Podcast No. 58: Simon & Sergei – with Timur Kobaliya

This week the guest on our podcast is Timur Georgievich Kobaliya, a Russian human rights activist and graduate of the American International Visitor Leadership Programme and the UK Foreign Office’s first visitor’s programme for human rights defenders in Russia. Timur is the founder of the NGO TV Russia and former head of the Human Rights Council of Volgograd. Timur also heads the international organisation Georgian-Russian Forum and has three applications against the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights.

The questions we discuss in the podcast include: When and why Timur Georgievich became a human rights defender; when NGO TV was set up and why; successes and difficulties; the impact of the law on foreign agents; Volgograd as a region in terms of human rights; cooperation with the authorities; future change for better or worse; Navalny’s return; what’s next for human rights organisations in Russia; what lies ahead for Russian civil society in the coming years.

The podcast is in the Russian language.

You can listen to the podcast here:

You can also listen to the podcast on Podcasts.com,  SoundCloud,  Spotify  and  iTunes

The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.

Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: Timur Kobaliya was one of the founders of the Youth Advice and Training Centre in 2010 which is when he began working on human rights issues. In 2013 the centre was labelled a “foreign agent”. As Timur told us, the formal impetus for this was the NGO’s participation in the Georgian-Russian forum, which the human rights defender heads. The actions of the Russian authorities, including the fines levied against the Centre, prompted Timur and his colleagues to appeal to the ECtHR. The closure of the Centre prompted Timur to set up two organisations: the Volgograd Human Rights Council and the Internet Channel for NGOs (NGO TV). Timur runs the television channel with a staff of six and, understandably, the authorities could not but give it their attention. The channel’s presenter, journalist Aleksandr Batmanov, was sentenced in October 2017 to two years and one month in a maximum-security penal colony after being found guilty of stealing Kolbasa [like a German sausage] from a supermarket. The European Federation of Journalists added Aleksandr Batmanov to its list of journalists prosecuted for their professional activities. Although the mission of NGO TV Russia is to promote the activities of non-profit organisations and civic associations, activists and youth, the local authorities are stubborn in their unwillingness to cooperate with such groups, refusing to see them as allies. The picture is familiar, and not only for Volgograd. Simon Cosgrove and I had an interesting conversation with Timur, and we invite you to listen to this recording.

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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