Week-ending 19 March 2021
In May 2015 Russia adopted a law on ‘undesirable organisations’ allowing the government to ban the activities of foreign or international nongovernmental groups deemed to undermine ‘state security,’ ‘national defence,’ or the ‘constitutional order.’ This week, on 13 March 2021, Moscow police raided the first federal forum of municipal deputies, arresting nearly 200 people and charging them with the administrative offence of taking part in the activities of an ‘undesirable organization.’
RFE/RL, 13 March 2021: Russian police have stormed a gathering of independent local deputies in the capital and detained at least 178 attendees, including lawyers, activists, and journalists, reportedly accusing them of taking part in an event organized by an “undesirable” group. A correspondent for RFE/RL’s Russian Service said officers arrived at the “Municipal Russia” event about 40 minutes after it began at Moscow’s Izmailovo Hotel early on March 13 and started taking people away. A rights-monitoring group later published a list of 178 detainees that read like a “who’s who” among politicians and NGOs critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin — minus the ranks of those already jailed amid a widening crackdown on dissent. The event was organized by the United Democrats project, which is not among the entities on the list of “undesirable” organizations kept by prosecutors. The detainees include senior Open Russia leaders Andrey Pivovarov and Anastasia Burakova, former Yekaterinburg Mayor Yevgeny Roizman, city deputies Ilya Yashin and Yuliya Galyamina, and opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza.
Human Rights Watch, 15 March 2021: On March 13, police raided the first federal forum of municipal deputies in Moscow, arresting almost 200 attendees and charging them with the administrative offence of participation in activities of “undesirable organizations.” It marked the largest number of people hit with “undesirable” charges in a single day since the “undesirable organizations” law was adopted in 2015. The purpose of the forum, organized by the United Democrats, was to exchange best practices and skills for running election campaigns and working with grassroot candidates. Russia’s repressive “undesirable foreign organizations law” bans foreign groups that authorities claim threaten Russia’s national security. Anyone deemed to be involved with one faces administrative and–if convicted of more than two offences in one year– criminal penalties.
Amnesty International, 15 March 2021: On 3 March, the Nizhnii Novgorod Regional Court, in Central Russia, upheld the decision to detain activist Mikhail Iosilevich. He is accused of cooperation with an “undesirable” organisation, Open Russia, a “crime” punishable by up to six years in prison. Mikhail Iosilevich is being targeted for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression and association. Charges against him must be dropped and he must be immediately released.