Saturday, October 25, 2014


The Power Vertical

'Take This Law And Shove It!'

Riot police detain human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov during an unsanctioned protest in Moscow on May 7.
Riot police detain human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov during an unsanctioned protest in Moscow on May 7.
Lev Ponomaryov has decided to just say no -- and he's not alone.
 
The head of the advocacy group For Human Rights announced this weekend that it would refuse to comply with a new law signed by President Vladimir Putin requiring NGOs receiving funds from abroad to register as "foreign agents" and subject themselves to extensive state scrutiny.
 
"We are declaring a campaign of civil disobedience to laws that have been passed in violation of the Russian Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights, and other conventions that Russia has signed," Ponomaryov told Interfax.
 
"We will never be [foreign] agents and will not obey this law. We are agents of Russian citizens. We will continue to receive foreign grants and will speak about this openly."
 
And Ponomaryov indicated that he has no illusions about what such defiance might mean.
 
"The government will take measures against us, and we will oppose this by using legal methods, like going to courts, including the Constitutional Court. Then the government will somehow close us down, but this will be the government's decision," he said.
 
Speaking to "Nezavisimaya gazeta," Ponomaryov said he was undeterred by the stiff fines and potential prison time that noncompliance could mean.
 
"We are continuing in the tradition of the Soviet dissident movement, whose members were not afraid of much harsher punishments," he said.
 
And the civil disobedience campaign appears to be gaining momentum.
 
Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the group Civil Assistance, also said it would defy the law.

"We will take to court each attempt to force us to voluntarily go to the guillotine, and we hope to win. If we lose at our courts, we will appeal to the Constitutional Court, and then we will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights," she told Interfax.

Arseny Roginsky, a former prisoner in the Soviet gulag and the founder of Russia's largest human rights group, Memorial, says it will decide at a meeting in the autumn whether or not to comply with the law, which goes into effect in November. "But Memorial consists of many structures, and each has the right to make its own decision," he said.
 
Speaking to the RIA-Novosti news agency, Memorial Chairman Oleg Orlov suggested that he was leaning toward civil disobedience.

"It's humiliating and it would be foolish to go and register yourself as a foreign agent,"  Orlov said, adding that Memorial will "take all possible legal steps against discriminatory practices" established by the new law.
 
Thus far, Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alekseyeva is the biggest name to resist the civil disobedience tactic. She told Interfax that she would stop taking foreign funding, seek Russian financing, cut back on programs, and auction off some of her belongings -- including her collection of Gzhel ceramics -- to keep the group afloat.

Ponomaryov said he still hoped to persuade Alekseyeva to continue taking foreign funding.

The civil disobedience campaign comes at a time when the opposition has been openly mocking and ridiculing the authorities' attempts to crack down on them.
 
It is still unclear how far the rights groups will take this campaign of disobedience. And it won't be clear how much the Kremlin will crack down on them until the law actually comes into effect in November.
 
But if they stick to their guns until then, they will add to what is already shaping up to be a very difficult autumn for Putin and his ruling circle.
 
The Kremlin already has to deal with what looks to be tough and complicated regional elections in October. The authorities have long planned, after the summer recess, to enact painful reforms of Russia's creaking social-welfare bureaucracy, which are bound to be unpopular.

Moreover, economic uncertainty remains high amid fears of contagion from the eurozone and volatile energy prices.
 
If you throw in the prospect of an open civil disobedience campaign, it may not add up to a perfect storm -- but it is certainly a recipe for a very hot autumn.
 
-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: Lev Ponomaryov,Svetlana Gannushkina,Arseny Roginsky,Oleg Orlov

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Twatmore from: Morescow
July 24, 2012 11:57
Why don't they try not taking foreign grants first? That way they won't have to register.
In Response

by: Duh
July 24, 2012 17:11
Because then they can't operate?
In Response

by: Jack from: US
July 25, 2012 12:58
also because Russians will not give these clowns money. They can only live off CIA budget
In Response

by: roger from: nyc
July 27, 2012 01:27
What's your name, Jack?

by: Mark from: Victoria
July 28, 2012 04:10
Let me preview for you what the European Court of Human Rights is going to say when they get around to reviewing Ponomarev's complaint.

ECHR: "Ummm....Mr. Ponomarev...isn't this law almost exactly the same as the USA's Foreign Agents Registration Act?"

LP: "Why, yes; yes, it is. And what of it?"

ECHR: "Well, surely you see it's....ummmm....kind of hard for this court to condemn the Russian law without also....you know....condemning the American law also as unfair and discriminatory?"

LP: "I'm afraid I don't see the problem. Everything the American government does is good for democracy and freedom. Everything the Russian government does is bad for that stuff. Can't you just write that?"

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17:49 October 24, 2014

EVENING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

PUTIN ACCUSES UNITED STATES OF 'UNILATERAL DIKTAT'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of escalating conflicts around the world by imposing what he called a "unilateral diktat."

Putin made the remarks in a combative speech to political experts at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin said the United States has been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

He said risks of serious conflicts involving major countries have risen, as well as risks of arms treaties being violated.

He also dismissed international sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "mistake," saying they aimed at pushing Russia into isolation and would end up "hurting everyone."

We did not start this," he added, referring to rising tensions between Russia and the West.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, TASS)

MERKEL URGES PUTIN TO SOLVE UKRAINIAN GAS DISPUTE

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call to push for a quick resolution of the ongoing gas dispute with Ukraine as winter looms.

The call by Merkel to Putin on October 24 comes as representatives of the EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet again next week in EU brokered talks aimed at solving the gas dispute between Kyiv and Moscow.

Merkel also underlined that upcoming elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists must respect Ukrainian national law.

Pro-Russian insurgent leaders are boycotting a parliamentary snap poll on October 26 in Ukraine and are holding their own election in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, home to nearly three million people, on the same day instead.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)

UNHCR SAYS MORE THAN 800,000 DISPLACED IN UKRAINE CONFLICT

By RFE/RL

The United Nations says the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes.

Around 95 percent of displaced people come from eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told a briefing in Geneva that an estimated 430,000 people were currently displaced within Ukraine -- 170,000 more than at the start of September.

It said at least 387,000 other people have asked for refugee status, temporary asylum, or other forms of residency permits in Russia.

Another 6,600 have applied for asylum in the European Union and 581 in Belarus.

The agency said it was "racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people" as winter approaches.

It also said the number of displaced people is expected to rise further due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine.

THREE ALLEGED MILITANTS KILLED IN NORTH CAUCASUS

Three alleged militants have been killed by security forces in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee says that two suspects were killed in the village of Charoda in Daghestan on October 24 after they refused to leave an apartment and opened fire at police and security troops.

One police officer was wounded.

Also on October 24, police in another North Caucasus region, Kabardino-Balkaria, killed a suspected militant after he refused to identify himself, threw a grenade towards police, and opened fire with a pistol.

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

Violence is common in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes the restive republics of Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

Islamic militants and criminal groups routinely target Russian military personnel and local officials.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)

MOSCOW LAWYER IN HIGH PROFILE ORGANIZED CRIME CASE KILLED

A lawyer, who represented an alleged victim of the notorious Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, has been assassinated.

Police in the Russian capital say that Vitaly Moiseyev and his wife were found dead with gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow on October 24.

Moiseyev was representing Sergei Zhurba, an alleged victim of the Orekhovo gang and a key witness in a case against one of the gang's leaders Dmitry Belkin.

Belkin was sentenced to life in prison on October 23 for multiple murders and extortion.

Last month, another of Zhurba's lawyers, Tatyana Akimtseva (eds: a woman), was shot dead by unknown individuals.

The Orekhovo group was one of the most powerful crime gangs of the Moscow region and in Russia in the 1990s. Its members are believed to be responsible for dozens of murders.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)

17:27 October 24, 2014

LITTLE GREES VOTERS, ANYONE?

17:26 October 24, 2014

SPY VS. SPY

17:00 October 24, 2014
08:29 October 24, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

UKRAINIAN PM WARNS OF RUSSIAN DESTABILIZATION OF ELECTIONS

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is warning that Russia could attempt to disrupt Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26.

Yatsenyuk told a meeting of top security officials and election monitors on October 23 that "It is absolutely clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and will be provoked by Russia."

Yatsenyuk said "we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge -- to hold parliamentary elections."

The prime minister said Ukraine needs the "full mobilization of the entire law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and attempts at terrorist acts during the elections."

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said authorities have ordered some 82,000 policemen on duty for election day.

He said 4,000 members of a special reaction force would be among those maintaining order during polling hours and would be concentrated in "those precincts where there is a risk of some terrorist acts or aggressive actions by some...candidates."

The warning by Yatsenyuk comes on the heels of three violent attacks on parliamentary candidates in the past week.

The latest, against Volodymyr Borysenko, a member of Yatsenyuk's People's Front Party, occurred on October 20 when Borysenko was shot at and had an explosive thrown at him.

He allegedly survived the attack only because he was wearing body armor due to numerous death threats he had recently received.

Elections to the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, will be held despite continued fighting in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Voting will not take place in 14 districts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of the separatists.

Those separatist-held areas -- in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- are planning on holding their own elections in November.

Additionally, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament.

Polls show President Petro Poroshenko's party leading with some 30 percent of respondents saying they would cast their vote for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

It that percentage holds on election day it would mean Poroshenko's bloc would have to form a coalition government, likely with nationalist groups who oppose conducting peace talks over fighting in the east.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)

RUSSIA DENIES ESTONIAN AIRSPACE VIOLATIONS

By RFE/RL

Moscow has denied claims of an incursion by a Russian military plane into Estonia's airspace.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax news agency on October 23 that the Ilyushin-20 took off from Khrabrovo airfield in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on October 21.

The spokesman said the reconnaissance plane flew "over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea" while on a training flight.

On October 22, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, Yury Merzlakov, after the Estonian military said the Russian plane had entered its air space.

In a statement, NATO said the Ilyushin-20 was first intercepted by Danish jets when it approached Denmark, before flying toward non-NATO member Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the alliance said the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for “less than one minute” and was escorted out by Portuguese jets.

NATO has stepped up its Baltic air patrols and Moscow has been accused of several recent border violations in the region amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its police officers on the border.

Russia claims Eston Kohver was seized inside Russia on September 5, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border and taken to Russia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official, who is facing espionage charges in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Navy has been searching for a suspected submarine sighted six days ago some 50 kilometers from the capital, Stockholm, although it said on October 22 it was pulling back some of its ships.

Swedish officials have not linked any particular country to the suspected intrusion and Moscow has denied involvement.

(With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and the BBC)

RUSSIAN COURT POSTPONES RULING ON OIL FIRM BASHNEFT

A Moscow court postponed to next week a ruling on a move to take control of Bashneft, an oil company from tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The judge said on October 23 that the next hearing will take place on October 30 after the prosecution requested more time to prepare its case.

Prosecutors filed the suit in September to regain state ownership of Bashneft, citing alleged violations in the privatization and subsequent sale of the company to AFK Sistema investment group.

Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder of the conglomerate, is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition in 2009.

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

He is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014

THERE IS NO RUSSIA WITHOUT PUTIN?

According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia," deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi that Western politicians "do not understand the essence of Russia."

"Volodin stated the key thesis about the current state of our country: As long as there is Putin there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia," Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, told "Izvestia."

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or