Thursday, November 27, 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
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 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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15:34 November 26, 2014


So by now, we've all seen how passengers in Krasnoyarsk had to get out and push their flight out of the snow...

...and we've all seen the snarky Twitter memes this has inspired...

...but have you heard about onboard drunken onboard brawl that grounded a flight in Novosibirsk?

12:41 November 26, 2014


12:33 November 26, 2014


Via The Moscow Times:

A lawmaker on the State Duma's Defense Committee has proposed banning the import of French wines in response to Paris' decision to suspend delivery of the first of two helicopter carriers to Russia.

"Let's ban the sale of French wine in Russia," Deputy Vladimir Bessonov told Russian News Service radio on Tuesday. "Even talking about this can bring about desired results," he said, without specifying what these would be.

France, under pressure from its Western allies to cancel a 1.2 billion euro contract ($1.58 billion) with Russia for Mistral-class warships, said earlier Tuesday that it was suspending delivery of the first of two carriers because of Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine.


12:21 November 26, 2014
12:20 November 26, 2014


12:18 November 26, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


By RFE/RL's Russian Service

The editor-in-chief of an independent Russian news website says he will seek political asylum in the United States.

Oleg Potapenko told RFE/RL on November 26 that he has arrived in the United States despite efforts by Russian authorities to prevent him from leaving the country.

Potapenko is editor of, a news site in the Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk that has reported about the presence of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

On November 12, the openly gay Potapenko and his partner were prevented from boarding a flight from Khabarovsk to Hong Kong after border guards said a page was missing from Potapenko's passport.

Potapenko says the page was cut out by a police officer who requested his passport for a check earlier that day.

He told RFE/RL that he had managed to leave Russia from another city, Vladivostok, on November 16.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russia's actions in Ukraine are a violation of international law and a threat to peace in Europe.

Speaking bluntly in an address to Germany's parliament on November 26, Merkel said, "Nothing justifies the direct or indirect participation of Russia in the fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk."

She told the Bundestag that Russia's actions have "called the peaceful order in Europe into question and are a violation of international law."

But she suggested there was no swift solution, saying, "Our efforts to overcome this crisis will require patience and staying power."

Germany has become increasingly frustrated over Moscow's refusal to heed Western calls to stop supporting pro-Russian separatists who have seized control of large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces in eastern Ukraine.

Close ties between Russia and Germany have been strained by the Ukraine crisis.

(Based on reporting by Reuters)


Ukraine has leveled fresh charges that Russia is sending military support to pro-Russian separatists in the east.

A foreign ministry spokesman said five columns of heavy equipment were spotted crossing into Ukrainian territory on November 24.

Evhen Perebyinis told journalists on November 25 that a total of 85 vehicles had been detected in the five columns that entered at the Izvaryne border crossing point from Russia.

"The Russian side is continuing to provide the terrorist organizations of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics with heavy armaments," said Perebynisis.

Separately, the Ukrainian military said one soldier had been killed and five others wounded in the past 24 hours as a shaky cease-fire declared on September 5 continued to come under pressure.

The six-month conflict in the east of Ukraine has left more than 4,300 people dead, according to the United Nations.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



Russia has rejected accusations that it is planning to annex Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told RFE/RL’s Current Time program on November 25: “There can be no question about any annexations.”

Georgia and the West have criticized a "strategic partnership" agreement between Russia and Abkhazia signed on November 24.

Tbilisi condemned the pact as an attempt by Moscow to annex the region.

Karasin also said Russia will “continue sparing no effort, nerves, financial expenses” to make sure its neighbors “do not feel endangered.”

"As a large state and a powerful country, Russia is constantly responsible for stability on its borders and everything that is under way along its borders," he added.

Under the "strategic partnership," Russian and Abkhaz forces in the territory will turn into a joint force led by a Russian commander.


19:16 November 21, 2014


On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

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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