using other tools.

In Russia, the effects of the new political atmosphere are clear and highly damaging. Several weeks before the treason law officially took effect, for instance, the European Union organized an academic conference in Brussels. Human Rights Watch has learned that a prominent social scientist from one of Russia’s regions planned to present a paper there, only to receive a phone call a few days before departure from the rector at his university, who candidly explained that the social scientist should not be traveling to the event if she valued her job or wanted to travel abroad again. Soon, the professor learned that a colleague from another university also decided to skip the conference under similar circumstances. In both cases, the rectors referred to “high-profile warnings” from Moscow and a “tense political climate.”

The foreign agents law is also having a tangible impact on the country — one I experienced firsthand back in August during a research trip to a remote Russian province, where I interviewed medical professionals about a health-care access issue that even the most vigilant official would have a hard time branding “politicized.” Just two days into the trip, local officials confronted me with questions: “Who invited you here?” “Who pays your travel costs?” “Where are your headquarters?” “Who funds your organization?” “Who is the local person arranging your meetings for you?” “Where is your authorization [for the visit] from the federal authorities?” “Where is the proof that you work in Russia legitimately?” They also contacted local health-care workers and cautioned them to stay away from Human Rights Watch and to exercise special caution vis-à-vis “foreign” actors.

Baffled by the experience, I returned to Moscow, only to discover a fascinating internal document from another province circulating on social networks. The letter was dated Aug. 9, 2012, printed on the letterhead of the administration chief for the Mari El Republic in Russia’s Volga region, and addressed to heads of local government agencies and services. It cited growing concern about the “activization of foreign and domestic non-profit organizations,” and called on the officials to make sure that their staff at all levels “minimize participation in programs and socio-political events funded by foreign and Russian non-profit groups.” The message, in other words, was to stop cooperating with these groups altogether.

Later, when the foreign agents law came into force on Nov. 21, activists from the human rights groups Memorial and Russia’s Movement for Human Rights came to work to discover that “Foreign agents! Love USA!” had been spray-painted on the walls of their office buildings. Stickers with the inscription “Foreign agent” were also found on the walls of the building housing the Moscow Helsinki Group.

I learned about the Moscow Helsinki Group and the history of Soviet dissenters in the mid-1990s, when I came to work for the Andrei Sakharov Archives as a graduate student at a university in Boston. Several years later, just before Putin came to power, that line on my CV landed me a job at the revived Moscow Helsinki Group led by Alexeeva. Working alongside some of the people — truly heroic figures — whose dossiers I used to handle in the archives was a heady feeling indeed.

But if someone had asked me back then, in late 1998, whether I thought that one day I could be faced with a choice similar to those Soviet dissidents, I would have laughed. “No way, that’s in the past,” I would have responded. “The Soviet Union is no more, and no matter how challenging human rights work in Russia is, it cannot put you in jail.”

I only wish I could say that now, just seven months into Putin’s third term in office.

— Tanya Lokshina

Originally published in Foreign Policy.

Tanya Lokshina is senior researcher and deputy Moscow office director at Human Rights Watch

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