Podcast No. 78. Simon & Sergei – with Vanessa Kogan

This week our guest on the podcast is Vanessa Kogan, director of the Legal Initiative Project. Over the years, the project’s lawyers have provided legal assistance to thousands of people. The Legal Initiative Project is one of the leading organisations in Russia in terms of the number of applications it has brought to the European Court of Human Rights; the organisation has won more than 250 cases at the ECtHR. On 2 December 2020, Russian migration authorities annulled Vanessa Kogan’s residence permit.

The Issues discussed in the podcast include: choice of a career – why human rights, why in Russia; what is the Legal Initiative; working in the organization; Legall Initiative’s main priorities; successes; problems with the authorities; departure from the country; recent developments in human rights and civic activism; the future of human rights in Russia.

This podcast is in Russian. You can listen to the podcast in full here:

You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud,  Spotify  and  iTunes. The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.

Given the length of the podcast, we have also divided it into three parts that you can listen to separately.

Part One: Career – Russia – Human Rights – Justice Initiative Project – Strategic Priorities – Chechnya – North Caucasus – Ingushetia – Themes of Work – European Court of Human Rights:

Part Two: Chechnya – Foreign Experts – RF / USA – Right of Residence – Citizenship – Reasons for Refusal – European Court of Human Rights:

Part Three: Foreign Human Rights Activists in Russia – FSB – The Future of Human Rights in Russia:

Sergei Nikitin writes on FacebookOur interviewee Vanessa Kogan speaks Russian so well it is hard to believe you are talking to an American born and raised in the United States. Indeed, Vanessa and her family have lived and worked in Russia for the past 11 years. She worked well. She and her colleagues worked to defend human rights in Russia, including in the Caucasus, and there is no doubt that such work, as often happens now, has become problematic for the Russian authorities. In December 2020, Vanessa Kogan was told to leave Russia within two weeks. As is now customary, the authorities kept the reason for this decision a closely guarded secret: Pack your suitcase. Then the secret was uncovered, saying that the human rights activist “poses a threat to the security of the Russian Federation.’ But Vanessa, who has done so much to protect the rights of our compatriots, sought to protect her own rights as well: the right to family life and the right to freedom of association and expression. The ECtHR set a deadline of 25 March 2021 for a peaceful resolution of the situation. We know that the system does not know how to backtrack, but nevertheless we note that in this case the Lubyanka was forced to give Vanessa and her family time to get ready to leave. Vanessa Kogan and her family left the Russian Federation, the largest in the world and one where human rights defenders are a threat to its security. Vanessa’s grandfather, after whom she received her middle name, Stessel, was a U.S. ambassador to the USSR. Walter Stessel helped reduce tensions between our two countries, he participated in a meeting between Leonid Brezhnev and Henry Kissinger. During his years in the Soviet Union, the U.S. Consulate in Leningrad was opened, and large-scale grain exports to the USSR began at the same time. And Vanessa’s contribution to a noble cause has also been significant: over the years she and her colleagues have provided legal assistance to thousands of people in Russia seeking justice and an end to human rights abuses such as abductions and enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and gender-based violence. With the help of Vanessa and her colleagues, our fellow citizens have won more than 250 cases at the ECtHR. In the podcast, Vanessa Kogan tells Simon and me what it has all been like, and what will come next.

Simon Cosgrove adds: If you want to listen to this podcast on the podcasts.com website and it doesn’t seem to play, please download by clicking on the three dots to the right. A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.

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