Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Interview: Helsinki Group Head Says USAID Ban Means Return To 'Soviet' Way

Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alekseyeva attends a rally in front of a Moscow court in December 2010.
Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alekseyeva attends a rally in front of a Moscow court in December 2010.
MOSCOW -- The Kremlin has ordered the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to cease its operations in Russia.

The move will be a serious blow to the many nongovernment organizations and rights groups that relied on USAID for a significant part of their funding.

RFE/RL correspondent Tom Balmforth spoke to human rights veteran Lyudmila Alekseyeva about the likely impact of the cessation of USAID's financing on the Moscow Helsinki Group she heads and Russia's human rights sphere as a whole.

RFE/RL: How important has USAID funding been to your organization?

Lyudmila Alekseyeva:
It's not [just] about our organization. It's about the human rights sphere in [Russia]. I think it really helped.

In 1997, USAID issued a large grant for us to monitor the human rights situation in Russia. Of course, the Moscow Helsinki Group could not conduct work of this scale on its own and it worked together with human rights organizations from 80 different regions. Each of these collected material and compiled reports on the situation. We then did reports on the basis of this material.

We of course taught them how to work. This three-year grant helped lay the ground for monitoring work in our country.

RFE/RL: What impact will the cessation of USAID funding have in general in Russia?

Of course it will have very sad consequences. It will reduce the effectiveness of human rights organizations. But I think that the cessation of the work of USAID is entirely logical after the law on NGOs came into force requiring social organizations financed from abroad to register themselves as foreign agents.

If we decline to do this and if organizations like us decline to do this, then [the authorities] will still stop our activates and won't allow us to make use of their bank accounts. If we agree to register [as foreign agents], we also won't be able to [to work effectively] because a certain section of the population will stop trusting us because the authorities have created a psychological understanding that everything from abroad is hostile and aimed at Russia's demise.

Even worse, the Kremlin will probably issue an order to bureaucrats telling them not to cooperate with organizations that have registered themselves as foreign agents.

RFE/RL: In what ways will the Moscow Helsinki Group suffer specifically from the cessation of USAID funding?

We will remain without funding because we don't receive Russian financing. The state won't finance us because we defend citizens whose rights are violated by Russian bureaucrats. Our state won't fund that kind of organization. Business here won't finance us either because every businessman understands that if he finances an organization that is not useful to the authorities, then he puts his own business under threat.

We don't have any other sources of financing apart from abroad. It will seriously reduce the efficiency of our work. We won't be able to continue, for instance, our educational projects that we've had for many years.

RFE/RL: So how will you get around this problem in practice?

The Moscow Helsinki Group was founded in 1976 during the Soviet period, when of course there was no financing whatsoever either from abroad or from Russia. It received its first grant only in 1993, when it was already an internationally renowned organization.

We will lose the efficiency of our work. We will return to the way we worked in the Soviet Union. Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, human rights workers find themselves once again in the same position.

[We'll get around it by] volunteering. Back [in Soviet times], we distributed our documents on human rights violations through samizdat. Now it is much easier than it was back then.

Information will come to us -- we can find out things through the Internet and people approach us directly via telephone or online. We will put out material on citizens' human rights violations.

RFE/RL: Why do you think the Russian authorities have made this move now?

Because now a serious attack is being carried out on all the rights of citizens -- on their voting rights as well as their right to expression and on the right to unite. All of these rights are guaranteed by our constitution, but the authorities have already long forgotten about its existence.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
September 21, 2012 02:31
certainly russia isn't first country that expelled USAID from its soil

many other countries do
and many of these are South Americans
exactly the same reason that is doing russia

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 21, 2012 05:58
God, how old is this lady - 200 years, probably. And the best of all is that the RFE/RL does not find it too rediculous to present this kind of dinasaurs as those who will "Russia into a bright future" :-)).
In Response

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
September 21, 2012 09:03
Did not expect from you Eugenio such disrespect for old age..
You want to show everyone that you are an objective, intelligent person and make fun of old age??

By the way despite her age Alekseeva in her right mind..

Organization,as it should be in Russia, closed on the personal order of Putin,this means that he's afraid of some members of the opposition and fighting against them... denying them the financial support....
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 21, 2012 20:11
Hey, Vakhtang, look, once people rich certain age it's the best thing for them to just retire - this applies even to Popes these days, and thanks God! This lady pictured above has by all standards reached this age limit, so why not just sit quietly at home, eat soup and watch TV?
But the very fact that the RFE/RL is taking this granny to the forefront of some kind of imaginary struggle indicates just one thing: these guys are unable to find anyone else who would make the point the 'RFE/RL would want them to make. And this shows once again that they are in a state of deep crisis.
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
September 21, 2012 23:20
Additionally Vakhtang, she appears to have reached an age where she is not willing to compromise her integrity by not speaking out.
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
September 21, 2012 23:46
I am not convinced that the first comment was made by Eugenio, Vakhtang, as it would be out of character. There is a troll on this website who likes to use other peoples' names and tries to copy their grammar and style. He is easy to spot because he is unable to offer any interesting perspectives, just offensive or immature comments. He also has difficulty spelling English words properly - take a closer look at the spelling in the first comment. Eugenio is fluent in 4 languages, including English. The second comment does not appear to have been made by the same "entity", if you follow, and I am unsure of its source.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
September 22, 2012 17:33
Eugenio has frequently made errors in English, and is hardly fluent as far as the written language is concerned.

In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 21, 2012 12:44
That wasn't me. My boyfriend was using my computer while I was asleep.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 21, 2012 20:34
:-))))))) Hahaha, Konstantin, very funny :-))))))))
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
September 22, 2012 08:54
Shame on you,Eugene.we all know very well who or rather what you are!!!How can you treat the poor woman this way???She is Vah-ta-vakh-tangs` granny who used to sell socks at the Lubyanka metro station.Unfortunately .one day Vakhtang from Mosscow,stole and ate all her stock,which turned the old lady to human rights activities.Congratulations to your boyfriend ,and dont forget to sleep with one eye open,as cats do,`cause today one cannot trust even his boyfriends.Prosit!!!

by: Pete
September 22, 2012 06:26
Helsinki Group is just another Imperialist front doing the "Human Rights" baloney.

It's not working either the "leftwing" imperial propaganda or the "rightwing" one...everyone is starting to realize what is really going on and how our Western "democracy" really works and billions and billions of Putin greatly respect Putin and his government.

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
September 22, 2012 11:39
I want to ask Mr Whitmore.to explain where is this Kurdistan- birthplace of camel and why this camal always says about socks..If they there have a shortage of socks and his hoofs very freezing..
We can ask Alekseevа that she had raised the issue at the UN, to send him socks for hooves, so he warmed up and was finally able to turn the brain on...but as seen gray matter here is completely absent...

by: Cold War vet
September 22, 2012 12:38
Of course Alekseyeva knows the truth. She is Putin's puppet since the age of the USSR. Ask Alekseyeva why is she still alive after all these years of "harsh" treatment and "critique" of the Soviet system?

Most Popular

Editor's Picks