2 March 2021
By Lev Ponomarev, human rights activist, member of the Moscow Helsinki Group
‘THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) HAS BEEN CREATED AND DISTRIBUTED BY A FOREIGN MASS MEDIA OUTLET PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT AND (OR) A RUSSIAN LEGAL PERSON PERFOMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT.’ I’m starting to tire of this phrase.
The new laws are hardly the authorities’ first blow against human rights defenders. They eliminate us, call us foreign agents (read: enemies), fine us – they are trying to force us to cease our activities and forget what human rights are. And people are turning to us more and more, and we continue to defend them – we continue to fight, and this infuriates the authorities. So they are tightening up their measures, taking the path towards the complete elimination of the human rights movement in Russia.
The authorities are trying to destroy every word in the phrase ‘for human rights’, to erase all obstacles on the path leading to the country’s transformation into a fascist state. Well, rejoice, you got what you wanted: we have initiated the procedure to dissolve the All-Russian Public Movement ‘For Human Rights’.
It is not because we are afraid of you. It is not because we are tired of fighting for rights. It is solely because you are passing laws that endanger the thousands of people who are part of our organization. I cannot allow any of them to become a victim of your laws. Let the organization be the only victim.
But I also have some bad news for you. Victims of the actions of government agencies and individual officials will continue to seek help from me and my colleagues across the country, and human rights defenders will continue to protect them. They, like me, were born for this.
For Human Rights is not just a movement. ‘For Human Rights’ is about ideas, a way of life. People who set verbal traps in the texts of laws are unable to understand this simple truth.
Will I be able to wait for a new Russia? That I don’t know. But one thing is certain: human rights defenders will always exist. I do not know what the government’s next step will be. Concentration camps? Executions by firing squad? As long as there are people, For Human Rights will exist. And these people will not stop repeating that the elimination of human rights enables the country to be transformed into a fascist state, that Russia’s violation of international obligations to protect human rights is a direct path to war.
I have children and grandchildren. I don’t want them to see World War III.
There are people who share my beliefs. I do not want them to be repressed.
I have opponents. I will never tire of fighting them, I am not going anywhere, because I have a message, and this message is eternal. The ‘Defence of Prisoners’ Rights Foundation’ and the NGO ‘Hot Line’ (*) continue my work in defence of human rights. I urge people to turn to us and not allow the authorities to violate human rights with impunity.
I ask those who are not indifferent to support our work, to follow it. The more of us there are, the stronger we will be.
Translated by Tyler Langendorfer