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Activists in Moscow on 1 February (Courtesy Photo) 2 February 2006 -- Russian police detained some 15 human rights activists for staging an unsanctioned protest rally in Moscow on 1 February.

Some 60 activists from nongovernmental organizations gathered near the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB) to protest recent FSB allegations that Russian NGOs had received funds from alleged British spies.

Activists say the allegations are part of a government campaign to discredit NGOs and gain public support for a controversial new law restricting their activities.

Several leading Russian human rights campaigners, including Lev Ponomaryov, the head of the For Human Rights group, and Oleg Orlov of the Memorial Human Rights Center were among those detained on 1 February.

Protesters had been denied permission by Moscow authorities to hold the rally, but went ahead with their plans.

(Interfax, lenta.ru, moscownews.com)

Lyudmila Alekseyeva

Lyudmila Alekseyeva (TASS)

THE END OF THE 'GOLDEN AGE' Moscow Helsinki Group founder and Chairwoman LYUDMILA ALEKSEYEVA spoke at an RFE/RL briefing in Washington, D.C., on October 26, discussing the difficulties facing Russian nongovernmental organizations. Tanya Lokshina, chairwoman of the DEMOS Center for Information and Research, also participated in the briefing.
According to Alekseyeva, who is a regular contributor to RFE/RL's Russian Service, the time in office of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin is considered a "golden age" for Russian NGOs -- even though this is "not [because] Yeltsin was a strong democrat," but rather because "society was left to its own devices and we managed to build civil society" while the "power elites" struggled among themselves and ignored the lower strata. Alekseyeva said Russia has emerged from its economic crises under President Vladimir Putin, but there is "no division of power in Russia under the model of executive vertical controls," where regional governors, a "puppet parliament," and a judiciary "stripped" of independence are under the Kremlin's control. Nonetheless, according to Alekseyeva, Russia is "not returning to Soviet times," because "today the attacks are selective" and "there is now a civil society" to resist the pressure.
Alekseyeva expressed concern that "Western democratic states don't react to attacks on human rights." She said that "in Soviet times, we few dissidents felt enormous Western support." She called that support "our shield," which she said is now missing. The supporters of civil society feel "now abandoned by Western allies," Alekseyeva said.


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