Vyacheslav Kozlov https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/16863/all cached version 09/02/2019 04:22:09 en Knocking back Russia’s nationalists https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/knocking-back-russia%E2%80%99s-nationalists <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554943/RIAN_00581628.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>The conflict in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea has brought the Kremlin and Russia’s ultra-nationalists closer together. Recent prosecutions show that&nbsp;<span>their ideas still have the government worried. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/od-russia/%D0%B2%D1%8F%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%81%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B2-%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B7%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2/%D0%B4%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%BE-%D0%BC%D1%83%D1%85%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B0-%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%86%D0%B8%D0%BE%D0%BD%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%82%D1%8B-%D0%BF%D0%BE%D0%B4-%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B8%D1%86%D0%B5%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%BC-%D0%B2%D0%BB%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%82%D0%B5%D0%B9" target="_blank">на русском языке</a></span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>‘We imagine that the people in power are there because they have a right to it. But that’s not the case. Those in power must be able to punish their subordinates. And for the people to make their “servants” act in their interests, they should have the ability to punish them.’ So speaks Yuri Mukhin, a long-time proponent of radical political change in Russia and founder of the newspaper <em>Duel</em>, a cult read among the country’s conservatives and far left between 1995 and 2009, when it was banned on grounds of extremism. </p><p>Indeed, it is this kind of thinking that underpins much of Mukhin's writing, and is a quote from the manifesto of the People's Will Army (AVN), a group founded by Mukhin in 1997. AVN's stated aim was to change Russia’s constitution via a referendum, allowing the populace to put the president and members of the Federal Assembly on trial and send them to prison. AVN was banned in 2011, again with the help of Russia’s extremism laws.</p><p>The banning of <em>Duel</em> and AVN would probably have been the end of Mukhin’s political activity had it not been for the long arm of the FSB and Russia’s Investigative Committee. In late July, Mukhin, along with two associates, was arrested by Russian security personnel on a beach in Crimea, and transferred to Moscow on charges of 'organising an extremist group'. </p><h2>People’s will</h2><p>Two other people, Valery Parfyonov and Aleksandr Sokolov, were charged alongside Mukhin with trying to implement AVN’s programme despite its prohibition. If convicted, all three may end up in prison, and could face up to eight years.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/RIAN_00602980.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/RIAN_00602980.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Members of the People's Will Army protesting in Moscow, 2010. Photo: Aleksei Kudenko/RIA</span></span></span><span>According to the FSB, Russia’s security service, the accused had attempted to ‘destabilise the political situation’ by setting up the Initiative Group to Campaign for a Referendum for Responsible Government – an informal organisation that basically continued the activities of the AVN. The investigators consider Mukhin the group’s leader and organiser and Sokolov – its propaganda chief. The group’s website is evidently registered in the latter’s name.</span></p><p>Sokolov has in fact been able to balance this radical political activity with work for RBK, one of Russia’s most prestigious online business news platforms. Sokolov investigated the multi-billion rouble embezzlement of public funds in the building of Vostochny Space Centre in Russia’s Far East (a pet project of Vladimir Putin), as well as reporting on Russia’s military volunteers in the Donbas. </p><p class="pullquote-right">Sokolov has balanced his radical political activity with work for one of Russia’s most prestigious online business news platforms.</p><p>The third member of the group, Valery Parfyonov, is charged with recruiting new supporters online. All three were initially held in a remand prison after their arrest. Mukhin is now under house arrest. </p><h2>‘Delokratiya’</h2><p>With its hostility to all systems of government, AVN remains a pretty obscure movement. Its press organ, Duel, also failed to reach a wider public, although it was popular among a narrow circle of conservative journalists, political analysts and writers. </p><p>In recent years, AVN averaged one mention in the media per year, often after Kirill Karabash, another associate of Mukhin’s, organised an alternative ‘Russian March’. Karabash is at present awaiting trial on charges relating to statements made at a rally in 2013.</p><p>AVN’s activities were based on a theory developed by Mukhin in the 1990s, which he called ‘Delokratiya’ (the term recalls demokratiya (democracy) – the Russian word ‘delo’ means ‘action’ – ed). At the core of Mukhin’s thinking was the idea that ‘action’ should take priority over ‘bureaucracy’: he believes that labourers should be free to organise their work in the most efficient way, and not be subject to the whims of bosses and bureaucrats.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/RIAN_00581628.LR_.ru__0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554943/RIAN_00581628.LR_.ru__0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="334" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The People's Will Army was founded in 1997 by Yuri Mukhin. Photo: Grigory Sysoev/RIA </span></span></span><span>Mukhin also believes that management and the authorities should not be responsible for assessing the quality of employees’ work and whether it is necessary. This should be down to the ordinary consumer - and the workers who produce the goods.</span></p><p>Mukhin, whose views also include the denial of Katyn, has proposed that any official activity, including that of the president, prime minister, parliamentary deputies and senators should be subject to the will of the people, who have the right to bring them to justice for their misconduct. </p><p>The seriousness of these crimes, and consequently, the punishment, should also be decided by ‘the people’ through a rigorous trial. An AVN pamphlet, ‘You elected them – you judge them’ stated, for example, that if an official’s crime was serious enough, he or she should be killed by ‘the people’. </p><h2>Joining the fifth column</h2><p>Aleksandr Verkhovsky, director of the independent SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, has monitored the use of anti-extremism laws for many years. Verkhovsky tells me that Mukhin’s patriotic movement ‘has been unable to recruit members for a long time. It has completely passed its sell-by date.’</p><p class="pullquote-right">At the core of Mukhin’s thinking was the idea that action should take priority over bureaucracy.</p><p>For Verkhovsky, the only reason he can see for the arrest of Mukhin and his associates is ‘a police clampdown on places where patriotic forces could crystallise following the war in the Donbas.’</p><p>According to Verkhovsky, over the past few years the Russian security services have been ramping up their operations against groups professing radical-patriotic and ultra-nationalist views. As well as arresting well known far-right figures such as Aleksandr Potkin, leader of the Movement against Illegal Immigration and Dmitry Demushkin, co-founder of Russians, an association of ultra-nationalist groups, they have been harassing obscure figures who are even more loyal to the Kremlin. </p><p>‘For example, they searched the flat of Yevgeny Valyayev, a member of the nationalist organisation Russian Image,’ says Aleksandr Verkhovsky. ‘What was that about? Valyayev gets presidential grants to write books, and is generally loyal to Putin, but still his flat got searched.’</p><p>The head of the Sova Center believes that the government is afraid that patriots returning from the Donbas—now with military experience—might align with fringe political groups and thus shake off Kremlin control. Verkhovsky believes that, as a result, the ultra-nationalist sphere is being purged: ‘the fact that the security services went for Mukhin’s Initiative Group is a sign that so far the strategy is working’. </p><p><span>But the prosecution of Mukhin and his associates shows that despite the piecemeal meeting of minds between the Kremlin and the far right following the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s nationalists may soon join its democrats in the Kremlin’s ‘Fifth Column’.&nbsp;</span>Verkhovsky expects further arrests and trials of radical patriots and nationalists in Russia in the next few years. Only time will tell if the strategy will work. </p><p><em> If you enjoyed this article, please consider following oDR on <a href="http://on.fb.me/1IAtrLR">Facebook</a>&nbsp;or <a href="http://bit.ly/1g0I7x3">Twitter</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandr-litoy/i-was-on-russian-nationalist-hit-list">I was on a Russian nationalist hit list</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oleg-kashin/war-in-donetsk-end-of-post-soviet-taboo">The war in Donetsk - end of a post-Soviet taboo?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Vyacheslav Kozlov Politics Tue, 15 Sep 2015 15:36:38 +0000 Vyacheslav Kozlov 96010 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Will the patriotic stop list kill Russia’s NGOs? https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/will-patriotic-stop-list-kill-russia%E2%80%99s-ngos <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554750/6963108388_0c9ab4107f_z.jpg" alt="6963108388_0c9ab4107f_z.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>Since 2012, Russian NGOs receiving funding from abroad have had to register as ‘foreign agents’. A new patriotic&nbsp;<span>‘</span><span>stop&nbsp;</span><span>list</span><span>’</span><span>&nbsp;might shut funding off forever.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span>&nbsp;</span>On 8 July, two of Russia’s largest NGOs—the Committee against Torture (KPP), which investigates police violence and abuse of power, and one of the country’s most active voluntary organisations, and Dynasty, a charitable foundation funding educational and scientific projects—announced that they were closing down. </p><p>The reason? Earlier that day, Russia<span>’s Federation Council finally published a list of 12 organisations, whose activities were to be investigated by the General Prosecutor</span><span>’s Office, Foreign and Justice Ministries&nbsp;</span><span>regarding their compliance with Russian law.&nbsp;</span></p><h2>‘Foreign agents’</h2><p>As organisations receiving funding from abroad, KPP and Dynasty had been recently added to the official register of ‘foreign agents’; and both decided that they could no longer work under such conditions.</p><p> KPP, founded in 2000, has not yet decided on its future, and may split into four or more smaller organisations, each with a separate remit. It will take the decision in the next month, but it is already clear that it will be difficult to continue its human rights ‘flying squad’ project. </p><p>This project was set up in 2009 after KPP decided to look closely into crimes committed by the police and local authorities in Chechnya; and now has more than 230 cases of alleged torture under investigation, and another 100 at a preliminary stage. </p><p>Dynasty, which was set up by Dmitry Zimin, founder of the Russian mobile telecommunications giant VimpelCom, has also not yet announced any plans for the future.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554750/6963105744_b50f3048bf_z.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian NGOs are often the main port of call for Russian prisoners. Max Avdeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>KPP and Dynasty announced their closure on the day the Federation Council, Russia’s upper legislative chamber, made public its so-called ‘patriotic stop list’: a list of 12 foreign NGOs that will probably be declared ‘undesirable’ in Russia. </p><p>The list includes such big players as Open Society Foundations (financed by George Soros), the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the MacArthur Foundation, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and Freedom House, all US based, as well as the Education for Democracy Foundation and East European Democratic Centre (both based in Poland), the Ukrainian World Congress, Ukrainian World Coordination Council and the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights. </p><p><span>This list was forwarded to the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, and the Prosecutor General’s Office. If the organisations on it are indeed declared undesirable, they will be banned from working in Russia, and anyone working with them will risk a fine or even criminal charges. </span></p><p><span>In other words, Russian NGOs will be cut off from at least half of their funding, as over the last few years, US and British NGOs have become an important source of support for Russian rights organisations.</span></p><h2>Turning the screws</h2><p>The ‘Stop list’ bill, signed into law by President Putin at the end of May, is the latest turn of the government screws on Russia’s NGO sector. The clampdown began two years ago, when officials started carrying out inspections of organisations under the ‘foreign agents’ law that applies to all NGOs receiving foreign funding that engage in ‘political activity’ (which can include, for example, environmental groups). </p><p>In practice, the maximum penalty for breaking the ‘foreign agents’ law is a fine of up to 600,000 roubles (£6,775), a hefty sum, but not a fatal one for large organisations. </p><p>The new undesirable organisations law imposes much more serious sanctions: a foreign or international NGO can be declared ‘undesirable’ if it ‘represents a threat to the basis of Russia’s constitutional order, its defence capability or the safety of the state’. </p><p>The law gives the Prosecutor General and his representatives almost unlimited powers: with the agreement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs they can ban organisations from carrying out any programmes or projects on Russian territory, which basically means they can just stop NGOs working in Russia. </p><p class="pullquote-right">Basically they can just stop ‘undesirable’ NGOs funding anything in Russia </p><p>The law also introduces practical obstacles to Russian NGOs’ receiving grants from abroad: banks and other financial institutions must refuse to carry out financial or other property transactions with an organisation that has been declared undesirable. </p><p>The fact of the refusal has to be registered and forwarded to the Federal Financial Monitoring Service, which will then forward it to the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice. </p><p>Meanwhile, anyone attempting to work for an undesirable organisation in Russia can be fined between 5,000 and 100,000 roubles (£56-£1,128), depending on their level of responsibility within the organisation, and if they are fined twice in any given year they can be charged with a criminal offence and fined 300,000-500,000 roubles (£3,385-£5,642)—around a year’s salary for the average Russian.</p><p> Courts can also impose community service of up to 360 hours or a prison sentence of two to six years, and the law gives no guidance as to when one or other penalty is appropriate – judges must evidently decide for themselves whether to impose a fine or a prison term. </p><h2>Closing down</h2><p>As yet, the Federation Council’s list of organisations has no actual force in law, but the chances are that they will be declared undesirable and will be unable to operate any further. Russian NGOs will then be forced to freeze all contacts with the bodies in question. </p><p>‘Nobody wants to go to jail’, says Yelena Topoleva-Soldunova, a member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights. ‘So the chances are that not only will our NGOs stop working with undesirable organisations, but the foreign funders themselves will not risk contact with their Russian beneficiaries.’ For their part, Russian NGOs will be forced to freeze all contacts with the ‘undesirables’.</p><p>Topoleva-Soldunova gives me just one telling example of these closures. ‘The Mott Foundation has been involved over the last 15 years in the community foundation movement’, she says. </p><p>The first community foundation was set up in 1914 in Cleveland, Ohio, and they now operate across the world. Community foundations are designed to pool donations into a co-ordinated investment and grant-making facility to improve a given town or region, as decided by the local community, and are an important means of fostering the development of civil society at a local and regional level. ‘There are about 50 foundations now in Russia,’ Yelena tells me. </p><p>‘They not only collect and distribute money from individuals and businesses, but attract government funding as well, while grants are awarded on a competitive basis. And the Mott Foundation was the first organisation to support this scheme in Russia.’ That good work might now be at risk.</p><p>The disappearance of these funding organisations will inevitably lead to the closure of many social and human rights projects in Russia. It is already happening. On 21 July, the MacArthur Foundation announced the closure of its Moscow office. Its <a href="https://www.macfound.org/press/press-releases/statement-macarthur-president-julia-stasch-foundations-russia-office/">parting statement summarises very well the sense of regret</a>&nbsp;at what is happening.</p><p><span><em>Standfirst image: Correctional Facility 32, Perm, Russia. Max Avdeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</em></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/grigory-tumanov/is-russia%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98foreign-agent%E2%80%99-law-illegal-FARA-Golos-Memorial">Is Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ law illegal? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/almut-rochowanski/funding-russian-ngos-opportunity-in-crisis">Funding Russian NGOs: opportunity in a crisis? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Vyacheslav Kozlov Russia NGOs Human rights Wed, 22 Jul 2015 10:18:21 +0000 Vyacheslav Kozlov 94634 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Working in the Gulag https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/working-in-gulag <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u554751/RIAN_01103515.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="RIAN_01103515.LR_.ru_.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>Russia’s Prison Service, the FSIN, wants to put inmates’ employment on a more businesslike footing, but their working conditions are still more like slave labour.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In July this year, Russia’s Prison Service, the FSIN, set up its own trading company to deal with orders for products made in its prison workshops. Its aim was to cut out the middleman – to put an end to contractors creaming off a significant chunk of its profits – but also to improve, at least to some extent, the prospects of prisoners’ employment. At present, the inmates of many prison camps have no work and, as a result, cannot earn the money they need to compensate the victims of their crimes. </p> <p>At the same time, the service hopes that by setting up a central body and ending the right of individual prisons to deal with client companies directly, it will avoid further scandals of the kind that arose at the camp where former Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova served her sentence; she complained to human rights organisations about, among other things, the infringement of prisoners’ rights, overwork, and chronic lack of sleep.</p><h2>A moneymaking system</h2> <p><span></span>The <em>Gulag</em> system, with its many political prisoners, was officially closed in 1960, although the last such camp, Perm-36, did not close until 1987. The current Russian penal system still continues many of the practices endemic to the <em>Gulags </em>– forced labour, inmates policing inmates, and prisoner intimidation.</p><p>The FSIN system includes more than a thousand penal establishments and 24 state agencies that may use the productive capacity of other state institutions for profit. In total, these combined organisations manufacture around 100,000 different products, including uniforms for the armed services (the Ministries of Internal Affairs, Emergency Situations and Defence), manhole covers, kerbstones and cast-iron ware, as well as timber felling and coal mining operations. But there is not enough work for all prisoners: FSIN puts the number of productive inmates at only 200,000 out of a total of 600,000.</p><p class="pullquote-right">In total, these combined organisations manufacture around 100,000 different products.</p> <p>One reason for the shortfall in prison employment is geographical. In regions near Russia’s frontier with China, articles produced in prison workshops cannot compete with the cheap imports from the other side of the border, and so they go out of business. In remote northern areas, prison administrators see their potential profits eaten up by high transport costs. However, FSIN still makes a good income from prisoners’ work: in 2013 its various establishments produced goods to the value of 32 billion roubles (£428 million).&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Since July, under new regulations, FSIN institutions cannot individually tender for production contracts, which had led to a growth in the market for private business agents, who could win government contracts and then farm them out to prison camps. These private firms often have close links with prison governors or regional departments of the FSIN. Now, with the help of the FSIN’s own central trading company, prison governors are now able to negotiate prices with client firms directly and keep part of the profit for their establishments – the price achieved may be several times higher than their production cost. But those profits come at a price.</p><h2>Working conditions</h2> <p>Prison administrators can force inmates to work overtime or night shifts to maximise production. Indeed, the freedom of action enjoyed by prison governors can sometimes lead to serious scandals. In September 2013, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, sentenced to two years behind bars for her part in Pussy Riot’s ‘sacrilegious’ performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, announced a hunger strike in protest at the systematic infringement of her rights and the rights of all prisoners at her prison camp. In a letter published on the independent Lenta.ru news website she explained that her team in the camp’s sewing workshop had to work for 16-17 hours a day, from 07:30 to 00:30. ‘We had four hours sleep a night – if we were lucky’, she wrote. ‘We had to work most Sundays, and had a day off only once in six weeks. Inmates have to apply in writing to work on Sundays and days off ‘by choice.’ In fact, of course, they have no choice. But you are forced to write these applications by the prison officers and the trusted inmates who pass on their orders.’&nbsp;</p><p class="pullquote-right">Prisoners had to work in the camp’s sewing workshop for 16-17 hours a day, including most Sundays, from 7:30am to 12:30am.</p> <p>Tolokonnikova, who has since been freed, detailed the pressure exerted. ‘Nobody dares refuse to write a request asking to work until 12.30am on a Sunday. One woman of 50 asked if she could stop work early, at 8.00pm, so that she could go to bed at 10.00pm and at least have a decent seven hours sleep one night a week. She wasn’t feeling well; she has high blood pressure. The prison officers’ response was to call a section meeting where the woman was lectured, insulted, humiliated and called a lazybones. “You want more sleep than everybody else? You need to sweat your guts out a bit more!” And when someone is let off work by a doctor because of illness, they also get it in the neck from the authorities: “So what if you go to work with a temperature of 40 degrees, it’s no big deal. Did you even think about who would do your sewing for you?”’ Tolokonnikova’s assertions were confirmed by Aleksander Korshunov, deputy head of FSIN (whose idea it was to set up the trading company); he said that prison managers do sometimes force inmates to work overtime, to increase production.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/554751/RIAN_01103515.LR_.ru_.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/554751/RIAN_01103515.LR_.ru_.jpg" alt="Russian female prisoners at sewing machines. " title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Russian prisoners can work up to 17-hour days, with no time off. (c) RIA Novosti/Ilya Pitalev</span></span></span></p> <p>Prisoners don’t as a rule make more than the so-called minimum living wage, which in Russia is set at 5554 roubles (£75) a month. FSIN’s own figures put a prisoner’s average daily earnings at 196 roubles (£2.60). One exception is timber felling in the Krasnoyarsky Krai in Siberia [much of which lies in the permafrost zone]. Prisoners there can earn 20,000-25,000 roubles a month (£270-330), but that is rare. Similar amounts can be earned in the iron-casting industry – the extra pay is down to the heavy and dangerous working conditions. <strong></strong></p> <h2>The FSIN trading company</h2> <p>The idea behind the setting up of the FSIN trading company was to take on all the contracting for prison production operations, relieving prison administrators of the need to deal with client companies, and so removing the middleman between producer and customer. The trading company signs an agreement with a client and then allocates the order to whatever prison camp is best placed to fulfil it. The camp, however, receives little profit from the deal – 10% of the contracted sum to cover its overheads; the rest of the profit goes back into FSIN’s coffers.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The camp receives 10% of the contracted sum to cover its overheads: the rest of the profit goes back into FSIN’s coffers.</p> <p>Korshunov told the <em>Kommersant</em> business daily that the trading company would be based in Moscow, with five branches situated around the regions. ‘It will have a strictly vertical structure: the branches will be subject to the centre and will have to agree all their activities with Moscow. Production at prison camps will be managed by civil servants; their salaries will be based on their success in fulfilling orders. At the same time, the prison camps can all tender for contracts and place orders with whomever they like in their region without referring to Moscow, which, however, still needs to be kept informed of all financial decisions. </p> <p>Economist Olga Kostenko thinks that there is room for a company of this type that will concentrate on attracting and servicing orders for FSIN, but thinks it is difficult to say how effective it will be. ‘In the first place, it’s not clear how the actual work done by the prisoners is regulated – by reference to criminal law or labour law. If it’s the first, then we are effectively legalising slavery, which doesn’t provide any motivation to increase productivity, and so on; if the second, then we’re talking about the possibility of the inmates themselves choosing, say, whether to work on a farm or sew uniforms. If FSIN allowed prisoners to develop their skills and motivation, the company would be a very effective business’. But Kostenko also points out another important factor for the company’s prospects – its management: ‘If the people in charge are not up to the job, then it doesn’t have any future.’</p><p class="pullquote-right">‘If the people in charge are not up to the job, then it doesn’t have any future.’</p> <p>Vladimir Osechkin, founder of the <a href="http://www.publiciti.ru/en/interview/8interview-founder-of-gulagunet-vladimir-osechkin-with-radio-liberty92">Gulagu.net</a> human rights social network believes, however, that the whole idea is utopian and fundamentally unworkable: ‘It is naive to expect that a system, 80% of which is made up of elements of the <em>Gulag</em> and which is a legacy of the Soviet planned economy and the exploitation of slave labour, can suddenly learn how to make money,' he says. ‘It’s stupid to imagine that FSIN functionaries who have been taught their trade from out-of-date textbooks can be turned into financial wizards’. </p><p>According to Osechkin, the whole concept of developing production and trade within FSIN is a mistake, as it doesn’t give enough attention to how the partnership between public bodies and private business should be developed. ‘Over the years it would have been possible to create a coherent, fair and transparent system to regulate relations with business people, to develop and promote clear rules of engagement with the business community, recruit business ombudsmen into regional FSIN community councils, liberalise the conditions in which the working prison population is held, stop paying inmates the minimum wage, and construct a fair pay system. This is the only possible way forward, but none of it has happened.’&nbsp;</p><p><em>Standfirst image: Russian female prisoners. (c) RIA Novosti/Ilya Pitalev</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/nadezhda-tolokonnikova/it%E2%80%99s-not-easy-being-ngo-in-russia">It’s not easy being an NGO in Russia</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ekaterina-loushnikova/outcasts-%E2%80%94-inmates-of-black-eagle">Outcasts — inmates of the Black Eagle</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Through the bars Vyacheslav Kozlov Russia Justice Internal Human rights Economy Fri, 09 Jan 2015 17:55:46 +0000 Vyacheslav Kozlov 89436 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How Russia is coping with its Ukrainian refugees https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/how-russia-is-coping-with-its-ukrainian-refugees-rostov-UNHCR <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/191903471.jpg" alt="2472872 RIA CROP.jpg" hspace="5" width="160" align="right" /></p><p>Russia has almost the same number of Ukrainian refugees, as Ukraine has internally displaced persons. But what are the authorities doing? <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/%D0%B2%D1%8F%D1%87%D0%B5%D1%81%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B2-%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B7%D0%BB%D0%BE%D0%B2/kak-rossiya-spravlyaetsya-s-potokom-ukrainskikh-bezhentsev" target="_blank">на русском языке</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The civil war between the militias of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and the Ukrainian army has led to a mass exodus of inhabitants from the south-east of the country to Russia. Numerous inspections by Russian and European officials in the regions of Russia bordering Ukraine show that there are genuinely a large number of displaced people, but how many exactly no one has been able to count.</p> <p>The Russian government is using the issue of forcibly displaced people as an instrument in the information war – juggling statistics, officials attempt to show that the actions of the Kyiv authorities have lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.</p><h2>Juggling statistics</h2> <p>The active phase of the civil war in the South-East of Ukraine is already in its second month, and the issue of displaced people from Ukraine has been discussed in Russia for about as long. Every week, the Federal Migration Service (FMS) issues new statistics: how many Ukrainian citizens have entered the country, and how many inhabitants from the south-east of the neighbouring country have attempted to apply for residency in the Russian Federation. While at the start, the theme of refugees was discussed for the most part by the heads of the regions where the forcibly displaced had fled, for more than a month now the issue has been managed by the federal authorities.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/-беженцы.jpg" width="460" /><em><small><small>Ukrainian children in a resettlement facility near Gukovo, Rostov Region. (c) RIA Novosti/Maksim Blinov</small></small></em></p> <p>According to the FMS, at the end of July, about 144,000 citizens of Ukraine had already handed in documents to confirm their status as refugees in Russia. The majority of displaced people are staying in regions of Russia that border Ukraine, Rostov and Belgorod. In the Southern Federal District, more than 65 temporary accommodation centres have been set up, which contain more than 10,000 people. In the whole of Russia, they have made more than 270 temporary accommodation centres, where more than 26,000 people live. Those who are not staying in camps are staying either with relatives or friends in Russia or with inhabitants of the neighbouring regions, who have generously agreed to offer their housing for a period of time.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Forcibly displaced people, as the officials note, try to stay in Russia using different legal formulations: apart from temporary asylum, they also receive the right to reside in the Russian Federation temporarily; and can submit forms to receive citizenship.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">The head of the FMS has said that more than 500,000 Ukrainian citizens have fled to Russia.</span></p> <p>The head of the FMS, Konstantin Romodanovsky, has said that, in the last three months since the start of the active phase of the so-called anti-terrorist operation in south-east Ukraine, more than 500,000 Ukrainian citizens have fled to Russia. Indeed, in order to increase the scale of the problem in the eyes of journalists, Russian officials frequently comment on the refugee situation, citing the statistics of Ukrainian citizens coming to Ukraine. For example, Valentina Matviyenko, Speaker of the Federation Council, announced back in June that over 500,000 Ukrainian refugees were already on Russian territory. Matviyenko called the situation of refugees nothing less than 'a humanitarian catastrophe.' The Investigative Committee back at the start of June went even further: its agents started a criminal investigation, ‘based on the fact of crimes against humanity in south-east Ukraine;’ and an investigative brigade was set up especially to look into the situation.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The Russian reaction</span></h2> <p>Despite the unclear numbers of how many Ukrainian refugees there actually are in Russia, the authorities made short order of bringing in legislation that regulates the stay of forcibly displaced people in the country; and defines the process of giving out permission for temporary asylum. At the end of July, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev immediately signed several similar orders. In one of the most important, he simplified the procedure for Ukrainian citizens receiving temporary asylum.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The Russian authorities made short order of bringing in legislation that regulates the stay of forcibly displaced people.</p> <p>Now, until the end of military action, displaced persons will be able to receive their right to stay in Russia over the course of three days, not three months, as it was previously. Medvedev's order proposes that temporary asylum will be presented on a group basis, which means that FMS agents do not need to study the individual information about an applicant; it is enough for asylum seekers to give their application to an FMS department, and simply state that they are fleeing military action in Ukraine. Until now, citizens of Ukraine could stay in Russia without documentation for up to 90 days, unless, that is, the head of the FMS, Konstantin Romodanovsky, ordered an automatic granting of residency.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>Aside from these amendments to the law, the Russian authorities are also spending record amounts of money on aid to refugees, and on establishing them in Russia. Dmitry Medvedev set aside an additional 780m roubles (£12.86m) for the FMS to carry out medical examinations of displaced persons, pay for their transport around the Russian Federation, and to pay benefits.</p><p class="pullquote-right">In total, Russian authorities have set aside 5 billion roubles (£82.5m) in the last three months.</p> <p>In total, Russian authorities have set aside 5 billion roubles (£82.5m) in the last three months. In comparison, for the resettlement programme started in 2007 to resettle Russian-speaking compatriots, the importance of which has been iterated by President Vladimir Putin many times, the government spends 2 billion roubles (£33m) a year. Why 5 billion roubles were apportioned to the regions for settling refugees at a time when the exact number of displaced persons has not been established has not been explained, either by the government or the FMS.</p> <p>The money set aside by the government for Ukrainian refugees, will be distributed by the Ministry of Regional Development, the body responsible for working with regional authorities; and the lion’s share of government funds will go to the regions that border Ukraine. Anton Siluanov, Minister of Finance, noted that the funds will only be distributed for concrete aims, but how much the regions will receive and what they concretely need, he would not say. Neither is it known if the Audit Chamber will monitor the distribution of emergency funds.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p><h2><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When is a refugee not a refugee</span></h2> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Human rights defenders and migration specialists are critical of the statistics given by the Russian government, and the distribution of money and assistance. According to the chair of the Civic Assistance Committee, Svetlana Gannushkina, officials still do not understand who is considered a refugee: ‘A Ukrainian citizen from Kirovohrad Region appealed to us. She had left for Russia, and decided not to return home due to military action. She appealed to the regional capital’s department of the FMS, with a request to allow her temporary asylum. In her application she stated that she feared returning to Ukraine because of military action,’ Gannushkina said, ‘but the FMS refused to grand her temporary asylum because there’s no war in Kirovohrad region, and also because she had been working in Russia.’</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right" style="line-height: 1.5;">Human rights experts believe that temporary asylum needs to be offered to all Ukrainians who leave their country because of the war.</span></p> <p>Human rights experts believe that temporary asylum needs to be offered to all citizens of Ukraine, who leave their country because of the war, because for as long as Russian officials have the choice not to offer asylum, it is quite possible that the explanations put forward by putative refugees will not be believed.</p> <p>In an interview with <em>Kommersant</em>, Gayar Akhsyasyanov, head of the law firm Avanti Consulting, noted that money set aside by the government is not being spent effectively. Aid, in his words, is local and temporary, whereas the situation should be used to develop migration infrastructure: ‘One would want the money spent on construction, for example, of new visa centres.’</p><p> <img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/191903471.jpg" alt="2472872 RIA CROP.jpg" width="460" /><small><small><em> One of 270 temporary accommodation centres housing Ukrainian refugees in Russia. (c) RIA Novosti/Maksim Blinov</em></small></small></p> <p>So, just how many Ukrainian refugees are there in Russia? According to Svetlana Gannushkina, the figure of 500,000 mentioned by the Russian authorities is not worth taking seriously; most likely, she says, the FMS is counting all Ukrainians who crossed the border with Russia. The situation is further complicated by the fact that there is a visa-free travel regime between Russia and Ukraine, which makes defining the number who fled the war impossible. At the same time, however, Gannushkin admits that the flow of refugees into Ukraine is real.<span style="line-height: 1.5;">&nbsp;</span></p> <p>The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has made no mention of 500,000 refugees coming from Ukraine into Russia. According to the latest data, 117,000 internally displaced people have fled the conflict in Ukraine to different regions of the country. In Russia, the High Commissioner confirms 168,000 people.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/andrii-ianitskyi/ukraine-is-struggling-to-cope-with-flood-of-internal-refugees">Ukraine is struggling to cope with a flood of internal refugees</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/oleg-kashin/polite-people-with-big-guns-natalia-poklonskaya-dmitry-kiselyov">Polite people with guns</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Vyacheslav Kozlov Ukraine is missing something Migration matters Russia Politics NGOs Human rights Foreign Economy Conflict Mon, 11 Aug 2014 12:26:35 +0000 Vyacheslav Kozlov 85103 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Legal limbo in Crimea https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/legal-limbo-in-crimea-methadone <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" src="http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/1gGPS3mABjEDGayCiM2QlJic2YQs4s_N7rJ4eFkD-xU/mtime:1403536689/files/2412509%20crop%20.jpg" alt="" width="160" /></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Judges, prisoners and drug addicts are all in legal limbo in Crimea because the judicial status of Russia’s new territory is still far from clear.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Local government in Crimea has pretty much ground to a halt. It is still unclear whether the region’s judges have completed the process of re-registering their credentials so that they can practise Russian federal law, while Crimean prisoners, tried in Ukrainian courts, have not been informed whether their existing sentences will stand or not. Meanwhile, Crimean drug addicts, who have been receiving treatment with methadone substitution therapy (MST), are worried that supplies will soon run out – the drug is banned in Russia – and they will have to fall back on morphine or heroin.</p><h2>Paralysed</h2> <p>Vladimir Putin had barely finished making his momentous announcement about the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, when the problems began. The first one concerned the courts, which had been working under Ukrainian law. Disagreements over questions of procedure have paralysed the local judiciary: criminal, administrative and civil cases have all been frozen as judges try to work out what legal process they should be using.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Taras Litvinenko copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Taras Litvinenko copy.jpg" alt="Crimeans wait to exchange Ukrainian licence plates for Russian ones. Not all changes are as comparatively smooth." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Crimeans wait to exchange Ukrainian licence plates for Russian ones. Not all changes are as comparatively smooth.</span></span></span></p><p class="pullquote-right">Disagreements over questions of procedure have paralysed the local judiciary.</p> <p>It got to the stage where Crimean judges’ verdicts could not be recognised under Russian law because there were no official stamps available to validate them. On 24 April, <em>Kommersant </em>newspaper reported a case where a regional judge fined a Crimean resident 5,000 roubles (£100) for a drugs offence, in accordance with Russian law, but used a stamp with a Ukrainian crest to formalise it. As local civil rights campaigners pointed out, he had no alternative, since there were no stamps bearing Russia’s crest. &nbsp; </p><p>Another legal problem that arose was that Crimean judges were not authorised to deliver verdicts based on Russian law, since they were ruling about Ukrainian, not Russian, citizens. Ukraine also has separate categories of administrative and commercial courts, which have no equivalent in Russia. The special working party set up by the Russian Duma to harmonise the two legal systems is still at a loss to see how these bodies can be adapted to function within a Russian legal framework. In the end, local judges have had to just drop cases founded on Ukrainian law.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/4230463 copy.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/4230463 copy.jpg" alt="A sign above a restaurant reads in English and Russian 'Crimeans are together with Russia'" title="" width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Crimea may be de facto Russian territory now, but serious legal issues remain. (c) Demotix/Gabriel Fortin-Harvey</span></span></span></p><p>At first, it was assumed that the question of the status of judges, lawyers and notaries public would be, at least partly, resolved by 19 April. The Russian Government decided to give all Crimea’s judges immediate Russian citizenship, so that they could at least deliver verdicts that would be recognised in the Russian Federation; as for Russian law, they would be expected to get their heads round it as they went along. But as that date approached, it turned out that just having Russian citizenship still would not give them the right to practise in the Russian Federation: they would have to go through a re-attestation process as laid down in the law ‘On the Status of Judges in the Russian Federation.’ This process has several stages: the selection and nomination of a candidate is followed by a qualifying examination, and scrutiny by a Qualifications Board.</p><p class="pullquote-right">To speed up the process, the Crimean judges were given a concession in the shape of a simplified exam.</p> <p>So by the end of April, all Crimean judges were expected to have passed the complex examination taken in Russia by any applicant for a licence to practise law as a solicitor, barrister or notary public. To speed up the process, the Crimean judges were given a concession in the shape of a simplified exam: usually, for example, anyone wanting to qualify as a barrister would have to answer a minimum of 100 questions on civil, administrative and criminal law, but the Crimean applicants had to answer less than half that number; and they were examined by specially selected members of Russia’s Law Society.</p> <p>We still do not know whether the Crimean judges and lawyers passed their exam; the Russian Government has not announced any results. The only thing that is clear is that it will be at least a year before the package of bills regulating Crimea’s courts, passed by the Duma on 11 June, will start to be implemented, so the problems will not disappear any time soon. The politicians have, however, ruled that existing judges should have priority for jobs, and selection will made by the Higher Judges’ Qualifications Board.</p><h2>Addicts without a legal fix</h2> <p>Differences in drugs legislation between Russia and Ukraine have created much greater problems for Crimean drug addicts, and in particular those who have been benefitting from a methadone substitution therapy programme. Eight hundred users in Crimea and Sevastopol are being treated with methadone or buprenorphine to help wean them off their addiction to hard drugs, in a programme set up by the Ukrainian authorities. But in Russia substitution therapy is banned, as is methadone itself, which is on the same list of banned drugs as heroin – the country’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) is strongly <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/health/22meth.html?pagewanted=all">opposed</a> to its use. After the annexation of Crimea, when many Ukrainian health officials left the peninsula for good, local users and drug specialists warned that their supply of methadone would soon run out, and asked that they be allowed to continue the programme on an experimental basis. Otherwise, they say, many users who, thanks to the scheme, have been able to reintegrate in society, may go back to using hard drugs.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/John Kelly.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/John Kelly.jpg" alt="While Methadone is commonly used therapeutically throughout the world, in Russia it is a banned substance. " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>While methadone is commonly used therapeutically throughout the world, in Russia it is a banned substance. CC John Kelly </span></span></span><span></span></p><p><span>In Sevastopol, the MST programme has been in operation for around five years, and according to both Ukrainian Government research and local human rights organisations, has had considerable success. In 2012, Ukraine’s Ministry for Internal Affairs Academy, the Odessa-based Veritas human rights group and the Ukrainian Institute for Public Health Policy Research carried out a joint study of the success of substitution therapy in preventing drug related crime. Their research showed that 26.5% of Ukrainian Police officers polled had noticed a reduction in crimes relating to drug trafficking, and 22.1% had registered a drop in general crime.</span></p><p class="pullquote-right">Since the methadone programme began, police have noticed a drop in both drug-related and general crime.</p> <p>According to the study, before accessing the programme, 50% of addicts were spending about 200 Hryvnia (£10) a day on drugs, 40% spending up to 500 Hryvnia (£25), and 10%, spending more than 1000 Hryvnia (£50). 77% of those enrolled in the programme also reported that they no longer had to find money for a fix – in other words, the drugs experts pointed out, they no longer had to commit crimes in order to survive. </p> <p>The Russian FSKN is, however, deaf to the experts’ calls. Methadone, they repeat, is banned in Russia, and so it should also be banned in Crimea. Nevertheless, the Russian Health Ministry has decided to allow the distribution of methadone to continue on the peninsula for the time being, announcing that ‘methadone will remain available to those who are enrolled on the programme.’ But who knows how long this temporary reprieve will continue?&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <h2>Prisons and prisoners</h2> <p>The legal vacuum in which Crimea and Ukraine found themselves after Russia’s annexation has also affected both prisoners serving sentences in Crimean camps, and people being held in pre-trial detention. Despite the fact that the Russian Federal Penal Enforcement Service (FSIN) is already operating in the peninsula, local prisoners are still not subject to Russian law.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Some prisoners have been convicted under Ukrainian laws that have no equivalent in Russia.</p> <p>The problem is that the 3000 people serving time in Crimea’s three prison camps were tried under Ukrainian law, which has no judicial force in Russia. Some of them have been convicted under articles of the Ukrainian Criminal Code, which have no equivalent in Russian law; and the Russian FSIN and Ministry of Justice have yet to decide whether these prisoners can look forward to a review of their cases and sentences. One thing, however, is clear – no one will want to free prisoners, wherever they were sentenced. In Crimea, at this moment, judges, drug addicts and prisoners all find themselves in the same company – in a legal limbo.</p><p><em>Standfirst image (c) RIA Novosti/Taras Litvinenko &nbsp; &nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/taras-kuzio/crimea-%E2%80%93-from-playground-to-battleground">Crimea – from playground to battleground</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/ildar-gabidullin/moscows-crimean-tatar-problem">Moscow&#039;s Crimean Tatar problem</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Creative Commons </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Ukraine Vyacheslav Kozlov Politics Justice Health Foreign Conflict Mon, 23 Jun 2014 15:29:54 +0000 Vyacheslav Kozlov 83946 at https://www.opendemocracy.net RuNet: politics before profit https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/vyacheslav-kozlov/runet-politics-before-profit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img style="margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: right;" src="http://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ugmYjOgzaqkG8_Vb_H7axvCqIJl-92WU0uQoMQRzHLY/mtime:1400607297/files/Medvedev_and_Steve_Jobs%20with%20ipad%20cc%20wikipedia_0.jpg" alt="" width="150" />With most of the Russian media under Kremlin control, the internet has been a popular source of independent information. But now this window may be closing, with major online news sites blocked by the authorities.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>The morning of 12 March began with bad news for staff at <a href="http://lenta.ru/">Lenta.ru</a>, one of Russia’s leading online news platforms. They learned that media regulator Roskomnadzor had issued them a warning for publishing a link to an interview with Dmytro Yarosh, leader of Ukraine’s ultra nationalist ‘Pravy Sektor’ movement, and a candidate in the country’s forthcoming presidential elections, where he referred to the necessity of war with ‘the Muscovite Empire.’ Although Roskomnadzor had never described any of Yarosh’s previous interviews as ‘extremist,’ it nevertheless explained its decision by claiming that his statement fell into the category of ‘incitement to racial hatred.’</p> <p>Lenta.ru quickly removed the link, but for several hours the story was a hot topic on social networking sites, discussing the motive for the decision, and its possible consequences. In law, after two warnings in a given year, Roskomnadzor can apply to the courts for the termination of a media organisation’s licence. In this instance, nobody was talking about Lenta.ru losing its licence, but the site more or less closed down the same evening, despite there having been no further hassle from the officials. Billionaire oligarch Alexander Mamut, who owns Afisha-Rambler-Sup, the media group that includes Lenta.ru (and Waterstone’s the booksellers, in the UK) fired the site’s editor-in-chief, Galina Timchenko, ostensibly because of the Roskomnadzor warning, and within half an hour her office had been emptied.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Lenta.ru_censored СС Лента.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Lenta.ru_censored СС Лента.png" alt="Lenta screenshot: This article was deleted from the site by request of Roskomnadzor, in accordance with letter No. 05KM-15586." title="" width="460" height="286" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'This article was deleted from the site by request of Roskomnadzor, in accordance with letter No. 05KM-15586.' CC Lenta.ru</span></span></span></p><p>Timchenko had worked at Lenta.ru since its beginnings in 1999, and became editor-in-chief in 2004. She enjoyed the unquestioned loyalty of her staff, and it was clear that many of them would leave with her. Indeed, most of her editorial colleagues resigned soon after her sacking. In an <a href="http://lenta.ru/info/posts/statement/">open letter</a> they wrote, ‘the pity isn’t that we have nowhere to work, the pity is that you, it seems, have nothing more to read.’</p><p class="pullquote-right">At a certain point, for Alexander Mamut, political conformity became more important than business interests.</p> <p>A Roskomnadzor source summed up the story: ‘Mamut was using his political intuition.’ In other words, at a certain point, political conformity became more important than business interests. Sources at media consultancy group RBC immediately predicted that Timchenko’s departure would ‘reduce Lenta.ru’s share value to zero,’ although it had previously always been a good money spinner: RBC estimated its 2012 profits at between 200m-250m roubles (£3.36m- 4.2m), and business daily <em>Vedomosti </em>put them at 237m (£4m). Google Analytics reported an increase of 37% in visits to the site between January and February this year, reaching over 20m unique visits a month, and 85m visits overall.</p><h2><span>The Kremlin online</span></h2><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Timchenko cc via ru.wikipedia.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Timchenko cc via ru.wikipedia.jpg" alt="Galina Timchenko. Unceremoniously dismissed as editor-in-chief of Lenta.ru. " title="" width="160" height="240" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Galina Timchenko. Unceremoniously dismissed as editor-in-chief of Lenta.ru. via Kremlin.ru</span></span></span></p><p>The muzzling of Lenta.ru has left Russia without a single completely independent online media platform, with a daily audience in the millions. There was something inevitable about such a move: the political crisis in Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea to Russia, and the need for blanket pro-government propaganda definitively alerted the Kremlin’s attention to the internet, the last outpost of Russia’s independent media. Timchenko’s sacking, then, and the de facto closure of Lenta.ru were no surprise. There had long been talk about the displeasure of presidential officials, and indeed the unhappiness of the publication’s owners, at such independent mindedness – and the more influential Lenta.ru became, the more persistent the rumours about Timchenko’s impending removal.</p><p class="pullquote-right">Russia is left without a single completely independent online media platform, with a daily audience in the millions.</p><p><span>Lenta.ru’s influence as an online information resource, unlike that of general interest internet titles like </span><em>Kommersant</em><span> or </span><em>Vedomosti</em><span>, arose out of its constantly growing readership. As Timchenko herself told another independent online platform, Slon.ru, the crisis in Ukraine, as well as the site’s freedom of choice in its format and the subjects it covered, gained it 3m unique visits a day at a certain point.</span></p> <p>‘I realised that our influence and impact on our readership had reached its highest peak ever,’ she says. ‘I’m not saying it scared me, but I knew that this level of reach was inevitably going to get somebody – the Kremlin, our oligarch owner – on our case, and that I should be getting worried.’ The question was not ‘if’ but ‘when’ Mamut would take the decision to fire her, for he had also been getting rid of independent minded heads in other parts of his media empire, covering news and political issues. </p> <h2>The death of Gazeta.ru</h2> <p>In September 2013, Mamut had sacked Svetlana Lolayeva from her post as editor-in-chief of another once influential online media platform in his group, Gazeta.ru. Lolayeva, who had worked there since 2007, was replaced by Svetlana Babayeva, a columnist with the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti: ‘He told me he had no complaints about my work,’ Lolayeva said at the time, ‘but that they had been looking for a new editor-in-chief for some time’. For her, however, Mamut’s decision came as a complete shock.</p><p class="pullquote-right">The crisis in Ukraine had gained Lenta.ru three million unique visits a day.</p> <p>Babayeva has since replaced most of Gazeta.ru’s columnists, and the commentary section sometimes runs articles by Vladimir Markin, the press officer of Russia’s Investigative Committee (equivalent to the FBI). The political editor, on the other hand, has problems filling his news columns: key changes in policy have led to most of the paper’s former leading journalists and editors going elsewhere. </p> <p>The problems at Gazeta.ru admittedly began much earlier than those at Lenta.ru, and they weren’t always connected with Mamut. Founded, like <em>Lenta</em>, in 1999, <em>Gazeta</em>, unlike its rival, always positioned itself as a full-blown online newspaper where news was not the main agenda: its journalists produced self-contained feature material with in-depth coverage of a range of subjects, and interviews with various public figures.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Medvedev_and_Steve_Jobs with ipad cc wikipedia.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/Medvedev_and_Steve_Jobs with ipad cc wikipedia.jpg" alt="IT Guru Steve Jobs demonstrates an iphone to an enraptured Dmitry Medvedev. " title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Steve Jobs demonstrates an iphone to an enraptured Dmitry Medvedev. via Kremlin.ru</span></span></span></p> <p>For a long time, the Kremlin took no notice of Gazeta.ru: the internet was not on policymakers’ radar – they were still getting their news from TV and the printed press. That situation changed in 2009, when then President Dmitry Medvedev’s political agenda, ‘Russia, Forward!’ was published on Gazeta.ru – an attempt by his aides to show that here was a man of the moment, a fan of new technology and modernisation, and also to stress Medvedev’s stylistic distance from his conservative predecessor Vladimir Putin, who had often admitted that the internet was not an information source he ever used.&nbsp;</p><p class="pullquote-right">The internet was not on policymakers’ radar – they were still getting their news from TV and the printed press</p> <p>Two years later, in December 2011, in the run up to elections to the Duma, Gazeta.ru was one of the first online media outlets to be subjected to direct political pressure. The paper had joined up with election watchdog NGO <a href="http://www.epde.org/en/assotiation-golos-russia.html">Golos</a> to monitor fraud during the elections, and had set up an outlet for any internet user to post information about any instance of illegal activity on the Gazeta.ru site, but the page banners for this ‘special project’ suddenly disappeared from the site, removed on the orders of Gazeta.ru management. At the same time, a number of government-controlled media outlets began a campaign to discredit Golos, the most prominent and independent election monitor NGO.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/violations map.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/550419/violations map.jpg" alt="Gazeta.ru's map of electoral violations with the NGO Golos. Red dots all over European Russia." title="" width="460" height="292" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Gazeta.ru's 'Rigging Map' of electoral violations with the NGO Golos - an online step too far.</span></span></span></p><p>The then editor in chief of Gazeta.ru, Mikhail Kotov, explained the disappearance of the banners by claiming that the bandwidth designated to carry the ‘Rigging Map’ turned out to be needed by advertisers. His deputy, Roman Badanin, whose idea the ‘Rigging Map’ had been, resigned in protest, on the assumption that the management had been leaned on from ‘above.’ Kotov himself resigned in 2013 because of disagreements about the strategy for the paper that Mamut’s appointees wanted to follow.</p> <h2>A ‘mopping up’</h2> <p><span>There seems little likelihood of any let up in the pressure being applied by the Russian government to internet media. On the day after Galina Timchenko was fired, internet service providers simultaneously removed access to three opposition </span><a href="http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/03/13/russia-blocks-four-opposition-media-portals/">media sites</a><span>, Grani.ru, Kasparov.ru and ej.ru (</span><em>Yezhednevny Zhurnal</em><span>): Roskomnadzor had added their content to its blacklist of prohibited information. This was also the first time the so-called ‘</span><a href="http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/496221.html">Lugovoi Law’</a><span> (named after its author, Duma Deputy Andrei Lugovoi) was invoked; this law, passed in February of this year, allows internet providers to block sites without first having to get a court injunction. These three sites had a much smaller readership than Lenta.ru or Gazeta.ru, but they formed a pool of ultra-liberal online media outlets widely known in opposition circles. As soon as they wrote about Timchenko they were blacked out.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class="pullquote-right">The new ‘Lugovoi Law’ allows internet providers to block sites without a court injunction</span></p> <p>Notwithstanding their liberal leanings, the heads of <em>Grani</em> and <em>Yezhednevny Zhurnal</em> had not been expecting such a categorical and drastic decision from the regulator. 'No one sent us any sort of formal notice, no one informed us of any breach of the rules, the site just stopped working and that was it. I don't know why,' stated the editor-in-chief of Grani.ru, Vladimir Korsunsky, in an interview with <a href="http://bbcrussian.com/">BBC Russian</a>. The chief editor of <em>Yezhdnevny Zhurnal</em>, Aleksandr Ryklin, for his part, stated that the defining feature of the new law is that it allows the blocking of any site without a court order. If the media outlet wants to go back to publishing, however, it will need to get a court to overrule the original decision. He describes the current situation of independent online-media in Russia as a '<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zachistka">mopping-up</a> of the online space.’</p> <h2><strong>The unclear future</strong></h2> <p>Despite this clampdown on internet media, there are still a few independent news sites online. One of the best known of these is <a href="http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://slon.ru/&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3Dslon.ru%26newwindow%3D1">Slon.ru</a>, launched in 2009 and funded by banker Alexander Vinokurov. Although <em>Slon</em> positions itself as a business paper, its coverage of general news and current affairs is equally strong. So far, it has not been touched by the authorities, and its independent stance has attracted some former Lenta.ru staff, who have been giving its information services a makeover.</p><p class="pullquote-right">There is increasing discussion about crowdfunding, which makes sites independent of wealthy backers who can be pressured</p> <p>The future of independent online news media in Russia is still unclear. In the present situation the likelihood of continued government crackdowns does not encourage any investment in new titles, from either a financial point of view, because of the impact of a lack of advertising revenue has on profits, or in terms of potential investors’ relations with the Kremlin. After the recent closures there is increasing discussion in the media world of crowdfunding, raising money from small individual investors, which makes sites independent of wealthy backers who can be pressured. One example of this is the online magazine <a href="http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&amp;sl=ru&amp;u=http://www.colta.ru/&amp;prev=/search%3Fq%3Dcolta.ru%26newwindow%3D1">Colta.ru</a>. On the other hand, of course, media platforms that use crowdfunding may be ideologically independent, but they rely totally on readers’ subscriptions and donations; and since this is something very new in Russia, these platforms are unlikely to have enough cash to pay journalists properly, rent an office or, for example, fund fact-finding trips away from Moscow. Even if it is possible to get an online media venture off the ground in Russia, there is always the possibility that Roskomnadzor will shoot it down.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/daniil-kotsyubinsky/writing-on-wall">The writing on the wall?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/od-russia/daniel-kennedy/russian-internet-today">The Russian internet today</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/od-russia/alexandra-kulikova/%E2%80%98balkanisation%E2%80%99-of-russia%E2%80%99s-internet">The ‘Balkanisation’ of Russia’s internet </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia oD Russia Vyacheslav Kozlov Russia Politics Beyond propaganda Internal Tue, 20 May 2014 18:24:23 +0000 Vyacheslav Kozlov 82985 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Vyacheslav Kozlov https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/vyacheslav-kozlov <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Vyacheslav Kozlov </div> </div> </div> <p>Vyacheslav Kozlov is a journalist for daily newspaper&nbsp;<em>Kommersant</em>.&nbsp;<span>He writes on international relations, nationalism, extremism, narco-politics, the Russian opposition and the problems facing Russia's NGOs.&nbsp;</span><span>He has at various times worked for </span><em>Vremya Novostei</em><span>,</span><em> Moskovskiye Novosti</em><span> and the online publication Gazeta.ru. His work has also appeared in </span><em>Novaya Gazeta</em><span> and Lenta.ru.&nbsp;</span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Article license:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 3.0 </div> </div> </div> Vyacheslav Kozlov Tue, 20 May 2014 15:24:45 +0000 Vyacheslav Kozlov 82986 at https://www.opendemocracy.net