CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Russia

Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 28.05.2020 at 08:01

Russia Overview

Civic space in Russia has closed markedly since 2012 as the state and its agents have unleashed a brutal and insidious assault on civil society, human rights groups, independent media and anyone that opposes the state.

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The Civic Space Developments

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Peaceful Assembly affected by COVID-19 restrictions

Peaceful Assembly affected by COVID-19 restrictions

Mass protests banned in Moscow due to COVID-19; Marches held to commemorate fifth anniversary of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov; Experts document decreased willingness to join protests; Jamestown Foundation and European Endowment for Democracy banned in Russia; Chechen Opposition blogger attacked by an unknown person

Association

Jamestown Foundation and European Endowment for Democracy banned in Russia

In April 2020, The Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based global research and analysis group founded in 1984 to support Soviet defectors, was banned by the Prosecutor-General’s Office. The foundation was added to the list of undesirable organisations because their activities and materials are “a threat to the fundamentals of the constitutional system and security of the Russian Federation”, according to the prosecutor-general’s office, which also said that the foundation’s experts were “promoting the secession of North Caucasus regions from Russia, inciting ethnic separatism”.

Since 2015, Russia has banned at least 20 think-tanks or research groups under its legislation against undesirable organisations adopted the same year. The European Endowment for Democracy was added to the list on 3rd March.

Peaceful Assembly

Marches held to commemorate fifth anniversary of the assassination of Boris Nemtsov

On 29th February 2020, several events were held in commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the assassination of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, as reported by Current Time TV Channel. In Moscow, over 22,300 people marched from Strastnoy Boulevard to Sakharov Avenue. The rally was attended by opposition politicians, journalists and public figures who urged authorities not to amend the Constitution of Russia, to release political prisoners and to terminate the ”Network”, “New Greatness”, and “Moscow Affair” (local elections in August 2019) cases.

Another procession was held in the centre of St. Petersburg where about 2,000 people participated, according to organisers. Six people were however detained according to reports.

In Perm, a rally was held near the monument to the victims of political repression. Up to 300 people participated including opposition leaders, activists of the Navalny headquarters, members of the Libertarian Party and the PARNAS Party.

Mass protests banned due to COVID-19

On 10th March2020, the State Duma deputy from United Russia Valentina Tereshkova (the first female cosmonaut) proposed the removal or cancellation of president Vladimir Putin’s two-term limit. The corresponding amendment was introduced in the State Duma. Cancelling the term limits will allow Putin to participate in the elections after the year 2024.

Following this, opposition representatives made an application to hold a protest rally of about 50,000 people on 21st March 2020 on Sakharov Avenue. In the evening of 10th March however, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin banned mass events of more than 5,000 people until 10th April to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Moscow.

On 12th March 2020, organisers of the "No!" Campaign filed another notice at the Moscow Mayor’s office to hold a rally against cancelling of the presidential term limit at Novopushkinsky Square.

The Novosibirsk branch of the unregistered Libertarian Party of Russia (LPR) made a similar application on 11th March 2020 to the Novosibirsk Mayor's Office to hold a rally of 500 people on 22nd March in Ordzhonikidze Street. On the same day, there were single pickets against the “zeroing” of Putin’s term by activists at the building of the Siberian embassy.

Experts document decreased willingness to join protests

In February 2020, the Levada Center experts examined the public’s views on protests. When asked about the possibility of holding mass protests against a fall in living standards, fewer respondents answered affirmatively than a year ago.

In February last year 26% of respondents said they were ready to participate in protests against the decline in living standards, while the number this year declined to 24%. On political demands, only 19% of Russians indicated that they were ready to join the actions, also showing a decline from 20% last year. The study was conducted before the adoption of the package of amendments to the Constitution on zeroing of Putin’s presidential term.

Expression

Chechen Opposition blogger attacked by an unknown person

On 26th February 2020, Chechen-born blogger Tumso Abdurahmanov was attacked in his apartment while asleep, as reported by Radio Free Europe. He however managed to wake up and defend himself. In a video filmed by Abdurahmanov, the attacker said that he was from Moscow and that he had been sent by a person named Abdurahman from Grozny, Chechnya’s capital.

Tumso Abdurahmanov is a Chechen opposition blogger who relocated to Europe after being persecuted by the authorities in Chechnya.

Peaceful Assembly in Russia

Although the right to protest was previously constrained, its scope has been even further restricted in the years since large anti-government protests took place on the streets of Moscow in 2012.

Although the right to protest was previously constrained, its scope has been even further restricted in the years since large anti-government protests took place on the streets of Moscow in 2012. These demonstrations led to new regulations governing peaceful public assemblies and meetings in Russia. Although less well known than the ‘foreign agents’ law, the new assembly rules are potentially as insidious, falling well short of international standards for the management of peaceful assemblies. The law increases fines for violating the rules on gatherings, provides that no gathering can continue past 10pm and establishes ‘specialised locations’, which are often far from the centre of urban areas in which assemblies should ideally take place. Outside of those areas, demonstrators must seek permission to gather. As the number of protests has dwindled in the years since 2012, and spontaneous protest has become virtually impossible, pro-government counter protest groups have been allowed to operate unimpeded, often leading to violent clashes with legitimate protest groups. LGBTI groups are particularly unable to exercise their freedom of peaceful assembly and in 2015 the Moscow Gay Pride March was banned for the tenth year in a row. In 2014, even harsher measures were passed by the Duma, introducing a penalty of up to five years in jail for those repeatedly breaching rules governing assemblies. The law has since been used to target peaceful protestors, including Ilgar Dildin who was jailed for three years in December 2015.