Russia: The war and its oversized repression

(Berlin, January 12, 2023) – The Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine marked the start of a new all-out campaign to stamp out public dissent in Russia, Human Rights Watch said today in his World Report 2023.

Russian authorities passed a wide range of new laws introducing wartime censorship. These laws provide for long prison terms for various forms of “misdemeanors”, such as labeling the armed conflict in Ukraine as ” war to criticize the invasion or the conduct of the Russian armed forces, and to report war crimes committed by the Russian military or Ukrainian civilian casualties.

Against the backdrop of war, Russian authorities have redoubled their relentless attacks on dissent and civic activism “, said Rachel Denber, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. ” The Kremlin clearly seeks to silence any public opposition to the war, any criticism of the government, or any expression of social nonconformity. »

In its 712-page World Report 2023, its 33rd edition, Human Rights Watch reviews rights practices in nearly 100 countries. In his introductory essayActing Executive Director Tirana Hassan explains that in a world where the balance of power has changed, it is no longer possible to rely on a small group of governments, mainly from the North, to defend human rights. The global mobilization around Russia’s war in Ukraine reminds us of the extraordinary potential when governments fulfill their international human rights obligations. It is incumbent on all countries, large and small, to apply a human rights framework to their policies and then to work together to protect and promote these rights. Russia was suspended from the UN Human Rights Council, expelled from several other international bodies and left the Council of Europe. Domestically, authorities have adopted a “fortress under siege” mentality, amplified their rhetoric of malign foreign influence, and passed laws that have provisions akin to banning contact with the foreign during the Soviet era.

New laws have further expanded the scope of pernicious legislation that designates individuals or organizations with the toxic label of ” foreign agents “, have introduced criminal provisions on the “ confidential cooperation with international and foreign organizations, which places them almost on par with the penalties for high treason, and gave authorities even broader grounds to put activists behind bars.

An opposition politician, Vladimir Kara-Murza, has become the first person to be charged with treason solely for criticizing the Kremlin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kara-Murza has been in detention since April 2022.

Law enforcement responded to peaceful protests across the country against the war with violence, mass arrests, and administrative and criminal prosecutions. Authorities have filed hundreds of criminal charges based on trumped-up charges ranging from spreading “ fake news ” to ” discredit of the Russian Armed Forces. Thousands of people have served administrative sentences or been ordered to pay fines for such reasons. Alexei Gorinov, a member of the Moscow City Council, was sentenced to seven years in prison. Opposition politician Ilia Yashin and activist Alexandra Skochilenko have been detained since June and April respectively, for broadcasting “ fake news “.

Independent Russian and foreign media outlets, which began leaving Russia soon after the invasion, accelerated the pace of their departures after the laws were passed, due to safety risks for journalists. Russian authorities continued to censor online critics by abusing government authority to block content on the Internet.

The Russian authorities have also continued to add organizations to the blacklist of unwanted and for the first time sentenced activists to prison terms for their alleged membership in these organizations. In May a court sentenced Mikhail Iosilevich to 20 months in prison, and in July Andrei Pivovarov, the former executive director of the Civic Movement Open Russia, was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Russian authorities have also proposed new legislation that would reinforce discrimination based on sexual orientation and have stepped up their homophobic and anti-migrant rhetoric.

In April, Russian authorities revoked the registration of 15 foreign nongovernmental organizations and foundations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, forcing them to close their offices in Russia.

Authorities have abused Russia’s overbroad anti-terrorism and anti-extremist laws to retaliate against political opposition, dissenting voices and religious minorities. Officials have opened criminal charges for “ extremism against imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny and several of his aides and supporters. Lilia Tchanycheva, the former manager of Navalny’s team in Ufa, has been in pre-trial detention since November 2021.

In March 2022, authorities blacklisted Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, from organizations “ extremists “. Authorities also continued to prosecute people accused of affiliation with religious organizations designated as ” terrorists ” Where ” extremists even though neither these groups nor the defendants had embraced or been linked to any violence.

Chechen authorities have brutally suppressed any dissent on their territory, while Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has openly called on Russia to commit abuses that would amount to war crimes.

Russia continued to be among the top 10 emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, contributing to the global climate crisis. Massive wildfires have again affected various regions of Russia in 2022. A group of environmental activists has filed the first climate lawsuit against the government, demanding a drastic cut in Russia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Russia: The war and its oversized repression