31 December 2020
By Lev Ponomarev, chair of the human rights NGO Za Prava Cheloveka [For Human Rights] and member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
While I was coming up with a New Year’s message for my blog on Ekho, I unexpectedly discovered the Ministry of Justice has entered me into their registry of ‘Individuals working for Foreign Mainstream Media outlets functioning as foreign agents.’
Roskomnadzor requires me to preface any of my ‘messages’ with the following text:
‘THIS COMMUNICATION IS CREATED AND SPREAD BY FOREIGN MAINSTREAM MEDIA FULFILLING THE FUNCTIONS OF FOREIGN AGENTS, AND/OR RUSSIAN FEDERATION LEGAL ENTITIES FULFILLING THE FUNCTIONS OF FOREIGN AGENTS.’ The upper-case font is also required in the Roskomnadzor’s order, just so you have understood.
My dear friends and associates!
My greetings are not joyfully Christmas-like, but rather a call to mobilise.
The coming year will have many problems, not least for those protecting the values of democracy and human rights. I suggest we face them not as we would a funeral, but a challenge we must face with valour. There have been worse times for our country after all.
We have the chance to lift the darkness shrouding Russia. We must oppose arbitrariness and lawlessness with solidarity and political will. We need to express this in upcoming elections, both federal and local. We need to prepare tens of thousands of observers and have as many supporters as possible inside the parliament from all sides of the aisles. We cannot start tomorrow; we must start today. Our voice must be heard, and it will be heard if the real majority speak out. The national NGO For Human Rights, alongside grassroots organisations, has begun working hard towards this.
I wish everyone a Happy New Year for 2021. I wish everyone prosperity in their own lives and that we all overcome the Coronavirus Pandemic together. I wish us all to avoid the even more dangerous viruses of violence and hatred, for whom the government has become the chief peddler before our very eyes.
I want to separately greet and send warm words to those suffering behind bars. I well know how many have been unfairly sentenced. My particular greetings to political prisoners and, most of all, to those people who received unthinkably long sentences. I shake your hand, and I believe the political regime will change and all of you will have your freedom earlier than they expect.
The main issue of the outgoing year became the attempt on the life of Aleksei Navalny and subsequent events. For millions of people, the FSB appeared to have crossed a line and deserve a punishment. I think all of us understand this, even the supporters of Putin, who have claimed the FSB had tried to frame the president. The supporters of the FSB have disgraced themselves and have gone on the offensive. Think about it: they demand the extension of powers to ‘grant Russia security in the Information-Psychological Sphere.’ Even their wording reeks of madness, but powers will be extended nonetheless. They don’t plan to stop until the country lies permanently in ruins.
The coming year must be one of honest, peaceful struggle by citizens for their rights, for political representation, for authorities elected in free and fair elections, and for the resurrection of the constitutional order. I am sure that that is what will happen. Look after yourselves!
Twice a ‘foreign agent’,
Translated by Fergus Wright