This week our guest on the podcast is the well-known human rights activist, Lev Aleksandrovich Ponomarev. Lev Ponomarev is head of the civil society project ‘For Human Rights’, chair of the Defence of Prisoners’ Rights Foundation and also of the Hotline organisation, and is a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. In May this year Lev Ponomarev spoke at the International Conference, ‘Anxiety and Hope. The 21st Century,’ held in honour of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Andrei Sakharov. His speech, ‘We are not observers, we are participants’ can be heard on the website of the Sakharov Museum. In this podcast we discuss some of the main points made by Lev Ponomarev in that speech.
The questions we discuss in the podcast include: Contemporary Russia and the Soviet past – where is the country heading? – What does it mean for the country if people from the security services are in power? – Dissidents and the political opposition face severe repressive measures: who are in the main the victims of the security services? – Recent legislation – The law on ‘foreign agents’ – Are ‘universal values’ alien to Russia? – Putin and Patrushev – ‘We are not observers, we are participants’ – What possibilities are there to work for human rights, free elections and the release of political prisoners in Russia today? – ‘We are many’: how many in fact? – How to participate in elections when candidates are banned? – The idea of a Civic Congress – Russia’s future and the future of human rights.
This podcast is in Russian. You can listen to it in full here:
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 four parts that you can listen to separately.
Part One: Comparing the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation – Totalitarianism – Fascism – Greater freedoms at present – Security services in power – Political killings:
Part Two: Victims of arbitrary and repressive law enforcement – What needs to be done? – What laws need to be repealed?:
Part Three: Universal values – Western values – Vladimir Putin – Nikolai Patrushev – Ideology – Observers – Participants – Elections – Street protests – Right of assembly – 1980s and 1990s:
Part Four: Idea of a Civic Congress – The future of human rights in Russia:
Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: “It is not politicians who are in power, it is the siloviki. In line with their worldview, they see only one solution to a problem. The use of force. Putting people in jail. Possibly even killing them. Generally speaking, any opponent of the authorities might be killed.” Our interlocutor, Lev Ponomarev, is so disliked by the Lubyanka and the Kremlin that the authorities and his organisations have labelled him a foreign agent, and even he himself was one of the first to receive the newly invented title of ‘an individual foreign agent,’ which is, without a doubt, complete nonsense. Lev Ponomarev is a kind and fair man, and even Viktor Shenderovich once said that, say, when Putin goes to jail, ‘Lev Aleksandrovich Ponomarev, the human rights defender, he will defend Putin’. Our interlocutor, recalling this remark, said: “I don’t know whether I would defend him or not, but the situation is a very serious one.”
Simon Cosgrove adds: A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.