18 October 2021
by Lev Ponomarev, human rights advocate, member of Moscow Helsinki Group:
Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Эхо Москвы]
“THIS MESSAGE (MATERIAL) WAS CREATED AND DISSEMINATED BY A FOREIGN INSTRUMENT OF MASS MEDIA, PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT, AND (OR) A RUSSIAN LEGAL BODY PERFORMING THE FUNCTIONS OF A FOREIGN AGENT”
Thursday evening, I recorded a video commenting on the events of the week, intending to go on a business trip. But events, naturally, did not wait.
And while I was recording the vide, Memorial was attacked first by a gang of hoodlums, then by the police. As you know, the hoodlums immediately arrived accompanied by NTV correspondents. And the police, instead of finding and detaining the hooligans, hung handcuffs on the door and started a search of Memorial. As they themselves explained, this was “a search for hostages, who are being hidden somewhere”.
The next day, on Friday, the list of media foreign agents was augmented with the publications Republic* and Rosbalt*, and security forces visited the head of International Memorial, Yan Rachinsky. They demanded that he present himself to give an explanation at the Department on Economic Crimes. In relation to Memorial, they began some kind of ‘check’, and requested piles of documents from various years.
All these actions – those of the hoodlums, and the police, and the security forces from the economic crimes unit, and not least of all those of the NTV ‘correspondents’, seemed coordinated. As it is said: ‘united by design and shared organization.’ It is like a brigade of fascist pogromists sponsored by the authorities.
Why was all of this done? Was this a one-time trick, not unlike those that we have already witnessed more than once? Or was it really the start of the ‘final solution to the Memorial question,’ that is, its actual liquidation?
Memorial is the national pride of Russia. This is the first organization to show the ability of society for repentance and reflection concerning the spine-chilling repressions of the Soviet period. This is the perpetuation of the memory of millions of broken fates and ruined lives. The dissolution of Memorial in Russia would be the deepest moral catastrophe, a conclusive break from that which still gives some hope to Russians in the 21st century.
If society does not defend human rights advocates, then there will be no one to defend society. All the world saw the footage from Saratov Regional TB Prison Hospital No. 1, and had the opportunity to confirm that the stories about the brutality and abuse in the prisons of Russia are not at all exaggerated. Human rights advocates warned, and human rights advocates were right. They did not ‘cast aspersions on the Soviet system,’ did not ‘fulfill the orders of the enemies of Russia,’ but protected Russians, tried to help the authorities comply with Russian laws. And how did the authorities answer? With pogroms against Memorial? With a list of ‘foreign agents’? With United Russia, voting ‘with one voice’ against a parliamentary investigation into the abuses?
I want to share with readers my short video on the events of the week. There is mention of Volodin, of the Public Monitoring Commission, of foreign agents. Due to the ferocity of Roskomnadzor and the Ministry of Justice, I have created a new channel. Watch and subscribe:
A normal modern state interacts with society not via the FSB, but with the help of dialogue with civil society, which, thank god, still exists in Russia.
Few remember that Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the State Duma, surprised today that ‘civil society was silent,’ was elected as a deputy from that very city of Saratov, the location of the prison tuberculosis hospital in which the prisoners were violated.
So I remind you of this, Mr Volodin. And while I am at it, I remind you that you, as a deputy, have the unrestricted right to enter into any closed institution. I suggest that you visit Saratov TB Prison Hospital No. 1, and bring with you a lawyer. I am ready even to recommend specific lawyers, reliable and honourable. You don’t need to be surprised now, Mr Volodin, nor to crush Memorial, but to work, actively showing all the world that the authorities battle against abuses, rather than cover them up.
P. S. I remind all others that one can and must sponsor the civil human rights project “For Human Rights” here. There is no one besides those who value our work. Volodin isn’t someone I would be asking, after all.
* Russian authorities consider the organization a foreign agent
Translated by Alyssa Rider