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Leading voices from Russian civil society analyse the region's most pressing human rights challenges. A special series curated by Anna Sevortian and Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch.

Not single spies, but in battalions…

The new law obliging Russian NGOs receiving foreign funds to register as 'foreign agents' or spies has created a furore in the NGO world. Moscow's illustrious Sakharov Centre has existed for over 20 years and must now register or cease operations altogether. Not a real choice, says Sergei Lukashevsky

Sentence first, verdict afterwards

The Russian legal system’s human rights record is appalling, but the European Court in Strasbourg is powerless to enforce its own rulings. Kirill Koroteev describes the day to day of working as a lawyer at distinguished Russian NGO ‘Memorial’.

Keeping calm and carrying on

St Petersburg's Regional Press Institute has defended Russian media rights for the last two decades. Like other similar organisations, it has been subjected to various forms of governmental harassment, but has managed to keep going. Director Anna Sharogradskaya tells the story

‘Foreign Agents’ fight for survival

The Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights has achieved much in fifteen years, but now, like so many NGOs, it has been branded a ‘foreign agent’. How tightly has the Russian Government been tightening the screws on these supposed ‘enemies of the people’?

Administering the last human rights

Russia’s new NGO law forcing organisations to register as ‘foreign agents’ continues to take its toll. ‘Public Verdict’ Foundation, who help victims of police abuse, will not consent to this label. They may have to close down. Asmik Novikova and Natalya Taubina write movingly of their work.

Which way?

‘NGO’ has become a dirty word in Russia. The organisations most committed to helping Russia develop a meaningful civil society have become pariahs, branded as ‘foreign agents.’ Under the tightened screws, we are asking the question: ‘Do NGOs in Russia have any future?’

The disabled need not apply: prejudice and discrimination in Belarus

The excitement surrounding the Paralympics brings home just how far so many countries have come in rethinking attitudes to disability and concentrating on social inclusion. Not, unfortunately, in Belarus, says Sergey Drozdovsky.

Russia's police: new name, but can it change its spots?

Reform of the Russian police, initiated in 2009 by then president Dmitry Medvedev, is still ongoing and mired in controversy. Asmik Novikova and Natalya Taubina of the ‘Public Verdict’ Foundation offer a progress report.

How God came to vote for Putin: the background to Pussy Riot

The gradual intrusion of the Orthodox Church into Russian secular life and the state is something that went largely unnoticed by the Russian public. The Pussy Riot trial is beginning to change all that, writes Sergei Lukashevsky.

Strasbourg: Supreme Court of the North Caucasus

For the population of Russia’s North Caucausus, crippled by war, violence and lawlessness, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) enjoys an almost mythical reputation. But even those who are successful in Strasbourg face an impossible struggle for full implementation of the rulings, says Grigor Avetisyan. 

Palliative care in Russia: it's time to stop the suffering

In whatever country they manifest, life-limiting conditions are heartbreaking for children and their families. In Russia, a lack of resources and even more damaging disregard of children’s rights makes coping with the situation unneccesarily distressing, says Anna Sonkin

Media freedom in the Russian regions? You must be joking…

As the Kremlin tightens its grip even further on the Russian media, lawyer and legal rights activist Galina Arapova looks at the tough options faced by journalists, especially in the regions.

Pride, prejudice — just ‘don’t say gay’ in Russia

LGBT issues have taken a battering in Russia over the last year, with a number of regions introducing repressive laws against the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. The changes are part of a wider agenda to split Russian society, whipping up feeling against people ‘not like us’, says Igor Kochetkov.

Government — the main source of instability in the northern Caucasus

As violence in the north Caucasus hits the headlines again, Alexander Cherkasov sees the roots of the problem in the Russian government’s wilful misunderstanding of local issues and lack of strategy for dealing with them.

The Nationalists and the Protest Movement

The Russian opposition movement is of necessity a broad coalition, with little to hold it together but a common hatred of the Putin regime. Alexander Verkhovsky looks at how its most controversial element, the nationalists, fit into the picture.

Russian government declares ‘cold war’ on civil society

The draconian laws introduced by President Putin during his first 100 days continue to inflame hearts and minds. Some people have taken fright, but others are determined to carry on the fight, says Yury Dzhibladze

Russian rights at the crossroads

Anna Sevortian and Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch present a new week-long series on openDemocracy Russia

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