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Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2908 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2018-09-18 13:16:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-18 13:16:12 [post_content] => China’s draconian approach to the Uighur Muslim minority in its far-western province of Xinjiang is currently – and rightly – receiving a substantial amount of media attention. Less discussed are the vast infrastructural changes also underway in the region, particularly in Xinjiang’s southern city of Kashgar, an economically deprived, religiously conservative and hitherto deeply isolated area, in which approximately 90% of the population are Uighurs. The centrepiece of this construction frenzy is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). With a total financial outlay of around US$51 billion, CPEC is expected to be completed by 2030, and will connect China’s far-western Xinjiang Province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port via a network of highways, railways and trading hubs, providing China with important trading access to the Middle East and Africa.[1] While the expansion of infrastructural networks will doubtlessly bring significant economic benefits to the region, the possibility of connecting militant and terrorist networks in the two regions presents a substantial security risk for the two states and the wider region. The level and pace of infrastructural development underway in southern Xinjiang is unprecedented. A railway extending from Kashgar, passing through Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to connect with railways in Iran, is currently in the first phase of construction. A second railway project linking Kashgar with the Uzbekistani city of Pap in the Ferghana Valley is also under construction. Highway projects connecting Andijan (Uzbekistan) with Osh (Kyrgyzstan) and Kashgar are also underway. Xinjiang already boasts the most airports of any Chinese province, and their number is expected to expand from 17 to 28 by 2020.[2]  However, the most significant projects in this sphere are part of CPEC: the Karakoram Highway, which links Kashgar with Hassan Abdal in Pakistan and was originally constructed in the 1970s, is being upgraded with parts to be expanded into a 4-lane motorway and extensions to the Khunjerab railway that will also link the Pakistani rail network to China’s Kashgar-Hotan railway, allowing rail links from the Gwadar Port into Xinjiang.  In the next few years, Kashgar will become a major transit hub for mainland China, with rail and road infrastructure connecting it directly with Pakistan and Central Asia. This will have far-reaching consequences for the local way of life, which has remained virtually unchanged for centuries. Perhaps the most significant security threat concerns the expansion of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the primary terrorist organization driving the Uighur separatist cause, across the region. After al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), ETIM has become the third largest foreign militant group located on the porous Pakistan-Afghan border region, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). ETIM is in alliance with local and international militant terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda and the Taliban, not only sharing their ideology, but also operating with their assistance.  ETIM’s primary aims are the liberation of Xinjiang from Chinese rule and the implementation of sharia’ in the region, goals which are increasingly shared by the other militant groups in the region. As such, China has become an important target for militant groups, not only for ETIM, but also for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Following the July 2009 riots in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, al Qaeda leader Abu Yahiya al Libi released a video threatening China. Pakistani security officials believe that in the aftermath of the riots, hundreds of Uighurs joined ETIM in FATA. In 2013, ETIM released a video showing Uighur children being trained in militant camps somewhere in FATA. The following year, the IMU’s Mufti al Burmi released a video entitled ‘Let’s disturb China’, in which he directed all militant groups affiliated to the Taliban and al Qaeda to target Chinese interests in Pakistan. Thus, close and expanding connections between Uighur and non-Uighur militants is driving the latter to take up the cause of the former, and growing trade and infrastructural connections between Xinjiang and Pakistan will doubtlessly facilitate militant connections between these groups. Beijing’s current project to transform Xinjiang into what has been termed by Western media reports as a ‘surveillance state’ constitutes its illiberal response to this threat. Islamic radical organizations are deeply rooted in Pakistani society and militant activities are threatening longstanding Pakistan-China relations. Following pressure from the Chinese leadership to take action against ETIM, in 2014 the Pakistan Army launched a military operation codenamed Zarb-i-Azb. However, although this massive military offensive destroyed militants’ command and control systems in FATA, numerous splinter groups have formed a new command system across the border in Eastern Afghanistan. The battle to eradicate these militant groups is therefore far from over. Despite popular concern about the growing levels of Chinese activities in Pakistan, with some Pakistani senators comparing CPEC to the East India Company, formal China-Pakistan relations have never been better. Both Pakistani and Chinese leaders have repeatedly referred to their relationship as ‘sweeter than honey’ and ‘stronger than steel’.[3] And the two big Pakistani religio-political parties, Jamiat Ulama i Islam (JUI) and Jamat i Islami (JI) have signed agreements with China. The Pakistani government has even defended Chinese policy towards Muslims in Xinjiang in the Organization for Islamic Co-operation. Such allegiance by Pakistan to its Communist neighbour is driven primarily by economics: the Pakistani economy is highly dependent on Chinese trade and investment. According to the 2017 edition of the annual government-authored Pakistan Economic Survey, the volume of trade between Pakistan and China, which was approximately US$4 billion between 2006 and 2007, reached an all-time high at US$13.77 billion in 2015-16. Pakistan’s exports to China have increased by almost 200 percent since the implementation of the FTA, from US$575 million in 2007 to 1690 million in 2016, making China the second largest importer of Pakistani goods after the United States.[4] It is highly unlikely that Pakistan will reduce its co-operation with China. The Chinese authorities are, of course, well aware of the threats posed by this cross-border infrastructural expansion – and the on-going repression of Muslims in Xinjiang must be seen in this context. In Pakistan, the threat against Chinese activity has become so severe that the Pakistani Army has created a special division whose sole purpose is to protect CPEC and its Chinese workers, and comprises nine army battalions, six civil wings and nearly 13,700 personnel.[5] It therefore seems likely that as CPEC gains momentum, so will the crackdowns on those deemed to pose security risks to the high stakes project. And this of course includes the entirety of Xinjiang’s Uighur population. As crackdowns against practicing Muslims in Xinjiang increase, however, the growing infrastructural connections between Pakistan and China will not only facilitate the transfer of goods, but also the transfer of militant and anti-Chinese ideology. Note:  The essay was written by two academics who wish to remain anonymous. [1] Andrew Small (2017) ‘First Movement: Pakistan and the Belt and Road Initiative’, Asia Policy, 24: 80-87. [2] Cui Jia (2016) ‘Work to start on rail link with Iran’, China Daily, 15 January 2016. Available at: [3] See Times of India (2017) ‘Our friendship is sweeter than honey: Chinese vice premier to Pakistan’, Times of India, 14 August 2017. Available at:; Tribune (2014) ‘“Pak-China friendship is 'sweeter than the sweetest honey”: Nawaz’, Tribune, 21 April 2014. Available at: [4] Pakistan Economic Survey 2016-17, May 2017. Available at: [5] Xinhua (2017) ‘Pakistan army chief vows to protect China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’, Xinhua, 11 March 2017. Available at: [post_title] => The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Security Risks of Infrastructural Expansion [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-china-pakistan-economic-corridor-cpec-and-the-security-risks-of-infrastructural-expansion [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-09-18 13:48:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-18 13:48:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2642 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2018-06-14 10:59:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-06-14 10:59:35 [post_content] => The UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) in 2019 will provide an opportunity for the country to re-define its foreign policy. This opportunity is greatest in regions where the UK can now conduct its foreign policy outside the EU. One such region is the Western Balkans, the six Southeast European states (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia) that remain outside the EU, but which are included in the EU’s Enlargement policy. So what could post-Brexit British policy towards the Western Balkans look like? What priorities and objectives could shape the UK’s approach to the region from 2019? Here I discuss several factors that can influence that debate, such as the commercial and strategic importance of the region, as well as historical links and legacies. Commercially, the Western Balkans is not very important for the UK. The region is in the southeast corner of Europe, encircled by EU member states, and does not share a border (maritime or land) with the UK. The countries and markets are small, not fully integrated with each other, and do not provide a major commercial opportunity for the UK.[1] As a result, investing additional resources to strengthen commercial ties to the region is unlikely to lead to significant returns for the UK. In addition, these economies are to a great extent already integrating with the EU and within the next decade are likely to become EU members. Therefore, ultimately, they will fall under the UK’s new external trade and commercial policies with the EU. Drafting a short-term separate external trade and commercial policies towards the Western Balkans will not be an efficient use of British diplomatic resources. Strategically, the region is also of limited importance to the UK. Although security concerns are typically raised in arguments favouring greater involvement with the Balkans, once the UK is outside the EU this argument will partly lose its force. While the Balkans remain important for European security and stability, as the 2015 migration crisis demonstrated when thousands of refugees from the Middle East arrived in the EU through the Western Balkans route, for the national security of the UK this is at best an indirect threat. To the extent that the UK remains invested in European security post-Brexit, mostly through NATO structures, the region will retain some strategic importance, but with the entire European continent between itself and the Western Balkans, the UK will not be directly affected by security developments in that region. Finally, unlike some other regions, such as the Commonwealth countries, the UK does not have strong historical and cultural ties with the Western Balkans. Although the population in the region is increasingly fluent in English, and aspects of British culture and education have become well accepted, UK’s cultural links to many of these countries are weak. Even as the Western Balkans societies over the past decade have become closer to the EU, thanks to increased mobility since the Schengen visa restrictions were lifted in 2010, this has not extended to the UK, which maintains a strict (and expensive) visa regime to the countries in this region, which is unlikely to be relaxed after Brexit. Consequently, the Western Balkans diaspora in the UK is small[2] and not very influential. By and large, due to its small size and the limited strategic and commercial importance to the UK, the Western Balkans countries are unlikely to become a significant priority in British foreign policy after Brexit. Limited diplomatic resources in the UK are likely to be applied elsewhere, to issues and regions perceived to be of higher importance. This is not to argue that the UK should disengage and de-prioritise this region from 2019. After all, there are several important legacies of British foreign policy in the region worth safeguarding and building upon. First, the UK, together with other global actors, has been actively involved in the rebuilding and reconciliation projects in the former Yugoslav states after the conflicts of the 1990s. This UK was directly involved in negotiating and rebuilding peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, which remain critical to regional stability and peace. Over the past almost thirty years, the UK has developed strong diplomatic and civil society networks with local and regional organisations in the Balkans as well as among the political elite and influencers. It should continue to use these networks and exercise its influence to further strengthen the stability and regional cooperation in the region. The UK should continue to work with the EU and other governments and international organisations in the region to support the continuing peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts there. In the Balkans, the British legacy of the past couple of decades is worth preserving and expanding. This is particularly important in the context of developing a value-based foreign policy. Since the UK’s clout in the international arena is not anchored in commercial or military power, nor driven by large resource reserves, its foreign policy is largely rooted in promoting liberal and democratic values. As the UK seeks to carve out a distinct profile and role in the international arena after its exit from the EU, championing key values, such as human rights and good governance or the rule of law, can provide it with a foundation for its future foreign policy doctrine. Second, continued albeit limited, engagement with the Western Balkans will provide the UK an opportunity to remain involved in Europe and European affairs beyond the EU. The government has often repeated claims that leaving the EU does not mean that Britain will leave Europe, but it will remain invested in European security, cooperation , nd prosperity. The Western Balkans is one area where these claims could be successfully tested, especially given the footprint that British diplomacy already has in the region. Of course, the Western Balkans’ countries key foreign policy priority is EU membership, so this may complicate their relationship with the UK in future. While the UK remains supportive of their accession into the EU, it may see a declining willingness by countries in the region to engage on a bilateral basis. With limited diplomatic resources available, governments in the region may well choose to focus them elsewhere – probably in Brussels or Berlin – where their impact on achieving strategic goals would be higher. Nonetheless, to the extent that British priorities for the Western Balkans coincide with those of the EU, the UK can have a significant voice in the region. In particular, in areas such as rule of law or judicial reforms, where the UK has a long track record of assisting governments in the region, the UK can work alongside the EU in helping governments in the region to improve governance standards. While the Western Balkans is unlikely to become a major foreign policy priority for the UK government after Brexit, it has the potential to be a place where an independent British foreign policy can be tested and developed. Given the positive legacies of British involvement in the region in the past two decades, and the largely overlapping priority areas towards the region with the EU, the UK can continue to play a positive and significant role there, without the need for significant increase of diplomatic and technical resources. Cvete Koneska is a Senior Analyst-Europe at Control Risks. [1] See figures from the Office for National Statistics on trade relationship between the UK and Western Balkans states. [2] See data from the Office for National Statistics, with the total of WB6 population in the UK amounting to around 75,000 in 2017 (around 60,000 from Albania and Kosovo). [post_title] => UK’s relationship with the Western Balkans after Brexit [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => western-balkans-after-brexit [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-06-14 11:25:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-06-14 11:25:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2579 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2018-04-24 15:28:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-24 15:28:28 [post_content] => The old issue of Greek-Turkish animosity has resurfaced as the last addition to the series of problems that has inflicted damage to the southern flank of NATO. Just within the span of a week in mid-April, Greek soldiers opened fire on a Turkish helicopter, a Greek fighter jet crashed into the Aegean on its return from one of the mock dog fights with Turkish warplanes, it was reported that Prime Minister Tsipras’ helicopter was harassed by Turkish aircraft and Ankara claimed to have removed a Greek flag planted on an uninhibited islet in the Aegean.[1]   Based on news reports from both sides, things are appearing to spiral out of control fast. What are the root causes of these tensions and what can we expect in the near future?   A History of Animosity Conflict between Greece and Turkey is nothing new. The two countries fought their independence wars against each other and formed their national identities against one another. Greece seceded from the Ottoman Empire in 1830 and the Turkish Republic was founded after the Greek army was defeated in Asia Minor in 1922. The Treaty of Lausanne was signed in 1923 by the Allies of the First World War, set the borders of Modern Turkey and has been the main text that has regulated Greek-Turkish relations since then.   Historical animosities, however, were hardly resolved by the peace treaty. Over the years, the perceptions of the enemy was stereotyped and perpetuated in both countries through education, historiography and literary texts.[2] Past conflicts were compounded by the experience of ongoing intercommunal conflicts. In September 1955, the Greek minority of Istanbul was attacked, killing tens of people, damaging millions of dollars’ worth of property and leading thousands of Greeks to flee.[3]  Both countries still blame each other for the mistreatment of their minorities and not recognizing their rights. On the island of Cyprus, where the two communities lived together, civil strife dragged on for decades until the Turkish forces' de facto partition of the island in 1974.[4]  The dispute over Cyprus, as well as memories of the bitter war that has left thousands of deaths and many more displaced in its wake, continues to casts a shadow over bilateral relations.   Among all of the issues that afflict relations, however, the main problem today is the Aegean –a unique, relatively narrow, semi-closed sea separating the mainlands of both countries. The Aegean has around 3000 islands, islets and rocks scattered around, with no explicit ownership of the smaller formations given to either county in international treaties. Since the 1970s, the two sides have had disputes over the extent of territorial waters, continental shelves, national airspaces and the Flight Information Region (FIR), as well as the militarization of the Greek islands on the Eastern Aegean. Ankara claims that Greece is trying to turn the Aegean into a Greek lake, whereas Athens argues that Turkey violates Greek sovereignty.[5]   The disputes over the Aegean could have been easily solved through diplomatic channels. Indeed, the two countries have shown that with appropriate political leadership and mutual will, it is possible to reduce dissent. After the 1922 war, for instance, there was a period of relative calm in the 1930s. Similarly, only three years after Greece and Turkey came close to armed combat over the uninhabited small islets of Imia/Kardak, there was a period of rapprochement, with increased levels of diplomatic, as well as economic and social interactions.[6] Despite high hopes, the last episode of rapprochement failed in resolving the Aegean dispute or even putting it on the back burner for the long-term, as the current escalation of tensions clearly demonstrate.   The Current Imbroglio Given the historical hostility of the two countries, the current crisis is perhaps not unusual. Yet, it has been still surprising in some respects. First, it has occurred after nearly two decades of comparative tranquillity. Sure, the two countries had continued to show their teeth, especially through dog fights between aircrafts and sometimes with fatal accidents,[7]  but these had not led to continuous vicious circles of discord as we are witnessing today. Second, both countries should have been ‘busy’ with other priorities –Athens, with the continuing economic crisis, and Ankara, with the Syrian war and the Kurdish conflict.   Although pinpointing the start of the current rise of tensions is difficult, one of the first signs of the upcoming set of events was the fleeing of eight air force pilots to Greece following the 15 July 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey. In January 2017, the Greek Supreme Court decided against the extradition of the soldiers. President Erdoğan remarked that bilateral relations and confidence between the two countries would be damaged with this decision, mentioning that Prime Minister Tsipras had personally promised the repatriation of the soldiers.[8] To the dismay of the Turkish side, later in the year, one of the pilots was granted asylum by a committee of judges and experts.[9]   This was, in fact, one of the many issues that President Erdoğan had brought up in his visit to Athens prior to the committee’s decision. While the Greek side was expecting the first visit of a Turkish President after 65 years to be an opportunity to mend ties, Erdoğan astonished government officials with his rebukes. Aside from the fate of the soldiers, he claimed that the Lausanne Treaty should be reconsidered, accused Greece of mistreating the Turkish Muslim minority in Western Thrace and blamed the Greek side for the failure of peace talks in Cyprus.[10] A few months later, in what appeared to be a case of retaliation for the eight pilots, Turkish forces arrested two Greek soldiers who claimed to have accidently crossed the border in bad weather. The soldiers were arrested and charged with espionage.[11] In the meantime, confrontations both in the Aegean Sea and air have significantly escalated. In July 2017, a Turkish vessel was shot at by the Greek coastal guard,[12] and in February 2018, two patrol boats collided near the Imia/Kardak islets,[13] setting the stage for the unusual week in mid-April. With the leaders of both countries persistent in making declarations that do not calm nerves down, there seems to be no quick de-escalation in sight.   Why Now? It is clear that, despite historic animosity and many clashes before, relations have not been this much strained for this long. Since the Aegean dispute is hardly new, the main reasons for the recent entanglement must be sought in the changing domestic and regional context. Both Greece and Turkey have nationalistic political cultures. Historical animosities are easy to tap into whenever the approval of governments must be increased for domestic purposes. With the next general elections scheduled for June in Turkey and next year in Greece, politicians in Athens and Ankara can expect to achieve personal gain from escalating tensions.   Additionally, on the Turkish side, the 15 July 2016 coup attempt changed both domestic politics and foreign relations in fundamental ways. According to the Turkish government, the coup itself was masterminded by Fethullah Gülen, a preacher residing in Pennsylvania.  The US has refused to extradite Gülen, leaving bilateral relations between the NATO allies in disarray. In fact, Turkey has been in a series of rows with other European powers and losing the battle in persuading the West that Gülen himself was behind the coup.[14] Many Gülen affiliates still reside in the West and, without the cooperation of foreign powers, it would be impossible to secure the return of these people and their trial. This is why Ankara is insistent on the return of the eight pilots who fled to Greece. Their extradition can be instrumentalized for the domestic audience as an achievement and can force the hands of other countries in especially South East Europe to agree on the return of other Gülen affiliates.[15] Thus, the issue of the repatriation of eight soldiers is a sine qua non for the de-escalation of the imbroglio from Ankara’s point of view. Athens, however, maintains that this is a judicial matter out of the authority of the elected government.   Despite holding democratic principles on this matter, the SYRIZA-ANEL government is also partly responsible for the current state of affairs. The smaller partner of the coalition, the right-wing ANEL, holds 9 seats in the 300-seat parliament, barely above the 3% threshold. The ultra-nationalist leader of party, Panos Kammenos, is also the Minister of National Defence, who has personally taken a tough stance against Turkey contributing to the rise in hostilities. When Kammenos received his ministerial post in January 2016, his first act was to visit Imia/Kardak, drop a wreath in memory of the soldiers who died in the 1996 incident and remind everyone that the dispute still continued.[16] In February 2017, Kammenos threatened that if the Turkish Foreign Minister set foot on Imia/Kardak he would  “be dealt with” and more recently, implied that there was no way to speak with President Erdoğan because he was “crazy” and acted like a “sultan”.[17] These types of personal outbursts of the Minister are not helping in easing tensions.   In past crises, hostilities would be brought down with the intervention of the US, warning both NATO allies and mediating between the parties. This was how the 1996 Imia/Kardak crisis was prevented from turning into a prolonged battle. But, this option is not available at the moment. Turkey’s relations with the US are already strained because of the failed coup and the two are on the opposing sides in the bigger crisis of the region, namely the Syrian War. NATO itself is in disorder after the comments of the American administration regarding differences in defence spending among the allies. The dissent within NATO and the so-far disinterest shown by the American administration over the Aegean conflict, as well as the lack of another alternative intermediator, explain why now things are spiralling out of control in contrast to previous crises.   Conclusion: Future Prospects Turkey and Greece have never fought an actual war since the 1920s. We can expect hostilities to continue for some time but fall short of an actual war. Both sides should be perfectly aware that any type of aggression on the mainland of the enemy would result in thousands of deaths and the possible involvement of other NATO allies.  A disaster of this sort is something both sides would want to avoid. The worst case scenario for Greece and Turkey is the possibility of almost continuous, small-scale military operations especially on and around the Aegean islets. Such military operations might lead to limited combats, with military and even civilian casualties on both sides. An ‘accident’” could lead to more serious battles unless political leadership on both sides of the Aegean make a conscious effort to ease off their rhetoric both diplomatically and publically.   Dr Yaprak Gürsoy is a Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Aston University. She would like to thank Othon Anastasakis, Evangelos Liaras and İlke Toygur for fruitful discussions on the recent developments in the Aegean.   [1] “Greek Fighter Pilot Killed in Crash”, TRTWorld, 12 April 2018, ; “Turkish Fighter Jets Harass Tsipras's Helicopter”, Ekathimerini, 17 April 2018,; “Turkey Warns Greece After Hoisting of Flag on Aegean Islet”, Reuters, 16 April 2018, [2] Hercules Millas, “National Perception of the ‘Other’ and the Persistence of Some Images” in Mustafa Aydin and Kostas Ifantis eds., pp. 53-66, Turkish-Greek Relations: The Security Dilemma in the Aegean (London: Routledge, 2005). [3] Dilek Güven, Cumhuriyet Dönemi Azınlık Politikaları Bağlamında 6-7 Eylül Olayları (Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı, 2005). [4] James Ker-Lindsay, The Cyprus Problem: What Ever yone Needs to Know (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011). [5]For the claims of both countries, see, Hellenic Republic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Issue of Greek-Turkish Relations”,, and  Republic of Turkey, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Turkish-Greek Relations/Aegean Problems, [6] Leonidas Karakatsanis, Turkish-Greek Relations: Rapprochement, Civil Society and the Politics of Friendship (Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Routledge, 2014). [7] See, for instance, “Mid-air Fighter Plane Collision Risks New Greek-Turkish Crisis”, The Guardian, 24 May 2006, [8] “Erdogan Expresses Anger over Turkish Officers, Suggests Tsipras promised their return”, Ekathimerini, 27 January 2018, [9] “One of Eight Turkish servicemen Granted Asylum by Greece”, Ekathimerini, 30 December 2017, [10] “Confrontational Erdoğan Stuns Greek Hosts on Athens Visit”, The Guardian, 07 December 2017, [11] “Turkey Refuses to Release Greek Border Guards in Spy Row”, The Guardian, 05 March 2018, [12] “Greek Coast Guards Fire on Turkish Vessel in Aegean”, The Telegraph, 03 July 2017, [13] “Greece Protests to Turkey over Boat Incident, Ankara Denies Fault”, Reuters, 13 February 2018, [14] The German intelligence agency, for instance, was not “convinced” that Gülen was behind the attempt. See, “Coup in Turkey Was Just a Welcome Pretext”, Der Spiegel, 20 March 2017, [15] “Gulen Schools Fight Provokes New Tensions in Bosnia”, Balkan Insight, 26 July 2016,; “Turkey Presses Albania To Extradite Key 'Gulenist' Suspect”, Balkan Insight, 13 October 2017,; “Kosovo Parliament to Probe Arrests of Turkish Nationals”, Reuters, 04 April 2018,, “Turkey Presses Albania To Extradite Key 'Gulenist' Suspect”, Balkan Insight, 13 October 2017, [16] “New Greek Nationalist Defence Minister Resurrects Old Tensions with Turkey”, The Guardian, 30 January 2015, [17] “Kammenos Threatens Turkey: Don’t Step Foot on Greek Islands”, The National Herald, 27 February 2017,; “Erdogan ‘Has Gone Completely Crazy’ says Kammenos”, Ekathimerini, 03 April 2018, [post_title] => The recent crisis between Greece and Turkey: Two NATO allies on the brink of war, again [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-recent-crisis-between-greece-and-turkey [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-24 16:27:12 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-24 16:27:12 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2549 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2018-04-10 11:39:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-10 11:39:19 [post_content] => Azerbaijani investigative journalist Afgan Mukhtarli lived in self-imposed exile in Georgia from 2015-2017, but in May 2017 he was allegedly abducted in Tbilisi and forcibly transferred to a  detention center in Azerbaijan. During his abduction, he was allegedly ill-treated and later sentenced to six years imprisonment by the Balakan District Court in Azerbaijan on trumped-up charges. This paper analyses the procedural violations Mr Mukhtarli experienced both in Georgia and in Azerbaijan after his detention and subsequent imprisonment. It will also review the political implications for both countries following the incident and examines human right breaches against the Mr Mukhtarli perpetrated by both countries. Procedural Violations related to Mukhtarli’s abduction On 29 May 2017, Mr Mukhtarli was abducted by unidentified Georgian men some wearing police uniforms and forced into a car where his captors beat him.[1] The journalist later told his lawyer that he was forced to change cars twice and in the second car his captors spoke Azerbaijani.[2] After crossing the border into Azerbaijan, Mr Mukhtarli was accused by the Azerbaijani authorities of illegally crossing the border, smuggling EUR 10,000 and assaulting a police officer.[3] During his detention, Mr Mukhtarli was denied any medical examination to attend to his bruises and diabetes that he was diagnosed with before his apprehension. He also had restricted access to his lawyer.[4] In January 2018, Mr Mukhtarli was sentenced to prison but many commentators observed that at his trial judge had unfairly and systematically dismissed all favourable evidence. This included the examination of the fingerprints on the allegedly smuggled banknotes and the footage from the official border crossing point where the journalist was brought.[5]Mr Mukhtarli appealed against the judgment and on four occasions the Appeal Court postponed his appeal hearings.[6]The explanation given for the latest adjournment was that the State Prosecutor was not available to attend the appeal hearing.[7] Meanwhile, the Georgian Ministry of Interior opened an investigation into the unlawful deprivation of liberty of Mr Mukhtarli under Article 143 (1) of the Criminal Code of Georgia. However, the charges do not cover the aggravating circumstances including ‘‘premeditated illegal deprivation of liberty by transferring the victim abroad by an organised group.’’ [8] Moreover, Mr Mukhtarli was not granted a ‘victim status’,[9]this, however, has not impeded his Georgian lawyers from accessing files related to Mr Mukhtarli’s case.[10]The Public Defender’s Office maintained that the CCTV recording on the day Mr Mukhtarli was abducted was completely altered as the time and weather conditions appeared altogether different.Nevertheless, the Georgian Prosecutors’ Office argued that the video recordings were authentic and that there were no grounds to undertake further forensic examination.[11] Not one of the 200 questioned witnesses provided any information about the incident. Georgian authorities failed to identify the car that Mr Mukhtarli was transported in or trace its trajectory near the Georgian-Azerbaijani border. As an indication of the lack of independence of the investigation, the investigation was first opened by the Ministry of Interior and subsequently transferred to the prosecutor’s office after an unexplained two -month delay.[12] Political responses The Prime Minister of Georgia, dubbed the disappearance to be a serious challenge to Georgian sovereignty.[13]At first, the Georgian authorities denied any involvement in the abduction of Mr Mukhtarli.[14]A member of the Azerbaijani government said that the abduction of Mr Mukhtarli was a result of a successful joint operation between Georgian and Azerbaijani forces. The State Security Service of Georgia, however, rejected any links to the abduction.[15]Meanwhile, the President of Georgia called on the authorities to effectively investigate the case.[16] Georgia and Azerbaijan received international condemnation for the illegal abduction and imprisonment of the journalists.[17]The European Parliament (EP) reminded Georgia of its responsibility to ‘‘provide protection to all those third country nationals living in Georgia’’ or grant ‘’political asylum’’ to safeguard those who face persecution back home for their human rights activities.[18]Separately, the Georgian authorities were urged to conduct an effective investigation into Mr Mukhtarli’s disappearance[19] and bring the perpetrators to justice.[20]Mr Mukhtarli’s imprisonment was widely perceived as an attack against ‘’free Media’’ in Azerbaijan[21]as authorities were urged to drop charges against him.[22]Baku, however, hit back at the accusations that the trial was politicised. Advisors close to President Aliyev argued that Mr Mukhtarli should not escape unpunished even if this meant curtailing his fundamental freedoms.[23] In December 2017, amid international pressure, the Georgian Prime Minister admitted that Mr Mukhtarli’s disappearance from Georgia was a ‘‘serious failure and it should not have happened.’[24] He also claimed that the firing of the chiefs of border police and counterintelligence to be an ‘‘adequate response.’’[25] Later, the Head of the Human Rights Committee at the Georgian Parliament maintained that Georgian law enforcement was ready to question Mr Mukhtarli but the Azerbaijani authorities would not permit it.[26]Yet ten months following his abduction, local civil society organisations are still calling for the Parliament to establish a Parliamentary Investigative Committee to investigate the incident.[27] At the time of the writing, no investigation had been started. Judicial safeguards Both Georgia and Azerbaijan are members of the Eastern Partnership agreement (EaP) which aims to deepen and strengthen relations between EU and its member states. One of the priorities for its member states is to enhance respect for rule of law and develop justice sector through the strengthened institution and good governance.[28]Moreover, through  European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI), EU geared most efforts towards criminal justice and human rights for Georgia[29] and Azerbaijan.[30] Other than that, both countries have ratified the European Convention of Human Right (ECHR) and the UN Convention against Torture (CAT). Georgia therefore faces a responsibility for the journalist’s disappearance either through the direct involvement of State agents or through a failure to fulfil its obligation to protect him against the risk of the disappearance.[31] It should conduct a ‘‘thorough and effective investigation into his disappearance’’ and determine a ‘‘plausible explanation on injuries’’ occurred whilst in the custody by Georgian authorities.[32] Georgia had an obligation to examine whether based on ‘‘political affiliation and activities’’ Mr Mukhtarli might have been subjected to torture upon his return to Azerbaijan. Moreover in light of the consistent reports of intimidation and conviction of independent journalists in Azerbaijan,[33]Georgia should have taken into consideration a ‘’likelihood of the danger of torture’’ for Mr Mukhtarli.[34] Leniency towards the classification of the criminal act allegedly perpetrated by the criminal police “risks to undermine remedial effect’’ of the ECHR and undermines adequate degree of ‘‘public scrutiny’’ of his case.[35] Azerbaijan too has largely failed to provide Mr Mukhtarli with legal safeguards ranging from the legality of his arrest to correct court procedure. These guarantees would entail the right to a lawyer from the outset of a person’s deprivation of liberty’[36]and equality of arms during his trial,[37] as well as access to an independent medical examination.[38]The delay of the Appeal Court to reach the final verdict, according to the journalist is to impede him from including his name into the pardoning decree expected to be issued by the President of Azerbaijan in May 2018.[39]The prosecutor has not used the provision of the Azerbaijan Criminal Code to summon the victim by force, in case he fails to appear before the court. Azerbaijan’s deliberate actions to curtail ‘‘reasonable time’’ largely constitutes to the ‘‘aggravating circumstances of the violation of right to fair trial Article 6 (1)’’.[40] On 3 June 2017 Mr Mukhtarli’ lawyers filed a request for interim measures to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to release him from pre-trial detention on the grounds of ill health, which was refused by the ECtHR.[41]The Court highlighted that Azerbaijan authorities should provide Mr Mukhtarli with requisite medical assistance and prioritised the case. In June 2017 Mr Muktarli’s lawyers lodged a complaint before the ECtHR contesting a range of violations against Georgia and Azerbaijan varying from violation of fair trial, freedom of expression and limitation on the use of restrictions on rights taken in conjunction with unlawful deprivation of liberty.[42] These breaches, including ‘‘dubiously motivated criminal prosecutions and disproportionate sentences in relation to journalists’’[43] have been constantly highlighted by the Council of Europe (CoE). Azerbaijan was also called to establish a judicial system to comply with the requirement of the right to fair trial of the ECHR.[44] Moreover, the ECtHR considered a number of cases from Azerbaijan on the detention of journalists and members of the opposition punished by the authorities for their dissenting voices. The Court’s jurisprudence pointed out a pattern of unlawful deprivation of liberty including the interference with their freedom of expression and political participation.[45]In the Mammadov case, Azerbaijan refused to abide to the ECtHR judgment all together to release a politician detained based on flawed criminal procedures.[46]The ECtHR, therefore in a rare move launched an inquiry into whether Azerbaijan had failed to comply with its obligations under the Convention. [47] Enforced disappearance versus enabling environment for human right defenders Georgia has co-sponsored UN resolution on human rights defenders where it condemned the ‘‘practice of enforced disappearance’’ used against human rights defenders[48]. Moreover, by supporting another UN Human Rights Council resolution on the safety of journalists in 2016, Georgia took a commitment to take action to Protect, Prosecute and Combat impunity against journalists. These commitments are rooted in its international human rights law obligations.[49] It is bound to ensure through policy and law an ‘‘enabling environment’’ for journalists to carry out their work independently. Through prosecution, it must respond to any violence and hold those responsible ‘‘accountable.’’[50]Combating impunity against journalists requires investigations undertaken by special investigative units.[51]These obligations are further echoed in the ECHR jurisprudence where countries should not only refrain from interference with individuals’ freedom of expression but also have a positive obligation to safeguard freedom of expression against the threat of attack, including from ‘‘private individuals’’, by introducing the effective system of protection.[52] Through these remits, Azerbaijan is also bound to safeguard freedom of expression and provide enabling the environment for journalists. Azerbaijan, however, has been criticised for curtailing judicial freedoms and enhancing its susceptibility to political pressure. It was in relation to this that the UN Committee Against Torture stated that it “remains concerned at the lack of independence of the judiciary vis-à-vis the executive branch.”[53]As a follow-up procedure, Azerbaijan has an obligation to report on measures it has taken to eradicate arbitrary imprisonment, torture of human rights defenders and develop fundamental legal safeguards. [54] Conclusion Mr Mukhtarli’s case provides an important illustration of the shortcomings existing in the area of freedom of expression and the functioning judiciary in Azerbaijan. It also highlights the ill practice of using criminal law to punish dissenting voices and the role of the judiciary that leads to arbitrary arrest and detention. It is also followed that Azerbaijan must immediately free Mr Mukhtarli from the imprisonment. Azerbaijani activists see the EaP as a missed opportunity for the EU to empower civil society and democratic institutions in Azerbaijan.[55] Some civil society actors think the EU should try harder to persuade the Government of Azerbaijan to get activists released. Azerbaijani members of the EaP’s Civil Society Forum Steering Committee have beseeched the EU to desist from signing the new EU-Azerbaijan agreement until Mr Mukhtarli and other political prisoners are released.[56] The Georgian context underlines the State’s failure to safeguard a journalist from enforced disappearance and other procedural guarantees. It also shows Georgia falling short on its deliverables through the EaP agreement including ‘‘impartiality and effectiveness of law enforcement bodies’’ as part of the legal reform.[57] The Georgian authorities should launch an effective investigation into the case to punish those who forcibly removed Mr Mukhtarli from Georgia.  It also has to provide Mr Mukhtarli and his family with appropriate remedies including compensation or socio-economic support.[58] On a general level, both Azerbaijan and  Georgia should reinvigorate its efforts to implement the international human rights framework with robust guarantees for the safety of the journalists. [1]Human Rights Watch. Azerbaijan Should Free Abducted Journalist.Afgan Mukhtarli Had Sought Safety in Georgia. June 2017. [2] Ibid. [3] Afgan Mukhtarli was charged under Article 318.1 (illegal border crossing) and Article 206.1 (smuggling) and Article 315.2 ( violence against police authority) of the Criminal Code of Azerbaijan. [4] Mr Mukhtarli’s lawyers were present at his initial hearing, however, it was not until 7 June 2017, that he was allowed an audience with his lawyer without supervision. Freedom Now. Report: Repression Beyond Borders: Exiled Azerbaijanis in Georgia September 2017. p.15. [5] Jamanews. The Trial of Afgan Mukhtarli commences in Azerbaijan. December 2017. [6]The hearing was postponed  three times since  a police officer allegedly beaten by Mr Mukhtarli did not attend the trial. Article 42.Monitoring of Mr Mukhtarlis’ trail in Azerbaijan. available in Georgian. 14 March 2018. [7] Facebook status of Elchin Sadigov, Mukhtarli’s lawyer. Available in Azerbaijani 2 April 2018 [8]Public Defender's office: Public Defender of Georgia Appeals to Chief Prosecutor of Georgia concerning Mukhtarli Mukhtarli case. July 2017. [9] Ibid. [10] By the Georgian Criminal law if person is not granted a victim status he/she does not have access to case files. Email correspondence with the Head of Article 42, Natia Katsitadze. 29 March 2018. [11] Public Defender’s office: Public Defender Echoes Investigation into Mukhtarli Mukhtarli Case November 2017. [12] Public Defender's Office: General Prosecutor’s office in Georgia considered the recommendation of the Defenders’ office partially. July 2017. [13] Statement by the Prime-Minister  Giorgi Kvirikashvili, 3 June 2017 in Freedom now. p. 15. [14] Civil. ge.Georgian Officials on Azerbaijani Journalist’s Alleged Abduction. June  2017. [15] Statement of the Security Service of Georgia. December  2017. [16]Tabula, President Margvelashvili:Mukhtarli’s disappearance a challenge to our statehood. May 2017. [17] Article 19. Azerbaijan: Mukhtarli Mukhtarli abducted in Georgia and detained on smuggling and trespassing charges. June 2017.See also Pen International and other: Georgia/Azerbaijan: open letter on the cross-border abduction and detention of Mukhtarli Mukhtarli June 2018. Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly: Rapporteur calls for release of Azerbaijani journalist Afqan Mukhtarli. June  2017. [18]Joint motion for Resolution.European Parliament on the case of Azerbaijani journalist  Afgan Mukhtarli. (2017/2722(RSP)). June 2017. [19] Ibid. [20] ibid. [21]Amnesty International. Sentenced journalist latest victim of Azerbaijan’s ‘repressive apparatus of fear’. June 2017. See also CPJ:  Azerbaijani court sentences local journalist to six years in prison. No date. [22] Parliamentary Assembly. Resolution 2185. Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe: what follow-up on respect for human rights. [23] Ali Hasanov: OSCE Office on Freedom of Media shouldn’t show tendentious approach towards Azerbaijan, 2018. [24] Tabula.Prime Minister:Mukhtarli case was a big failure. December 2017. [25] Ibid. [26] Sophio Kiladze: “Investigation of the case of Afgan Mukhtarli is delayed due to the fact that Georgian law enforcers are not allowed to question him  February 2018. [27] Open Letter: Georgia/Azerbaijan: Abduction of journalist Mukhtarli Mukhtarli, February 2018. [28] Eastern Partnership. [29] Programming of the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) - 2014-2020. Single Support Framework for EU support to Georgia. (2014-2017).p.8. [30] Programming of the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) - 2014-2020 Single Support Framework for EU support to Azerbaijan. (2014-2017).p.5. [31] Kasymakhunov v. Russia/ (App no. 29604/12).14 November 2013,para 120. [32] Ribitsch v. Austria. (App no 42/1994/489/57 ). 4 December 1995, para 32. [33]Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on its mission to Azerbaijan.A/HRC/36/37/Add.1. 2017,para 85. [34] Pauline Muzonzo Paku Kisoki v. Sweden. Communication No. 41/1996, U.N. Doc,paras 82. and 9.3. [35]Enukidze and Girgvliani  v Georgia.(App. no. 25091/07). April 2011, paras 275 and 258. [36] Salduz v Turkey. (App no. 36391/02).  November 2008 para 54. [37] Foucher v France.(App. no. 22209/93). March 1997, para 34. [38] Case of Kudla v. Poland. (App. no. 30210/96).26 October 2000,para 91. [39]Before big holidays usually once or twice a year the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev pardons convicts by issuing a  pardoning decree. With that  public  expectations raise that political prisoners too will be pardoned. This year around it is expected the President to  issue a pardoning decree in May on the occasion of the 100 years of independence of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Email correspondence with Giorgi Gogia,South Caucasus Director, Human Rights Watch. 29 March 2018. See also, Human rights House and Article 21. Monitoring of Afgan Mukhtarli’s trial in Azerbaijan. 24 March 2018. [40] Case of Bottazi v Italy. (App no. 34884/97).July 1999,para 22. [41]Rule 39 of its Rules of Court- indicates interim measures to any State party to the ECHR. Interim measures are urgent measures which, apply only where there is an imminent risk of irreparable harm. Email correspondence with the lawyer of Afgan Mukhtarli, Archil Chopikashvili, Article 42. 23 March 2018. [42] Ibid. [43]Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly. Resolution 2062.The functioning of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan. 2015., para 6. [44] Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly. Resolution 2185 (2017). Azerbaijan’s Chairmanship of the Council of Europe: what follow-up on respect for human rights? ,October 2017. [45] Ilgar Mammadov v. Azerbaijan (Application No. 15172/13); Khadija Ismayilova v. Azerbaijan (Application No. 30778/15); Rasul Jafarov v. Azerbaijan (Application No. 69981/14); Ibrahimov and Others v. Azerbaijan. (Applications nos. 69234/11, 69252/11 and 69335/11); in UN Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on its mission to Azerbaijan. (2017).p.15. [46]To this date, Mammadov, three years after the final ECtHR judgment, still remains in detention. [47]In light of the ongoing failure for Azerbaijan to  implement the  judgement Ilgar Mammadov v Azerbaijan , Bureau of the Congress calls the authorities to implement it as soon as possible the Procedure foreseen under Article 46 of the Convention. Council of Europe: Azerbaijan: Congress supports the call from the Parliamentary Assembly in the case of Ilgar Mammadov 20 October 2017. [48] UN Resolution 34/5 by the Human Rights Council, with Georgia voting in favour, see Joint Open Letter: GEORGIA/AZERBAIJAN: Abduction of journalist Mukhtarli. March 2017. [49] Article 19. Acting on UN Human Rights Council Resolution 33/2 on the Safety of Journalists. Prevent, Protect, Prosecute.  2017,p.7. [50] Ibid.p.16. [51] Ibid.p.20. [52] Ibid.p.38. [53] UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), Concluding observations:Azerbaijan, 27 January 2016, CAT/C/AZE/CO/4. 2016.para 14. [54] Ibid. para 39. [55] The Eastern Partnership: the view from Azerbaijan May 2015. [56] Email correspondence with Anar Mammadli, a member of the EaP’s CSF Steering Committee, 2 April 2018. [57] Association Agreement between European Union and Georgia. 2014.p.8. [58] Article 19. Acting on UN Human Rights Council Resolution 33/2. pp.25. [post_title] => Sleight of hand: How to make a journalist disappear – Afgan Mukhtarli’s case [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sleight-hand-make-journalist-disappear-afgan-mukhtarlis-case-2 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-24 15:18:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-24 15:18:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2528 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2018-04-04 12:47:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-04 12:47:50 [post_content] => In Egypt polls have now closed after a three-day presidential election that has been characterised by unprecedented levels of repression and state-led propaganda –something that is very far from the cries for “fair and free elections” that resonated in Tahrir Square just over 7 years ago. In a result that comes as no surprise, President Abdel Fattah al Sisi is said to have achieved a landslide victory with 97% of the vote, securing another 4 years in power.[1] However, many are openly condemning the elections as a sham. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies has released a statement undersigned by other Human Rights organizations that denounces the National Elections Committee, stating that ‘the Commission has lost its political legitimacy by watching the electoral process as it transformed into a debacle (…) the pervasiveness of violence, repression, intimidation and persecution (…) renders this week’s election illegitimate, and its results cannot be recognised’.[2]  As the status quo remains untouched in Egypt once again this statement resonates with many, and the question determining the future of the country is whether or not these results are enough to keep up the illusion of Sisi’s legitimacy.   The circumstances surrounding these elections are all too familiar: Sisi was the only viable candidate, as his sole challenger, Mousa Mostafa Mousa, is the head of a party that endorsed Sisi before entering its own candidate seven minutes before the deadline for nominations.[3] Interestingly enough he allegedly only won less than 3% of the vote, which is also considerably less than the 1.76 million invalid ballots cast.[4] Sisi’s other four potential opponents, three of whom were from the military, were arrested, intimidated, or threatened into withdrawing. While this further de-legitimises the Electoral Commission’s claim that these have been ‘fair and free elections’, it also shows that there still is some opposition to Sisi’s regime despite the ever-escalating levels of state-led repression. Most importantly some of this opposition even comes, surprisingly, from within his own regime and certainly from within the circles of those who supported him in 2013 during the coup against the Muslim Brotherhood.   This time around, the regime’s harassment and targeting of potential opposition candidates has led to 150 political figures and 7 political parties calling for a national boycott of the presidential elections.[5] Voters’ turnout is said to have been around 41.5%, significantly lower than the 47% registered in the 2014 elections.[6] This is despite of the regime’s continuous call to the polls through its media agencies, which shows that the deep state was fully aware of just how much rested on these electoral results – namely, Sisi’s own legitimacy and credibility. In a push to increase turnout Egypt’s state news agencies have even reminded Egyptians that failing to vote was an offence punishable by fines up to $28 and there have been reports by international observers of citizens being bribed into voting.  [7]Sisi has apparently secured a landslide victory, but at what cost?   Stability VS Democracy: what do these elections really stand for? These elections would be better described as a referendum on Sisi’s performance. Seven years after the Arab Uprisings and nearly five years after the Muslim Brotherhood’s removal from power, Sisi’s legitimacy is steadily crumbling away as the economy continues to collapse and the threat of domestic terrorism escalates at an alarming rate. With over 60,000 political prisoners and a set of anti-terrorism legislation that have seen the complete annihilation of political space, Egypt is now in the midst of the worst human rights crisis of its history so far. Human rights abuses, torture and extrajudicial killings have now become the norm, alienating not only those defined as Islamists, but even the secular opposition that cheered Sisi’s coup d’etat in 2013. As the unprecedented wave of arrests even within the military shows, these elections have never been about the end result. Rather, what Sisi needs is not a popular endorsement, but one last illusion of legitimacy to consolidate the power of the deep state.   Several international media outlets have portrayed these elections as a choice between stability and democracy, but Maha Azzam, head of Egypt’s Revolutionary Council, argues that it is neither:   “What we have is the search for a mandate. A mandate to carry on a form of political repression that we have seen over the past 4 years and that we have seen over decades in Egypt. (…) There was only a short blip during 2011-2012, when we could have said that the beginnings of the democratic process could have gone underway, but they were interrupted by a military coup.”[8]   In addition, the unprecedented levels of repression and the way in which Sisi’s ruthlessly targeted any other military-affiliated candidate has shown the extent to which the armed forces remain Egypt’s most powerful institution. While Sisi came to power with their backing he must also be aware of the fact that the military could turn against him, as it happened to Mubarak and Morsi before him. While these are hard to corroborate, there have been rumours of dismissal and purges taking place within the armed forces all throughout his presidency, allegedly to contain discontent over Sisi’s controversial decision to ‘gift’ two islands to Saudi Arabia.[9] Moreover, the decision of former Prime Minister and air force commander Shafiq and chief of staff Annan to run against Sisi in these elections further show that there are deep cracks in the military, leading many to believe that Sisi will take advantage of this landslide victory to amend the constitution in his favour.   If anything, the events following 2011 have demonstrated that the military forces fear instability above all else,[10] and are prepared to force a change when the possibility of chaos and subsequent disruption to their power becomes too high. Sisi’s political survival therefore depends on how much popular support he manages to hold on to after these elections, as it could likely counter-balance the perceived costs of his removal.   The high cost of a landslide victory: where to next? Sisi is arguably very aware of the threat that comes from its own military comrades, but what he probably does not realise yet is that his ‘triumph’ will come with a renewed set of domestic and international challenges. His victory will undoubtedly tighten autocracy’s grip on Egypt even more, putting the country into a worse state than it was in even after 30 years of Mubarak’s rule.  However, it will also raise the expectations of the millions of people that are still living under the poverty line in Egypt today, and whose lives have significantly worsened in the seven years that followed the Arab Uprisings.   The two main challenges that urgently need addressing are still represented by the economy and security. The ever-worsening state of the economy means that daily hardships are now being faced not only by Egypt’s poorest, but have become a reality even for those who under Mubarak belonged to the working/middle-class.[11] It is easy to draw a correlation between military rule and the drastic drop in economic and living conditions, with Egypt’s external debt under Sisi jumping from $38bn to more than $80bn, while taxes on hundreds of products and services have skyrocketed even further.[12]   Unless there is significant political change living conditions will continue to falter, adding to the same grievances that made the 2011 Uprisings a reality and that still remain unaddressed today. It would not be the first time Egypt witnesses a ‘revolution of the hungry’, especially now that its citizens have touched first-hand the change that popular mobilization can bring about. In addition, another serious concern is the steady decline in security conditions across the country, with insurgency and radicalization not being confined to the Sinai anymore. So far counterterrorism legislations have only restricted the rights of the average citizens and have achieved very little in terms of preventing or even containing violence from jihadists and rebel groups that have taken control of the country’s unpatrolled territories. While a decline in security conditions is less central in the outbreak of yet another round of popular uprisings, providing security is central to the armed forces’ image as the defender of the Egyptian nation, and failure to do so could lead to even lower levels of the regime’s perceived legitimacy.[13]   In conclusion, regardless of the legitimacy of Sisi’s landslide victory, what is clear is that Egypt needs structural change now more than ever. While Sisi is still backed by a considerable part of the population and by the military, the real test of power will be his ability to rise up to these challenges. Only then it will become clear whether or not these electoral results represent the further consolidation of the power of the deep state, or instead mark the beginning of its fragmentation.   Dr. Lucia Ardovini, Research Fellow -  MENA Programme - The Swedish Institute of International Affairs   [1] Hamza Hendawi, Egypt’s president wins re-election with 97 percent of vote, AP, April 2018, [2] Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Rights groups: Egypt’s illegitimate presidential election must not be recognized, April 2018, [3] Gail Buttorf, In Egypt, the opposition is calling for a boycott of this month’s election. Will it work? Washington Post, March 2018, [4] Hendawi ibid, [5] Egypt Independent, January 2018, [6] Hendawi ibid, [7] Al Jazeera,  Egypt's elections come to a close with Sisi set to win, March 2018, See also Declan Walsh and Nour Youssef, For as Little as $3 a Vote, Egyptians Trudge to Election Stations, New York Times, March 2018, [8] Egyptian Revolutionary Council on France 24, What next for Egypyt, March 2018, [9] Hossam Bahgat, A Coup Busted, October 2015, [10] Andrew Miller and Amy Hawthorne, Egypt’s Sham Election, March 2018, Foreign Affairs, [11] Ahram Online, Egypt's poverty rate surges to 27.8% in 2015: CAPMAS October 2016, [12] Taha Ozhan,  What Sisi's 'victory' means for Egypt's future, April 2018, [13] Miller and Hawthorne ibid, [post_title] => Egypt's faltering legitimacy: Sisi's contested victory and pressing challenges [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sisi [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-04-04 12:47:50 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-04-04 12:47:50 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2191 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:18:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:18:34 [post_content] => In the Foreign Policy Centre’s 2014 publication ‘Shelter from the Storm’, The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) gave an overview of the development of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and the types of issues that could be faced by someone fleeing persecution from the Russian Federation[1]. In this essay we will discuss current issues for people seeking international protection in Europe, particularly those from the former Soviet Union, and how proposed changes to the CEAS may affect this group in future. Although refugees from the former Soviet Union are not in the media as often as those from some other countries, the on-going conflict in Ukraine[2], recent horrific reports of internment ‘camps’ for homosexuals in the Chechen Republic[3] and crackdowns in Tajikistan[4] are among the issues that remind us that people are still being forced to flee their countries of origin to seek international protection. Of the countries of the former Soviet Union, only the Russian Federation was present in the top ten countries of origin in 2016 in the European Union (EU), ranking in 9th place with 27,875 asylum applications. This was a slight increase on 2015 but a drop since 2013[5] when Russian citizens were in second place[6]. The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) reports that applicants from Russia were gender balanced and approximately half were children, indicating that larger numbers of families came from Russia last year[7]. Russian citizens applied for asylum most often in Germany and were the highest nationality of applicants in Poland. There were also sizeable numbers of people seeking international protection in Europe in 2016 from Ukraine (12,475); Armenia (8,505); Georgia (8,315); Azerbaijan (5,735); Moldova (3,655); and Tajikistan (3,210)[8]. The predicament of those fleeing the former Soviet Union in search of protection is not equally felt across the European continent, however. While Russia, Ukraine and Tajikistan figured among the top countries of origin in Poland[9], and Ukraine represented the top nationality in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and third largest country of origin in Spain, the majority of European countries have mostly received asylum seekers originating from other regions such as the Middle East or Northern Africa[10]. As a result, national asylum systems have not necessarily dealt with the protection needs of those coming from former Soviet Union countries extensively over the past year. Protection rates and the ‘safe country of origin’ concept People coming from the former Soviet Union face widely divergent chances of obtaining asylum depending on the EU country of destination. According to 2016 figures published by the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, disparities in recognition rates were particularly strong for nationals of Russia, Ukraine and Tajikistan:
Recognition rates for all nationalities and for some former Soviet Union countries: 2016
EU country All nationalities Russia Ukraine Tajikistan Georgia
Germany 68.7% 8.8% 2.5% 24% 2.6%
France 32.8% 30.3% 23.1% 40% 13.3%
Poland 12.2% 8.1% 9.1% 12.5% 0%
Spain 66.9% 37.5% 15.5% - 0%
Austria 71.6% 42.6% 17.6% 53.8% 8.3%
EU total 60.8% 20.2% 24.4% 30.4% 6.3%
Source: Eurostat[11] Overall, while Poland has maintained some of the lowest protection rates for asylum seekers originating from the region, EU countries have not been consistent in the treatment of protection claims from the former Soviet Union. Recognition rates for Russia have varied from 8.1% in Poland to 42.6% in Austria, thereby dispelling the relevance of common legislative standards and guidance at the EU level. The disparity in protection opportunities persists despite efforts from EASO to promote convergence in country of origin information (COI) on Russia through a Country of Origin Information (COI) Specialist Network on the Russian Federation and a COI report on the Russian Federation – State Actors of Protection, published in March 2017[12]. The Internal Protection Alternative (IPA) can also be invoked to deny refugee status to persons at risk of being persecuted for a Convention reason in part, but not all, of their country of origin. The IPA concept is not currently used consistently across the countries applying the CEAS[13] but has been used in the past in the case of applicants from the Russian Federation. A European Migration Network (EMN) ad-hoc query from 2013 shows that whilst some countries applied the IPA concept to applicants who were or who had aided insurgents from the North Caucasus and their family members (Norway, UK, Hungary), others used it sometimes or rarely (Finland, Cyprus), whilst others countries did not use it at all (France). In fact France saw the fact that a person had relocated inside Russia as a potential indicator of problems[14]. In 2015 another EMN ad-hoc query looked at whether there had been any increase in LGBTI asylum seekers from Russia and included a question on the application of the IPA in these cases. The few Member States who responded to this question indicated that it might be difficult ascertaining the degree of protection available at the local level, but every case would be assessed individually. If it was clear from the documents that there was an IPA available then there would be no obstacle to applying it in a given case[15]. More recently there has also been case law from Austria[16] and Poland[17] on the use of the IPA in cases from Ukraine. EU Member States have been more convergent towards claims from Georgia, which have mostly been treated as unfounded. In some EU Member States, this country is also classified as a country whose nationals are presumed to run no risk of persecution or harm. Georgia was recently reaffirmed as a ‘safe country of origin’ in France[18] and was added to ‘safe country of origin’ lists in Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands in 2016[19]. This designation means that the examination of asylum applications are processed under accelerated procedures, subject to fewer safeguards and shorter time limits[20]. In addition to Georgia, the Netherlands also added Ukraine to its list of ‘safe countries of origin’ at the end of 2016[21]. A new deflection zone for the EU? Access to the territory and the ‘safe third country’ concept As the numbers of applications for asylum rose in Europe over the course of 2015, we witnessed various strategies to cope with higher numbers of arrivals. Many of these have taken the forms of physical or legal barriers designed to keep people from arriving in the EU and to externalise responsibility for those seeking international protection outside of its borders. Whilst most of the attention has been focused on the Central and Eastern Mediterranean route where the majority of people arrived, as well as the Western Balkan route which was closed in 2016, there have also been reports of problems and push backs in the east. Poland has spearheaded attempts to prevent asylum seekers from entering through its Belarusian border in search of protection, mainly affecting those coming from Chechnya and Tajikistan[22]. Push backs in Terespol, already reported in previous years, have intensified since 2016, resulting in individuals refused the right to enter Poland and to lodge asylum applications despite clearly formulated requests invoking persecution in their home countries. Reports claim that the border guards ignore the requests of persons who ask for international protection, and often act purposely to humiliate foreign nationals through the use of derogatory and offensive language[23]. More recently, despite an interim measure imposed by the European Court of Human Rights, access to the asylum procedure was denied to a Chechen asylum seeker trying to enter Poland from Belarus. According to a press statement by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the interim measure is not applicable as the “foreigner to whom the order of the Court in Strasbourg was issued did not actually enter the territory of Poland”[24]. Beyond refusals of entry which have affected those coming from the region, European countries have also relied on legal concepts to deflect asylum applications and shift protection responsibilities to former Soviet Union countries. The use of the ‘safe third country’ concept, allowing authorities to dismiss applications without examining their merits on the ground that another country is able to afford protection to the claimant, emerged in the practice of countries such as Norway, Finland and Estonia in the case of individuals transiting through Russia[25]. These designations have been rigorously scrutinised by national courts, however. The Administrative Court of Helsinki in Finland considered in a series of decisions the situation of applicants arriving to Finland from the Russian Federation while having a valid visa or residence permit for Russia (granted on grounds other than international protection). The Court found that they could not be considered to have received protection in Russia solely on the grounds that the appellants had been granted visas or residence permits and they could reside there and so other grounds for such a consideration would be required. In this way, Russia could not be considered a safe third country for the appellants on the grounds presented by the Finnish Immigration Service[26]. In 2016 Estonia also started to apply the ‘safe third country’ concept to reject asylum applications lodged by individuals transiting through Russia. Several decisions were reviewed by Estonian courts, including the Tallinn Circuit Court, which concluded that the Russian Federation cannot be considered a safe third country. Estonian courts concluded that there are serious obstacles in the Russian Federation with regard to effective access to its asylum procedure, as well as substandard protection of rights of asylum seekers, including respect of the principle of non-refoulement[27]. Piece of a bigger puzzle: The changing architecture of the Common European Asylum System Several of the issues that are obstacles to refugees and asylum seekers from the former Soviet Union accessing international protection in Europe form part of a broader change in the EU’s vision of its asylum policy. In 2016, the European Commission issued proposals to overhaul the Common European Asylum System as a reaction to higher numbers of arrivals in a proclaimed ‘refugee crisis’. The CEAS will be redesigned on the basis of seven legislative proposals for reform, including proposals to reform the Dublin Regulation and to transform the Asylum Procedures Directive and the Qualification Directive into Regulations[28], to reduce differences in recognition rates and procedural guarantees and standards from one Member State to the next. Whilst there are some positive changes in all of the reformed instruments, ECRE has profound concerns about the speed of their introduction and the key principles underlying them. Overall, these proposals shift the CEAS to a situation whereby ‘protection in the region and resettlement from there to the EU should become the model for the future’[29]. ‘Safe country’ concepts as a mandatory control device The reform of the Dublin Regulation proposes to reject a substantial part of asylum applications, if not most, before they ever reach the Dublin responsibility-allocation mechanism. New requirements would make Member States of first entry assess whether an asylum seeker can be transferred to a ‘safe third country’ or a ‘first country of asylum’, or be subjected to an accelerated examination for ‘safe country of origin’ or security reasons first. The proposed architecture of the Dublin system would therefore require the majority of asylum seekers to stay in the first EU country they enter, except where their claims may not be rejected on the aforementioned grounds. This seems in line with Poland’s position, as expressed in the Polish Parliament (Sejm)’s resolution on the Dublin proposal[30]. The proposed Asylum Procedures Regulation brings about a mainstreaming of ‘safe third country’ and ‘safe country of origin’ concepts by making their use mandatory in the EU, in addition to imposing extremely short deadlines for applicants to comply with often onerous procedural requirements. The mandatory use of those concepts will be coupled with mandatory EU-wide lists not only of countries presumed safe for their own nationals (safe country of origin lists)[31], but also for those deemed safe for persons seeking protection (safe third country lists), as confirmed by EU leaders’ most recent political commitments[32]. The lists would be adopted by EU legislation, although EU law would still allow Member States to go beyond their scope by using national lists or, in the case of safe third countries, by applying the concept in individual cases even in the absence of lists. These are likely to result in increasing numbers of applicants, including those originating from or transiting through former Soviet Union countries, being denied a careful examination of the merits of their claim. Opportunities for obtaining protection will be further reduced through the proposed Qualification Regulation, a new mandatory application of the internal protection alternative would oblige states to reject asylum applications if they find that a person could have sought protection in another part of their home country. A push for returns High numbers of arrivals in Europe in 2015 also raised concerns for the European Commission and Member States about the gap between the number of third country nationals who receive a return decision and those who leave the EU. As a consequence, increasing return rates has become part of the discussion of how Europe could ‘regain control’ of its borders. The European Agenda on Migration from 2015 proposed that third countries fulfil their international obligations to take back their own nationals residing irregularly in Europe as well as that Member States apply the Return Directive. The EU Action Plan on Returns, the Return Handbook, the renewed Action Plan and the European Commission Recommendation on making returns more effective when implementing the Return Directive soon followed[33]. ECRE does not dispute the fact that governments have the right to return asylum seekers whose applications have been correctly rejected. However, people should only be returned after a fair and efficient examination of their asylum claims. Priority should always be given to voluntary return and returns should be carried out in a safe, dignified and sustainable manner. The current approach favours the deterrence of migration and removal of obstacles to return through decreasing safeguards, decreasing the period and opportunities for voluntary departure, increasing the length of detention and increasing possibilities for sanctions. At the same time the bar for reintegration packages is being lowered. Reintegration packages provide a small level of support to people who have just returned to their country of origin or habitual residence and usually comprise of a small cash sum and in-kind support[34]. In discussions to reduce reintegration support for fear of ‘return shopping’, the EU is echoing approaches taken in countries like the Netherlands, which, following an increase in the requests for return support by Ukrainians reported by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and DT&V, decided to exclude Ukrainians as of 22 March 2016 from additional financial support and return support in-kind[35]. A study of a small sample of returnees to Russia from Norway in 2014 showed the limitations of reintegration support and how this challenges the sustainability of returns[36]. There are also concerns after a recent meeting of the European Council discussed adjustments that may be needed in EU legislation to further link return and asylum policies, including the link between ‘safe third country’ concepts and ensuring well-functioning readmission agreements are in place with the countries concerned[37]. The EU currently has readmission agreements in place with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, the Russian Federation and Ukraine to take back their own nationals, third country nationals and stateless persons found to have illegally entered, be illegally present or residing in a requesting EU Member State. Many applicants for asylum from Central Asia and other countries cross the Russian Federation before applying for asylum in EU Member States and as discussed earlier the ‘safe third country concept’ has been applied by some EU countries to Russia[38]. Meanwhile, in December 2016, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia’s mass expulsion of Georgians in 2006 had seriously violated their rights[39]. There have also been several cases against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights, notably by citizens from Central Asia who have faced difficulties defending their rights in Russia and consequently faced potential refoulement[40]. There are also reports of hundreds of people expelled from the Russian Federation with no regard for their procedural or other rights[41]. Conclusions In summary, we can see that people continue to flee the countries of the former Soviet Union to seek international protection in Europe, particularly from Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. There can be barriers to physically access Europe, for example not being able to cross the EU border from Belarus into Poland. Their treatment and whether they are granted a status can be very different depending on the country where they seek protection – although this also depends on the specifics of the individual case. Concepts such as the Internal Protection Alternative, safe third country and safe country of origin have been used in cases of people seeking protection from the region and further restrict access to their fundamental rights. Current changes in the CEAS look set to increase this trend, for example by making it obligatory for the Internal Protection Alternative to be considered by Member States. There are also concerns about the push for returns, reductions in safeguards during return procedures and a focus by Member States on links between the asylum and return regimes, particularly given the difficulty asylum seekers face in accessing their rights in Russia and the risk of refoulement. Recommendations:
  1. The EU should refrain from a mandatory use of safe country concepts (‘safe third country’ and ‘first country of asylum’) to deflect responsibility for asylum applications to its neighbouring regions, as such a move would run contrary both to international cooperation on fair responsibility-sharing in refugee protection, and requirements set out in international human rights law.
  2. The EU should equally resist the obligatory use of the Internal Protection Alternative (IPA), a control device whose place in the international refugee regime remains highly contested. The reform of the CEAS would result in consolidating an additional criterion of eligibility for refugee status, contradicting the Refugee Convention and the interpretation given to it by several EU countries[42].
[1] Adam Hug (ed.), Shelter from the storm? The asylum, refuge and extradition situation facing activists from the former Soviet Union in the CIS and Europe, Foreign Policy Centre, April 2014, [2] Radio Free Europe has a regularly updated blog with news from the conflict, available at: [3] ILGA Europe has regular updates on the situation at: [4]  For example, see Human Rights Watch [5] 41,470 Russian citizens applied for asylum in Europe in 2013 (source Eurostat). [6] European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Annual report on the situation of asylum in the EU+ 2016, July 2017, available at:, 14. [7] Ibid, 16. [8] Eurostat, migr_asyappctza. [9] Asylum Information Database (AIDA), Country Report Poland, 2016 Update, February 2017, available at:, 6. [10] AIDA, Refugee rights subsiding? Europe’s two-tier protection regime and its impact on the rights of beneficiaries, March 2017, available at:, 29. [11] Eurostat, Table migr_asydcfsta, [12] EASO, Annual report on the situation of asylum in the EU+ 2016, July 2017, 39. [13] See ECRE, Actors of Protection and the Application of the Internal Protection Alternative, European Comparative Report, October 2014, available at: [14] EMN, Ad-Hoc Query on asylum seekers from the Russian Federation, November 2013, available at: [15] EMN, Ad-Hoc Query on asylum seekers from the Russian Federation, June 2015, Open Summary available at: [16] Austrian Federal Administrative Court, Decision W111 2131009-1, November 2016, available at: [17] Polish Voivodeship Administrative Court, Decision IV SA/Wa 685/15, October 2015, available at: [18] AIDA, ‘France: Council of State upholds list of safe countries of origin’, January 2017, available at: [19] EASO Annual Report 2016. [20] See more at ECRE, Accelerated, prioritised and fast-track asylum procedures in Europe, May 2017, available at: [21] AIDA, Country Report Netherlands, 2016 Update, March 2017, available at:, 46. [22] AIDA, ‘Poland: Worsening restrictions and refusals of entry at the Eastern border’, September 2016, available at:; ‘Poland: Access to asylum denied at the Eastern borders’, July 2016, available at: [23] AIDA, Country Report Poland, 2016 Update, February 2017, available at:, 16-17. [24] Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ‘Wyjaśnienie MSZ w sprawie zarządzenia Europejskiego Trybunału Praw Człowieka z 8 czerwca 2017r’ (Explanation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the regulation of the European Court of Human Rights of June 2017, unofficial translation by ECRE), available at [25] See e.g. EASO, Annual report on the situation of asylum in the EU+ 2016, July 2017, 89, 101, 104; Human Rights Watch, ‘Norway/Russia: Don’t jeopardize asylum seekers’, 3 February 2016, available at: [26] EASO, Annual report on the situation of asylum in the EU+ 2016, July 2017, 104. [27] Ibid, 101. [28] See European Commission, Proposal for a [Dublin IV Regulation], COM (2016) 270, May 2016; Proposal for [an Asylum Procedures Regulation], COM(2016) 467, July 2016; Proposal for [a Qualification Regulation], COM(2016) 466, 13 July 2016. See ECRE’s comments on the proposals at: [29] European Commission, Proposal for a Dublin IV Regulation, COM (2016) 270, May 2016, Explanatory Memorandum, 2. [30] Sejm, Resolution on the Commission proposal for a Dublin IV Regulation, October 2016, available at: [31] An EU list is already foreseen in the proposed Asylum Procedures Regulation, which includes Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, FYROM, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey as safe countries of origin. [32] European Council, Conclusions 22-23 June 2017, available at:, para 23. [33] See European Commission, Action plan on return, COM(2015) 453, September 2015: ; Commission Recommendation of October 2015 establishing a “Return Handbook”, C(2015) 6250: ; On a more effective return policy in the European Union – a renewed action plan, COM(2017) 200, March 2017: ; Commission Recommendation of March 2017 on making returns more effective when implementing the Return Directive, C(2017) 1600: [34] All countries differ in the reintegration package they offer and it depends on the country of origin. However, an example of reintegration support from Norway can be found here: [35] EASO, Annual report on the situation of asylum in the EU+ 2016, July 2017, 142. [36] Ksenia Volosovtsova, Going back with a future? The case of rejected asylum seekers returning from Norway to Russia, June 2014. [37] European Council, Conclusions 22/23 June 2017, available at:, paras 22-23. [38] European Commission, Readmission agreements, available at: [39] EHRAC, ‘European Court rules Russia’s detention and deportation of Georgians ten years ago contravened Convention rights’, December 2016, available at: [40] ECtHR, Khamrakulov v. Russia, Application No 68894/13, Judgment of April 2015, available at: [41] See Civic Assistance Committee, Administrative Expulsion from Russia: Court Proceedings or Mass Expulsion? [42] For more information on ECRE’s recommendations on the Common European Asylum System, see ECRE Comments on our publications page available here: [post_title] => The region less-explored: Europe’s response to persons coming from the former Soviet Union in a changing Common European Asylum System [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => region-less-explored-europes-response-persons-coming-former-soviet-union-changing-common-european-asylum-system [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 16:09:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 16:09:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2195 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:17:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:17:16 [post_content] => The situation at the Belarusian-Polish border For many years, refugees from countries of the former Soviet Union have transited through Belarus in order to seek international protection in Poland. The absence of formal land border controls between Belarus and Russia[1], the existence of a visa-free regime between Belarus and most CIS countries combined with a relatively affordable 15-minute train connection between the city of Brest and Poland make this route the most readily accessible for those seeking international protection from persecution in Russia and Central Asia. While the lion’s share of asylum seekers come from Russia’s North Caucasus republics, particularly Chechnya, there has also been a recent increase in the number of arrivals from Tajikistan as of the end of 2015.   Although the Polish Border Guard has been found to occasionally turn around asylum seekers at the border in the past[2], Poland has over the past several decades received more asylum claims from Chechnya than any other EU state. Between 2008 and 2016 alone, 30 percent of all Russian asylum applications in the EU were lodged in Poland, with the overwhelming majority of applicants declaring Chechen nationality[3][4]. While Poland did briefly extend international protection to several thousand Chechens back in 2008-2009, refugee recognition rates for Chechens have remained extremely low since 2010[5]. Given that prospects for obtaining international protection in Poland are low, those asylum seekers who have managed to cross the Polish border often continue onwards to Germany, Austria, France and Sweden where many have family ties and access to a broader network of co-nationals. As a result, almost 80 percent of all asylum applications lodged in Poland were discontinued due to the fact that the applicants had absconded to a neighbouring country[6]. Out of the few who followed through with their applications in Poland, just 12 percent were granted some form of international protection in 2016. To put this in perspective, a total of 10 Russian and 6 Tajik citizens, for example, actually managed to obtain the coveted official refugee status in Poland.   Despite the ongoing efforts by Polish Border Guards to prevent migrants from applying for asylum at the Polish-Belarusian border, a few families are allowed to cross into Poland on any given day. Over the course of 2016, over 12,000 asylum seekers applied for international protection in Poland, with over 70 percent of applicants coming from the Russian Federation, comprised predominantly of Chechens and other ethnic minorities from the Northern Caucasus[7].   The fact that Poland has been the major country of transit and destination for Chechen asylum seekers is nothing new, but the situation on the ground has undergone a dramatic change since July 2016 when the Polish Border Guard began to systematically deny asylum seekers the right to lodge an application for international protection at the border. The absence of a valid travel document such as a Schengen visa or residence permit is the most common formal reason for these rejections.   Despite difficulties in obtaining access – only the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights has observed the process directly[8] – several NGOs have documented numerous accounts of asylum seekers being pushed back at the border. As a rule, Polish border guards pre-interview foreigners in batches without allowing them any privacy. Many asylum seekers have reported being humiliated and mistreated by border guards during this process[9]. Averaging just one to four minutes, according to inspectors from the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights, these interviews are extremely rushed and perfunctory with the aim of quickly dismissing any grounds for asylum. There have been several documented cases of foreigners not being allowed to lodge applications despite clearly stating their intent on seeking protection[10]. After being stopped at the border, these individuals are sent back by train to Belarus the very same day with written documents stating that their entry into Poland has been refused due to lack of a valid visa. Every day just a few families are allowed to cross and have their application evaluated by Poland’s Office of Foreigners, often after undertaking anywhere between 30 and 50 crossing attempts.   These unlawful practices have been criticised by the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights and numerous NGOs as a breach of the Geneva Convention as well as EU and Polish law. In June 2017, the European Court of Human Rights intervened in the matter, issuing interim measures with regard to six applicants that instructed the Polish government to cease sending asylum seekers back to Belarus[11]. At the time of writing, Poland had largely ignored the orders of the Court, allowing just two families to apply for asylum. In response to the ECtHR rulings, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that border guards are in their right to conduct pre-screening interviews because they are not conducted on Polish soil, but are technically on neutral territory in the border zone[12].   Moreover, the Polish Minister of Interior Mariusz Blaszczak has openly stated that Poland perceives Muslim immigrants as a threat and disqualified asylum seekers from Chechnya and Central Asia as economic migrants with false intentions[13]. Mounting legal pressure from civil society and the ECtHR has not so far resulted in any changes in practices at the border as Polish guards continue to push back asylum seekers at the Terespol-Brest border crossing despite continuing arrivals[14]. Most recently, a group of three Syrians have undertaken several unsuccessful attempts to lodge an application in Terespol. Interim measures issued by ECtHR with regard to their case have not helped either[15].   The situation with these pushbacks is problematic on several levels. Not only are they a blatant violation of national and international law, but they have created an untenable humanitarian situation in Brest, the nearest city on the Belarusian side of the border. As migrants run out of money, entire families are forced to sleep rough at the railway station, depriving children of access to schooling. Stuck in Belarus, these people are left to fend for themselves in a state of legal limbo. Those who do not apply for asylum in Belarus – and only a few do – do not fall under the mandate of UNHCR and are therefore left without access to assistance, relying on the support of local NGOs and volunteers. Since most of these stranded asylum seekers are Russian citizens, they could in theory live and work in Belarus with few restrictions, but are afraid to stay in the country due to security concerns. More worryingly still, the European Commission has recently earmarked funds for strengthening Belarus’ migration management capacities, which includes the construction of detention facilities designed for accommodating irregular migrants apprehended on Belarusian territory[16]. With the first of these centres slated to open as early as 2018[17], asylum seekers stranded in Belarus could soon find themselves under the threat of internment and subsequent deportation.   Why asylum in Belarus is not an option Citizens of 11 former Soviet states – all apart from Turkmenistan, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – can come to Belarus without a visa[18]. Additionally, citizens of the Russian Federation can stay in Belarus for 90 days without registering[19] with local authorities and have the possibility to obtain temporary residence if they manage to find permanent accommodation. As a result, most of those waiting to cross into Poland are legally present in the country. There have, however, been some cases of Belarusian authorities placing so-called deportation stamps in the passports of those stranded asylum seekers who surpassed their registration-free period of stay[20].   The absence of border controls between Belarus and Russia as part of the supranational Union State coupled with a long history of close cooperation among post-Soviet security services makes refugees afraid to remain in Belarus. Not only does Belarus not offer effective international protection, it has a known track record of extraditing political dissidents to law enforcement officials from Russia and other CIS countries. According to Human Rights Watch, Chechens and Tajiks risk being sent back to Russia where they could potentially face retribution at the hands of their respective security forces[21].   Between 2004 and 2016, 73 Russian citizens applied for asylum in Belarus[22]. Not a single one of those applicants received any form of international protection. As for Tajik citizens, a mere 35 applied for protection in Belarus over the past 13 years – all to no avail.   Belarus’ asylum system has been described as dysfunctional by Human Rights Watch[23], although a few individuals nevertheless applied for asylum in Belarus in 2017 according to volunteers from the humanitarian mission of Human Constanta, a Belarusian NGO helping asylum seekers in Brest.   How safe is it for asylum seekers to wait in Belarus? For almost a year now, those who have tried on countless occasions to have their asylum application accepted by Polish authorities have been largely tolerated by local Belarusian authorities. Local police officials and President Lukashenko have highlighted that they see no problem with the current situation as these foreign citizens largely abide the law and have not caused any trouble. Although most of them have the legal right to stay in Belarus for a relatively long period of time, there have been cases when Belarusian police forced foreign citizens to leave the country within a certain period of time. At the same time, Tajik and Chechen asylum seekers are afraid to stay longer in Belarus, fearing the security services of their countries of origin – and for good reason. There have been reports of undercover agents of Chechen security forces intimidating asylum seekers stranded in Brest as well as the presence of Tajik security officials at the interrogation of a Tajik political dissident in a Belarusian jail[24].   The Foreign Policy Centre has already published detailed pieces on the methods used by both Chechen and Tajik authorities to persecute their nationals abroad[25]. In 2014-2015 three Tajik opposition movements – Group 24, Youth for the Revival of Tajikistan and Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT) – were outlawed and labelled extremist organisations, triggering a witch-hunt for their members as well as journalists, lawyers and critics of the Tajik authorities at home and abroad[26].   On 15 June 2015, Belarusian authorities detained Shabnam Khudoydodova, a former member of Group 24. She had previously lived in Russia, but fearing extradition to Tajikistan, she headed to Terespol to ask for asylum in Poland. Having been turned around at the border on the grounds of not having a visa, Shabnam was promptly detained by Belarusian authorities upon her return at the request of Tajik authorities. Shabnam then asked for asylum in Belarus, thereby suspending her extradition to Tajikistan[27]. After a major outcry from the international community, including the US Department of State and OSCE, Shabnam was granted refugee status in February 2015 and released after having spent eight months in prison. She then successfully applied for asylum in Poland[28].   In September 2016, Human Constanta reported that it received information from several sources about the presence of Chechen security officials – referred to colloquially as kadyrovtsy – at the railway station in Brest where they questioned and visited Chechens stranded there. After a TV programme aired on Belarus’ ONT channel in which a Chechen woman was interviewed, the kadyrovtsy tried tracking her down in Brest. Thankfully, the woman in question managed to cross the border in time and did not face any repercussions according to eyewitnesses[29]. In January 2017, a Humana Constanta volunteer reported to the police that he had been threatened for his work by an unknown Chechen man near the railway station[30].   A statement from Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov from September 2016 appears to confirm the presence of his agents in Brest: “[I] sent people there [to sort out the situation] but none of those who are trying to cross the border [to Poland] could explain clearly who they were, where they came from, [and] why they went there.”[31]   More recently, on June 7th 2017, Belarusian border guards detained Murad Amriyev, a well-known Chechen mixed-martial-arts fighter living in Kiev. Having moved to Ukraine in 2013 after being allegedly tortured by Chechen police seeking information about his brother who lives in Germany, Amriev was arrested in Russia when trying to obtain new documents. After initially escaping detention and attempting to return to Ukraine via Belarus, Amriev was detained by Belarusian border guards who promptly handed him over to Russian law enforcement. Though released by Chechen authorities after signing a pledge to not abscond from justice, Amriev told journalists at a press conference in Grozny that he had attempted to ask for asylum in Belarus, but was prevented from doing so[32].   Getting by into the EU under the threat of return While there were few to none Tajik asylum seekers prior to 2015, the crossing of large numbers of Chechen asylums seekers into Poland is hardly a new phenomenon. In fact, Poland saw a record number of asylum applications from Russian nationals back in 2013 with over fifteen thousand requests for international protection. What has changed since then is the number of rejections of entry at the border. Whereas in the past, most asylum seekers managed to lodge their claims at the border, there has been a radical change in policy at Polish border crossings since 2016. This is particularly noticeable when you look at the number of rejections of entry to Poland at its external borders, which have more than doubled in 2016 in comparison to 2015 (118,060 to 53, 146)[33], particularly at the Belarusian border where rejections have tripled from 28,237 to 88,268 in the span of a year.   Asylum seekers who decide to try their luck in another EU country face the daunting task of trying to get by in Western Europe with very limited possibilities for regularising their stay through the European asylum system. Under the Dublin regulation, these asylum seekers are liable to be transferred back to Poland where they initially entered the EU. There has already been an increase in the number of Dublin transfers with Germany deporting 884 individuals, mostly Russian nationals, back to Poland in 2016 where they are most likely to receive a negative asylum decision and receive an order to leave the country. Following a peak in 2013, returns from Poland to Russia are on the rise again with over one thousand Russian nationals leaving the country in 2016[34].   While the mechanics of asylum in the EU are complicated, bureaucratic and time-consuming, it is safe to assume that, given the high rejection rates across Europe, asylum seekers from Russia and Central Asia are faced with the choice of either living in the shadows or going through a painful and lengthy deportation procedure. In 2016, there was an increase in forced returns to Russia from countries such as Norway and France. According to the last openly available Russian statistics on return, Russian authorities gave the green light to 1,504 return requests from the EU out of a total 1,927 in 2015 under the EU-Russia readmission agreement[35].   Questions remain about what happens to those who are returned to Russia after failing to secure international protection in the EU. Based on Polish asylum statistics, many asylum seekers arrive as families, having sold all their belongings back home. There are, however, a number of worrying cases in Russia involving Chechen deportees. Three months after being deported from Sweden back to Chechnya after a rejected asylum claim, Kana Afanasyev was detained, tortured and subsequently killed by local Chechen law enforcement authorities in February 2015[36]. Yet it is not only inside Chechnya that returnees run the risk of extra-legal persecution – Chechen security forces have been known to act with impunity across Russia. In July 2015, a 30-year-old Chechen man named Zaurbek Zhamaldaev, who had been recently deported from Poland after trying for three years to obtain international protection there, was kidnapped in broad daylight in Moscow and has never been heard from since[37]. The total number of such cases involving Chechen returnees is difficult to estimate given that the families of victims are often either too afraid to speak up or try to bail out their loved ones using informal channels.   Gaining political asylum in Poland has long been a difficult task, but the current policy of pushing back asylum seekers at the border is unprecedented in its scale and blatant disregard of Polish and European law. New amendments to the Law on Asylum put forth by the Polish Ministry of Interior seek to de facto legalise ongoing unlawful practices at the border by introducing a so-called border procedure that would allow border guards to assess an applicant’s eligibility for international protection on the spot. Under these proposals Belarus and the Russian Federation could be identified as safe countries of origin and asylum seekers would be placed in detention for the duration of their asylum procedure[38]. By expanding the grounds for detention and severely curtailing refugee rights, these draconian measures aim to discourage potential asylum seekers from attempting to enter Poland. Dwindling chances of obtaining any kind of international protection in the EU leave Russian and Central Asian asylum seekers with few options to find safety for themselves and their families. The extremely difficult situation at the Polish-Belarusian border has also turned into a test of the EU’s willingness to uphold its own human rights norms in the context of a proliferation of restrictive migration policies. Poland’s refusal to abide by ECHR rulings sets a worrying precedent for the rule of law in the EU, putting the lives of asylum seekers in danger. The current toxic mix of populist anti-migrant rhetoric, unilateral border closures by EU member states such as Poland and legal deadlock leaves these people with their backs against the wall – unable to return home but with no viable escape route.   With few legal paths available for asylum seekers from Central Asia and the North Caucasus, it is paramount that the Polish Border Guard ensures that those who express fear of persecution in their home country and, importantly, do not feel safe in the country of transit, are given immediate access to due procedure for the granting of international protection.   [1] Treaty on Friendship, Neighbourhood and Co-Operation Between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus was signed in 1995, providing for an open border between the two states ( In 1997, Russia and Belarus formed a Union State, equalising the rights of citizens of the two countries ( However, following the introduction of a unilateral 5-day visa-free regime between Belarus and 80 states, Russia partially re-introduced border controls in February 2017 (Polina Khimshiashvili, Ilya Rozhdestvenskiy, Georgiy Makarenko, Как Россия и Белоруссия дошли до восстановления границы, RBC.RU, February 2017, [2] Aleksandra Chrzanowska, Patrycja Mickiewicz, Katarzyna Słubik, Joanna Subko and Anna Trylińska, At the border. Report on monitoring of access to the procedure for granting international protection at border crossings in Terespol, Medyka, and Warszawa-Okęcie Airport, Association of Legal Intervention, 2016, [3] The Office for Foreigners, Napływ cudzoziemców ubiegających się o objęcie ochroną międzynarodową do Polski w latach 2009-2015, [4] The Office for Foreigners, Sprawozdanie z wykonywania ustawy o ochronie międzynarodowej w 2016 r., March 2016, [5] Krisztián Stummer, Forgotten Refugees: Chechen asylum seekers in Poland, Political Critique, February 2016, [6] Eurostat database 2016. [7] Information by the Head of the Office for Foreigners on the application of the Act of 13 June 2003 on Granting Protection to Foreigners within the Territory of the Republic of Poland in 2016 (consolidated text Journal of Laws of 2016, item 1836) in terms of implementation of obligations of the Republic of Poland resulting from the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and the New York Protocol relating to the status of refugees. [8] Commissioner for Human Rights, Inspection of the railway border crossing in Terespol, September 2016, [9] Human Rights Watch, Poland: Asylum Seekers Blocked at Border, March 2017, [10] Commissioner for Human Rights, Inspection of the railway border crossing in Terespol, September 2016, One of the conclusions of the Commissioner for Human Rights’ Inspectors were that ‘Provisions of the Act of 13 June 2003 on granting protection to foreigners on the territory of the Republic of Poland (Journal of Laws - Dz.U. of 2012, item 680, as amended) do not provide for the possibility of any preliminary verification of data provided by a foreigner performed by the Border Guard officer. The procedure used by the Border Guard for conducting such interviews should be carefully checked, especially in terms of its compliance with applicable legal provisions.’ [11] See Amnesty International, Poland: EU Should Tackle Unsafe Returns to Belarus, July 2017, and alsoевропейский-суд-по-правам-человека-вмешался-в-ситуацию-с-беженцами-на-беларусско/1902205446705058/?fref=mentions [12] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, Wyjaśnienie MSZ w sprawie zarządzenia Europejskiego Trybunału Praw Człowieka z 8 czerwca 2017r, June 2017, [13] Maciej Orłowski, Mariusz Błaszczak w TVP Info straszy uchodźcami, myląc pojęcia i fakty, Gazeta Wyborcza, April 2017,,75398,21631484,mariusz-blaszczak-w-tvp-info-straszy-uchodzcami-mylac-pojecia.html [14] European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Human rights organisations: Poland violates international law by blocking entry of asylum seekers from Belarus, July 2017, [15] Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Straż Graniczna po raz kolejny ignoruje zarządzenia Europejskiego Trybunału Praw Człowieka, July 2017, [16] European Commission, Commission Implementing Decision of 20.7.2016 on the Annual Action Programme 2016 in favour of the Republic of Belarus to be financed from the general budget of the European Union, July 2017, [17], Центры для незаконных мигрантов будут созданы в Витебске, Гомеле и Лиде не ранее 2018 года – Шуневич, February 2017, [18] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Безвизовое передвижение (общие сведения), [19] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Режимы пребывания иностранцев на территории Республики Беларусь, [20] Galina Petrovskaya, Чеченцы в Бресте: чужие среди своих и чужих, Deutsche Welle, February 2017,чеченцы-в-бресте-чужие-среди-своих-и-чужих/a-37359218 [21] Human Rights Watch, Poland: Asylum Seekers Blocked at Border, March 2017, [22] Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Belarus, Cтатистические данные о вынужденной миграции в Республику Беларусь, [23] Lydia Gall, Poland Ignores European Court Over Return of Asylum Seeker, Human Rights Watch, June 2017, [24] Грамадская актывістка з Таджыкістану: Мяне збілі ў беларускім часовым ізалятары / Шабнам Худайдодова – BelsatTV, YouTube video, [25] See Civil Rights Defenders, Chechnya - Repression without borders, Foreign Policy Center and Edward Lemon, Tajikistan: The trans nationalisation of domestic struggles, in Adam Hug (ed.), No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union, November 2016, [26] Human Rights Watch, Tajikistan: Severe Crackdown on Political Opposition, February 2016, [27] Irina Khalip, Таджикская активистка освобождена из брестского СИЗО, February 2016, Novaya Gazeta, [28] Philippe Dam, EU’s Latest Bid to Curb Migration, Human Rights Watch, October 2016, [29] Human Constanta, Invisible refugees on Belarus-Poland border. Primary assessment of local migration crisis in Brest-Terespol sector, September 2016, [30] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, «Я заб’ю цябе», — праваабаронцу, які працуе з чачэнскімі ўцекачамі ў Берасьці, пагражалі расправай, January 2017, [31], Кадыров о "белорусских" чеченцах: покинули республику в поисках легкой жизни, September 2016, [32] Andrey Dubrovskiy, Бойца ММА Амриева отпустили под подписку о невыезде, Novaya Gazeta, June 2017, [33] Polish Border Guard, Statystyki SG,,Statystyki-SG.html [34] Eurostat database 2016, Third country nationals returned following an order to leave – annual data (rounded) [migr_eirtn] [35] Russian Federal Migration Service, Yearly Summary Report 2015, https://xn--b1ab2a0a.xn--b1aew.xn--p1ai/upload/site1/document_file/Itogovyy_doklad_na_19.02.16.pdf [36] Liz Fuller, New wave of detentions reported in Chechnya, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 2015, [37] Yuliya Orlova, В Москве исчез уроженец Чечни, депортированный из Польши, Civic Assistance Committee, June 2015, [38] Jacek Białas, Poland: Draft amendment to the law on protection of foreigners – another step to seal Europe’s border, Op-ed by Polish Helsinki Committee, European Council on Refugees and Exiles, March 2017, [post_title] => The pushback of asylum seekers from the North Caucasus and Central Asia at the Polish border [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => pushback-asylum-seekers-north-caucasus-central-asia-polish-border [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 00:21:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:21:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2198 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:16:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:16:41 [post_content] => Political migration from Azerbaijan during the last decade was consistently on the rise due to the increasingly authoritarian rule in the country, boosted by high world oil prices. The cautious approach to the empowerment of democratic institutions in the country by Europe out of fear of losing an important energy supplier to European markets contributed to the resilience of this political system[1]. The most recent flow of political migration from Azerbaijan was a result of the infamous crackdown on civil society by the authorities in 2014, which coincided with the major flow of refugees to Europe from the Middle East. To get hold of the emigres or to control their activities abroad, the Azerbaijani authorities are using various means, including international instruments, such as Interpol and taking advantage of the economic dependence of neighbouring states on energy-rich Azerbaijan. The survival and activities of migrants after leaving the country has been under increasing pressure from geopolitical factors, such as the strategic nature of relations between states with common interests in the region, based on energy projects and security, reflected in threats of deportations, extraditions or abductions, even in the relatively democratic Georgia; growing authoritarian trends in the major regional powers of Russia and Turkey; and limited resources due to the increased flow of refugees and migrants from the Middle East to the EU and other Western states. The protection and safety of refugees and asylum seekers has been a test of resilience of the international norms and values to which most countries have formally signed up to.   Reasons for asylum seeking: Economic and political conditions in Azerbaijan The Azerbaijani statistics show the number of people who left the country for permanent residency abroad from 2014 to 2017 more than doubled. According to a report on asylum seekers in Germany, in these years the number of asylum applications increased threefold[2]. Azerbaijan made only partial use of its resource advantage - rich oil and gas deposits. The country did not escape the faith of ‘Dutch disease ’[3]. After the successful establishment of macroeconomic stability in the mid-90s, the government did not succeed in translating impressive economic growth into decent social indicators and by 2016 Azerbaijan was characterised by one of the lowest average salaries among former Soviet republics, being behind even resource-poor neighbouring republics[4]. The economic growth, boosted by high oil prices, was accompanied by a steady decline in the country’s democracy and human rights record.   The major political reasons for migration from the country have been the government policies of discrimination against opposition groups and the suppression of dissent as part of a consistent trend of encroaching on major freedoms. The restrictions of major freedoms, both at the level of policy and legislation which coincided with high world oil prices and the arrival of major oil revenues directly affected the power of society to resist and after a long period of persecution of political activists and journalists, eventually made NGOs also vulnerable to the government crackdown on civil society in 2014 by President  Ilham Aliyev, resulting in dozens of leading human rights and other NGOs being shut down, bank accounts frozen, some of their leaders being arrested, some having escaped abroad, while others staying in the country unable to leave due to  imposed travel bans. The significant scale of election fraud, as well as increasingly limited freedoms, such as freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, both at policy and legislative levels were factors contributing to the weakening of the opposition. Besides being the subject of unjustified arrest, torture or harassment, political and civil society activists and journalists were frequently fired from their jobs, or encountered extreme difficulties finding jobs due to their political affiliation. Most importantly, the government applied the principle of collective responsibility, meaning that the family members of the activists were subject to the same measures of punishment or discrimination[5]. The authorities often used threats against family members/children of the activists as means of exerting pressure on them - that is why some of them tried to send their children abroad to enable them to be freer in their opposition or human rights activities[6]. The major characteristics of the persecution of activists have been exceedingly high prison sentences, the resistance of authorities to the decisions of and pressure from international bodies and multilateral institutions, torture and beatings, in some cases resulting in deaths in prison[7].   A special category of persecuted activists are women. Besides arrests on bogus charges, the government extensively uses smear campaigns against women[8], using the conservative traditions of the predominantly Muslim community, although it is relatively secular overall. Women activists are particularly vulnerable to psychological pressure, usually involving the illegal recording of private lives by cameras installed in their apartments, serving as an additional source of trauma, which affects their families and the psychological health of their children[9].   The foreign funding of NGOs, that before the Ukraine ‘EuroMaydan’ events worked in favour of activists’ political and financial empowerment, has turned into a disadvantage and made them targets of government persecution since 2014. A few criminal cases, opened against NGOs caused a new wave of emigration of civil society activists. The geography of where emigres initially went varied - Georgia, Turkey, Ukraine, but none of them proved to be a safe hub for the emigres of Azerbaijan.   Geopolitics and its influence on deportations and extraditions Azerbaijan quickly gained its importance in the post-Soviet period due to its role as an alternative energy supplier to Western markets and the extensive investments in the energy and infrastructure sector by major multinational corporations such as BP, Chevron, UNOCAL, STAOIL, etc. The major energy regional and international infrastructure projects involving neighbours, especially Georgia and Turkey, cemented the already strategically close foreign policy orientations of the three states. At the same time, relations with Azerbaijan, which was a crucial energy supplier and evolved into one of the major investors in these countries’ economies influenced the situation with regard to political refugees and dissidents. For instance, the close relations of Aliyev and Saakashvili affected the plans of the Azerbaijani opposition National Council to hold a meeting in Tbilisi during the last half year of Saakashvili’s term in office and it was cancelled[10].   In April 2014 Rauf Mirgadirov the correspondent and critical columnist of one of the major independent newspapers Ayna/Zerkalo, was deported from Turkey only to be detained in the airport in Baku and locked in solitary confinement for nearly two years by the National Security Agency on charges of ‘espionage’ in favour of neighbouring Armenia, with whom Azerbaijan is in conflict. He has lived and worked as a correspondent in Turkey since 2010, but did not seek asylum and his accreditation was valid until the end of 2014. As his deportation took place after the visit of Turkey’s then Prime Minster Erdogan to Baku, concerns were raised that the cancellation of the accreditation and deportation were agreed upon at the highest political level[11].   Over the last few years the Azerbaijani leadership has been in cooperation with the Turkish authorities, united by the common perception that the sources of the regional ‘revolutions’ are in the US or Europe, exchanging information about Gulenist ‘agents’ and independent NGOs, the latter whom official media in Azerbaijan call a fifth column of the West, fearing repetition of the Ukrainian events of EuroMaydan. As a result of this cooperation a few people from the Azerbaijani government were sacked after the Gezi Park protests in 2013. The second campaign was undertaken after the failed coup in Turkey in 2016 - most of the Gulen-supported institutions, private universities and newspapers in Azerbaijan were shut down, or changed their source of funding. Some prominent opposition activists were arrested, being unjustifiably blamed as ‘Gulenist agents’[12].   No less vulnerable vis-à-vis pressures resulting from strategic relations between the states in the region appeared to be the political migrants who escaped to a nearest safe destination - neighbouring Georgia. For many activists who fled the country in 2014 this was a first safe shelter, although for most of them only temporary. Yet, for some this appeared to be a place of prolonged stay. Dashgin Aghalarli, an activist from the opposition Musavat party, who escaped from Azerbaijan in 2014, was arrested on the Georgian border at the request of the Azerbaijani authorities as a ‘tax evader’, and spent 6 months in a Georgian prison. The decision on granting him asylum dragged on for almost two years, revealing the dilemmas which the Georgian government was caught in. The uncertainty of the legal status and absence of protection kept the asylum seeker in security and financial limbo, with inevitable consequences for his health, his financial situation and the wellbeing of his dependents, as apart from short term and inconsistent support from NGOs, there was no other support. In March 2017 the Tbilisi City Court of Appeals denied him asylum and he was notified to leave the country in one month. At the same time UNHCR, instead of offering a shelter in the third country, suggested that he apply for temporary residence in Georgia.   A series of persecutions of Azerbaijanis who resided or found refuge in Georgia started after the publication by a pro-government website of an article about ‘underground activities’ in Tbilisi[13]. On 20 May Georgian authorities arrested the head of a Tbilisi-based clinic Lancet, Prof. Farman Jeyranli, who was an Azerbaijani surgeon[14], while the Azerbaijani government on the 25 May 2017 arrested the deputy chairwoman of the Popular Front Party, Gozel Bayramli, upon return from her treatment in Georgia, who was a patient of that clinic. All, along with a journalist Afgan Mukhtarli, were mentioned in the article on the news website.   The general situation of Azerbaijani refugees in Georgia became high profile, when on 29th May 2017 Afghan Mukhtarli was abducted near his place of residence in Georgia and taken to Azerbaijan to be prosecuted. Although the journalist had earlier reported that he was often monitored, the process of abduction rather than the use of the official procedures of extradition or deportation came as a surprise to all, including the victim itself. The illegal capture of the journalist from a country praised for its democratic achievements, was an unprecedented case for Georgia and led to both a significant domestic and international outcry, including a resolution by the European Parliament[15]. While the resolution  urged the Georgian government to investigate the case, the journalist’s wife Leyla Mustafayeva commented that during the investigation it appeared that hardly any street, shop or other cameras appeared to be properly working on the  on the day of abduction[16], which cast doubts about the effectiveness of the investigation. She tied the abduction of Afgan Mukhtarli to his journalistic investigation of President Aliyev’s family business in Georgia. There were increased difficulties with obtaining status and permits in Georgia, for the migrants connected with the political situation in the country. In his interview before his arrest Afghan Mukhtarli stressed that the situation for them worsened after the 2016 Georgian parliamentary elections, when the dominating majority of the seats was won by the ruling Georgian Dream Party[17]. The refusal to grant asylum to Azerbaijani migrants was justified by the authorities as ‘threats to the national interests and security’. This attitude was extended even to the visitors to the country, who already obtained their status in Europe. The rapper and producer for the critical Meydan TV Jamal Ali was denied entry to Georgia and had to return back to Berlin[18].   Ukraine did not appear to be a safe haven for Azerbaijani migrants either. Azerbaijan sent five requests to Ukraine for extradition in 2015, and four in 2016[19]. In July 2016 the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Ukraine signed an agreement on cooperation in several areas, including the arms trade, oil transportation and support to Azerbaijani investors in Ukraine, as well as supporting each other’s territorial integrity. This context of relations affected the security of Azerbaijani asylum seekers who were coming and temporarily living in Ukraine.   For instance, a former employee of the Ministry of Interior, Emin Ahmedbekov, who was arrested on trumped up charges for three years and after being released left the country for Ukraine with his wife, who was also fired from her job in the same ministry. The authorities however continued their pressure[20] and the couple had to move from one place to another while in Ukraine, as Azerbaijan security agents found and threatened them. Ukraine in turn refused asylum to the Ahmedbekovs[21]. After that the family left for Bulgaria, but it also refused to grant them asylum. Eventually, after 3 years they were given a humanitarian visa to live in France.   On a few occasions Azerbaijani authorities have used Interpol channels to get hold of people who escaped persecution: for example the author of the campaign Do Not Keep Silence (Susma in Azerbaijani), a businessman Huseyn Abdullayev was searched abroad on a red notice of Interpol, as well as the ex-deputy defence minister Isa Sadiqov[22].   It is mainly due to the low probability of getting refugee status, the lack of safety and uncertainty with regard to protection guarantees (both legal and physical), that these states in the region evolved to make them an unlikely place of permanent asylum for refugees from Azerbaijan, with the case of abduction of Afghan Mukhtarli in Georgia, or the monitoring of the Ahmedbekovs in Ukraine as its convincing evidence. The only case of granting asylum in Georgia is that of Vidadi Iskandarli. These cases are taking place in spite of all three states- Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine – being members of the Council of Europe and parties to international conventions obliging them to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.   European states and asylum seekers The average of the number of asylum seekers in the EU (per 1,000 population) in 2016 was 2.4. The UK scores quite low (0.6) especially compared to Germany (8.4), Austria (4.8) and Malta (4.5). Overall, there are 18 countries who are higher than the UK. The UK is also more likely not to grant refugee status compared to some other countries[23]. A study by the Guardian, which analysed the experience of refugees and asylum seekers in 5 big nations (the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy) concluded that the UK does not compare well with France, Germany and Spain. It takes fewer refugees, offers less generous financial support, provides substandard housing, does not give asylum seekers the right to work, punishing even those who volunteer, ‘and routinely forces people into destitution and even to homelessness, when they are granted refugee status due to bureaucratic delays’[24].   In addition, the grant rate in the UK is also low – as of the first quarter of 2016 it reached only 28% against the average grant rate in Europe of 63-65%[25].   Thus the general trend of applications for asylum in the UK has been in decline, with Azerbaijanis being no exception. The number of applications by Azerbaijanis dropped from 164 in 2002 (only 9 were granted asylum status) to 18 in 2016[26]. In 2016, of the 18 applications by asylum seekers from Azerbaijan, only two were granted asylum. The overflow of migrants from the Middle East has also affected the situation with South Caucasus asylum seekers in Europe. The European Union returned 485 people in 2015 and 625 in 2016 to Azerbaijan[27]. This is compared to Georgia: returns from the EU – 3,140 in 2015 and 3,360 in 2016.   The Azerbaijani Turan agency, referring to the German edition of the, reported that Germany began the mass deportation of migrants from Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan through the airport in Dusseldorf, announcing that 23,750 migrants would be deported before November 2017[28].   The case of ‘N’ in the UK, a young Azerbaijani opposition activist who asked for asylum in 2014 after a major crackdown on civil society, is indicative of the challenges in the asylum seeking process in Britain. N had left Azerbaijan, when he was searched by police after one of the protest meetings. His other male family members were also the target of persecution for a few years. None of his applications for asylum in the UK were satisfied. The Home Office said that he was a junior member of the political party and was not under threat deemed sufficient to be granted asylum. The decision however did not take into account the peculiarities of politics in the country, some of which are mentioned above. Arrests and detentions in Azerbaijan are often unpredictable in character, and relatively minor violations of law can be used as a pretext for punishment with very high sentences, as in the case of two young activists who were sentenced to 10 years each for graffiti[29].   In addition, the government usually puts pressure on political activists, journalists and human rights defenders by means of threatening their children. As N was from the family of the political activist of the governing body of the leading opposition party, he was exposed to government pressure, as a member of the same party. Having exhausted the benefits of legal aid as a result of his failed claims and while waiting to file a fresh claim, N had to work to support himself in a restaurant, but was detained by immigration officers, who were inspecting the restaurant. He was put in the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre of the Gatwick Detention Centre, which is a place for the detention of immigrants with a criminal record[30]. For the young man, who showed outstanding talent at school and was committed to the struggle for democracy since an early age, to share a cell with people with actual criminal records was shocking, especially considering his previous issues with depression. He was provided with a free solicitor, and visited by the representatives of the Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group[31], who helped him with advice and softened the trauma. Facing the dilemma of a prolonged stay in Brook house or being deported, he agreed to be deported by the Assisted Voluntary Return scheme [32] after two and a half years of asylum seeking in the UK. While N due to a mixture of precautions and luck managed to reach home safely, he had to undertake prolonged medical treatment and both his father, family and himself remain exposed to the threat of further persecution. One should also consider that political activists, especially the young, working in authoritarian regimes like Azerbaijan usually have high expectations regarding the attitudes and capacity to sympathise with their plight in states with established democracies such as the United Kingdom, which sometimes contrasts with reality. While the issue of the safety of asylum seekers is more real for those trying to seek refuge in the states of the Former Soviet Union, journalists in exile reported about indicators of plans by the Azerbaijan authorities of the assassination of the active blogger and journalist Habib Muntazir in Berlin, who by that time had acquired German citizenship[33].   In the UK political refugees from Azerbaijan face the necessity of finding a high quality lawyer, suffer the challenges of the waiting period, when they are not allowed to work, have insufficient knowledge of the language, and have to rely on the expertise of the Home Office if they are detained. The issue is also complicated by the reported cases of fraud, when asylum seeking is managed by illegal groups, benefitting mainly the economic migrants, who manage to acquire fake IDs of membership of the opposition parties and tourist visas mainly through the Central and Eastern European states’ embassies[34].   An alternative route is the provision of temporary refuge, such as for scholars at risk who are usually taken care of by CARA (Council for at Risk Academics) - the oldest and prominent organisation in the UK, which has been helping academics who have fled persecution in their home countries since the 1930s[35]. While creating unique opportunities for the persecuted scholars to be based in the best universities in the UK for up to 2 years, it is struggling with limited funding as compared to the funding for scholars being placed in US universities by organisations such as the Scholars Rescue Fund, while the number of recipients in the UK is steadily increasing. For instance, after an inflow of refugees from the Middle East in 2014, CARA in 2016, as a result of the failed coup in Turkey, had to deal with another inflow of academics, who managed to leave the country before the travel ban was imposed. Besides the limited funding, the immigration rules of the UK are strict regarding family members of the temporary residing scholars. For instance while the definition of dependents includes spouses and children but it does not normally include the parents, however there is a clause regarding adult dependent relatives for ‘British citizens, persons settled in the UK, or those with refugee leave and humanitarian protection’[36], which is not extended to the holders of the other type of visas. This does not take into account the collective responsibility principle applied by the authorities in persecution, and also when persecuted activists (women more frequently) are the only caretakers of their parent(s), especially if the parent is ill and weak, this makes it impossible for the parent dependent on the academic to accompany him/her and forces the academic to leave the old person behind without any support and care, as it allows only a visitor visa which is limited to 90 days. This puts before the scholar a hard moral dilemma. Some other problems also include a short term solution to the problems, discouragement of asylum seeking during the time of support and extreme uncertainty about the fate of the scholar after a maximum of two years of fellowship, if the situation in the home country does not change, although the organisation suggests all possible assistance in finding jobs as a long term solution.   Conclusions and recommendations After the end of the Cold War, Azerbaijan did not avoid the trap of the energy dependent economy and developed into a non-free state. The Soviet legacy and the geopolitical challenges combined with the windfall of oil revenues contributed to the regime strengthening its grip on power and increasing its pressure on dissent. The prioritisation of energy and security interests by Europe and the US in their foreign policy, including Azerbaijan positioning itself as an important actor in their energy security and as an economic and transportation hub in the region also contributed to the worsening of the political situation. The latter in turn resulted in growing flows of outmigration and numbers of asylum seekers.  In spite of being parties to international conventions, the states in the region hosting political refugees were prioritising their bilateral relations with Azerbaijan, often at the expense of the safety and protection of refugees, which resulted in deportations, extradition or even the abduction of asylum seekers. The regional dynamics of relations between these states has so far has overpowered their commitments to international conventions. While the situation in European states is better, the still high percentage of refusals and deportations of asylum seekers exposes some deportees to the high risk of persecution at home.   The following recommendations follow from this study for those countries receiving migrants and asylum seekers from Azerbaijan and more widely, the international community:
  • Particular attention should be paid to political opposition, journalists, and civil society representatives, as many of them, being promoters of the democratic and liberal values, are staunch critics of the regime and represent a special target for the authorities.
  • Due to the dependence on energy-rich Azerbaijan and strategic cooperation with each other on energy and security issues, asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable in the states of the post-Soviet region. Special attention should be paid to states in the FSU region and countries should be held responsible for their actions in cases of the extradition and deportation of asylum seekers.
  • Deportations and extraditions of activists should be prevented where possible, and the fate of asylum seekers should be monitored by international organisations and local and international NGOs.
  • Mobilise donor aid to help refugees waiting for status applications while temporarily residing in the countries of the FSU.
  • Review the legislation in the UK to allow asylum seekers to work while awaiting the outcome of their decisions.
  • Amend the legislation regarding the granting long term visas to adult dependent relatives of visa holders in the UK, supported as scholars or activists at risk who have caring responsibilities.
  • Increase financial support to the organisations taking care of asylum seekers and scholars and activists at risk such as aid NGOs, human rights NGOs and CARA.
  [1] “In Azerbaijan, EU focuses on energy instead of democracy” by Roman Goncharenko, Deutche Welle Europe, 08.10.2013 [2] Report. Prepared on the basis of the survey on the occasion of the World Day of Refugees of Azerbaijani migrants to Germany, 20 July 2017, LEGAT Integration Center, in cooperation with Azerbaijan Culture and Sport Society and Integration and Development Center. [3] Guliyev, Farid, Azerbaijan’s Uneasy Transition to the Post-Oil Era. Domestic and International Constraints, PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo, May 2017. [4] Economic Notes, Average Monthly Salary in the Former Soviet Union Republics, 09.08.2016, Reinis Fischer, [5] Family members remaining in Azerbaijan of a few activists and journalists, who continued their activities abroad were pressed or arrested; of Emin Milli and Gunel Movlud of “ Meydan TV”,  Ganimed Zahid of “Azerbaijan Saati”, activist Ordukhan Temirkhan, etc. [6] The daughter of a prominent human rights defender Leyla Yunus, for instance, was granted asylum in the Netherlands after her mother received threats in her daughter’s address. ‘Europe is Closing its Eyes to Human Rights: Daughter of Jailed Activist Leyla Yunus Pleads for Help’ by Kayleen Devlin, November 7, 2014, vice news, [7] The journalist and blogger Mehman Galandarov was found hanged in his cell on 28th April 2017. ‘The rapporteurs call for investigation into the death in prison of Azerbaijani blogger’ Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe, News, 04/05/2017. [8] For instance,  video cameras were installed in the apartment of the prominent female journalist Khadija Ismayilova with recordings used in smear campaign to make her stop the series of investigative articles with regard to the private business of the President’s family. [9] Similar cases of blackmail were reported to the author by a few women activists, who emigrated in 2014. [10] Is Georgia Still Safe for Azerbaijani Refugees? By Lamiya Adilgizi, 24 May 2017, Open Democracy, [11] Turkey/Azerbaijan: Journalist Deported, Imprisoned. Baku should Free Reporter, Ankara Should Investigate Expulsion, Human Rights Watch, April 24, 2014. [12] “Azerbaijan Continues Anti-Gulen Campaign” by Afgan Mukhtarli, IWPR, 2 Sept.2016, [13] Anti-Azerbaijani Underground in Tbilisi:  Secret Addresses, Money, Instructions. By Eynulla Fatullayev, 4 May 2017, ( in Russian) [14] As article on the website of the channel 1 of Georgian TV “City Court Discussing the Case of Lancet Clinic’s Director” reports,  the charges which were brought against Farman Jeyranli are “ misappropriation of money from the patient through swindling and conceal of information about threat to life and death” 23.05.2017, [15] European Parliament Resolution on the case of Afghan Mukhtarli and the situation of media in Azerbaijan (2017/2722(RSP) [16] The wife of Afgan Mukhtarli is unhappy with the investigation being conducted by the Georgian police, Turan news agency, 12 July 2017, [17] Now Georgia is also not  a safe place for us anymore” by Vugar Behmenzade, May 26 2017, Voice of America ( in Azerbaijani) [18] Is Georgia Still Safe For Azerbaijani Dissidents? By Lamiya Adilgizi, Open Democracy, ODR, Russia and Beyond, 24 May 2017, [19] Ukraine Helps Post-Soviet States to Persecute Political Opponents and Refugees. Realizing illegal extraditions, violating rights of refugees, Ukrainian authorities assist political persecutions in Moldova, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Belarus (2014-2016), Open Dialogue Foundation, Kiev, 12.12.2016 ( in Russian). [20] Ahmedbekov filed appeals to the European Court for Human Rights on a few occasions. [21] See 19. [22] Famous people who are searched through Interpol, Bizim yol, 12.10.2016 (in Azerbaijani) [23] Asylum Seekers in Europe, Refugee Council. Information. March 2017, p.3-4. [24] Britain is one of the worst places in Western Europe for asylum seekers, Kate Lyons, Eva Thone in Hamburg, Stephanie Kirschgaessner in Rome, Marilyne Baumard in Paris, Nayra Galrraga in Madrid, The Guardian, Wednesday 1st March, 2017, [25] Ibid. [26] How many people do we grant asylum or protection to? National Statistics, Home Office. Published 27 May 2017, Asylum table, [27] Deportation global information project. Global Statistics, Azerbaijan, 2017, [28] German Authorities Deport Citizens of South Caucasus Countries, Turan agency, Baku, 04.07.17. [29] Giyas Ibrahimov and Bahram Mammadov were sentenced each for 10 years in prison on the bogus charges of drug possession after they made a critical graffiti on the statue of the father of the current President in 2016.Both are recognised as prisoners of conscience by  Amnesty International. [30] Brook House has 400 male detainees, illegal migrants, mainly ex-prisoners, In 2010 Brook House was recognised as “not safe” In 2013 the inspectors noted “sustained improvement”, while in 2017 expressed concerns that the residential units “very closely resembled a prison”. [31] Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group – is  a registered charity set up in 1995 with the mission “to improve the welfare and well-being of people in detention by offering friendship and support and advocating for fair treatment” [32] According to the UK immigration rules there are three main categories of the state-enforced or enforceable departures: deportations, administrative removals and voluntary departures. There are three kinds of voluntary departures: by Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme; arranging departure themselves and notifying the authorities; and leaving without notification. Source: Dr. Scott Blinder, Dr. Alexander Betts, “Deportations, Removals and Voluntary Departures from the UK”, Briefing, The Migration Observatory, July 19, 2017. [33] “Emin Milli: EuroGames are PR for the Ruling Family”, by ilyana Ovshiyeva, Meydan TV, source: Deutche Welle, 10 June, 2015. [34] “Escape Into Deception: How the Attempt to Emigrate from Azerbaijan Turns into a  Swindle” Meydan.TV. ( in Russian). [35] See Cara, [36] Appendix FM to the Immigration Rules: Adult Dependent Relatives., Family visas: apply, extend or switch [post_title] => Azerbaijan: Challenges to migrants and asylum seekers from the oil-rich state [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => azerbaijan-challenges-migrants-asylum-seekers-oil-rich-state [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 09:01:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 09:01:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2205 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:14:33 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:14:33 [post_content] => On February 27th 2014, the Russian Federation (RF) began a military operation to occupy Crimea, which is a part of Ukraine. Within a few weeks the RF had established military control over the peninsula and concluded an agreement with the puppet government about the ‘entry’ of Crimea into the Russian Federation. Afterwards Russia began to establish control over other spheres of public life and the civilian population. On 1st April 2014, legislative and other normative legal acts of the Russian Federation, as well as a new system of state administration, were introduced. Until January 1st 2015 there was a transition period for the ‘integration’ of new entities (the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol) into the financial, economic, credit and legal systems of the RF. This process included the appointment of new civil servants and judges, the nationalization of state, municipal and private property, the introduction of a system of re-registration of economic entities and non-profit organizations and the media, and the application of Russian legislation into other areas of social life.   As well as the state administration, the civil population has also became an object of the political ‘integration’. For the Russian Federation Crimea is a region which has ‘returned’ to the RF and there is an increasing demand for the civil population to show loyalty to the occupying authorities. Disagreement or any form of protest, whether public statements, public events or other forms of dissent, are not allowed by the occupation authorities and so groups expressing disagreement are systematically persecuted.   Since 2014, the Russian Federation has actively pursued a policy of population transfer with the aim of displacing the disloyal population from the territory of the peninsula through deportations, entry prohibitions and the creation of conditions that make it impossible to live in Crimea. Such groups include Crimean Tatars, Crimean Muslims and people with pro-Ukrainian political positions. These groups are subjected to systemic pressure, including serious human rights violations such as enforced disappearances, torture and politically motivated criminal and administrative cases. During the period of annexation at least 30,000 Crimeans have left for the mainland of Ukraine and have been registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs). However, civil society organizations report that the number of IDPs from Crimea may range from 50,000 to 200,000.[1] Along with this, the Russian Federation has increased the number of Russian military and state officials moving in and supports migration from the territory of the RF to Crimea. According to different data, between 100,000 and 300,000 citizens of the Russian Federation have moved to the territory of the Crimea since the period of annexation.[2]   The first step towards forced loyalty and complete control over the civil population was the automatic application of Russian citizenship. In accordance with Article 5 of the treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Crimea on the admission of new subjects to the RF, all persons who resided in the territory of Crimea at the time of ‘accession’ automatically became citizens of the Russian Federation if they did not renounce the citizenship in accordance with the established procedure. The procedure of renouncing the Russian citizenship was so complex that it was nearly impossible; moreover, there was pressure and threats from paramilitary armed groups and occupying authorities. Within the indicated period, 3,500 people announced their renunciation of this Russian citizenship.[3] At the same time, Ukrainian citizens who lived in Crimea without registration found themselves as categorised as illegal migrants. For these and other reasons, some people did not apply for a Russian passport or for the preservation of Ukrainian citizenship. The number of such persons remains unknown, but according to different sources it could be from 100,000 to 300,000 people.[4]   The Crimeans who renounced Russian citizenship or did not receive a Russian passport became foreign citizens and had to go through a complicated process of obtaining a residence permit. If they cannot obtain a residence permit, they have the right to stay legally for no more than 180 days a year in Crimea. They are also limited in a number of socio-economic rights. Discrimination based on citizenship has become the policy of the de facto authorities and is systematically practised in health care, employment, education and other areas. The de facto authorities began to apply migration legislation in relation to these people, meaning that they could be deported if they violate the legislation. This means that since 2014, a person who has lived permanently in Crimea, and may have property and a family there, can now be deported from Crimea. Entry bans for the Russian Federation and Crimea for Ukrainian politicians, journalists and civil activists have become more widespread and popular. A number of known entry bans and expulsions relate to the violation of migration legislation or the inability to obtain new residence permits even for those who used to have one before 2014.   According to human rights organizations including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission to Ukraine, at least 20-25 such cases have been recorded,[5] but it is assumed that there are many more. However, more detailed information is not available due to the lack of access for independent journalists and human rights defenders to the territory of Crimea. The most famous and flagrant cases are described below:
  • Sinaver Kadyrov, a veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement, the co-founder and coordinator of the Committee for the Protection of the Rights of the Crimean Tatar People, was deported from Crimea in 2015. In January 2015, during his return to Crimea from the mainland of Ukraine, he and two his colleagues were arrested. The de facto court found Sinaver Kadyrov guilty of violating migration legislation and he was punished by a fine and deportation from the peninsula. Sinaver Kadyrov had lived in Crimea before the annexation, but refused to accept the Russian citizenship. He was also accused of making public appeals to carry out actions aimed at violating the state integrity of the Russian Federation (Part 2 280.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation).[6] During the same period, deputy chairman of the Mejlis Crimean Tatar people Akhtem Chiygoz was arrested, and there were mass searches and detentions in Crimean Tatar settlements.
  • On November 7th  2016 Crimean Tatar activist Nedim Khalilov, who lived in Crimea, was found guilty of violating the migration legislation of the Russian Federation and deported. Nedim Khalilov lived in Crimea, but he refused Russian and Ukrainian citizenship, insisting on the statehood of the Crimean Tatars. In protest of deportation in November 21st 2016, he went on a hunger strike that lasted more than 40 days. In December 29th 2016 Khalilov was transferred to a special institution for deportees in the settlement of Gulkevichi in the Rostov Region of the RF.[7]
  • On January 20th 2017, the ‘de facto court’ of Evpatoria found Konstantin Sizarev, a Crimean resident, lawyer and activist with Ukrainian citizenship, guilty of violating Russian migration legislation. In accordance with para 3 of art. 20.25 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation he got a fine and deportation. After the court announced the verdict, Sizarev was forcibly taken to the Central Institution of temporary detention for foreign citizens and stateless persons to the village Novoukrainskoye in the region of Krasnodar in Russia, for a subsequent deportation to the mainland of Ukraine. Sizarev also refused the Russian citizenship. Before annexation, he worked as a lawyer, lived in Crimea and was engaged in human rights activities.[8]
  Crimean Tatars who had returned to Crimea from the places they were deported, usually Uzbekistan, by the Soviet regime in 1944 , being Uzbek citizens are in extremely vulnerable situation. At the end of 2014, there were about 3,000-4,000 individuals in such a situation in Crimea.[9] In 2017, according to the deputy head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people, there were still several thousand such individuals on the peninsula.[10] These people used to have the right to receive Ukrainian citizenship in a simplified manner. In April 2017, Russia similarly adopted a law on a simplified procedure for obtaining a residence permit for repatriates. However, in practice it is very difficult to exercise this right, because of the difficulties of obtaining documents confirming political repression.[11]Deportations and repatriations of this group of the Crimean Tatars to Uzbekistan are observed, but currently there is no precise statistical information on such deportations.   More widespread measures than deportations are entry bans to the territory of the Russian Federation. Entry bans are given at the administrative border with Crimea, usually fora period of five years. On March 21st 2014, the de facto State Council of Crimea updated the list of persons whose stay is undesirable on the territory of the peninsula. This list also includes people with a permanent place of residence in Crimea, among them Andrej Senchenko, Lyudmila Denisova and Sergei Kunitsyn.[12]   The leaders of the Crimean Tatar people, Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, received a ban preventing them from entering Crimea. On April 22nd 2014, Mustafa Dzhemilev, Ukrainian people's deputy and leader of the Crimean Tatar people, was handed a ban prohibiting him from entering the territory of RF (and hence Crimea) until 2019. On May 2nd 2014, Mustafa Dzhemilev was refused entry to the territory of the Russian Federation in Moscow. On May 3rd 2014 he tried to enter Crimea at the administrative border through the checkpoint ‘Turkish Val’ in Armyansk and was also refused.[13] On July 5th 2014 the head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people, Refat Chubarov, was barred from entering Crimea. The Crimean de facto prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya took the decision to impose an entry ban of five years on Chubarov.[14] In 2014 another eight members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars got entry bans.[15]   At least 20 cases of entry bans for journalists, lawyers and activists living in Crimea are known. Among them are Oleg Khomenyuk, a well-known journalist, media expert and trainer, who was banned in March 2014;[16] Yaroslav Pilunsky, a Ukrainian director and cameraman was banned in May 2014;[17] Ismet Yuksel, coordinator of the Crimean News Agency, advisor to the head of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people and member of the Union of Journalists of Turkic-speaking countries; who was banned in August 2014;[18] and the journalist Anastasia Ringis and the lawyer Evgenia Zakrevskaya, who were banned from entering in 2016.[19]   ‘Undesirable’ foreign citizens were subjected to de facto deportations through being refused residence permits. In July and August 2014, Islamic teachers from Turkey had to leave Crimea because of their inability to extend their residence permits.[20] On October 24th  2014 Father Peter Rosokhatsky, one of two priests of the Simferopol Roman Catholic parish of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was forced to leave Crimea the day before his residence permit ended, as the Russian authorities refused to extend it. Other clerics also had to leave in 2014 for the same reasons.[21] In January 2016, only one priest of Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate remained in Crimea. The others left because of their inability to obtain a residence permit.[22]   Beside entry bans, deportations and repatriations, the de facto authorities pressure the civil population through politically motivated administrative and criminal persecutions, interrogations, searches and informal threats against disloyal citizens in order to force them to leave the territory of Crimea. The displacement is characterized by individualized persecution and human rights violations. As a result of this policy political leaders, civil activists and independent journalists were forced to leave the peninsula in large numbers. In 2014 in particular the pressure to force people to leave was very intense, and remained stable in the following years.   In March 2014, the de facto authorities kidnapped activists and journalists and tortured them. The following examples provide evidence of those practices. Andrei Shchekun, former head of the Crimean Center for Business and Cultural Cooperation ‘Ukrainian House’, together with Anatoly Kovalskiy, coordinator of the Crimean Euromaidan, were abducted by representatives of the local ‘self-defense’ forces. After eleven days of torture and imprisonment they were released. Shchekun and Kovalsky left the peninsula with their families. In February and March 2014, there were at least 19 victims of abductions. All of them left the peninsula.[23]   After the occupation in Spring 2014, the following activists, who supported Euromaidan, had to leave Crimea: Sergei Mokrenyuk, Ismail Ismailov, Alexandra Dvoretskaya, Sergei Kovalsky, Andrei Ivanets, Evgeny Novitsky, Alexei Shubin,[24] Airie Agiosman,[25] Igor and Elena Kiryushchenko,[26] Olga Skrypnyk, Father Kvich, Anna Andrievskaya and Natalia Kokurina, Omar Aslan,[27] Nikolai Podolyaka,[28] Asan and Eskender Bujurov,[29] Maria Sorokoumova,[30] Sergei Mokrushin and Vladlen Melnikov,[31] Galina Dzhikaeva,[32]and Victor Neganov.[33]   The most recent examples of such forced displacement took place in August and September 2017. On June 20th 2017, the Ukrainian activist Natalia Kharchenko was forced to leave the territory of Crimea because of constant interrogations, searches and criminal proceedings against her.[34] On August 11th 2017 after a search in a Crimean Tatar’s house the father and one of his sons left Crimea.[35] On September 1st 2017 Leonid Kuzmin, an activist of the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Crimea, was forced to leave the peninsula due to constant threats and harassment.[36]   Apart from the at least 30,000 individuals who left Crimea, a lot of institutions and companies have also left, due to a lack of opportunities. Among them are Tauride National University, media and public organizations, and Ukrainian and international companies.   The recent most disturbing trend is the changes to the Russian law on citizenship, which were introduced in 2017. According to these changes, persons convicted of terrorism can be deprived of citizenship after being found guilty. This means that in Crimea people accused of terrorism for political reasons may subsequently be deprived of their citizenship and deported. Accusations of terrorism are putted forward against disloyal Crimean Tatars and the legislation is used as another tool to drive them out of Crimea. Such measures once again testify to the use of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship when it is convenient for de facto authorities.   All these measures taken by de facto authorities since 2014 have to be seen in the framework of the Russian occupation of Crimea. They are all driven by the attempts of the occupation authorities to establish control and to change the composition of the population of Crimea and force the civil population of Crimea into loyalty towards Russia. In case of ’disloyalty’ affected people, regardless of their place of residence or citizenship, must either leave Crimea or keep silent. If in 1944 the Soviet policy was to have the whole Crimean Tatar people forcibly deported from the peninsula, the present day policy of Russia continues it by various hybrid means which are more difficult to monitor, record and protest.   Recommendations:
  • To provide international independent monitoring and research of the situation in Crimea, including demographic changes since 2014;
  • To include deportation and transfer of population as an issues within resolutions and other human rights decisions taken by the international organizations or European states;
  • To enhance the sectoral and individual sanctions for human rights violations in Crimea
  • To continue support provided to Ukrainian governments, civil society organizations, internally displaced persons and victims of human rights violations in Crimea.
  [1] David Blair, 100,000 flee 'worsening oppression' as Russia tightens grip on Crimea, The Telegraph, June 2016,; Igor Tyschkevich, How Russia inhabits Crimea with “anti-Ukrainian elements”, Nik Vesti, March 2017, [2] Hromadske Radio, For three years 200 thousands Russian moved to Crimea. 30 thousand of apartments have been built for military and FSB, Donetskie Novosti, March 2017,; Aleksandr Alikin, Massive arrival of Russian to Crimea connect the peninsula to Russia more closely, InoSMI, January 2017, [3] High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Report of Ombudsperson of Russian Federation for 2014, High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, 2015, [4] Sergej Kuznezov, Federal Migration Service: issue of passports to Crimeans has been fully accomplished, RIA Novosti, December 2014,; Crimea territorial deportment of Federal service of state statistic, Population division at citizenship and age, Crimea territorial deportment of Federal service of state statistic, December 2014,; Sevastopol territorial department of Federal statistic service, Population division on citizenship and age, Sevastopol territorial department of Federal statistic service, April 2013,; Anton Kolodyazhnyj, Russia seriously violated human rights while occupying Crimea – UN, Reuters, September 2017, [5] Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine 16 May to 15 August 2017,  Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, September 2017, [6] Krym.Realii, The court decided to deport the activist of Crimean Tatar national movement, Krim.Realii, January 2015, [7] Ivan Putilov, «To fight by own life». Crimean Tatar activist Khalilov has been on hunger strike for a week, Krym.Realii, November 2016,;, Crimean Tatar activist Khalilov has terminated his hunger strike,, January 2017, [8] Ivan Putilov, New deportation: how a human rights defender was expelled from Crimea, Krym.Realli, February 2017, [9] Musatafa Chaush, How not to become a victim of deportation in new year?, Krym.Realli, December 2014, [10] Ivan Putilov, Semi-benefits for Crimean repatriants, Krym.Realli, April 2017, [11] Ibid. [12] State Council of Republic of Crimea, Decision of the Presidium – On persons involved in anti-Crimean activities, whose presence in the territory of Republic of Crimea is undesirable, State Council of Republic of Crimea, March 2014,; State Council of Republic of Crimea, Decision of the Presidium – On presence of some persons at the territory of Republic of Crimea, State Council of Republic of Crimea, April 2014,; Press-service of State Council of the Republic of Crimea, Parliamentary committee reconsidered the list of persons, whose stay at the territory of the Republic of Crimea is undesirable, State Council of Republic of Crimea, November 2014, [13] Enver Abibulla, Mustafa Dzhemilev is not allowed to enter Crimea, BBC Ukraine, May 2014, [14], Head of Medzhlis Chubarov is banned entry to Crimea,, July 2014, [15] Vitalij Cherwonenko, Medzhlis: ban, prison, emigration, BBC Ukraine, May 2016, [16] Sergey Zaets, Roman Martynovsliy, Daria Svyrydova, Crimea without rules, Freedom of movement and freedom to choose the place of residence, Ukrainian Helsinki Union, Regional Center for Human Rights, CHROT, Kyiv, 2015, p.10 [17], Operator of Babylon'13 Pilunskiy: Any "national-betrayer" for Putin is "Pravyi Sektor",, May 2014, [18], FSD did not let the Crimean Tatar activist to Crimea: "authorities" banned entry for 5 years,, August 2017, [19] Anastasiya Ringis, Four years of ban on entry home, Ukrainskaya Pravda, February 2016, [20], Turkish teachers of Islam leave Crimea because of legislation of occupants, August 2014,, [21], The shutdown of religious communities continues in Crimea,, November 2014, [22] Yana Stepankovskaya, How Ukrainian churches in Crimea manage to remain Ukrainian, Krym SOS, Januray 2016, [23] Krym SOS, Enforced disappearance in Crimea for the period of annexation by the Russian Federation 2014-2016, Krym SOS, May 2017, [24] Igor Osipchuk, Igor Kiruschenko: «People from ‘Russkiy blok” came to my home»: «Get ready, will get the confession from you»,, March 2014, [25] Anna Andrievskaya, Faces of Crimean Euromaindan. Two years later, Krym.Realii, February 2016, [26] Tamila Tasheva, From blank page. Life of internally displaced persons, Ukrainska Pravda, 2015, [27] Vitalij Chervonenko, Medzhlis: ban, prison and emigration, BBC Ukraine, May 2016, [28] Aleksandra Wagner, Crimean forced departure, Radio Europa Libera, May 2014, [29] Tamila Tasheva, From blank page. Life of internally displaced persons, Ukrainska Pravda, 2015, [30] Ibid. [31] Ukrainskaya Pravda, "Crimean self-defence" abducted and beaten chief editor and film director, Ukrainskaya Pravda, June 2014, [32] Dmitrij Bolchek, Galina Dzhikaeva: «Russian monster came to Crimea», Telekritika, August 2014, [33] Krym.Realii, Activist Viktor Neganov: many Ukrainian patriots stay in Sevastopol, Krym.Realii, August 2014, [34] Alena Badjuk, We were forced to leave Crimea due to persecutions of FSB, – family of Kharchenko-Vinogradov, Hromadske Radio, June 2017, [35] AVDET, Following the search in Belogorsk district: one is arrested, two left Crimea, Avdet, August 2017, [36], Activist of Ukrainian cultural centre Kuzmin left Crimea: I was threatened, RF "clean the field before the elections",, September 2017, [post_title] => Crimea: Deportations and forced transfer of the civil population [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => crimea-deportations-forced-transfer-civil-population [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 00:23:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:23:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2210 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:13:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:13:13 [post_content] => Ukraine has been in a state of undeclared war with Russia since the latter’s invasion of Crimea in early 2014 and its aggression in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] are not loath at times to make use of this, claiming a ‘Russian link’ where there is almost certainly none.  More often, however, they demonstrate a baffling willingness to collaborate with their counterparts in the Russian Federal Security Service [FSB]. Neither the SBU nor Ukraine’s Migration Service have undergone any reform since Euromaidan, which is highlighted by their treatment of Russian asylum seekers.   Abduction In September 2016, the SBU effectively abducted 26-year-old Amina Babaeva, who had just applied for asylum in Kharkiv. Babaeva is originally from Dagestan, but had been expelled from Turkey, after the authorities learned that her ex-husband had become involved with ‘so-called Islamic State’.  She was deported, but allowed to choose another country rather than Russia. Sadly, her belief that Ukraine could be trusted because of its conflict with Russia proved unfounded. Initial attempts to prevent her entering Ukraine were thwarted by human rights activists, and after almost two days at the airport, Babaeva was freed on September 11. She lodged an asylum application the following day. Migration officials, however, then used various pretexts to keep her in in their offices until the evening when she was abducted, taken by force to the border and handed over to the FSB. The SBU claimed against all evidence that the young woman had voluntarily left for Russia. The FSB on that occasion had not asked for Babaeva to be handed over to them, and did not try to detain her. This was not something that the SBU could have anticipated.   Human rights activists had been alerted from the outset and the case gained considerable publicity[1].   Babaeva had a friend in Kharkiv who knew to ring NGOs.  It is possible that others in a similar situation to Babaeva never succeeded in entering Ukraine at all.   Extradition Over the past year Ukraine has detained at least ten people whom Russia has put on the Interpol Red Notice List. The State Migration Service and SBU work in close collaboration, with both stubbornly oblivious to multiple reasons for not viewing Russia as a safe and law-based country.  Such reasons include the ever-mounting number of Ukrainians, like Crimean filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chiygoz and journalist Roman Sushchenko, whom Russia is holding in detention or has imprisoned after politically-motivated trials. In some of these cases, serious doubts arise over the adequacy of Interpol’s checking procedure before adding names to its list.   The most disturbing example came to light in May 2017 after Ildar Valiev, a Russian Tatar, was detained at the airport in Odesa, where he had been living with his wife and four children. He was detained on May 24 by border guards, apparently because he had been placed on the Interpol Red Notice List, at Russia’s request, on charges of ‘involvement in a terrorist organisation’.  The organisation – Hizb ut-Tahrir – is legal in Ukraine, and Russia has never provided an adequate explanation to justify the terrorist label. It is nonetheless using this to sentence men, often on the basis of a secret witness testimony, to very long sentences[2]. Russia’s Memorial Human Rights Centre considers all those convicted of such ‘involvement’ to be political prisoners, which Interpol could surely have ascertained before issuing an alert on Valiev.   His detention was especially galling as Russia is now persecuting Ukrainian Muslims on identical charges in occupied Crimea with 19 men either convicted or indefinitely remanded in custody. Valiev was released by the court of appeal on June 8. There were no grounds for delay since Ukraine’s legislation specifically prohibits extradition where criminal prosecution is not possible in Ukraine. Other situations have been no less clear, making the SBU’s behaviour particularly worrying. Ruslan Meyriev is a 31-year-old lawyer, originally from Ingushetia, who has lived in Ukraine since 2013, first in Crimea, where he met his Crimean Tatar wife, and then, after Russia’s invasion, in mainland Ukraine.  Interpol placed him on the list although the ‘terrorism’ charges concerned supposedly ‘encouraging another person to carry out terrorist activities and planning a terrorist act’ while Meyriev himself was in Ukraine. While in detention, SBU officers pressured Meyriev to ‘confess’ to a firearms charge so as to enable them to keep holding him in custody. Meyriev was finally released from detention only after the Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or self-governing body, and member of Ukraine’s Parliament, Ukrainian MP Refat Chubarov offered to act as guarantor.   The Migration Service has, however, rejected his application for refugee status. Asked why, during the appeal hearing in March 2017, the migration official asserted that the charges against Meyriev were ‘under an article of the criminal code which is not political’, and that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office had sent a letter guaranteeing that the prosecution was just and that he would face no danger[3]. The Memorial Human Rights Centre has already recognised as political prisoners seven Ukrainians convicted on such ‘non-political’ charges, and will certainly do the same with respect to 15 other Ukrainians in Russian-occupied Crimea[4].   It sometimes seems that Interpol has also decided that ‘terrorism’ charges are not political, and need not be checked. It saw nothing untoward about Russia’s wish to prosecute Shakhban Isakov, a 41-year-old father of seven from Dagestan under Article 208 § 2 of the RF criminal code. This speaks of participation in an ‘armed formation in another country for purposes which run counter to the interests of the Russian Federation’[5].   Refat Chubarov has pointed out that he and fellow Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev were first banned from their homeland and then also charged with the same supposed activities ‘running counter to Russian interests’. Chubarov’s willingness to act as guarantor helped to secure Isakov’s original release from custody, however he was arrested again on April 2. This was supposedly on instruction from the Prosecutor General’s Office, though almost certainly instigated by the SBU. This was despite Isakov now also being an asylum seeker. Isakov was later released on an appeal and, thankfully, no one has actually been extradited. Such repeat arrests and reports of pressure on the men while in custody to ‘confess’ to various charges all point to inexplicable collusion between the security services.   Asylum seekers How many people Ukraine really refuses asylum to is hard to know since the State Border Service tries not to let people planning to seek asylum, like the above-mentioned Amina Babaeva, into the country.  Those that do get in have a major hurdle with the State Migration Service which can simply refuse to accept a person’s application for refugee status. SBU claims that this has nothing to do with them are dismissed by human rights groups who point out that the border guards ask the SBU in any unclear cases, while the Migration Service needs an assessment from the SBU, with the latter seldom positive.   The difficulties are experienced by asylum seekers from any country, however the situation is particularly baffling in the case of an ever-increasing number of Russians who are fleeing persecution at home or who would face persecution because of their support for Ukraine.   During the first nine months of 2016, 316 people applied for asylum in Ukraine, with 54 of them from the Russian Federation[6]. Twelve people received asylum, five of them Russian citizens. On June 20, 2017, Natalya Naumenko from the Migration Service reported that 100 Russian citizens had applied for asylum in 2016. She went on to say that the number of political asylum seekers in 2017 from the RF had significantly increased. Neither during her briefing, nor in the statistics on the site as of the start of June 2017, were figures given for the numbers of Russian citizens granted asylum.   The Migration Service issued decisions regarding 484 asylum seekers in 2016. 20 received refugee status; 48 were recognised as in need of additional protection, while a staggering 416 applications were rejected [7]. These statistics do not include those whose application was simply not accepted.  While Naumenko listed the multiple reasons why Russians are seeking refuge in Ukraine, it is not at all uncommon for the Migration Service to claim that a person would not face any danger if returned to Russia, citing the Russian Constitution or empty assurances from the Russian Prosecutor General to back such a claim.   Human rights groups have expressed concern at the uncertainty and lack of protection of foreign nationals, mainly from Russia, who took part in Euromaidan or defended Ukraine in the conflict in Donbas. Clarification of the current situation, and likelihood of persecution, from UNHCR would be very helpful. This could be cited when Ukrainian officials deny the obvious danger that people who supported Maidan and Ukraine’s war effort, or who publicly opposed Russia’s annexation of Crimea will face if forced to return to Russia. Plans were announced by President Petro Poroshenko on April 15, 2015, to simplify the procedure for Russians, especially those facing persecution at home, to receive Ukrainian citizenship[8].   Alexei Vetrov is one of the many who can confirm that Poroshenko’s plans have so far remained words. He was rejected at all stages of the asylum procedure despite considerable evidence of persecution in Russia, including brief jail terms for peaceful protests. The fact that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had recognised him as a mandate refugee in need of international protection was of no interest to Ukraine’s Migration Service, who, Vetrov says, ‘does not believe it possible to distrust the Russian authorities’. If his documents say that he was prosecuted for ‘hooliganism’, then that is what they will believe.   Vetrov notes one important reason – namely that the same people who automatically turned down applications during the regime of Viktor Yanukovych (and before) remain in their posts and are continuing the same practice now.   It is not all hopeless. Two Kuban civic activists Pyotr Lyubchenkov and Viacheslav Martynov who fled to Ukraine after a third activist Darya Polyudova was arrested have finally both received refugee status. The three had planned a peaceful march in support of more say in the running of their region. Polyudova remains imprisoned to this day and all three were placed on Russia’s Federal List of Terrorists and Extremists[9], yet the Migration Service for a long time tried to claim that the men had nothing to fear back in Russia.   One cheering thing is that Ukrainian courts often overturn the decisions taken by the Migration Service, although the latter seems to always come back for more. One of the worst examples must be around the battle for asylum waged by 45-year-old Sergei Anisiforov who was active in Euromaidan from the beginning. There seems no adequate reason for the Odesa Migration Service’s stubbornness. Anisiforov had once served two prison sentences, but had then become a fairly prominent actor in Russian television serials. This meant that his open support for Maidan and later public criticism of Russia’s invasion of Crimea were noticed back in Russia, and he has frequently received threats.   He first applied for refugee status in July 2014, with the Migration Service initially refusing to even accept his application. He began lodging appeals and won them all, though each time the Migration Service challenged the ruling.   The arguments they presented were extraordinary. They refused to accept that he was in danger in Russia, since the latter is allegedly a democratic country. In August 2015, for example, a migration official claimed that the case of Crimean filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko was not relevant since they were members of Right Sector, a Ukrainian nationalist organisation banned in Russia, while Anisiforov did not belong to any such group. Sentsov and Kolchenko did not belong to Right Sector either, but neither that, nor the lack of any evidence against them, stopped a Russian court from sentencing them to 20 and 10 year sentences respectively. Two Ukrainians – Oleksandr Kostenko and Andriy Kolomiyets – are currently imprisoned illegally in Russia for allegedly throwing a stone (in Kostenko’s case) or a Molotov cocktail (Kolomiyets) at Ukrainian Berkut riot police officers in Kyiv during Euromaidan. Even had these actions been recorded at the time or been provable in any other way, Russia still could have no jurisdiction to prosecute for them. Anisiforov would be in direct danger of prosecution if forcibly returned to Russia, and almost certainly of physical reprisals.   On February 22, 2017 a court gave the Migration Service one month to provide all documents to the SBU for Anisiforov’s refugee status. Typically, they took over three months, but on June 14, 2014, almost three years after his initial application, Anisiforov was finally granted asylum.   It is certainly true that the Migration Service and SBU remain largely untouched by reforms, but they are nonetheless located in a country which has been ravaged by Russian aggression. There are currently 44 Ukrainians held illegally in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea, with those already convicted having had trials that were a travesty of justice[10].   The SBU and Migration Service often ignore not only compelling grounds for not sending a Russian back to face danger, but also Ukraine’s own interest. Vladimir Radyuk can provide vital testimony regarding Russia’s military engagement in Donbas which he was originally forced to take part in. He surrendered to the Ukrainian authorities and served a sentence for that involvement. While in prison, the SBU put huge pressure on him to agree to be part of an exchange to get Ukrainian hostages released. Following publicity about his case, Russia came up with an extradition request, which Ukraine’s authorities have chosen to accept at face value, while rejecting his asylum application. Radyuk faces real danger if forcibly returned to Russia.   As mentioned, the SBU does not balk at arresting people to claim a Russian link where there is none.  Three Russians: Anastasia Leonova, Olga Sheveleva and Pavel Pyatakov were taken into custody in December 2015 accused of taking part in an FSB plot. The justification for holding them in custody was that they could supposedly flee to Russia, although each would have been in danger in Russia for their support of Ukraine. There are strong grounds for believing that a person whom all three knew, though in one case, only fleetingly, had been planning something illegal, and an arsenal of arms was found. Oleh Muzhchil was a Ukrainian nationalist who had become disillusioned with the post-Maidan government which he considered to be controlled by oligarchs. He was killed in a shootout, so could not be questioned about his motives, and the arrest of the three Russians enabled the SBU to claim that Russia was behind something illegal that probably had been planned by the dead man and one Ukrainian accomplice[11]. All three Russians were finally released, though the criminal proceedings aimed at backing the SBU’s implausible plot have yet to be terminated.   Recommendations
  • Safeguards are needed to protect the rights of asylum seekers at the Ukrainian border. There is a need for much greater accountability from the SBU, State Migration Service and Border Guard with respect to why people are prevented from entering the country or from lodging applications for asylum.
  • It would be helpful if Interpol could introduce more stringent checks on Red Notice applications from the Russian Federation, especially where these are for alleged ‘involvement in a terrorist organization’.
  • While updated reports from, for example, UNHCR on the current human rights situation in the Russian Federation (RF) would be helpful, Ukraine has more than enough evidence of its own citizens facing persecution in Russian-occupied Crimea and the RF. Political will and reforms are needed to ensure, in particular, that all Russian citizens who could face persecution at home for their support of Maidan, condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its undeclared war against Ukraine can feel certain that they will not be forcibly returned.
Given Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine and mounting human rights abuses in occupied Crimea, it is vital that the SBU spurn all forms of previous cooperation with their Russian counterparts. [1] Vlada IV, SBU abducted and forcibly handed a Russian citizen over to Russia, volunteer says, September, 2016;, Ukrainian security service took Amina Babaeva on to Russian territory, friend says, September 2016,; 15 Minutes, SBU hands over to Russia a woman who had fled persecution in the RF, human rights activists say,  September, 2016 [2] Memorial Human Rights Centre, Five men in Moscow received sentences of from 15 to 18 years on 16.06.2107, June 2017; Halya Coynash:  Crimean Tatar Ruslan Zeytullaev gets 12-year sentence to meet Russian FSB quota, April 2017, [3] Maria Tomak, May 2017, [4] In June 2016, Memorial HRC declared the first four Crimean Muslims accused of ‘involvement in a terrorist organization’ (how Russia describes Hizb ut-Tahrir) political prisoners, see Memorial HRC, Memorial HRC declares four defendants in a Hizb ut-Tahrir case from Sevastopol political prisoners, June 2016 The reasons given apply equally to the other 15 men held in custody, it is just that Memorial normally waits until the trial has begun. Memorial also declared Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko political prisoners, and soon afterwards, Gennady Afanasyev, see Memorial HRC, The Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Oleg Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko and Gennady Afanasyev political prisoners, October 2015, They were also accused of a ‘terrorist plot’ solely on the basis of two confessions, one of which was retracted in court as given under torture. The case has aroused international condemnation. [5] Isakov’s lawyer says that his client was first charged under the same article in 2003, with this over alleged involvement in an armed formation in Chechnya from 1995–2003. He was acquitted, but continued to receive threats of reprisals, and left Russia for Egypt where he was living until 2016, see Halya Coynash, Ukrainian Prosecutor’s strange attempt to help Russian FSB foiled, April 2017, [6] Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union,  Human Rights in Ukraine 2016, December 2016, [7] Radio Svoboda, Migration Service, Over the last year 100 Russians have asked for asylum in Ukraine, June 2017; Migration Service: Statistics for  2016 [8] Ukrainska Pravda, Poroshenko wants to make it easier for Russians to get citizenship, April 2015, [9] Federal Financial Monitoring Service, List of Terrorists and Extremists [10] Halya Coynash, Ukraine moves to support political prisoners held in Crimea & Russia and their families, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group,  May 2017, [11] Vladimir Ivakhnenko, Nastya and Lesnyk, Radio Svoboda, January 2016 [post_title] => Ukraine’s strange collaboration with Russia over deportations [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => ukraines-strange-collaboration-russia-deportations [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 00:23:42 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:23:42 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2213 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:12:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:12:19 [post_content] => The analysis below is based on the work of lawyers of the ‘Right to Asylum’ project.[1] It complements the brief explanation of the extradition and administrative removal procedures, as well as the asylum proceedings included in Shelter from the storm? The asylum, refuge and extradition situation facing activists from the former Soviet Union in the CIS and Europe first published in 2014[2].   According to the well-established case law of the European Court of Human Rights the obligation of non-refoulement to face a real risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment is absolute and cannot be overridden by considerations of public interest[3]. Thus, the issue of availability of effective remedies against the violation of human rights is crucial, especially in the removal cases where the potential harm is of irreversible nature. Such remedies must ensure the rigorous scrutiny of the claims to be subjected to prohibited treatment in a country of destination and have a suspensive effect on the execution of a removal order. The requirements to an effective remedy in a case of extradition or expulsion were formulated in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights[4] and can also be found in the practice of the UN Human Rights Committee. According to the latter ‘a remedy which is said to subsist after the event which the interim measures sought to prevent occurred is by definition ineffective, as the irreparable harm cannot be reversed by a subsequent finding in the author's favour by the domestic remedies considering the case’[5].   As the European Court recently noted, ‘the Russian legal system – in theory, at least – offers several avenues whereby the applicant’s removal … could be prevented, given the risk of ill-treatment he faces [in the destination country]’[6]. However, most of the Russian cases before the Court have demonstrated that the claims under Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms are not adequately considered in the domestic extradition, administrative removal (as penalty for violation of migration rules) and asylum proceedings[7].   Additionally, some of the cases have shown that a person wanted by law-enforcement authorities of the CIS countries could be deliberately stripped of any guarantees and denied any remedies by use of a speedy deportation procedure whereby the time and effort consuming extradition procedure is often replaced.   Extradition: ineffective remedies On 10 January 2017 the European Court of Human Rights delivered a judgement in I.U. v. Russia[8] where it found a would-be violation of Article 3 of the European Convention if the applicant were to be returned to Uzbekistan. This is the first extradition case against Russia considered by the Court sitting as a Committee composed of three judges. Thus, the answer to the question of whether a forced return to Uzbekistan of a person charged there with extremist crimes constitutes a violation of Article 3 is now the subject of well-established case law of the Court.   Though the Court tends not to examine the complaints concerning the risk of torture under Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), this judgement, as many others before and after, spotted a well-known problem of ineffectiveness of the remedies against violation of rights guaranteed by Article 3.   The Court found that in the extradition proceedings the Russian domestic authorities did not carry out a rigorous scrutiny of the applicant’s claim that he faced a risk of ill-treatment in his home country. The Court came to this conclusion having considered the national courts’ ‘simplistic rejection – without reference to evidentiary material – of the applicant’s claims as hypothetical and lacking specific indications as to the level of risk, together with the comment that the situation in a requesting state might change over time’. The Court also noted and called tenuous the domestic courts’ ‘unquestioning reliance on the assurances of the Uzbek authorities, despite their formulation in standard terms’. It was stressed with references to Abdulkhakov v. Russia[9] and Tadzhibayev v. Russia[10] that the Court had consistently considered similar assurances unsatisfactory.   Thus, despite the Court’s extensive jurisprudence, findings and criticism that are repeated in case after case, the Russian law-enforcement authorities and courts do not protect Article 3 rights in the vast majority of cases where a person is wanted by another CIS member country[11]. The authorities continue to dismiss claims under Article 3 in a summary fashion and to rely on assurances of the country requesting extradition, though they do not even come close to satisfying the Othman[12] test.   The possible underlying reason is that the Russian authorities accord priority to their obligations under the Minsk Convention[13] over the absolute obligation of non-refoulement to face a real risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment.   Extradition in disguise: no remedies at all On 2 September 2017, Mr. Boltayev[14], a Tajikistani national and an asylum seeker whose extradition had been sought by Tajikistan, was released from the pre-trial detention facility in Moscow as the maximum term provided by law for the detention pending extradition had elapsed. He was immediately rearrested and then deported to Tajikistan within 48 hours due to an undesirability decision[15] of the Federal Security Service of Russia. He and his lawyers were not informed of the deportation order until Mr. Boltayev was brought to the airport; so he had no chance of lodging an appeal against the order or asking to suspend its execution. In fact he was unable even to call his relatives and representatives as his cell phone and other belongings were not returned to him by the pre-trial detention facility. At the same time the police and migration authority were giving misleading information to Mr. Boltayev’s relatives and lawyers concerning his whereabouts and the proceedings that were going to take place.   Mr. Boltayev had requested refugee status in early June 2017 by a letter to the Moscow migration authority while in detention. However, according to the regulations, the applicant is considered as an asylum seeker only after an official interview conducted by a migration authority officer. Mr. Boltayev had not been visited by a migration authority officer to complete the procedure for over two months until his actual removal. Thus, the migration authority deliberately exempted him from the protection against non-refoulement afforded to asylum seekers by law, and ordered his deportation.   Regrettably it is a common practice of the Russian authorities to deny access to the asylum proceedings and to substitute extradition, if it fails, with administrative expulsion (a penalty imposed on a foreigner by a court at the request of police or migration authorities for violation of migration rules) or deportation proceedings. The recent tendency to resort to deportation is very alarming. While administrative expulsion proceedings have at least the potential of eventually becoming an effective remedy against violation of the right not to be subjected to prohibited treatment in case of removal (according to the Code of Administrative Offences the decision is taken by a court after hearing the defendant, and an appeal has a suspensive effect on the execution thereof), the deportation proceedings provide no room for guarantees whatsoever.   A migration authority makes a deportation order automatically if a foreigner does not leave Russia voluntarily within three days of the adoption of the undesirability decision in his or her respect[16]. The latter might be based on the conclusion by the security services that a specific person poses a threat to national security and public order. In this case the particular grounds to believe, and evidence proving, that a person is threatening security are normally classified and thus not disclosed to him or her (or even to the court if a person brings an action against the decision). The threat to public order is presumed if a person had been imprisoned in Russia, and in this case the Ministry of Justice takes a decision following the person’s conviction to imprisonment. The law directly specifies that foreigners who have served a criminal sentence in a Russian prison are to be deported immediately after being released and thus, foreigners of this category are deprived of any chance to leave the country voluntarily before the adoption of a deportation order by force of law (paragraphs 11 and 12 of Article 31 of the Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation).   It is obvious from the above that an undesirability decision is adopted without any involvement of the person concerned. Thus, a foreigner cannot refute the findings leading to undesirability and advance arguments against his or her forced removal. This is important given that forced removal is practically unavoidable if an undesired alien does not leave Russia.   Further, there exists no special appeal procedure and the decision can be appealed against in accordance with general rules of the new Code for Administrative Procedure (CAP) that entered into force in September 2015 (Chapter 22, challenging decisions of officials and public bodies). However, filing such an appeal does not anyhow prolong the three-day period during which a foreigner must leave Russia and does not prevent the adoption of a deportation order. Moreover, the case of Mr. Boltayev shows that sometimes the authorities do not give a foreigner any time at all to leave the country voluntarily. Thus, after the maximum term of detention of Mr. Boltayev pending extradition elapsed, he was arrested again and detained at the police station until the very moment the deportation order was issued in his respect. In other words, he was not given any chance to depart voluntarily. In this regard it is also important to note that the Russian laws regulating deportation[17] do not stipulate that a foreigner should have any real ability to leave Russia voluntarily within the three-day period provided by these laws.   In addition, the deportation procedure does not provide for any time-lapse between notification of the deportation order and its enforcement; therefore a person can be, and in practice often is, deported immediately after the deportation order is issued.   Again, the law does not provide for a specific appeal procedure (Article 31 of the Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation), and a deportation order, as with an undesirability decision, may be challenged in accordance with general rules of the Chapter 22 of the CAP.   However, lodging an appeal does not automatically suspend the execution of a deportation order. According to the CAP (Articles 85-87), upon a request for application of provisional measures, a judge may suspend execution of the decision and must take the decision within one day. Lodging such request does not suspend the enforcement of a deportation order. Granting such provisional measures, in theory, does suspend the enforcement of the deportation order; however the lawyers of the Institute for Human Rights, who represent Mr. Boltayev and many other applicants to the ECtHR, have not had a chance to observe this mechanism being effectively applied in practice so far.   For example, the applicant in O.O. v. Russia (application no. 36321/16, case pending before the European Court) was denied application of the provisional measures under Article 85 of the CAP with reference to public order and public interest in executing the deportation order, which predominated, in the Russian court’s view, over his claims. In case of S.S. v. Russia (application no. 2236/16, case pending before the European Court) multiple requests for application of the provisional measures were never considered by a court.   Finally, it should be pointed out that the authorities do not analyse on their own initiative any potential harm that might be inflicted upon the deported person by execution of the deportation decision. They do not tend to do so either even if requested by a person who seeks asylum or supposes that deportation order might be taken in his or her respect and submits arguments to prevent it (e.g. an alien who is about to complete his or her sentence in a Russian prison and fears to be returned to home country due to persecution).   Asylum: failed remedy Though in many cases before the European Court the Russian Government claims that the asylum proceedings (refugee status and temporary asylum proceedings regulated by the Law on Refugees) afford effective protection from removal, in fact they do not. In many cases including the above-mentioned cases of Mr. Boltayev and O.O. v. Russia deportation orders were issued after the applicants applied for refugee status and before the decisions on their applications were adopted. They and many other persons in detention were denied access to the proceedings having their applications simply ignored or not considered on the merits. The access to the asylum proceedings has been denied in most cases of detained seekers whose interests the authors have represented since the Federal Migration Service was dissolved in April 2016 and its functions including the consideration of asylum requests were taken over by the Ministry of Interior.   In case of U.A. v. Russia (application no. 12018/16, case pending before the European Court) the deportation order was issued by the same regional office of the migration authority, as the one examining the applicant’s request for refugee status and temporary asylum. Thus, it was for the same officers to decide when to schedule the date of interview and when to issue the deportation order.   The Law on Refugees expressly guaranties non-refoulement only to those who have been recognised as refugees or granted temporary asylum and seekers of refugee status[18].   Those who applied for temporary asylum are not protected pending the final decision. But even seekers of refugee status are considered by law enforcement as protected from refoulement only until the federal migration authority dismisses their applications. The subsequent judicial proceedings are often ignored and thus do not protect from removal.   Therefore, having examined the law and its application in practice, the European Court found in the recent case of Allanazarova v. Russia[19] that refuge or temporary asylum procedures do not in practice provide an opportunity of rigorous scrutiny of claims under Article 3, do not have suspensive effect and therefore are not effective remedies in respect of such claims.   The above analysis shows that although the Russian legal system provides certain remedies in theory, they do not work in practice in the majority of expulsion cases. Despite the European Court’s repeated criticism in case after case, the Russian authorities and courts fail to protect the rights guaranteed by Article 3 of the Convention. The use of the deportation procedure instead of the extradition or the administrative expulsion procedures in several recent cases is particularly alarming as deportation proceedings hardly provide any legal guarantees for a foreigner at all. The situation is further aggravated by the ineffectiveness of asylum proceedings.   Thus, a number of steps should be taken to improve the current situation. First of all, the regulation must be amended to oblige the migration authorities to consider the potential harm that could be inflicted upon a foreigner by return to the country of origin when adopting a deportation order. Further, the law should specify a period for a deportation order to enter into force and stipulate that challenging of an order has a suspensive effect on its execution.   As regards the asylum proceedings it must be ensured that the migration authorities provide access to the asylum procedure as soon as practicable. Additionally, the Law on Refugees should be amended so as to expressly protect from refoulement seekers of temporary asylum and those who are challenging the refusal to grant a refugee status or temporary asylum before the courts of first and second instances.   [1] The ‘Right to Asylum’ project was launched in 2010 by Elena Ryabinina, a prominent human rights activist, in the Russian non-governmental organization ‘Institute for Human Rights’. It has its headquarters in Moscow and works in cooperation with lawyers from all over Russia. The principal partner and sponsor of the project is the Russian Office of the UNHCR. The aim of the ‘Right to Asylum’ project is to effectively protect asylum seekers from forcible removal to their country of origin where they are persecuted on political, religious or ethnic grounds or where they will be subjected to treatment incompatible with human rights standards (torture, arbitrary detention, flagrant denial of justice and so on). The project operates all over Russia providing legal assistance to asylum seekers who try to get access to the Russian territory and to those who are to be extradited, deported or in other way forcibly removed from Russia. The lawyers of the project represent the applicants before the national authorities and at the European Court of Human Rights or the UN Human Rights Committee. There are constantly more than 50 pending cases within the frame of the project concerning removals to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia and South Sudan at various national and international stages of the proceedings. Every year the lawyers of the project provide legal assistance to over a hundred asylum seekers. Since its foundation, the project has protected a great number of applicants and the European Court of Human Rights has delivered over 40 judgments on the project’s cases finding violations of Article 3 (prohibition of torture), Article 5 (right to liberty and security) and Article 6 (2) (presumption of innocence) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Among the judgments are those of precedent-setting significance (Savriddin Dzhurayev v. Russia, Azimov v. Russia, Kholmurodov v. Russia, I.U. v. Russia and other). [2] Daria Trenina in Adam Hug ed., Shelter from the storm? The asylum, refuge and extradition situation facing activists from the former Soviet Union in the CIS and Europe, Foreign Policy Centre, April 2014, [3] ECtHR. Saadi v. Italy, Application no. 37201/06, GC, §138, 28 February 2008. [4] ECtHR. Yuldashev v. Russia, Application no. 1248/09, §§ 110-111, 8 July 2010. [5]HRC, Sholam Weiss v. Austria, Communication No. 1086/2002, U.N.Doc. CCPR/C/77/ D/1086/2002, 3 April 2003, § 8.2. [6] ECtHR. I.U. v. Russia. Application no. 48917/15, § 32, 10 January 2017. [7] The cases concerning the extraction of ethnic Uzbeks to Kyrgyzstan, whose extradition have been recently denied or annulled by the courts with references to Article 3 of the Convention, are an exception. [8] ECtHR. I.U. v. Russia. Application no. 48917/15, 10 January 2017. [9] ECtHR. Abdulkhakov v. Russia. Application no. 14743/11, §§ 149-50, 2 October 2012. [10] ECtHR. Tadzhibayev v. Russia. Application no. 17724/14, § 46, 1 December 2015. [11] The exemption is extradition of ethnic Uzbeks to Kyrgyzstan that is often denied or prevented by courts quashing extradition orders with references to persecution on ethnic grounds and the risk of torture. [12] ECtHR. Othman (Abu Qatada) v. UK. Application no. 8139/09, 17 January 2012. For explanation of the test see ‘Shelter from the storm? The asylum, refuge and extradition situation facing activists from the former Soviet Union in the CIS and Europe’/ Edited by Adam Hug/First published in April 2014 by the Foreign Policy Centre at [13] Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters, 1993. In force between: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan. [14] Daria Trenina supervises the work of lawyers who represent Mr. Boltayev before the domestic authorities, both authors represent him before the ECtHR. [15] A formal decision adopted by the Ministry of Justice of Russia, Federal Security Service of Russia or some other executive bodies in respect of a foreigner illegally residing in Russia or a foreigner who is prohibited from entering Russia or in regard to a foreigner legally staying in Russia if such foreigner was found to pose a threat to national security, public order or public health (Article 25.10 of the Law on the Procedure of Exit from the Russian Federation and Entry into the Russian Federation of 15.08.1996 (No. 114-FZ)). [16] A deportation order may be also issued in some other cases that are beyond the scope of this article. [17] Law on the Procedure of Exit from the Russian Federation and Entry into the Russian Federation and Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation. [18] Paragraph 1 of Article 10 and paragraph 4 of Article 12 of the Law on Refugees of 19.02.1993 (No. 4528-I). [19] ECtHR. Allanazarova v. Russia, Application no. 46721/15, §§ 111, 114, 115, 14 February 2017. [post_title] => From Russia to torture: Lack of or deficient remedies against prohibited treatment in extradition and other types of removal proceedings [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => russia-torture-lack-deficient-remedies-prohibited-treatment-extradition-types-removal-proceedings [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 00:24:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:24:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2215 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:11:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:11:29 [post_content] => The continuous migration to Russia from Central Asia proves the mutual interdependence between the Russian labour market and migrant workers from former Soviet Union Republics due to the agreement between the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries on free movement. Recent migration levels in 2012-2016 replenished the loss of the Russian working age population (16-54 years old for female, 16-59 years old for male), which is about 15% annually and fell to 83.7 million people in 2016, while the net migration figure from other CIS countries to Russia in 2016 was 235,300 compared with 268,400 in 2012, with 8.2 million migrants at the end of 2016 in total for the period[1]. Simultaneously, there has been an increasingly xenophobic mood among the general public in the big cities of Russia. Since city elections in Moscow in 2013, in particular, tensions between ordinary citizens and labour migrants have resulted in daily abuse and harassment, which sharply rose after the suicide terror attack in St Petersburg metro in April 2013.   Public attitudes are just another hardship that migrants are challenged with. In early 2017 the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Olga Golodets accused migrants of undermining development in Russia, having ‘low qualifications and being a burden for social services with their families needing education and care,’ with a ‘negative surplus’ for the economy, and called on employers to refuse cheap and unqualified labour in favour of highly productive labour[2]. Another criticism against migrants is the fact that jobs are not always available, and some of them remain unemployed for a while until they find stable work.   It is also not always the case that rule of law and international obligations are observed when federal legislation is drafted or administrative procedures are enforced by migration, police, or judicial authorities. Administrative offences breaching migration law are strictly punishable by deportation, and it is also a direct consequence of contradictions between the federal legislation, by-laws, and its enforcement, which creates a wide range of opportunities for abuse. The only ‘guarantee’ for economic migrants to secure their presence in Russia is a bribe. The report prepared by the Grajdanskoe Sodeistvie Committee (Civic Assistance) in 2016 revealed massive abuses of labour rights of foreign migrants admitted jointly by the migration, judicial and police authorities[3]. Probably, it is a coincidence that since April 2016 migration authorities are now a part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which also includes the police and drug control department[4], so they are now integrated and part of each other officially.   Moreover, Russia still remains an unwelcoming place for asylum seekers. Those people, who were denied asylum by the authorities outside Moscow are deported along with their families according to the decision of the court based on administrative violations of the immigration law[5]. At the same time, while local migration services may also send notifications about the asylum seeker’s appeals that are not satisfied by the next level judicial authority, in fact often no legal procedures are observed, even formally, indicating a total ignorance of the law by local officials in respect of labour/economic migrants. The law on refugees is not applied at all, though the applicants clearly claimed asylum. Therefore, the number of deported asylum seekers is not reflected in the migration authority statistics. Officially, there were only 598 refugees in Russia in 2016[6], and 99% of the 228,392 people given ‘temporary asylum’ were citizens of Ukraine, while detailed and updated statistics are not publicly available. For those given ‘temporary asylum’ the government is not responsible for all matters, including employment, education, housing, and other financial assistance. In 2016, only 39 asylum seekers were granted refugee status in Russia which is a statistical record since 2007, when this data started to be tracked[7].   Public opinion is dominated by xenophobia and false statements about labour/economic migrants from former Soviet republics with claims that they are more involved in criminal activity than citizens of Russia during municipal elections in Moscow. The Levada-Centre revealed about half of the surveyed population believes in violent conflicts based on ethnic grounds, while around a third of respondents stated that ‘residence in Russia for natives of Caucasus and Central Asia must be limited’, while only a quarter of the survey participants insist that ‘no measure of restriction should be imposed on residents who are foreign born’[8]. WCIOM made similar findings in a 2017 survey among Russians on immigrants coming to Russia, revealing that a third of the respondents would welcome ‘restriction of the federal procedure on residence in Russia for migrants from CIS countries,’ while the same proportion also ‘would agree not to change the procedure,’ with only around one fifth of those surveyed saying they ‘would simplify the procedure.’[9] WCIOM previously revealed in 2013 that three quarters of their respondents ‘think that a large number of migrants from other countries is a negative phenomenon’ with half of the interviewees agreeing with ‘tightening immigration legislation’[10].   At the end 2016, the findings published by WCIOM were even worse, more than half of respondents thought that ‘there are a lot of or too many migrants in their area,’ with 81% believing that it is more profitable for employers to hire migrants than local people, as well as 71% thinking that their own salaries are restricted by migrants agreeing to accept lower salaries, creating wage competition[11]. And, moreover, 78% would prefer limiting the flow of migrants into Russia, and 57% are not interested in the culture and traditions of migrants, with 29% of respondents saying they would limit a friendship of their child with children of foreign migrants by all means necessary[12].   Statistical data, at the same time, shows a different picture. The proportion of crime committed by migrant workers from former Soviet Union republics comprises 3.2% of all crimes registered in 2016, while this level, at the same time, is 8.5% lower than in 2015[13].   Despite this depressing picture some positive steps have been undertaken such as by introducing migration centres in former Soviet countries, such as Uzbekistan. Three centres have been officially opened in Tashkent based on the agreement between the governments of Russia and Uzbekistan. The centres will test applicants for knowledge of Russian, history and the basis of the legislation and maintain an electronic database[14]. Another centre supported by the municipal authorities of St Petersburg in Samarkand will provide services for those wishing to work in Leningrad oblast for half the cost than if they arrived directly at St Petersburg, collecting the necessary documents and making job applications before they travel to Russia[15]. But such examples of progress are rare, despite the opportunities for creating pathways for foreign employment in a more organised manner and reducing opportunities for corruption in this process.   The increasing military and economic presence of Russia in Central Asia drives the governments of former Soviet states towards deeper integration[16], which reflects not only increasing Russian investment in its former counterparts and favouring their labour migrants working on its territory without obstacles. It also deepens the more uncompromising cooperation in law enforcement, which is helping the governments of Central Asia to sustain their regimes through the persecution of opposition and all those citizens who express dissent. However, Russian interests in the regions have not collided with Chinese business due to Russia being more involved with military and strategic cooperation with the region, while China is represented by business interests and a revival of the Silk Road strategy entitled ‘One Belt, One Road’[17].   The case of Ashyrbai Bekiyev shows how strongly the law enforcement, prosecution and judicial authorities of Russia favour extradition requests of the governments of Central Asia[18] despite clear contradiction with Russia’s international obligations, violating the rights of individuals to be protected from torture. However, it is the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that prevents tragedies[19], and while the Russian government allowed itself to deny the decisions of the international courts, including ECtHR, it still observes the regulations in their entirety[20].   Ashyrbai Bekiyev left Turkmenistan in 2009 and lived in St. Petersburg together with his family (wife and five children). In 2015, the Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan started criminal proceedings against him according to clause 1 of Article 177 (‘Raising Social, National or Religious Enmity’) of the Criminal Code which provides up to three years in prison as a punishment[21]. The prosecution authorities of Russia ordered the extradition of Ashyrbai Bekiyev according to the procedures stipulated by the Minsk Convention which the CIS countries signed on 22 January 1993, and he was detained on 22 May 2016[22]. He was held in a pre-trial detention centre in St. Petersburg until his release on 19 May 2017, when his defence insisted that the charges against him do not have a serious justification and are based on speculation and rumours.   Despite the FSB document certifying Bekiyev is a law-abiding resident of Russia, the accusation against him in Turkmenistan is based on assumptions about his alleged involvement in terrorist activities in Russia.   Although the trial hearings at all levels decided not to satisfy complaints about the process made by Bekiyev, it was Rule 39 of the ECtHR Rules (interim measures suspending extradition) that stopped the extradition procedure, while the lawyers stressed the insufficiency of the ‘diplomatic guarantees’ not to violate the human rights of the detainee presented by the Turkmen side[23]. Bekiyev was released from detention in St Petersburg, though the risk of being caught again at the request of the Turkmen government remains high as long as no final decision on the destiny of Bekiyev in Russia has been reached yet[24].   Other notable cases showing the efficiency and importance of Rule 39 to prevent ill-treatment include G. Saliyev vs Russia[25], or B. Mamashev and M. Kadirzhanov vs Russia[26], all of them wanted by Kyrgyzstan, but blocked by the ECtHR due to the practice of torture which is widespread in law enforcement authorities (especially against ethnic Uzbeks in the aftermath of the June 2010 violence).   The terrorist attack in St Petersburg in April 2017 again shocked the public in Russia and caused another strong wave of pressure against migrants from Central Asia, which resulted in mass deportations without the legal opportunity for the deportees to appeal the decision of the authorities who were to a certain extent acting randomly. Such actions by authorities have already been marked as random and tough previously by the report of human rights defenders[27].   The case of Ali Feruz (Hudoberdi Nurmatov), a Novaya Gazeta journalist in Russia, is another remarkable example of how the Russian authorities ignore their international obligations along with the provisions of their own national laws. Though, Ali Feruz was born in Russia, he worked as a journalist in Uzbekistan and a citizen of that country, but was forced to leave the Central Asian country due of the pressure imposed by the security services. He applied for asylum in Russia because he lost his passport, but when his application was denied he was detained by the migration authorities ahead of proposed deportation to Uzbekistan.   Ali Feruz appealed[28] the initial rejection of application for asylum and was freed in May 2017. However, the Russian police confined him again on 1stAugust 2017 and on the same day the Basmanny District Court of Moscow decided to deport the journalist on the grounds of violation migration law due to his stay in Russia, which his lawyers have slammed as completely unlawful. Despite the verdict of the Moscow City Court on 8th August confirming the need to comply with the ECtHR Rule 39 interim measure suspending his deportation, he remains confined in the detention centre awaiting deportation.[29]   If his is deported back to Uzbekistan he faces persecution and punishment for his activity as a journalist and for his sexual orientation. Moreover, a diplomat from a European country requested the Russian authorities legalise Ali Feruz (which would mean to give him a travel document) so that they could provide him with asylum, but the Russian migration authorities have so far prevented such an action[30].   A fact that one suspect in the St Petersburg terror attack case, Akram Azimov, was detained by the special services in Kyrgyzstan, and then ‘captured’ again in Russia as he had been walking in a nearby Moscow village did not cause any disturbances among the leading human rights organisations in Russia.[31] Even in Kyrgyzstan, where human rights defenders are more independent than anywhere else in Central Asia, they are very cautious about allegations of kidnapping and staging the arrest of the suspect. It shows how the special services in Kyrgyzstan are growing aggressive towards the human rights community, but are still dependent on the almighty FSB at the same time. There is nothing about rule of law or observing international obligations in protecting human rights and freedoms in either country.   The media spread a video of his apprehension by FSB officers, showing how he had been taken away from a private clinic by the GKNB (State Committee for National Security) of Kyrgyzstan. This was reported in a letter of the head physician of the Hosiyat clinic Zina Karimova and the physician Sanjarbek Tokhtashev, who had been administering Azimov's treatment of his acute sinusitis, according to reports by the Rosbizneskonsalting (RBC) on 21 April[32]. According to the mother of Akram Vazira Mirzaakhmedova, her son did not have a passport and money for the ticket during the hospitalisation and he could not fly to Moscow independently.   The GKNB refused to comment to the RBC about the letter from the Hosiyat clinic, and the official representative of the Committee Rakhat Sulaimanov said: ‘All questions go to the Investigative Committee of Russia and to the FSB. Do not call us on this issue.’ RBC sent inquiries to the Investigative Committee of Russia (SKR) and the FSB.   Other brutal operations undertaken by the FSB in capturing terror suspects led to the deaths of some of them[33]. However, the public accepted this brutality as a sign of the government’s fervour to protect civilians in Russia and only increased xenophobic attacks against migrants, which were supported by the major mass media and politicians in Russia. There are reports about terror suspects, such as the Azimov brothers mentioned above, being subjected to torture in secret prisons in Russia before being shown on TV as apprehended and pressured during the further investigation and interrogations. This raises serious concern about the continuous inability of the law enforcement authorities of Russia to treat foreign citizens of Central Asia fairly and impartially during the fulfilment of their duties[34].   The logic of how labour migrants become extremist is explained quite frankly by local experts in Russia. The President of the ‘Religion and Society’ Information and Analytical Centre Aleksei Grishin described how newcomers are radicalised in a sophisticated (more criminal-like) way by radicals residing in Russia, inventing a variety of approaches to frame financially and legally vulnerable people and render them ‘assistants’, when they are ‘captured’ by fake police officers. Only after that these ‘groups extort them to join their closed community of most devoted believers’[35]. These radicals, the experts believe, came from state persecution in the early 2000s from Central Asia to Russia. This is how easily the recent radicalism in Russia can be explained.   Usually discussions about the reasons for radical extremism in Russia are complete with the naming of globally known foreign organisations like Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Although the statement above made by the experts shows no roots or analysis of radical extremism by any foreign or local organisation, it is telling of an already existing mechanism of recruitment and consequences appearing in the news, or at least, that is the situation as it is seen by these local experts.   It seems that the issue has not been examined deeply or thoroughly by anyone yet. If there is any high quality reporting or analysis done, for example, by the security services, it remains unavailable to a wider audience. In the end, it seems the people responsible for the radicalisation of labour migrants and Russian-born citizens have been found. They are, actually, migrants from Central Asia too, just those who had arrived in Russia earlier. Given that it is the only ‘substantiated’ interpretation of the situation in Russia other than those speculations, far from reasonable analysis, proclaimed by the mass media on a regular basis.   Conclusion Surveys that studied xenophobic trends among the population in Russia revealed mostly a negative attitude towards labour migrants coming into the country. And it is not the people that must be singled out, but the government that has control over the media promoting and increasing hatred for any difference: ethnic, religious or sexual. Labour migrants in low-paid jobs associated with customer services, street cleaning or construction are more visible and easily targeted as the main reason for government economic, security or political failures.   It is the authorities of Russia that deny any guarantees of fundamental human rights for migrants, substituting them with the introduction of legal acts that promote abuse of the federal legislation, whether for political gains or corruption, thus ignoring international obligations and rule of law. A federal norm able to overturn any judicial ruling compliant with international law only increases impunity at local levels. It calls for ignorance and undermines any achievement made by Russia after the Soviet era.   ‘Identifying behaviours universal to all humans from cultural and idiosyncratically personal to a particular individual in a specific situation’[36] is a factor of the culturally intelligent leader championing diversity and sustainable development. It is the duty of the government, civil society and international community leaders to promote cultural intelligence as a way of celebrating difference. Accommodating and integrating migrants is in the interests of society and it is common sense for survival of the state responsible for the prosperity and wealth of the people, both hosting and joining. While respect and promotion of fundamental human rights guarantees for individuals, who find themselves on the territory of the Russian Federation as labour migrants, asylum seekers or victims of human trafficking, is essential not only for a constructive dialogue between the Kremlin and the international community, but also and more importantly, for the Russian community itself.   [1] Российская экономика в 2016 году. Тенденции и перспективы, Выпуск 38, Институт экономической политики им Е.Т. Гайдара, 19 апреля 2017 года, [2] Голодец обвинила гастарбайтеров в демотивации развития в РФ, Интерфакс, 12 января 2017 года, [3] Константин Троицкий, «Административные выдворения из России: судебное разбирательство или массовое изгнание?», «Гражданское содействие», 2016, [4] Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 05.04.2016 г. № 156, [5] Константин Троицкий, «Административные выдворения из России: судебное разбирательство или массовое изгнание?», «Гражданское содействие», 2016, [6] 39 признанных беженцев в 2016 году. Российские антирекорды и почему Мальта сильнее России, Комитет "Гражданское содействие", [7] 39 признанных беженцев в 2016 году. Российские антирекорды и почему Мальта сильнее России, Комитет "Гражданское содействие", [8] Ксенофобские и националистические настроения среди россиян: данные репрезентативных опросов 2002-2015 гг., Левада-Центр, 25 августа 2015 года, [9] Иммигранты из стран СНГ в Россию: любим, но ... Не ждем!, ВЦИОМ, 10 февраля 2017 года, [10] «Добро пожаловать» - или «посторонним вход воспрещен»?, ВЦИОМ, 07 августа 2013 года, Пресс-выпуск №2366, [11] Мигранты в России: эффекты присутствия, ВЦИОМ, Пресс-выпуск № 3254б 29 ноября 2016 года, [12] Мигранты в России: эффекты присутствия, ВЦИОМ, Пресс-выпуск № 3254б 29 ноября 2016 года, [13] Состояние преступности январь - декабрь 2016 года, Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russian Federation https://xn--b1aew.xn--p1ai/upload/site1/document_news/009/338/947/sb_1612.pdf [14] Узбекистан: В Ташкенте создаются три центра по тестированию трудовых мигрантов, ИА Фергана, 26 июня 2017 года, [15] В Самарканде будет создан российский центр по организованному набору трудовых мигрантов, Новости Узбекистана, 20 июня 2017 года, [16] Россия усиливает военные базы в Таджикистане и Киргизии, 7 июня 2017 года, РИА Новости, [17] Central Asia’s Silk Road Rivalries, International Crisis Group, 27 July 2017, [18] Fergana News Agency, European Court of Human Rights suspends extradition of Turkmen citizen from Russia, May 2017, [19] Fergana News Agency, Russia Turkmen citizen released from detention thanks to ECHR intervention, May 2017, [20] Путин подписал закон, разрешающий КС признавать неисполнимыми решения ЕСПЧ, 15 декабря 2015 года, ТАСС, [21] Дело Ашырбая Бекиева: Европейский суд по правам человека приостановил экстрадицию в Туркменистан, 18 мая 2017 г., [22] Commonwealth of Independent States, (Yelena Burova English Translation), Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance and Legal Relations in Civil, Family and Criminal Matters, via CIS, January 1993, [23] European Court of Human Rights, Interim Measures, [24] The information about Ashyrbai Bekiyev is actual as of 19 May 2017. [25] ECHtR, CASE OF GAYRATBEK SALIYEV v. RUSSIA, no. 39093/13, ECtHR (First Section), Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of 17.04.2014, via Eurocases, April 2014, [26] ECHtR, CASE OF KADIRZHANOV AND MAMASHEV v. RUSSIA, no. 42351/13, ECtHR (First Section), Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of 17.07.2014, July 2014, [27] Константин Троицкий, «Административные выдворения из России: судебное разбирательство или массовое изгнание?», «Гражданское содействие», 2016, [28] The information about Ali Feruz is actual as of 08 August 2017. [29] Moscow city court suspends deportation of Novaya Gazeta journalist, Fergana News Agency, 08 August 2017, [30] Журналист «Новой газеты»: «Я застрелюсь, но не поеду в Узбекистан», Открытая Россия, 1 июня 2017 года, [31]Maryse Godden, Prepped to Kill?, April 2017, The Sun, [32] В Киргизии опровергли версию ФСБ о задержании фигуранта дела о теракте, РБК, 21 апреля 2017 года, [33] Террористы сбежали от ФСБ, 20 апреля 2017 года, [34] Илья Рождественский, Поиски «секретной тюрьмы» ФСБ, Republic, [35] Ekaterina Ivashchenko, Russia, Central Asia, migrants. Where and how extremism threatens? Fergana News Agency, 25 May 2017, [36] Van Dyne, L., Ang, S., & Livermore, D. (in press). 2009, Cultural intelligence: A pathway for leading in a rapidly globalizing world. In K.M. Hannum. B. McFeeters, & L. Booysen (Eds.), Leadership across differences: Cases and perspectives. San Francisco, CQ: Pfeiffer. [post_title] => Russia: Xenophobia and vulnerability of migrants from Central Asia [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => russia-xenophobia-vulnerability-migrants-central-asia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 00:15:35 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:15:35 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2219 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-12-04 00:10:28 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:10:28 [post_content] => There is increasing awareness that criminal activity is more globalised than ever before, and that states can only tackle this problem successfully through effective cross-border cooperation. In this context, the role of INTERPOL, as the world’s largest police organisation, is essential. INTERPOL facilitates cross-border cooperation between the police authorities of 190 countries, including through its system of Red Notices and Diffusions (‘INTERPOL alerts’) which seek a wanted person’s arrest and detention with a view to extradition.   While INTERPOL alerts are undoubtedly helpful tools for the promotion of international security, it cannot be ignored that amongst the 190 member states of INTERPOL are many that systemically exploit criminal justice systems for political purposes, and fail to uphold even the most basic human rights standards. INTERPOL has provisions in its Constitution[1] which enshrine its respect for international human rights standards (Article 2), and its political neutrality (Article 3), but this has not prevented countries from abusing INTERPOL alerts to track down and harass individuals for political reasons, and in ways that violate their human rights. This means that INTERPOL alerts have been used to target recognised refugees, political dissidents, journalists, and human rights defenders, with devastating impacts on their reputations, freedom, and safety.   This challenge has been illustrated potently in recent months by the cases of Dogan Akhanli and Hamza Yalcin, both writers of Turkish origin, who were arrested in Spain reportedly on the basis of Red Notices issued by Turkey, despite having been recognised as refugees in Germany and Sweden respectively.[2] Red Notices issued by Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan are also believed to have triggered the recent arrests of journalists in Ukraine, who risk being extradited to countries where they could face persecution.[3]   Reforms Concerns about the misuse of INTERPOL have been highlighted by civil society organisations like Fair Trials, which in 2013 published a major report, entitled Strengthening Human Rights, Strengthening INTERPOL[4] outlining changes that needed to be adopted in order to prevent human rights abuses caused by INTERPOL alerts. According to Fair Trials, there were three main challenges that needed to be addressed:
  • Firstly, INTERPOL needed to adopt a more thorough system of internal reviews to prevent abusive alerts from being disseminated;
  • INTERPOL needed to improve and clarify how it interprets its rules on political neutrality and human rights; and
  • Finally, INTERPOL had to make changes to the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files (‘CCF’), INTERPOL’s complaints mechanism for individuals seeking to challenge Red Notices and Diffusions, to make it more effective and compliant with due process standards.
  INTERPOL has been responsive to calls for reform, and since the publication of Fair Trials’ 2013 report, it has adopted a series of ground-breaking reforms aimed at preventing the misuse of its systems, and reinforcing the legitimacy of INTERPOL alerts[5]. These included the introduction of the ‘Refugee Policy’ in 2015[6], which provided recognised refugees an easier route to challenge INTERPOL alerts against them, and measures to strengthen the ex ante review of Red Notices, including by setting up a specialist team to detect alerts that violate INTERPOL’s rules before they are disseminated.   Following the work of INTERPOL’s Working Group on the Processing of Information (‘GTI’), INTERPOL adopted comprehensive reforms to the CCF at its 85th General Assembly in November 2016. These reforms include a new Statute of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files[7] (‘CCF Statute’), which contain provisions relating to the CCF’s organisation and its procedures. The CCF Statute came into force in March 2017, and it was supplemented by new Operating Rules of the CCF in the same month[8]. These reforms respond to criticisms about the CCF’s weakness, ineffectiveness, and its lack of transparency, and they are a close reflection of the recommendations made by Fair Trials, in its contributions to the work of the GTI[9]. In particular, reforms introduced by the CCF statute included the following[10]:
  • The CCF’s independence and influence was strengthened, with the CCF now being able to make decisions that are binding on INTERPOL[11]. Previously, the CCF was only able to make ‘recommendations’;
  • The CCF was reorganised to ensure that complaints about INTERPOL alerts are handled by a chamber of legal experts, including those who have expertise in human rights;[12]
  • The rules on the disclosure of information were changed so that countries responsible for INTERPOL alerts are only able to withhold information about them to individuals, if there are good reasons for doing so;[13]
  • Timeframes were introduced to the CCF’s procedures, so that individuals can expect the CCF to make a decision in relation to their requests within a specified period of time[14]; and
  • The requirement to give reasoned decisions was codified[15], eliminating the CCF’s previous practice of providing non-specific decisions which were rarely more than two or three paragraphs long.
  It must also be noted, however, that the CCF Statute does not address all of the concerns raised about the CCF. For example, the CCF Statute did not introduce a right to appeal the decisions made by the CCF, meaning that complainants still have no further recourse if they disagree with the CCF’s interpretation or application of INTERPOL’s rules.   Effective implementation The reforms that INTERPOL have adopted in recent years are no doubt positive changes, but the extent to which they will prevent the misuse of INTERPOL alerts will depend largely on how they are implemented[16]. Effective implementation, however, is evidently a challenging task for INTERPOL, especially given the large numbers of INTERPOL alerts in circulation[17], and the limited capacity of the CCF, which was expanded only slightly as a result of the reforms[18].   For example, there are already signs that despite INTERPOL’s efforts to strengthen its internal review procedures, the organisation is still facing difficulties preventing the dissemination of Red Notices that violate its rules. This challenge is illustrated by the publication of the Red Notice against Muhiddin Kabiri, the chairperson of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (‘IRPT’), within months after IRPT leaders were convicted in trials criticised by human rights activists as being politically motivated[19].   Given that information about Kabiri and the trial of IRPT’s leaders were both widely reported in the media, the publication of the Red Notice against Kabiri raises questions about what information is consulted by INTERPOL to identify abusive alerts, and it highlights that there are cases in which INTERPOL needs external help to ensure that its review procedures are effective. This is an area in which non-governmental organisations could play a crucial role. For instance, NGOs reacted promptly to reports that Azerbaijan was seeking the arrest of Leyla Yunusova and Arif Yunus, by notifying INTERPOL that any attempt made by Azerbaijan to use INTERPOL’s alert system against them would violate INTERPOL’s constitution[20].   The effective implementation of INTERPOL’s reforms will also depend on how INTERPOL, and in particular the CCF, interprets the newly adopted rules and policies, including the provisions of the CCF Statute. In particular, the extent to which changes to the CCF’s procedures will lead to greater transparency will be determined by how the CCF interprets Article 35 of the CCF Statute, which sets out the bases on which the CCF can disclose and withhold information about INTERPOL alerts to individuals. Although Article 35 adopts a presumption of disclosure, this is subject to various exceptions, and the failure by the state responsible for the INTERPOL alert to justify the withholding of information will not necessarily result in the disclosure of information[21]. The transparency of the CCF’s procedures in practice will thus depend heavily on how broadly the CCF chooses to interpret these exceptions.   Alternative mechanisms As the world’s largest policing organisation, INTERPOL plays a prominent role in international police cooperation, but it is not the sole information-sharing mechanism that can put individuals at risk of human rights violations. In the past fifteen years, a number of regional police and criminal cooperation mechanisms have been established, including GCCPOL in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the African Union Mechanism for Police Cooperation (‘AFRIPOL’), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Association of South East Asian Nations (‘ASEAN’) have also adopted various multi-lateral agreements to promote regional cooperation on security[22]. The increasing awareness of the need to reform international mechanisms set up to promote international security is illustrated by the campaign to reform Recommendation 8 of the Financial Action Task Force (‘FATF’)[23].   INTERPOL’s reforms could provide a leading example that could help to strengthen other international and regional cooperation mechanisms, and to protect them from abuse. However, as INTERPOL strengthens its systems to prevent misuse, there is a risk that states will resort increasingly to other cooperation mechanisms which do not benefit from the same levels of protection. This challenge is illustrated by the case of Alexander Lapshin, a blogger who was arrested in December 2016 at the request of the Azerbaijani authorities, and subsequently extradited to Azerbaijan. It was widely believed that Lapshin’s arrest in Belarus had been triggered by an INTERPOL Red Notice, given reports of a statement by the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko suggesting that Lapshin’s detention was made in accordance with an ‘INTERPOL decision[24]’.   The accusations that formed the basis of Azerbaijan’s extradition request were that Lapshin had entered Nagorno-Karabakh unlawfully, and that he had allegedly made statements in support of the territory’s independence. Given that Azerbaijan does not exercise effective control over Nagorno-Karabakh, an area with an unrecognised government that has been subject to a longstanding territorial dispute, there were strong indications that the accusations were political in nature. Had Lapshin’s arrest indeed been caused by an INTERPOL alert, this could have amounted to a clear example of INTERPOL’s failure to prevent the dissemination of alerts that violate its political neutrality. However, subsequent reports stated that Lapshin had never been subject to an INTERPOL alert, implying that his arrest was triggered by a different information-sharing mechanism[25].   It is difficult to speculate whether the Azerbaijani authorities had chosen not to use INTERPOL’s systems to seek Lapshin’s arrest, or they had attempted to do so but were blocked as a result of INTERPOL’s improved internal review process. While the Lapshin case provides little concrete evidence of the effectiveness of INTERPOL’s reforms, it does highlight that the reform of INTERPOL will not eliminate the misuse of international cooperation mechanisms to track and harass individuals for political purposes, and in ways that violate their human rights[26]. It is crucial therefore, that the misuse of ‘alternatives’ to the INTERPOL alert system are identified, and that the faults that enable these abuses to occur are also fixed.   Conclusions The effectiveness and reliability of international cooperation mechanisms depend not only on tackling security threats directly, but also on ensuring that individuals are not unfairly targeted for political purposes or in ways that violate their human rights. Through the adoption of various reforms aimed at preventing the misuse of its alert system, INTERPOL has demonstrated that although it does not have a human rights mandate, it recognises that its ability to uphold human rights is crucial to the sustainability of its work.   Efforts to prevent states from using international cooperation mechanisms inappropriately to target refugees, political dissidents, and human rights defenders should not, however, stop with the adoption of INTERPOL’s latest reforms. Not only is it important to ensure that these reforms have the desired impact, there must also be recognition that the problem is far greater than INTERPOL. It is crucial that comparable international and regional cooperation mechanisms follow INTERPOL’s example, and that they do not become alternative tools for exporting oppression.   [1] INTERPOL, Constitution of the ICPO-INTERPOL [I/CONS/GA/1956(2008)] [2] The Economist, ‘Turkey is trying to extradite its political opponents from Europe’, 22 August 2017; Index on Censorship ‘Exiled Turkish journalist Hamza Yalcin arrested in Spain’, 9 August 2017, [3] Reporters without Borders, ‘Ukraine arrests second journalist on Interpol red notice’, 18 October 2017, [4] Fair Trials,  ‘Strengthening respect for human rights, strengthening INTERPOL’, November 2013, [5] For a more detailed analysis on the drivers of reform, see Libby McVeigh, ‘Vision restored? Reform of INTERPOL to strengthen protection of human rights’ in Adam Hug (ed.) Institutionally Blind? International organisations and human rights abuses in the former Soviet Union, Foreign Policy Centre, February 2016, [6] INTERPOL, IPCQ dated 18/02/2015 (LA/ 51489-4/5.1) This policy has not been formally published by INTERPOL, but it has been shared with Fair Trials, see [7] INTERPOL, Statute of the Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files [II.E/RCIA/GA/2016] (‘CCF Statute’) [8] Commission for the Control of INTERPOL’s Files, Operating Rules (CCF/100/d488),'s-Files [9] See for example Fair Trials, ‘Submission to INTERPOL Working Group on the Processing of Information’ (10 December 2015), [10] A more detailed analysis of the reforms can be found in Fair Trials, ‘Strengthening INTERPOL: An Update’ (2017), [11] CCF Statute, Article 38 [12] Article 6 [13] Article 35 [14] Articles 40-42 [15] Article 38 [16] This challenge was recognised the report of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, ‘Abusive use of the Interpol system: the need for more stringent legal safeguards’, Doc. 14277, March 2017, [17] According to INTERPOL’s own statistics, over 19,000 INTERPOL alerts issued in 2015 alone, and there were 67,000 alerts in circulation that year. See INTERPOL, ‘Annual Report 2015’, [18] The Requests Chamber of the CCF consists of 7 members (Article 8, CCF Statute), and meets three times a year (Article 16, CCF Statute) [19] The Guardian, ‘Tajikistan human rights fears as banned party’s ex-leaders jailed for life’, June 2016,; Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, ‘Tajikistan’s Islamic Party Leader Added to Interpol Wanted List’, September 2016, [20] International Partnership for Human Rights, ‘Joint NGO appeal: Prevent the misuse of INTERPOL in the case of prominent Azerbaijani human rights defenders’, June 2017, [21] For a more detailed analysis, see Alex Tinsley, ‘Echoes of Kadi: Reforms to Internal Remedies at INTERPOL’, EJIL: Talk! (20 January 2017) [22] For example, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s ‘Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure’, and the ASEAN Convention on Counter-Terrorism [23] Iva Dobichina, ‘The Big Impact of the Little-Known “Recommendation 8”’, Open Society Foundations,  July 2016, [24] Alex Dackevych, ‘The blogger jailed for visiting a country that ‘doesn’t exist’’,  BBC News , February 2017, [25] Armenpress, ‘Lapshin has never been internationally wanted – Interpol informs Armenian Police’, February 2017, [26] By contrast, INTERPOL reportedly blocked an attempt made by Azerbaijan to issue an INTERPOL alert against Jaromir Stetina, a Czech Member of the European Parliament, for entering Nagorno-Karabakh. Chris Johnstone, ‘INTERPOL rejects international warrant request for Czech MEP’ Radio Praha July 2017), [post_title] => INTERPOL reforms and the challenges ahead for cross-border cooperation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => interpol-reforms-challenges-ahead-cross-border-cooperation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-04 00:25:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-04 00:25:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1521 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:48:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:48:24 [post_content] => Television remains the most efficient method of influencing public opinion in the Former Soviet Union (FSU) countries. So what is the real impact of Russian TV channels in these countries? The situation differs from country to country. This essay takes a closer look at the Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. The role of the main Russian channels is more significant in Armenia, Belarus and Moldova, where these channels are still freely available[1] and remain quite popular, than in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine, where the potential impact of these channels is more limited. In Ukraine, and to some extent also in Georgia, the popularity of Russian media has been undermined due to the armed conflicts in 2014 and 2008 respectively.[2]   Notwithstanding the war with Russia nine years ago, the potential impact of Russian propaganda in Georgian society is still significant. During the 2016 parliamentary elections, unlike in previous campaigns, there were more parties that directly or indirectly pursued anti-Western views and openly advocated closer relations with Russia. One of them, the Alliance of Patriots, which favoured greater integration with Russia and opposed Georgia joining NATO, was able to narrowly pass the 5 percent threshold needed to get into the parliament. By comparison, many smaller parties with a clear pro-Western orientation failed to win any seats.   According to National Democratic Institute research, twenty percent of television viewers in Georgia watch via satellite, cable and the internet the news and current affairs programmes on foreign channels, with the majority of these people relying on Russian channels, notably Channel One, RTR and Russia 1. English speaking channels, such as CNN, Euronews and BBC World Service were only the fifth, sixth and eighth preferred information sources on the list.[3] The pro-Russian narrative can be found in some Georgian media as well. Monitoring conducted by the Media Development Foundation (MDF) in 2014 and 2015 found that Russian propaganda was present in the form of anti-Western rhetoric on three media outlets. More specifically, it was Georgian channel Obiektivi, which is a general broadcast licensee available via cable networks, and two websites, and The study further revealed that this type of reporting was not present on the mainstream media.[4]   The potential impact of Russian media is more significant in ethnic minority areas, where Georgian language media does not have a good outreach. For example, in the Javakheti region, people have always had problems receiving local news, so they mainly watch Russian channels. The majority of the population in minority-settled areas use Russian channels as their primary source of information. Regrettably, the central Georgian media do not report stories that are relevant to the minority-populated regions. The situation is even worse in Abkhazia with almost no Georgian mainstream media present there. According to a poll conducted by the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC) for National Democratic Institute (NDI) in 2016, as many as 30 percent of people in minority settlements opined that Georgia’s foreign policy should be pro-Russian, with only 7 percent favouring a pro-Western orientation. By contrast, 16 percent of respondents who lived in urban areas with access to Georgian mainstream media preferred pro-Western foreign policy orientation against 8 percent who preferred pro-Russian.[5] As such, it is clear that Russia’s influence is more significant in those areas where there is no alternative information to Kremlin narratives.   In Ukraine, some measures restricting Russian media have been introduced as a result of the conflict in the eastern part of the country, including a ban on Russian channels introduced by the broadcasting regulator in July 2014. In a survey by the NGO Detector Media 13.2 percent of Ukrainian households could receive the Russian channel Channel 1, 12.2 percent could get NTV, 11.6 percent Russia TV and 6.8 percent Dozhd. Of these viewers the mechanisms through which they access Russian media is via satellite (78.7 percent), the Internet (7.8 percent), cable TV (5.8 percent) and using an analogue antenna (37.4 percent in the east of Ukraine).[6] According to Diana Dutsyk, executive director of NGO Detector Media, the information war carried out by Russia against Ukraine has been a dominant factor influencing the quality of reporting. Some journalists drawn into this conflict started performing a counter-propaganda role, which, in her opinion, consequently makes media discourse biased, engaged, and emotional.[7] As a result, people are often confused and not able to tell the facts from controversial points, which is the principal aim of Russian propaganda. For example, when asked who was guilty of shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in a poll by the Levada Centre, as many as 81 percent of ethnic Russian respondents living in Ukraine put the blame on the Ukrainian military. Notwithstanding the evidence that the plane was downed by a Buk-M1 anti-aircraft missile fired from rebel-controlled territory, their positions appeared to be aligned with the Russian channels’ reporting which suggested that either a Ukrainian missile or a Ukrainian aircraft was responsible for shooting down the plane.[8]   A poll conducted by the Kyiv International Sociology Institute for Detector Media in December 2016 found that some 87 percent of Ukrainians receive news primarily from Ukrainian national channels, while almost 8 percent use Russian TV channels. As for the military conflict in Donbass, Ukrainian TV is trusted the most (40 percent), whereas trust in Russian television is very low (only 1.3 percent). At the same time, however, when asked to what extent they believed that the Kyiv events of winter 2014 were an illegal military coup d'état, as many as 34.3 percent of respondents agreed, and about 48 percent disagreed.[9] The Kremlin-sponsored narratives have the biggest impact in eastern Ukraine, including in the territories controlled by Ukraine, given the availability of the majority of Russian media. Only about half of the population in the ATO zone has access to Ukrainian channels, with people from several districts near occupied Crimea being able to watch only Russian television channels.[10]   In Belarus, Russian content is dominant in the media with television channels relying on entertainment and other programming provided by Russian television networks. Pro-Kremlin media continues to play a significant role, with their news and entertainment shows available on TV channels that are free of charge (including on so called hybrid channels, such as NTV Belarus or RTR Belarus). For example, when answering a question on their opinion about the accession of Crimea by Russia, 59 percent of Belarusians opined that it was a reunification of Russian lands with Russia, a restoration of historical justice which was the official Russian version of the story pursued by the main Russian TV channels.[11] Interfax-Zapad and Prime-TASS, two Russian-owned information agencies, sell newswire services to other media in Belarus. As for non-Russian foreign ownership, it remains very limited, with Russian companies in charge of two popular newspapers, Komsomolskaya Pravda v Byelorussii and Argumenty i Fakty, two news agencies, Interfax-Zapad and Prime-TASS, and VTV, an entertainment television channel.   In Azerbaijan, only a small segment of the population uses Russian TV channels as their information source, and they are available only through cable television, satellite antenna or the Internet (the same as in Georgia). At the same time, however, when reviewing the content of Azerbaijani TV channels, it is possible to find similarities with the Russian media narratives in the way they portray foreign affairs. The mainstream media in Azerbaijan defend the state from the global information war being waged by Western countries. Russian, as well as Turkish media outlets, contribute to such conspiracy theories. Several resources in Russian serve the Russian-speaking minority. It has to be said however that none of these differ in content from those broadcast in Azerbaijani. Almost all the main news media also broadcast in Russian.   According to studies conducted in Moldova, Russian media has the highest credibility among 15 percent of the population. By comparison, 13 per cent of the population trusts Moldovan media and 7 percent Romanian.[12] The propaganda from Kremlin-controlled Russian TV channels that is rebroadcast in Moldova, as well as a launch of an online portal Sputnik in 2015, further influenced the media sector. The media in general adapt the editorial content knowing that Romanian language speakers have a more pro-Western orientation, while those that speak Russian are usually pro-Russian.   In Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan, reporting by the leading local media on key local and global issues offers an alternative to reporting by Russian channels and thus helps to ‘balance’ their impact. The media in the countries that are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, Belarus and Armenia, are not able to offset the impact of Russian media as the leading local TV channels (with comparable viewership to the Russian channels) are constrained in covering controversial external political problems.[13] In Armenia, the coverage of the armed conflict in Ukraine clearly demonstrated that it was mostly presented by the mainstream media in a similar way to that of pro-Kremlin channels. The major proportion of international news broadcast by television outlets is based on that provided by Russian channels.   Ethnic Russians form the largest minority group in many Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries. Moreover, many people were taught in the Russian language which makes a significant portion of the population bilingual – and thus able to follow the Russian media. When it comes to particular programmes, it is the news programmes on Russian TV channels that are particularly attractive to audiences. People consider them to be more professional than the available local alternatives. Russian media have sufficient facilities and equipment for the production and distribution of news. Four major state television channels that receive both state funding and advertising revenue provide programmes of a very high technical quality, creating high audience expectations in this respect. The Russian media best succeed in influencing public opinion particularly in those countries where their broadcasting is not restricted. This is apparent in how people in the EaP countries perceive what is happening in Ukraine as well as the confrontation between Russia and the West.   Politicians in the Kremlin make no secret of the fact that they are spending millions of dollars on messaging that supports their worldview and their larger strategic goals. When looking closer at the content of Russian TV channels, it becomes clear that the Kremlin has taken information propaganda into the national security context to significantly influence the opinions and dispositions of local and international society. The Russian narrative consists of emotional messages aimed at creating negative stereotypes of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, discrediting the Western political or cultural space and supporting homophobic and xenophobic opinions among the public. By pursuing these myths, Russia posits itself as the only real ally to FSU countries with a collective identity, faith, history and culture. Simultaneously, it portrays the West as an existential threat to all the values mentioned above.[14]   While it is not easy to estimate the real impact of Russian propaganda in FSU countries, it is clear that the lack of objective reporting, as well as a lack of diverse views among Russian-speaking audiences, poses a real challenge across the region. The various monitoring exercises of Russian media revealed that the Kremlin does not appear to aim so much at justifying its domestic and foreign policies, but rather at undermining the confidence of international audiences in the legitimacy of their governments and, in more general terms, Western liberal values.   Russian TV channels still matter in most of the FSU countries. It is also possible to conclude that Russia’s influence is more significant in those areas where there is no alternative information to Kremlin narratives. It is however important to have good quality reporting as a real alternative and not channels which defend the state and serve as its propaganda tools. The national media enjoying high level of trust and popularity in the EaP countries would serve as a good tool against the Russian media propaganda. Regrettably, EaP countries have done very little or nothing to encourage the existence of an independent, vibrant and competitive media landscape, which is essential for providing a variety of news and views. The former Vice President of the United States Hubert Humphrey once said: “Propaganda, to be effective, must be believed. To be believed, it must be credible. To be credible, it must be true.” In the times when we are exposed to lies, half-truths and disinformation, we need good quality reporting which should be supported in all countries affected by Russian propaganda.     [1] Mainly through terrestrial transmitters but also in the form of localized version of Russian TV channels (for example NTV – Belarus). [2] Monitoring of Russian channels by MEMO 98, Internews Ukraine and Yerevan Press Club,  Independent Journalism Center (Moldova), Yeni Nesil Union of Journalists (Azerbaijan), Belarusian Association of Journalists (Belarus), and Georgian Charter for Journalistic Ethics (Georgia), Final report 2015 [3] Public Attitudes in Georgia, National Democratic Institute. April 2016, [4] Anti-western propaganda, media monitoring report, Media Development Foundation. 2014-15, [5] National Democratic Institute, Public Attitudes in Georgia, Nov 2016, [6] Survey of Russian propaganda Influence on Public Opinion in Ukraine was conducted by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology for NGO Detector Media in December 2016 [7] IREX Media Sustainability Index, Ukraine 2016 [8] Gerard Toal and John O'Loughlin, Russian and Ukrainian TV viewers live on different planets, Washington Post, February 2015, [9] Survey of Russian propaganda Influence on Public Opinion in Ukraine was conducted by Kyiv International Institute of Sociology for NGO Detector Media in December 2016 [10] ATO zone or Anti-Terrorist Operation Zone is a term used to identify Ukrainian territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions under control of Russian military forces and pro-Russian separatists. [11] A public opinion poll conducted by the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies in March 2015 available at [12] The Barometer of Public Opinion of the Institute of Public Policy in October-November 2014 at [13] Monitoring of Russian channels by MEMO 98, Internews Ukraine and Yerevan Press Club,  Independent Journalism Center (Moldova), "Yeni Nesil” Union of Journalists (Azerbaijan), Belarusian Association of Journalists (Belarus), and Georgian Charter for Journalistic Ethics (Georgia), Final report 2015 [14] Ibid. [post_title] => How many people watch Russian media in the former Soviet Union countries? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => many-people-watch-russian-media-former-soviet-union-countries [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 01:01:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 01:01:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [14] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1524 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:45:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:45:40 [post_content] => On March 12 2014, long before anyone could imagine Donald Trump becoming President of the United States and concepts of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ turning into global buzzwords, a group of journalists gathered outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalnoe, outside Simferopol, the regional capital of Crimea. Standing next to several dozen screaming protestors, the journalists, many of them from Russia, watched how hundreds of soldiers armed with Kalashnikovs and light antitank missiles and wearing balaclavas and brand-new insignia-free uniforms, lined up along the perimeter of the long concrete fence surrounding the base.   The events unfolding in Crimea were so bizarre, so unprecedented, none of us journalists quite knew how to describe them. Later, Russian channels would call it “re-unification” and the rest of the world would label it annexation but at the time no one could be quite sure what Putin’s game in Crimea was. The Russian media, however, seemed to have been under strict orders. “Do these soldiers look like volunteers to you?” a chain-smoking Russian TV journalist in Perevalnoe asked me, crowning the rhetorical question with an elaborate profanity. Minutes earlier I had overheard him on his phone with the editor in Moscow after his TV crew lost their live link to the studio. The editor told him the link had been cut because the reporter called Russian soldiers Russian soldiers and that he would either have to stick to ‘volunteer battalions’ or leave Crimea. “I am ashamed,” said the journalist, who asked me not to name him. But from then on, following his editor’s and Vladimir Putin’s lead, he would only refer to the Russian troops in Crimea as “self-organised volunteer battalions.” A mortgage and three children, he explained to me, is what made him stick to the lie.   Western journalists covering Crimea and the subsequent war in Eastern Ukraine did not have to make difficult moral choices, but they too were pushed into an alternative reality constructed by the Kremlin, and involuntarily aided its narrative. Fast forward three years and today we live in the world where ‘post truth’ is a real word and alternative reality has spread far beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union. Whether it is covering the effects of Brexit on the NHS or politicians in Washington who now present ‘alternative facts’, reporting on lies is more than ever part of the job description of many journalists. And as journalists find their way in our post-fact, post-truth world, they should learn from the mistakes the Western media made in Ukraine.   The Ukraine conflict became a real challenge to the accepted rules of Western-style ‘objective’ reporting. Balance is at the core of Western journalism, which teaches reporters to present multiple sides of the story and to make sure that all their reporting is based on information that can be verified. But the Ukraine conflict, more so than any crisis before it, showed that unless this quest for balance is accompanied with in-depth, committed, nuanced reporting, it works against the larger goal of providing an accurate picture of what is going on. The reason why Ukraine became the litmus test for international media was because it was the first crisis truly saturated with lies and disinformation from all sides. Of course propaganda, and fake news have always been part of any conflict, but in the era of information overload, where every opinion has a platform, disinformation reached an entirely new level.   The international media did not seem to be ready for the disinformation assault. With a flurry of press-releases, statements and interviews the Kremlin skilfully disputed the facts on the ground, and the Western media used the Kremlin’s lines to provide ‘balance’ to those facts on the ground. Unlike Russian journalists, most of my colleagues from the Western media outlets did not use Vladimir Putin’s ‘volunteer self-defence unit’ term to describe the Russian soldiers, but very few actually called them what they were: Russian troops. Instead they used more obscure terms like ‘unidentified soldiers’ or ‘little green men’.[1]  This, academic Marta Dyzhok argues, means that as a result the media failed to frame the story clearly, allowing allowed disinformation to shape the narrative. In other words, unwillingly the international media endorsed a lie. Dyzhok writes ‘The choice of images, terminology, information presented or omitted in many international media reports is one reason that the entire issue of what happened in Crimea, how, why, and the results, are still subject to debate. To an uninformed audience, it was not evident whether Russia was protecting ethnic Russians from an illegitimate fascist, right-wing government in Kiev, or whether Russia was invading a neighbouring country. The fact that Crimea’s legitimately elected government was deposed at gunpoint was not highlighted, yet plenty of attention was devoted to the event called a referendum a few weeks later’.[2]   The Ukrainian conflict was, by no means, underreported. It was covered extensively albeit with, typical for the media, lulls in between outbursts of coverage when the global media attention moved elsewhere. However, despite some outstanding pieces of reportage, for the most part Western media simply juxtaposed two opposing narratives, without going deeper or finding hard evidence of lies on either side.   Of course, lack of depth and superficiality are accusations made about journalism on virtually every subject, and the media often has very legitimate reasons to be superficial. The very nature of large-scale news operations on breaking news stories lends them to superficiality: reporters are rotated in and out of the conflict, while on the ground they are asked to file constant updates and their reporting is complimented, or balanced, with arrays of studio interviews that offer plenty of opinions. But in the age of the constant onslaught of alternative opinions, facts and information, this proved to be a dangerous way to operate.   ‘Perhaps the greatest shortcoming in international reporting was that the causes of violence were not adequately explored’. Dyzhok argues that the same applied to the coverage of the Maidan protests which proceeded Crimea saying that ‘Dramatic images of clashes were widely circulated, and made it onto many top-photos-of-2014 lists. (However, the overwhelming majority of protesters were peaceful, creative, and only a small extreme element advocated violent methods. The radicals caught the attention of the cameras, as did their slogans and nationalist insignia). But few reports were asking the question: ‘who instigated the violence?’[3]   The first lesson of Ukraine is that in the era when information is a weapon, ‘who’ and ‘why’ should take priority over of journalism’s other Ws: ‘when’ and ‘what’. It is asking the ‘who’ and ‘why’ questions that allow journalists to cut through noise and lies, go beyond superficiality of the daily news cycle, to report in-depth and to confront ‘fake news’ head on.   And this is also where Ukraine offers its second lesson. Today, as media professionals and experts debate ‘fake news’ some ask whether confronting fake news is necessary at all? In an article ‘Is fake news a fake problem?’ Jacob Nelson, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University argues that according to his research, fake news audiences remain extremely small and users of ‘fake news’ sites often visit other, legitimate media sources.[4]   But Nelson’s own conclusion is counter-intuitive to his argument, writing that ‘If half of the fake news audience had been approaching both real and fake news for the past year with an open mind, you would expect that audience to shrink as readers eventually abandoned fake news sites. That this has not happened suggests the fake news audience isn’t reading real news because they believe it might also be accurate, but because these sources are popular and they want to know how the rest of the world ‘falsely’ understands current events. If this is indeed the case, it means solving the fake news problem will be much trickier than limiting its supply.’   Nelson notes that so far, solutions to fake news problems focus on myth-busting and fact-checking websites. ‘Facebook recently integrated fact-checking into its publication process, while Google no longer allows Google-served advertising to appear on sites that ‘misrepresent’ information’.[5] Others focus on improving journalism: BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith has advocated for more support for objective, accurate reporting as a way to counterbalance the fake news creeping its way across social media feeds.[6]’   But Ukraine showed that none of this is enough. The danger and power of fake news, whether state-funded like it is in Russia or commercially driven as it often is with sites in the United States, is that it distorts reality, introduces doubt and undermines legitimate arguments. If in the Soviet time’s the Kremlin’s goal was to get people on its side, these days the goal is to make them think that ‘everyone else is bad’. Fake news designed for click-bait may have a different goal, but ultimately they have the same effect: they muddy fact-based narratives, create alternative realities, maim truth and allow politicians to call anything or anyone “fake news”.   In Ukraine very few Western reporters made an effort to investigate the greatest triggers of violence: the lies, from both sides, which helped to fuel the conflict. As the Ukrainian media responded to the Kremlin’s information war with its own, a lot less sophisticated and much more chaotic propaganda onslaught, the Western media chose to stay out of it. It seemed as if the international media organizations never asked themselves the question which is topping their agenda now: How do we cover lies? In the case of Ukraine: how do we show the correlation between the lies broadcast on television and the battle unfolding on the ground. Balanced reporting is not enough to cover the murky, slippery subject of disinformation, and as I found out for myself it is only when journalists get in to specifics that a lie can convincingly be de-bunked.   For a long time, amid constant live updates covering the war for the BBC, I did not have the time and resources to focus on the disinformation element of the war, even though I was always acutely aware of how the hatred broadcast on Russian TV screens led to bloodletting on the ground. That parallel reality was also less of a priority for my editors, who were more interested in clearer, more easily digestible, newsier stories of gun-battles and protests. But in April 2015, while buying a quick snack in a supermarket in Donetsk my producer Abdujalil Abdurasulov and I overheard two women discussing a devastating rocket attack that killed a 10 year old girl in the city’s suburbs. The women were understandably angry with the Ukrainian troops (“the neo-nazis” as they referred to them) who had fired the rocket. The story had been picked up by all Russian channels and we decided to look into it as well. There was a slight lull in news at the time, which allowed us to spend a couple of days on the story - an unbelievable luxury in the world of daily news. The rebel spokesperson Eduard Basurin, confirmed the death of the girl to us and the area where she was killed, but he refused to give the family’s address, so we then spent hours looking for them in the area where the attack had allegedly taken place. When we didn’t find any traces of the family or the attack, we went to hospitals and the city’s morgue that should have received the body of the girl, they had not. Eventually, we approached Russian television crew that had reported on the story and they confessed, on camera, that “the girl never existed” and that they broadcast the story because “they were told to”.   The piece on the Donetsk girl that never existed ended up being one of the BBC’s most watched TV pieces from Eastern Ukraine, with almost 2 million views on Facebook alone. By the time the piece had aired, Vladimir Putin had himself debunked his own lie of ‘volunteer battalions’ by admitting that they were indeed Russian troops.[7] It cemented the narrative of ‘Russian disinformation’ within the Western media mind-set, but the fact that the ultimate de-bunking was done by Putin himself also de-legitimised it. I have not been able to find a single piece of journalism that managed to trace a ‘little green man’ in Crimea to his hometown in Russia. Later on, the pieces that provided specific, vivid, character-based examples of this disinformation remained few and far between. Among the most notable examples was an excellent investigation by Simon Ostrovsky for Vice News which traced a story of an alleged ‘volunteer soldier’ in Eastern Ukraine back to his military base in Buriatia, Russia. What made Ostrovsky’s reportage so effective and so widely watched was the fact that it went beyond stating that ‘Russians lie’, instead it asked ‘who’ and it explained ‘why’.[8]   This, I believe, is the only way that the media can counter the menace of fake news.  It is only through specific characters that media can break through the fog of generalities which is the oxygen that disinformation breathes. If fake news thrives on characters that don’t exist, like Syrian refugees who rape girls in Frankfurt, then reporting that counters them should too rely on specific, compelling characters that debunk these myths.   This is the kind of journalism that requires the most commitment and resources, but without which we will continue to present to our increasingly sophisticated audiences simplified and ultimately misleading narratives about the world.   In Ukraine, lack of these questions ultimately led to the victory of ‘fake news’ over real news. Of course, the Russian disinformation did not convince global public opinion that all Ukrainians were ‘neo-nazis’, but it never meant to. It won because it stripped the Western media of its ability to frame the crisis clearly.   Perhaps the greatest lesson of Ukraine is that without editorial commitment to in-depth, nuanced reporting on complex crises, the media will continue to sink deeper into its own echo-chamber, polarizing societies rather than informing them and endorsing fake news instead of proving them what they are: lies. [1] Vitaly Shevchenko, "Little green men" or "Russian invaders"?, BBC News, March 2014, [2] Marta Dyczok, The Ukraine Story in Western Media, E-International Relations, April 2015, [3] Marta Dyczok, ibid. [4] Jacob L Nelson, Is ‘fake news’ a fake problem? Columbia Journalism Review, January 2017, [5] Ken Doctor, Newsonomics: Fake-news fury forces Google and Facebook to change policy, Nieman Lab, November 2016, See also Emily Bell, Facebook drains the fake news swamp with new, experimental partnerships, December 2016, [6] Ben Smith, How can Tech and Media fight fake news, November 2016, [7] Shaun Walker, Putin admits Russian military presence in Ukraine for first time, December 2015, See also RT, Putin acknowledges Russian military serviceman were in Crimea, April 2014, [8] Simon Ostrovsky, Selfie Soldiers: Russia Checks in to Ukraine, Vice News, June 2015, [post_title] => How (not to) cover lies: Lessons of Russian disinformation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => not-cover-lies-lessons-russian-disinformation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-14 23:13:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-14 23:13:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [15] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1527 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:44:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:44:58 [post_content] => Introduction: Cracks in the Western (neo) liberal consensus Among many other things, 2016 will surely be remembered as the year that the terms ‘post truth’ and ‘fake news’ took root in political, journalistic, academic and popular discourse. Barely a week seems to go by where they are absent from headlines or the focus of a new call for academic papers. So pervasive is their use that they have become virtually devoid of meaning, with everyone from the US president to tin pot dictators invoking them to describe unfavourable news.   If we are suffering from a deficit in factual or evidence-based reporting, it is certainly not a new phenomenon. The British tabloid press will hardly be remembered as champions of truth-telling. For decades, media critics have lamented what they saw as a growing tendency among the press to privilege gossip over facts, sensationalism over serious news, and spectacle over informative reporting.[1]   But the same cannot be said of their broadcasting counterparts in the UK, and especially the BBC which continues to enjoy an unrivalled reputation for quality, accuracy and balance. According to Ofcom’s most recent data on news consumption, BBC television news is ranked higher than all of its competitors in this respect, with 61 percent of its users considering it both an accurate and trustworthy news source (compared to 45 percent for CNN and 35 percent for RT).[2]   In the global news market, the longstanding Anglo-American hegemony established through CNN and BBC World was first challenged by the rise of Qatar-based network Al Jazeera in the early 2000s.[3] The channel’s early success owed much to its reputation as a source of alternative frames for the US-led War on Terror, and the reactionary responses of US political elites seemed to underline its disruptive potential.[4] But it was the launch of its English-language channel in 2006, fronted by established and respected western journalists, which marked the most significant disruption to the BBC-CNN duopoly.   What Al Jazeera exposed in both the BBC and CNN was not lies or propaganda in a crude sense, nor an exclusive preoccupation with issues that conformed to a Western ideological agenda, nor the omission of critical perspectives of Western governments and ideals. But they did expose a tendency towards selection of stories and facts that, on balance, aligned with a Western neoliberal consensus and definition of world problems. It was into this fracturing and polarising global agenda that RT emerged with an explicit mission to cover issues and perspectives marginalised by the so-called ‘mainstream media’.   Underlying this discourse is an implicit critique of impartiality, and its association with news authority, credibility and professionalism. The problem with impartiality has always been about which critical perspectives are admitted into any given controversy or debate, the drawing of boundaries around what is acceptable criticism, beyond which ‘there is no alternative’.[5]   The ideology of ‘There is No Alternative’ – or ‘TINA’ as the phrase has become known[6] was originally popularised by Margaret Thatcher in her repeated dismissal of arguments against economic liberalism.[7] Its sentiment was later echoed in Francis Fukuyama’s declaration of the ‘end of history’ following the collapse of Soviet Communism in 1989, signalling “the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”[8]   This fostered an arena of debate within the Anglo-American channels that was circumscribed and restricted. It failed to draw adequate attention to falsehoods propagated by US and UK governments over everything from weapons of mass destruction to extraordinary rendition. And it failed to give a fair hearing to economic alternatives in the aftermath of the global financial crash. It marked the epitome of Western hegemonic power; the mechanism by which some alternatives are omitted from the consensus framework and as such, excluded from the realm of what is possible, realistic, or common sense.[9] Ben Bagdikian was perhaps the first to articulate the subtleties of this kind of filtering power when he pointed out that:   Most owners and editors no longer brutalize the news with the heavy hand dramatized in movies like “Citizen Kane” […] More common is something more subtle, more professionally respectable, and, in some respects, more effective: the power to treat some subjects accurately but briefly, to treat other subjects accurately but in depth, or in the conventional options every medium has of taking its own initiatives, carefully avoiding some subjects and enthusiastically pursuing others.[10]   A new kind of propaganda Though there is controversy and uncertainty over the global audience reach of RT, there is no doubt that its branding as an ‘alternative’ news channel has been effective in penetrating audiences in the West. Its critics rightly point out the lack of scrutiny applied to the Kremlin, but its journalists perceive their role differently: to counter imbalance in the Western broadcast hegemony. In this narrative, Putin – like Trump – is the perennial underdog, battling for a fair hearing against the oppressive force of mainstream consensus boundaries.   Of course, at the higher levels, that narrative is nothing more than a cynical exploitation and co-option of progressive discourse aimed ultimately at promoting the regressive and autocratic agenda of Putin. There are clearly fundamental differences between RT and the BBC that are probably best captured by the distinction between a state and public broadcaster. Although the BBC’s independence may be compromised in subtle and pervasive ways, it is not controlled by the British government in the way that RT is controlled by the Kremlin. Perhaps more importantly, the BBC’s editorial and compliance structure provide a stronger filter against factually inaccurate news as suggested by the testimony of former RT journalists. Sarah Firth was an RT reporter who resigned amid the controversy surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 during the height of the second Euromaidan conflict in Ukraine. Her subsequent comments on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show suggested that within ‘sensitive’ stories at least, RT’s mission was being undermined by factual recklessness:   I’ve worked at RT for five years and I’ve had my reasons for doing that and I’ve often very loudly defended RT and what they were trying to achieve. I think the problem is when it comes to stories like this it’s so sensitive you kind of really see what’s going on… It’s really tricky because I think when you look at some of the slightly inflammatory headlines that we have here, you can kind of see this…the idea of countering what the Western mainstream media does is a very valuable one but it’s not being done accurately. You’ve got to do it accurately. You’ve got to have the facts to back it up.[11]   Such qualified critiques reflect the contradictions at the heart of news in an ideologically polarised landscape. One recent study suggested that RT audiences were partly attracted to the channel because it was perceived as being ‘honest about lying’.[12] As with the above quote, it suggests that RT’s editorial mission and overarching narrative is perceived as legitimate and credible, even if some of its stories and journalistic practices are not.   Of course, the reality of international newsgathering is much more complex than is suggested by any simplistic binary between truth and falsehood. Distortions in coverage can emerge when some facts are selected and others excluded, or when the sources of evidence are not duly scrutinised. This was precisely what the New York Times famously apologised for in 2004 in respect of its coverage leading up to the Gulf War.[13]   Revolution or coup? Major political controversies also tend to hinge more often on conflicting interpretations of issues or events, rather than disputed evidence. In this respect, 20th February 2014 was a day that perhaps more than any other exposed the ideological fault lines between RT and the BBC. It marked the height of violent unrest in Kiev with at least 22 people killed in the main square amid fierce clashes between police and opposition activists. Two reports on that day – one by the BBC[14] and one by RT[15] – exemplified the contrasting pictures and contesting accounts of what took place within the same square, in the same city, on the same day. The contrast was all the more striking given that journalists from both channels were housed within the same hotel overlooking the square, and basing their reports on their own eye witness testimony.   A comparison between them reveals the distinct editorial selection decisions made at every level and in every aspect of the reporting: the selection of particular shots to use as accompaniment to the journalistic narrative; the selection of certain words or phrases used to describe or label key actors or groups within the conflict; the selection of issues to highlight as background or foreground context; and the selection of sources to reference or feature in the reports.   To begin with, much of the RT report is delivered as a live ‘two-way’ between a correspondent and anchor. This imbues not only a sense of urgency and drama, but also realism, with less reliance on an edited construct. The BBC’s report, on the other hand, is scripted and the tone more sombre and reflective. It too conveys a sense of realism but through an appeal to a different set of dramatic values. The RT report consists predominantly of live shots from an outdoor balcony overlooking the square, giving us a helicopter view in contrast to the BBC’s shots which consist predominantly of on-the-ground close ups. Underlying each is a distinct notion of journalistic authoritativeness: the accuracy and precision of close up footage combined with the formality of the scripted report, versus the balance and ‘realness’ of the live aerial perspective.   But the divergent frames emerge explicitly from the selection of particular types of sources, shots, language and issues in each report. The BBC report focused on the immediate context of the violence whilst the RT report gave comparatively more attention to the background context, including the alleged breaking of a truce by opposition fighters. The BBC featured interviews ‘on the ground’ with a protestor and doctor apparently treating injured protestors within the hotel-turned-makeshift-hospital, whilst RT featured commentary from a retired British police officer remarking on the inevitability of the police’s use of force under the circumstances. Both reports also make pronounced emotive appeals as regards the apparent brutality of the opposing side:   A few [protestors] had weapons but most were armed only with makeshift shields. They were gunned down mercilessly. Even those trying to rescue their comrades weren’t safe (BBC)   Our video agency Ruptly sent this footage of two police officers trying to help an injured colleague. Now here you can see them being caught in an explosion of some sort…we [also] obtained footage said to show one [police officer] needing an ambulance but the rioters apparently refusing (RT)   What is particularly striking in all of this is the routine use by RT of the terms ‘militants’ or ‘rioters’, compared to the BBC’s exclusive reliance on the term ‘protestors’. Above all else, this captures the divergent ideological standpoints underlying each narrative. Through the subtle selection of particular terminology, the respective broadcasters invoked diametrically opposed perspectives as to the causes, consequences and meaning of the day’s events. Despite their respective implicit claims to credibility and authority, both ultimately presented little more than a partisan account mirrored on the east-west worldview divide.   As for facts, they were clearly present in both stories. But neither offered much insight into the over-arching question of whether the violence was produced by a fascist-led coup of a democratically elected government or a repressive state hell-bent on crushing dissent. The truth, no doubt, lay somewhere in between. Conclusion: How to counter propaganda without using counter propaganda There is a burgeoning critical narrative of the BBC that suggests its impartiality commitment is an obstacle to offering a meaningful corrective to fake news[16], whether it stems from the Daily Mail, Donald Trump or RT. But there is equally a danger that in the ever-polarising news landscape, the BBC comes to perceive its role in ways not dissimilar to RT: countering what it considers to be the biased and imbalanced perspectives offered by others. Real impartiality in this context is not about providing countering perspectives, but scrutinising evidence and questioning claims on all sides in all controversies, with equal attention and scepticism.   If the BBC is to make any inroads into alienated audiences within and beyond Western borders, it must make strident efforts to reposition itself outside of the polarising news landscape. That requires a radical rethinking of the process by which certain stories, issues and frames achieve ascendancy in its international news agenda. Rather than treating RT as an outlier or an enemy, it should be used as a resource. Its contrasting agenda should prompt editors to ask, for instance, why the BBC’s coverage has tended to marginalise certain claims and perspectives.   Western governments should also rethink their response to the success of Putin’s soft power and recognise that the only way to win a propaganda war is not to fight it. The reality of audience polarisation in the new global divide is such that the recent launch of a new 24 hour Russian-language network by the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (via its media outposts such as Voice of America)[17] will likely fall on deaf ears, as will similar plans in place at the BBC.[18] For audiences in the grip of the Kremlin’s channels – the ones that must be reached if that grip is to be in any way loosened – it is the BBC and Voice of America who are the purveyors of propaganda and fake news.   What is needed more than ever is a different approach – a new channel or newsgathering service that truly transcends ideological divides and speaks truth to all centres of power on the global stage. The closest we’ve come to reaching for that ideal is Euronews – a pan-European news channel created in 1993 and uniquely funded by both Russia and Western governments. But the result has been the inverse of what is needed. Rather than scrutinising all power without fear or favour, it offers little scrutiny of any. It’s self-proclaimed role ‘to broadcast reality’[19]; a stenographic approach to news that overlooks the question of whose reality is being broadcast, or what role news channels themselves play in reality construction.   A news channel that does not start from such critical perspectives is one that is unlikely to challenge the ‘reality’ imposed by dominant worldviews emanating from the global North or South, East or West. It remains forever bound to the consensus framework; a news channel without journalism. Challenging truth claims on all sides, and engaging with the grey areas in between has always been the job of real journalism. Editors need to have the courage not only to call out fakery but to acknowledge when the facts are not known; to provide not just an accurate but a truly full and balanced picture of international events and issues, however uncertain and unresolved, and with all the unending messiness of truth.   [1] See, for instance, Franklin, Bob. 1997. Newszak and News Media. London: Arnold. [2] Ofcom. News Research 2016 weighted coded tables. [3] El-Nawawy, Mohammed and Farag, Adel Iskandar. 2002. Al-Jazeera: How the free Arab news network scooped the world and changed the Middle East. Boulder: Westview. [4] Alice Fordham, Up next on Al Jazeera: Donald Rumsfeld,, [5] Hall, Stuart (1982). The rediscovery of ideology: Return of the repressed in media studies. In M. Gurevitch, T. Bennet, J. Curran & J. Woollacott (eds.). Culture, Society and the Media. London: Methuen. [6] Downing, John; Titley, Gavan; Toynbee, Jason. 2014. Ideology critique: The challenge for media studies. Media, Culture and Society, 36: 878-887. [7] In the European sense of the term ‘liberalism.’ [8] Fukuyama, Francis. 1989. The end of history? The National Interest, summer: 3-18. [9] Miliband, Ralph. 1973. The State in Capitalist Society. London: Quartet Books. [10] Bagdikian, Ben. 2000 [1983]. The Media Monopoly. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 16. [11] The Andrew Marr Show paper review, July 2014, [12] Katerina Patin, Why has a Kremlin-controlled news network become a hit in the West?, Coda, January 2017, [13] From the editors; The Times and Iraq, New York Times, May 2004, [14] Ukraine death toll rises as truce unravels, BBC News, February 2014, [15] Ukraine bloodshed: Kiev death toll jumps to 77, RT, February 2014, [16] Catherine Bennett, The BBC’s fixation on ‘balance’ skews the truth,, September 2016, [17] Broadcasting Board of Governors, BBG launches 24/7 Russian-language network, February 2017, [18] James Panichi and Alex Spence, BBC enters Putin’s media war, Politico, September 2015, [19] See [post_title] => In search of credibility: RT and the BBC in a ‘post-truth’ world [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => search-credibility-rt-bbc-post-truth-world [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 01:07:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 01:07:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [16] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1529 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:43:24 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:43:24 [post_content] => Sputnik goes phutnik In April 2015, the Sputnik propaganda news agency launched local-language services in all four Nordic nations. Sputnik is a growing arm of Kremlin influence, with content published in 32 languages from Abkhaz to Vietnamese. But its foray into the Nordics was brief: less than a year later, in early March 2016, it shut all four services down.[1]   The scale of the failure is apparent from the outlets' social media followings. Sputnik Sverige, in Sweden, gained 356 followers on Twitter in a year's operation. Sputnik Suomi, in Finland, did half as well, with 174. Sputnik Danmark only managed 132, while Sputnik Norge, in Norway, gained just 102.[2]   Other Russian attempts at influence in the same period also appear to have backfired. Most famously, in June 2015 Russia's ambassador to Sweden, Viktor Tatarintsev, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper in an interview that Russia would take "military countermeasures" if Sweden were to join NATO.[3] His comment followed a sharp rise in Swedish support for NATO accession, triggered by Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014: support had been only 17% in 2012, but jumped to 31% in 2014.[4]   Tatarintsev's threat did not initially have the intended consequences: according to a poll published in September 2015, 41% of Swedes said that they favoured accession, while 39% opposed it.[5] The long-term effect may have been more substantial: by July 2016, support for joining NATO had slipped to 33% of respondents.[6] Moreover, when the Swedish parliament ratified a Host Nation Support agreement with NATO in May 2016,[7] both far-right[8] and far-left[9] MPs argued that a rapprochement with NATO could "increase the tension in our neighbourhood" and lead to Sweden being targeted by "others", comments seen as referring primarily to Russia and its threats. Nonetheless, the agreement was approved by an overwhelming majority of 291-21,[10] and popular support for NATO in July 2016 remained double the 2012 figure.   In Finland, meanwhile, scepticism towards Russia has grown sharply since the 2014 Crimean annexation. A poll released in December 2016 showed that 50% of Finns considered Russia a threat, compared with a figure of just 28% in 2010.[11] Given these diplomatic and communication failures, it is worth examining some of the factors in Sweden and Finland which may have contributed to them.   Awareness is the key One key factor in both Finland and Sweden is a high degree of public awareness of the dangers of disinformation and propaganda. In February 2015, Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro published a report on the so-called ‘troll factory’ in St. Petersburg, a clandestine operation in which employees were paid to work 12-hour shifts posting pro-Russian and anti-Western content online.[12] The social media trolling she received as a result was so aggressive that she became an international figure in her own right,[13] and brought the concept of Russian trolling into mainstream Finnish discourse.   A few months later, in June 2015, Finnish research Saara Jantunen published a book titled ‘Infosota’ (The info war), exposing the techniques and practices of Russian disinformation in and around Ukraine.[14] Jantunen was also savaged by online trolls as a result, but the term ‘info war’ became common currency in Finland, and a lively debate arose on how to counter it.[15]   A striking example occurred on 4th December, after a Finnish man shot dead three women in the town of Imatra, not far from the Russian border, and a popular destination for Russian shoppers. An anonymous account on Twitter quickly launched the false claim that the shooter had been a neo-Nazi in the Finnish Defence Forces, and his victims had been Russian women. (In fact, all three were Finns.) The account user addressed the claim to a number of news outlets in an apparent attempt to launder it into the media.   Within half an hour, Jantunen and other Finnish observers had debunked the claim online, aggressively pushing the rebuttal to the media outlets which had been initially targeted, and labelling it ‘pro-Russian propaganda’. Over the following 24 hours, the anonymous account holder confessed to having staged the fake as a ‘troll test’, then deleted the account. The perpetrator has not been identified and there is insufficient evidence to prove a Russian connection, but the incident does show the awareness to the danger of fake news which is prevalent in Finland.[16]   The concept of information war has also penetrated the mainstream in Sweden. One 2016 article in the culture section of Dagens Nyheter was headlined, ‘We have to relate to the fact that we are living in an information war’. The author, Ola Larsmo, wrote, ‘What every thinking person has to relate to is that we live in the midst of an information war; from Putin's ‘troll factories’ where disinformation is produced industrially for all the world's comment fields and twitter feeds, to the Swedish racists who clone themselves with thirty different aliases from which they can play 'each his own public outcry' and threaten journalists, and to Islamic State's nicely produced web magazine Dabiq, where terror and genocide are packaged as something attractive and adventurous."[17]   Another leader in tabloid Expressen was even starker, claiming simply, ‘We are under attack by Russian propaganda’.[18] On 11th December, the head of Sweden's Military Intelligence and Security Directorate, Gunnar Karlsson, said in a TV interview that Russia was the single most visible actor targeting Sweden with disinformation: "The actor above all we see is Russia ... It can be about spreading false information, twisting the truth, pushing some arguments more than others to complicate the picture of what is happening.”[19]   It is in this context that the failure of Sputnik's Nordic branches should be seen. Public trust in the mainstream media is high. According to a poll published by Dagens Nyheter on March 31, 2016, over 70% of the population felt a high or moderate level of trust in the national radio and TV stations; around half had high or moderate trust in the main daily newspapers, with just a few percent actively distrusting them (a large number of respondents replied 'neither trust nor mistrust' or 'don't know').[20] Sputnik Sverige was widely represented in the mainstream media as a disinformation tool.[21] It was seldom cited, and when it was, it was often presented as a proxy for the Kremlin's point of view. It was also blatant. According to a magisterial study of its output by Swedish researchers Martin Kragh and Sebastian Åsberg, ‘The most common themes in 2015 were Crisis in the West (705 articles), Positive image of Russia (643) and Western aggressiveness (499). These pervasive categories are followed, in descending order, by the themes Negative image of countries perceived to be in the West’s sphere of influence (424), West is malicious (309), International sympathy and cooperation with Russia (304), Western policy failures (112) and Divisions within the Western alliance (72).’[22] Added to this, Sputnik Sverige was mocked for the poor quality of its Swedish language. Thus its ability to pass disinformation into the mainstream was severely limited. Sputnik Suomi received similar treatment. In effect, the attempt was too obvious to deceive an audience already aware of the potential threat.   Adaptation and indirect approaches However, the closure of the Nordic branches of Sputnik has not diminished the information pressure on Sweden and Finland; according to sources interviewed for this paper in both countries, the emphasis has shifted to more indirect influence, working through local proxies, especially on the political fringes.   In Sweden, the name most often cited in this regard is Egor Putilov, a mythical Russian journalist who wrote in Swedish for leading outlets including Aftonbladet, Expressen and Sveriges Radio, and whose blog posts criticising Sweden's migration policy were regularly cited by leaders of the far-right Sverigedemokrater (Sweden Democrats, SD). In September 2016, Aftonbladet broke the story that there was no such person as Egor Putilov: the name was one of at least five pseudonyms used by a Russian immigrant who worked for the SD in the Swedish parliament.[23]   The scandal deepened when Sveriges Radio revealed that ‘Putilov’ had bought a house outside Stockholm from a Russian businessman (and since convicted criminal) for 6 million kronor (approximately £540,000), and sold it two months later for double the price.[24] According to security experts interviewed by the radio programme, this made him a direct security risk.   This brought the scandal to SD, because as an SD employee, ‘Putilov’ had been security cleared by SD, not by the parliament's security services.[25] His link to Russia was seen as particularly significant because SD had a record of voting in support of Russia in the European Parliament, a pattern documented by leading journalist Patrik Oksanen,[26] and had opposed the NATO Host Nation Support Agreement in the Swedish Parliament.   In the wake of the Putilov scandal, Oksanen reported a number of other links between senior SD members, the European far-right, and Russia,[27] reflecting a pattern which has been identified across Europe and is seen as a key channel for Kremlin influence.[28] Oksanen called for SD to be excluded from the parliamentary committee overseeing the work of the security police, arguing that "even if an agreement can be reached with SD in other questions, such as the environment and infrastructure, it's entirely excluded to give the party any sort of influence in defence, security and constitutional questions." No proof of direct collusion between SD and the Kremlin has been published, but the Putilov scandal has raised questions in Sweden about potential Kremlin influence through the political extremes.   Strategic point: Gotland Another key theme which emerged in 2015-16 was the status of the Swedish island of Gotland, which lies south-east of Stockholm, well out into the waters of the Baltic Sea. This is arguably the most strategically important point in the Baltic, as it sits alongside the main shipping lane between Russia, the Baltic States and the West. It is Swedish sovereign territory and was heavily militarised during the Cold War, but was demilitarised in the peaceful period thereafter.   On 20 May 2015, Russian researcher Viktor Kremenyuk argued that Gotland should be a neutral zone, claiming that it had been neutral in the 1920s.[29] The comment provoked alarm in Sweden, where it was seen as both factually incorrect and implicitly threatening,[30] especially following reports that the Russian military had exercised a landing on Gotland that March.[31] Swedish officials say that various Russian commentators have since echoed the theme.   The Kremlin media and Russian officials have added to Swedish disquiet. Sputnik's English service has repeatedly labelled Sweden as "neurotic" and "paranoid" over its Gotland fear[32] - terms often used to denigrate Western criticism of Russia's aggression.[33] In April 2016, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeated the threat of military countermeasures in an interview with daily Dagens Nyheter.[34]   Once more, however, the pressure appears to have been counterproductive: in September 2016, in a surprise move, Sweden returned the first military unit to permanent basing on Gotland.[35]   Finland – domestic actors In Finland, the Kremlin's narrative is supported by a mixture of domestic and anonymous online actors; however, they appear to have had less political impact and are limited to smaller groups. This is partly because Finland's main anti-immigration and Eurosceptic party, the True Finns, is extremely critical of the Kremlin, closing off a channel of influence which has proven effective in other countries.[36]   The names most often mentioned in the context of Russian disinformation in Finland are Johan Bäckman, a commentator who represents the Kremlin-founded Russian Institute for Strategic Studies in the Nordic countries,[37] and scandal-focused tabloid MV-Lehti, together with its chief editor, Ilja Janitskin.   Bäckman is a well-known figure in Finland, with a record of making controversial statements. He has, for example, called the Finnish social services' interventions in child custody cases including Russian parents a "very profitable business",[38] accused the US and NATO of planning "provocations" against Russia,[39] and called Jessikka Aro a "well-known agent of the American-Baltic secret services".[40] His statements validate the Kremlin's narrative to a Finnish and international audience; however, he is sufficiently well known in this role in Finland that his impact is limited.   MV-Lehti's leanings are strongly anti-immigrant, anti-establishment and pro-Russian. It, too, is known for its attacks on Kremlin critics, including Aro. However, in October 2016 the Finnish police issued a European Arrest Warrant for chief editor Janitskin, reportedly on suspicion of aggravated defamation, money collection offences, illegal threats, and copyright offences.[41] MV-Lehti continued publishing, but the scandal has hindered its ability to spread disinformation beyond a core, committed far-right audience.   At the same time, Finland serves as the subject of disinformation aimed primarily at other countries. An example of the latter emerged on 1 December 2016, when a Russian blog ran a story that Finland had become the first country to drop EU sanctions on Russia.[42] The story was a twisted version of a Financial Times report on Finnish economic meetings with Russia.[43] A series of accounts began tweeting the story, and continued to do so for days;[44] some of the accounts involved appear to specialise in spreading pro-Kremlin messaging.[45] The news was false: Finland had not changed its position on sanctions, as the original FT story made clear. Given the language, the main target appears to have been Finland's Russian-speaking community, and the Russian public more generally. However, the narrative intent appears to have been to undermine the EU's semblance of unity, using Finland in disinformation, rather than disinformation in Finland.   Conclusion: adaptation and flexibility Thus, Russia's approach to disinformation and influence in Finland and Sweden is characterised by adaptation and flexibility. The Sputnik experiment was a failure, revealing the deep scepticism in both countries towards Moscow's direct channels. Since then, evidence has emerged of a more indirect approach.   Sweden and Finland are both part of the bigger strategic picture. From the Kremlin's point of view, the priority appears to be to keep them out of NATO; following that, the imperative seems to be to influence their domestic policies, especially in decisions concerning defence. So far, however, this approach has been of mixed effectiveness. Awareness of the challenge of disinformation continues to grow; defence decisions are taken on the basis of a potential Russian threat. The Kremlin will continue to attempt to exert influence on Finnish and Swedish decision-making, but so far, it has met with limited success. [1] Trude Pettersen, Sputnik closes Nordic language services, Barents Observer, March 2016, [2] The Twitter accounts are still online and can be viewed at the handles @Sputnik_Se, @Sputnik_Fi, @Sputnik_Dk and @Sputnik_Norge. [3] Zachary Davies Boren, Russia warns Sweden it will face military action if it joins Nato, The Independent, 19 June 2015, [4] Nearly one third of Swedes want to join NATO, The Local, May 2015, [5] More Swedes want to join NATO than stay out, The Local, September 2015, [6] More Swedes now against NATO membership, The Local, July 2016, [7] Yes to memorandum of understanding with NATO on host nation support, Swedish Parliament statement, May 2016, [8] Amendment to motion 2015/16:3375 opposing the Swedish government's proposal on Host Nation Support, Sverigedemokrater, published by the Swedish Parliament, April 2016, [9] Amendment to motion 2015/16:3375 opposing the Swedish government's proposal on Host Nation Support, Venstrepartiet, published by the Swedish Parliament, April 2016, [10] Charles Duxbury, Sweden ratifies NATO cooperation agreement, Wall Street Journal, 25 May 2016, [11] Russia more feared but NATO less popular in Finland, New Europe, December 2016, [12] Jessikka Aro and Mikä Mäkeläinen, YLE Kioski traces the origins of Russian propaganda, February 2015, [13] See for example Andrew Higgins, Effort to expose Russia's 'troll army' draws vicious retaliation, New York Times, May 2016, [14] The book has not been translated into English, but information can be found online at . [15] See for example the Finnish Wikipedia page Troll (info war), at [16] Ben Nimmo, Donara Barojan and Nika Aeksejeva, Tragedy and the Troll, Atlantic Council Digital Forensic Research Lab,  December 2016, [17] Ola Larsmo, Vi måste forhall oss till att vi lever mitt i ett informationskrig, Dagens Nyheter,  September 2016, [18] Anna Dahlberg, Vi är under attack från rysk propaganda, Expressen, December 2016, [19] Must-chefen pekar ut Ryssland som it-hot, SvT, December 2016, [20] Hans Rosén, Högt betyg til mediers trovärdighet, DN, March 2016, [21] See for example Hemligt grupp ska möta ryskt informationskrig, Dagens Nyheter, 27 October 2015, [22] Martin Kragh and Sebastian Åsberg, Russia’s strategy for influence through public diplomacy and active measures: the Swedish case, Journal of Strategic Studies, January 2017, [23] Alexander, 34, är SD:s hemliga desinformatör, Aftonbladet, September 2016, [24] SD-tjänstemannen gjorde miljonvinst med rysk affärsman - "potentiell säkerhetsrisk", enlight eksperter, Sveriges Radio, 23  September 2016, . [25] Juan Flores, SD bryter tystnaden om Egor Putilov, Dagens Nyheter,  September 2016, [26] Patrik Oksanen, Russia-index: 11 new EU-sceptic parties added, EU-bloggen, January 2015, [27] Patrik Oksanen, Därför burde SD genast kastas ut av Säpos insynsråd, September 2016, [28] Anton Shekhovtsov, The far right front of Russian active measures in Europe, blog, August 2016, [29] Rysk ekspert: Håll Gotland neutralt, TV4, May 2015, [30] Johan Wiktorin, Med lögnen som vapen, Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences, May 2015, [31] 'Russia rehearsed invasion of Sweden', The Local, June 2015, [32] See for example Nordic Neurosis: Sweden scared Russia is eager to get Gotland, Sputnik, June 2016,, and Milking it: Sweden benefits from own psychological warfare, Sputnik, October 2016, [33] See for example Sputnik, July 2016, [34] Michael Winiarski, Om Sverige går med i NATO, kommer vi att vidta nödvändiga åtgärder, Dagens Nyheter, April 2016, [35] Sweden just created a permanent troop on Gotland to "take responsibility for the country's sovereignty", Business Insider Nordic, September 2016, [36] Patrik Oksanen, Russia-index: 11 new EU-sceptic parties added, EU-bloggen, January 2015, [37] Johan Bäckman, Russian Institute for Strategic Studies website, [38] Seizing children from families is very profitable business, expert says, Sputnik, December 2014, [39] US and NATO up for new anti-Russia provocation, this time in the Baltic - expert, RIA Novosti, August 2014, [40] Ruskline, Johan Bäckman:"Many Finnish journalists are recruited by the US-Baltic special services,  September 2014, [41] Warrant issued for arrest of MV-lehti editor, Finland Times, October 2016, [42] Military Review, Media: Finland removes economic sanctions against Russia,, December 2016, [43] Richard Milne, Norway and Finland thaw relations with Russia, Financial Times, November 2016, [44] For example on December 2016. [45] For example, an account set up in 2014 and based on the image of the "polite people", Russian special forces who seized Crimea. [post_title] => Failures and adaptations: Kremlin propaganda in Finland and Sweden [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => failures-adaptations-kremlin-propaganda-finland-sweden [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 01:10:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 01:10:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [17] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1536 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:38:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:38:20 [post_content] => Introduction There has already been much discussion in the Russia-watching world about the tools Russia uses to spread its influence, and it is quite an arsenal.[1] They include a worldwide media programme with an annual budget of over US$300 million, the use of social media trolls and co-option of tiny media outlets to generate false grassroots ‘movements’ and stories consistent with Kremlin messaging, sometimes adopted by unsuspecting Europeans and Americans, that target minority communities said to threaten national ‘values’ to the point that they spur physical threats, as well as garden variety hacking and outright buying of influence.[2] One of the most-discussed has been Russia’s support to disruptive political parties in Europe,[3] including those on the far-right (Front National)[4] and centre right (sections of the Republicans)[5] in France, radical right and far right parties such as the Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany[6], Liga Nord in Italy,[7] Jobbik[8] and Viktor Orban’s Fidesz in Hungary[9], and the far-left (Syriza[10] and Golden Dawn[11] in Greece, Podemos[12] in Spain, as well as a number of Green parties throughout Europe[13]). However, support to political parties is just one piece of a larger network of interconnected technologies and tools. These tools rest on the foundation of a worldwide media program with an annual budget of over US$300 million,[14] set to broadcast in 30 languages,[15] conducted through RT, Rossiya Segodnya, and Russia Beyond the Headlines, including a Youtube channel, print, and TV media in English, Arabic, Spanish, German, and French, as well as Russian, that peddles disinformation,[16] half- or partial-truths,[17] false stories,[18] and weaponises false media narratives[19] especially about minority populations such as migrants[20] or LGBT communities[21]. Their online vitriol targeting minority communities, sometimes unwittingly adopted by the mainstream media,[22] can lead to offline physical threats.   An important component in the Kremlin’s corrupt networks of false messaging are what look like legitimate grassroots-developed journalistic outfits and NGOs[23] that support Russia’s anti-refugee and pro-nationalist and authoritarian messaging – but are actually government-linked organisations[24] that act as if they were real foundations,[25] think tanks,[26] or civic interest groups[27]. However, these organisations exist to echo back, seemingly using an independent voice, the strategic messages placed by the Kremlin that target minority communities in service of sowing conflict and countering democratic visions of human rights. Some of these ‘non-governmental’ organisations are formed around Orthodox religions,[28] conservative Christian values,[29] or Russian language[30] and culture[31]. Some even include paramilitary[32] support to far-right activists[33] and training for youth[34] to ‘provide protection’ against the scary foreign influence of migrants and refugees. Interestingly enough, the foreign influence deemed a threat are people fleeing violence that is itself supported and fomented by Russia, as it has supported Assad’s brutal war in Syria.   The faux civil society groups funded by the Kremlin and its agents include organisations that engage in observation (though not actual monitoring[35]) of elections, legal cases, and demonstrations, to protect the sovereignty of the state (instead of rights to fair elections, trials or freedom of speech). They include associations,[36] conferences[37] and forums,[38] some of which bring together separatist movements[39] or conservative far-right movements[40] and parties together in Russia to share ideas, and some of which bring westerners to interact with anti-western ideologies[41] in the hope that the pro-Russia ideas will catch on. All share a disdain for what they perceive as western concepts of individual rights, democratic processes, and protections for minority groups such as migrants, Muslims and LGBTQ groups.  These organisations do not work alone to foment narratives about the danger of minority groups or lack of security in democracies. Their work is buttressed by other tools, such as hacker collectives[42] that strategically release information to foment fear, and economic incentives to influence key policy-makers; a tool that allows non-governmental entities to collaborate in affecting policy with Russian sympathisers in the Governments or Parliaments of the Czech Republic[43], Hungary[44], Estonia[45], Latvia[46], Lithuania[47] and Bulgaria[48].   NGOs can also be used for intelligence-gathering. In 2013, Yury Zaytsev, the head of the Russian Center for Science and Culture, was investigated for spying.[49] The Center had been setting up all-expense paid trips[50] for young professional Americans, including young advisors to politicians, apparently as an effort to cultivate them as intelligence assets. Other investigations have turned up outsized donations from NGOs to pro-Russian political parties,[51] or suspicions that the organisation is a listening post. [52]   How GONGOs, zombies and fake NGOs promote ideologies harmful to human rights The Russian government uses think tanks and foundations that either it has funded, or Russian-government-associated oligarchs have funded, to spread false messages that target minorities in achieving their goals of (1) presenting the EU as unsafe; (2) presenting democracy as a failed experiment; and (3) urging the need for an alternative to democracy – often proposed as the Eurasianist ideology of Alexander Dugin. Specifically, these think tanks and foundations disseminate messages that migrants and Muslims are overwhelming the EU, are taking resources that should be spent on the ‘rightful’ citizens of the nation, or that the EU and its democracy are a degraded institution because it is too accepting of LGBTQ communities. The harm in this approach is that, unlike the democracy-promotion agenda of the west, it is based on little or no scientific evidence or analysis, and it targets minority communities in ways that can predictably lead to violence and harm being committed against these communities.   Russian use of non-governmental tools to spread anti-Western messaging often takes the form of NGO ‘experts’ that legitimise destabilising messages, or legitimise Russian-slanted forums (such as a single French ‘expert’ presenting at the Dialogue of Civilizations). The messages they legitimise often point out weaknesses in Western policies and push them to an overwrought conclusion. For example, they argue that the West cannot guarantee the safety of citizens due to infiltration by too many threatening migrants, or the idea that the EU cannot deliver on its economic promises, making it a worthless endeavour for those eyeing membership (Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Serbia). Three specific strains of this argument are prominent.   First, false NGOs and associations posit that Russia, the leader of the Russian cultural world, must act to protect its compatriots from threats.[53] This philosophy comes straight from the fascist theory of Eurasianism[54] put forth by Putin’s advisor Alexander Dugin,[55] who believes that the Eurasian world of compatriots must unite against the West. These compatriots can be of Russian heritage[56] (such as Germans from Russia or Russlanddeutsche[57]), Russian speakers[58] (in Crimea or the Baltics[59]), or even Slavs (Serbia)[60]. The theory has also been used to offer protection to peacekeepers[61] in the perceived Russian sphere of influence (Georgia in 2008), or those that simply agree with Russia’s ideas. It relies on a distorted view of the ‘responsibility to protect’ language[62] that was used to justify the US bombing of Kosovo in 1999, and further distorts the principle from one that aims to protect against crimes against humanity to one that sanctions military involvement[63] to protect against discrimination and alleged language rights violations.[64] Russia urges these groups to see the West as antagonistic and migrants or refugees as enemies who are offered benefits that they are not provided.[65] Russia has established paramilitary organisations sometimes registered as NGOs (for example in Slovakia[66], Ukraine[67], Serbia[68], the Baltics[69]), allegedly so Russian compatriots can protect themselves, since European governments will not do so.   Second, Russia seeks to create an infrastructure of groups that support ‘sovereign democracy’[70] and state security at the expense of individual rights, portraying universal human rights as a Western ‘perspective’.[71] Russia argues that minority groups are given protections despite their threatening[72] (migrant, Muslim, LGBT) ways of life, at the risk and expense of other citizens. This view buttresses the increasing nationalism[73] seen in places like Germany, France, Hungary, Poland and indeed  the United States and United Kingdom – some of which in Europe is also supported by Russia through the funding of far-right and far-left political parties. As set out above Russia has been documented as providing some kind of support – either financial, information-based, or other in-kind support, to both far-right parties – such as the Front National in France, Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany, and Freedom Party in Austria, and far-left parties such as Syriza in Greece, socialist parties in Bulgaria and Moldova, and Green parties in Europe; it also has supported separatist movements in places as diverse as Spain, Ireland and the US states of Texas and California.[74] These nationalist groups urge their governments to return to a prior, theoretically safer, time in their history – including a return to greater power to the nationalist and fascist government or movement.   Third, Russia claims leadership in the community that seeks to protect ‘traditional values’[75] domestically and internationally. It has introduced at least four resolutions[76] in support of ‘family values’ and against LGBTQ rights, in the UN Human Rights Council, and passed one in 2016.[77] Russian religious right NGOs worked to contribute to these resolutions, providing a false veneer of legitimacy as ‘experts’,[78] since the information they provide is not based on scientific studies conducted through a peer-reviewed process, and are often merely opinions, not facts. They also organised the religious right as an international political bloc,[79] and argued that the US and EU have denigrated their morals because they recognise and accept the rights of LGBTIQ communities.[80]   It is important to note that the dissemination of false ideas and stories by Russian-funded outlets and NGOs is different from lazy journalism[81] that fails to fact-check information before publishing it. These organisations are strategically used as an arm of Russian foreign policy in that they are provided funding from Russia and they disseminate specific and calculated forms of messaging that emphasise false failures or weaknesses of the West, with the goal of destabilising democratic societies.   Example one: The Vladimir Yakunin network Vladimir Yakunin, formerly the chair of Russian Railways, is a close associate and former fellow-KGB associate of Vladimir Putin’s, and is under sanctions in the United States as a result.[82] He has developed high-profile organisations, including exchange programmes, discussion forums and values-based organisations, in at least five European states: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France and Greece, and has close ties to the US religious right. It was Yakunin’s payments – through his NGO[83]  – to politician Edgar Savisaar that provided the basis for Estonia’s investigation into Savisaar’s acceptance of bribes in 2015.[84] Yakunin helped pay for the religious-right World Congress of Families Moscow Conference in 2014, amid controversy over Russia’s invasion of Crimea, and he has funded a variety of Orthodox charities supporting the ‘traditional values’ movement.[85] Yakunin is on the Board of Trustees of Russkiy Mir, one of the Russian government’s global aid organisations that[86] funds programmes for Russian compatriots globally. He has close ties with Konstantin Kosachev, head of the biggest Russian international aid organisation, Rossotrudnichestvo.[87] Yakunin’s network deserves suspicion as a dissemination point for Kremlin ideologies with links to cases of alleged corruption such as Savisaar.   Yakunin’s network includes the St. Andrew the First Called Foundation, established in Geneva in 2013, the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, established in Berlin in 2016, [88] and the World Public Dialogue of Civilizations, originally established in Vienna[89] but now taken over by an associate, Walter Schwimmer (also involved in the Berlin organisation). All three follow the same ideological line, disseminating reports and presenting conferences supporting the idea that democracy is ‘failing’ due to its acceptance of LGBT rights and of migrants, such that a new – authoritarian and Eurasianist – model must be developed (with a reference to Putin advisor Alexander Dugin) that would be better able to ensure national security. Yakunin also has an Endowment in Geneva intended to provide funding to this NGO empire. [90]   In Paris, Yakunin and Assemblée Nationale member Thierry Mariani jointly lead the conservative Dialogue Franco-Russe,[91] whose stated aim is cooperation between the two countries. Members include prominent conservative and establishment figures such as former French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing and companies such as Airbus, Alstom, and Bouygues.[92] Mariani, through the Dialogue, invited (and paid for) a group of Assemblée Nationale members to travel to Moscow and Crimea in July 2015, despite warnings that they were being exploited.[93]   These organisations serve to spread eurosceptic, anti-LGBT, and anti-migrant views throughout the capitals of Europe.[94] The Berlin think tank reportedly will serve as a headquarters of a worldwide network aimed at making ‘Russia’s view of the world popular’.[95] The World Public Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute hosts a network of those that ‘share the values of the Foundation’ in each of the 43 states in the European Union.[96] His Paris organisation’s influence was cited, alongside the new Orthodox Church (discussed below),[97] as a reason for the uptick in pro-Russian sentiment among French politicians.   Yakunin’s World Public Forum also organises the Rhodes Forum annually in Greece as a platform for conservative researchers, scientists, politicians to discuss ‘alternative models’ to democracy.[98] The 2016 Forum included the Prime Ministers of Hungary and Slovakia, Victor Orban and Robert Fico, and the Czech President Milos Zeman.[99]   Yakunin is also a major funder of religious right propaganda against LGBTQ communities. His wife, Natalya, is President of the Sanctity of Motherhood organisation[100] - a ‘pro-family movement’ which aims to instill the ‘image of a traditional family with three and more children as the social norm’.[101]  He is one of the leading members of the World Congress of Families, an American organisation[102] that holds an international conference each year to strategise around implementation of far-right religious policies globally. In 2014, the conference was supposed to be held in Moscow, but some US organisations pulled out,[103] appalled at Russia’s invasion of Crimea. The conference was held under a different name – with funding from Vladimir Yakunin and Konstantin Malofeev[104] and the participation of at least five[105] US organisations. Leaders of WCF[106] include Bryan Fischer, Pat Buchanan, Franklin Graham, Jack Hanick (formerly of Fox News) from the US, and Vladimir Yakunin, Konstantin Malofeev, Natalia Yakunina, Yelena Mizulina (Duma member who introduced both the anti-LGBT propaganda law in 2013 and the recently-passed law decriminalising domestic violence) and Alexei Komov (director of external affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church) from Russia.   Yakunin’s network is one to watch, not least because he is a true believer in Kremlin propaganda. In a June 2016 interview conducted through his St. Andrew the First Called Foundation, Yakunin echoed the view that the Kremlin is only defending itself in developing media and foundation-based propaganda, stating that “The Kremlin is properly counteracting anti-Russian propaganda,” with its actions.   Example two: The French network In addition to Yakunin’s Dialogue Franco-Russe, which has developed solid links between the Kremlin and politicians and businesses, several new Russian-funded organisations have been established in Paris to spread Russia’s favoured anti-human rights ideologies. This is a worrying trend in light of France’s presidential election this year with pro-Russia candidates and parties having a chance to gain power. Recent construction of a huge Russian Orthodox Church in Paris is also causing a stir.   The Institute for Democracy and Cooperation (IDC) modelled on the US NGO Freedom House, was created in 2008 to ‘help citizens understand Russia’s position on human rights and democracy’.[107] The organisation defends the idea of ‘managed democracy’ and human rights based on traditional values, subjugated to national interests. The Paris office, l’Institute de la Democratie et de la Cooperacion, is headed by Natalya Narochnitskaya,[108] a former Duma member for the ultranationalist Rodina (Fatherland) party. It invites representatives of the Catholic and radical right to its conferences, legitimising their fringe views.[109] The IDC NGOs have been described by Andrey Makarychev as ‘propaganda platforms rather than… intellectual think tanks’.[110]   The Alliance France-Europe-Russie (AAFER) is chaired by Fabrice Sorlin, a former far-right National Front party candidate, and head of the far-right nationalist Dies Irae[111], which has been accused of racist and anti-Semitic behaviour. The organisation has stated in the past that it is dedicated to ‘uniting the Anglo-Saxon world (sic) based on shared ‘Christian values.’[112] Sorlin, along with Brian Brown from the United States (see below) collaborates with the conservative religious movement in Russia, specifically with Yelena Mizulina, Vladimir Yakunin and Konstantin Malofeev of the World Congress of Families to promote ‘Christian values’.[113]   Vladimir Potanin, owner of Norilsk Nickel, is an active Russian Orthodox promoter who finances the Russian Orthodox (Church) University. Potanin was also awarded contracts by Putin to build and operate Olympic facilities for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. His Potanin Foundation supports cultural exchanges, a French-Russia bilateral training programme for youth, and student fellowships.[114]   The Eurasian Observatory for Democracy in Elections is both a think tank[115] and a faux election monitoring organisation.[116] It is considered a ‘shadow’ or ‘faux’ election-monitoring organisation because it appears to have been created solely for the purpose of ‘monitoring’ the Crimean referendum; its monitors (whose identities were not made public) were apparently chosen based on their ideological views and not on their expertise on election issues; and because its report failed to consider issues of threats and intimidation against voters, and an abnormally forshortened time period for information dissemination prior to the vote.[117] It has connections to France’s Front National, and follows closely the ideology of Alexander Dugin. It disseminates pro-Russian media regarding the failings of the US and Europe and the strength of Russia’s Duginist ideology. The organisation sent a Front National representative to observe (and approve) the Crimean referendum on joining Russia.[118]   The new Kremlin-funded Royal Orthodox Church, just steps away from the Eiffel Tower, serves several strategic goals. It has been called an intelligence listening post[119], located next to the apartment of the Secretary General of Defence, with other ministries nearby. By adding cultural services inside the building, the Russian Embassy designated it a diplomatic location, preventing French investigation of its activities.[120] (Similar concerns have been raised regarding the Russian Orthodox Church in Strasbourg, conveniently located close to the European Parliament).[121]   Russian Compatriot Policy operates in France through the Russian Center for Science and Culture which provides cultural programmes to dual nationals, whom they refer to as ‘binationals’.[122] The Conseil de coordination du Forum des Russes de France also offers trips to Russia for French young people[123] – presumably with an eye toward developing their sympathies or gaining intelligence.   Finally the World Without Nazism is a global organisation funded by Russian ex-politician Boris Shpigel,[124] who is close to, and gets funding from, the Kremlin. It is registered in France, though it operates throughout the EU, particularly in the Nordic and Baltic states, and the US, to foment disruption associated with ideologies that the EU is unsafe and democracy deteriorating. [125]   Conclusion In the last few years, we have learned much about the Russian government’s view of ‘foreign influence’ through its development and application of foreign agent laws restricting relationships between NGOs and media and foreign individuals and governments. Russia’s concern has always been based on its view that whoever provides funding to an entity controls the messages it puts out.  While this has not been true of US and European government funding – by and large, as long as recipients were not committing human rights violations themselves, their messages were not restricted – we now see that when Russia wields its development funding (and the funding of its oligarch partners) as a foreign policy tool in support of foundations and think tanks, it expects to and does control the narratives and messages put out. Indeed, it finely hones those messages as part of a global strategy aimed at combating universal application of human rights standards and to present Western democracy as a failed experiment that must be replaced.   The ideologies supported and fomented by these Russian-agents acting as ‘independent’ non-governmental organisations are not only human rights-violating, they threaten the security of the states where they operate, and regional security in the EU and NATO. By stirring up hatred of migrants and refugees, Russia urges a denial of assistance and services to communities in dire need, contributing to the growth of violent extremism as communities lose hope. By fomenting anti-LGBTQ hatred, and anti-Muslim hatred, Russia contributes to an increase in xenophobic crimes committed against these groups – and perceived members of these groups – all over Europe. The US and Europe must initiate strategies to combat this messaging, and the tools that drive it, in order to preserve not only democratic governance, but also human rights values themselves.   Recommendations Enforce existing transparency regulations that require the filing of annual reports by NGOs and media outlets in countries like France, Germany and the Baltics. European NGOs report that Russian-funded NGOs working in their regions simply do not comply with local rules and laws requiring that they make their donors public and provide annual reports. If organisations are not filing the reports where required, the state or EU regulatory agency should develop a mechanism to make follow-up requests and even apply sanctions or fines for lack of transparency. Reports should be publicly available under NGO transparency rules.   The European Parliament has aimed to make the EU Registry of Lobbying Organizations a mandatory registry for several years, the registry is currently voluntary. It should do so. It should also require disclosure of receipt of government funding as part of the registry. The EU and its member states should know when a foreign-funded organisation is behind the policy proposals being put forth by a foundation or think tank.   The EU and US intelligence entities should coordinate their research and investigation of these ties. This is in recognition of the fact that Russian-funded foundations and think tanks are not intended to function legally, so often they will not willingly comply with local regulations. In these situations, an investigative mechanism must exist to identify the sources of their funding and policies. This also means the US should partner with the EU to support large-scale journalistic investigation groups, under the model of the cross-border Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) or the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that investigated and analysed the Panama Papers.   While ideally, US and EU cooperation on these issues would yield the most effective responses to support transparency and the greatest support for human rights-protecting organisations, as populist factions creep into governmental positions across a number of Western democracies, the best strategy now may be for intelligence agencies and/or civil society organisations and journalists themselves to take on the task of exposing the funding sources and links of faux think tanks and foundations. Indeed, doing so may be one bulwark against the rise of xenophobic and populist attitudes that threaten to crowd out the culture of human rights protection on both sides of the Atlantic. [1] Keir Giles, Philip Hanson, Roderic Lyne, James Nixey, James Sherr, Andrew Wood, The Russian Challenge, Chatham House, June 2015, [2] For more information on various strategies the Russian government uses, see Melissa Hooper, Issue Brief: Six Ways (Other Than Hacking) that Russia is Exploiting Divisions and the Rise of Xenophobia in Europe, Human Rights First, January 2017, [3] Antonis Klapsis, An Unholy Alliance: The European Far Right and Putin’s Russia, Wilfried Marten’s Centre for European Studies, 2015, [4] Helene Fouquet, Gregory VIscusi, Henry Meyer, LePen Struggling to Fund French Race As Russian Bank Fails, Bloomberg Politics, December 2016, [5] Marlene LaRuelle, France: Mainstreaming Russian Influence, in The Kremlin’s Trojan Horses, Atlantic Council, November 2016, [6] Melanie Amann & Pavel Lokshin, German Populists Forge Ties with Russia, Spiegel Online, April 2016, [7] Peter Foster & Matthew Holehouse, Russia accused of clandestine funding of European parties, as U.S. conducts major review of Vladimir Putin’s strategy, The Telegraph, January 2016, [8] Ibid. [9] Dániel Hegedüs, The Kremlin’s Influence in Hungary, German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), DGAPkompakt, February 2016, [10] Henry Stanek, Is Russia’s Alliance with Greece a Threat to NATO?, The National Interest, July 2016 [11] Gabrielle Trault-Farber, Russian, European Far-Right Parties Converge in St Petersburg, The Moscow Times, March 2015, [12] Briefing, Russia’s European Supporters: In the Kremlin’s Pocket, The Economist, February 2015, [13] RT, RT’s 2016 budget announced, down from 2015, MSM too stumped to spin?, RT, May 2016, ; See also Brookings Institution, Brookings Hosts Vice-President Joe Biden for Remarks on the Russia-Ukraine Conflict, May 2015, [14] RT, RT’s 2016 budget announced, down from 2015, ibid [15] Miriam Elder, Russia Has A New Propaganda Outlet And It’s Everything You Thought It Would Be, Stop Fake, November 2014, thought-it-would-be/. [16] Intelligence Community Assessment, Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections, January 2017. [17] Christopher Paul & Miriam Matthews, The Russian ‘Firehose of Falsehood’ Propaganda Model, Rand Corporation, 2016, [18] Neil MacFarquhar, A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories, New York Times, August 2016, [19] Christopher Paul & Miriam Matthews, The Russian ‘Firehose of Falsehood’ Propaganda Model, Rand Corporation, 2016, [20] Daniel Boffey, Russia ‘stoking refugee unrest in Germany to topple Angela Merkel’, The Guardian, March 2016, [21] Péter Krekó, Lóránt Győri, Katya Dunajeva, Russia is Weaponizing culture in CEE by creating a traditionalist ‘counter culture’, December 2016 [22] Natasha Bertrand, It looks like Russia hired internet trolls to pose as pro-Trump Americans, Daily KOS, July 2016 [23] Ivana Smolenova, The Pro-Russian Disinformation Campaign in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Prague Security Studies Institute, June 2015, [24] Vladka Vojtiskova, Vit Novotny, Hubertus Schmid-Schmidsfelden, Kristina Potapova, The Bear in Sheep’s Clothing: Russia’s Government-Funded Organizations in the EU, Wilfried Marten’s Centre for European Studies, July 2016, [25] Elisabeth Braw, The Kremlin’s Influence Game, in World Affairs Journal, March 2015, [26] Natalya Kanevskaya, How the Kremlin Wields its Soft Power in France, RFE/RL, June 2014 [27] Vladka Vojtiskova, Vit Novotny, Hubertus Schmid-Schmidsfelden, Kristina Potapova, The  Bear in Sheep’s Clothing: Russia’s Government-Funded Organizations in the EU, Wilfried Marten’s Centre for European Studies, July 2016, [28] Andrew Higgins, In Expanding Russian Influence, Faith Combines With Firepower, New York Times, September 2016, . [29]Mall Hellam, Russia In Europe: the reactionary values agenda, Open Estonia Foundation, 2016, . [30] Transcript: Putin says Russia will protect the rights of Russians abroad, Washington Post, March 2014, . [31] Vera Zakem, Paul Saunders, Daniel Antoun, Mobilizing Compatriots: Russia’s Strategy, Tactics, and Influence in the former Soviet Union, CNA Corporation, November 2015, [32] Arthur de Liedekerke, The rise of paramilitary groups in Central and Eastern Europe, New Eastern Europe, January 2016, [33] John R. Schindler, Putin’s Support for Europe’s Far-Right Just Turned Lethal, Observer, October 2016, [34] Jakub Janda and Ondrij Kunda, Mechanisms of Influence of the Russian Federation into Internal Affairs of the Czech Republic, European Values Think Tank, September 2016, [35] NED Forum Think Democracy, How Dictators Use Zombie Elections Monitors to Stay in Power, Buzzfeed, October 2014, [36] BBC Ukraine Crisis, Europe far-right parties meet in St Petersburg, Russia, BBC, March 2015, [37] Tony Paterson, Putin’s far-right ambition: Think tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU, Independent, November 2014 [38] Daniel W. Drezner, Is there value in Valdai?, Washington Post, October 2016, [39] Casey Michel, US and EU Separatist Groups To Gather on Moscow’s Dime, The Diplomat, July 2016, [40] BBC Ukraine Crisis, Europe far-right parties meet in St Petersburg, Russia, BBC, March 2015, [41] Tony Paterson, Putin’s far-right ambition: Think tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU, Independent, November 2014, [42] Owen Matthews, Russia’s Greatest Weapon May Be Its Hackers, Newsweek, May 2015 [43] Gregory Feifer and Brian Whitmore, The Velvet Surrender, New Republic, September 2010 [44] Dániel Hegedüs, The Kremlin’s Influence in Hungary, German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), February 2016,; Neil MacFarquhar, How Russians Pays to Play in Other Countries, New York Times, December 2016, ; Damien Sharkov, Far-Right MEP Accused of Acting as Russian Spy, Newsweek, September 2014, [45] Stratfor, A Political Scandal in Estonia and Russian Influence in the Baltics, December 2010 [46] Mikhail Bushuev, Latvian voter overshadowed by Russian questions, Deutsche Welle, October 2014, [47] Steven Lee Myers, Lithuanian Parliament Removes Country’s President After Casting Votes on Three Charges, New York Times, 7 April 2004, [48] Dmitar Bechev, Russia’s Influence in Bulgaria, New Direction The Foundation for European Reform, 2016,; John R. Haines, The Suffocating Symbiosis: Russia Seeks Trojan Horses Inside Fractious Bulgaria’s Political Corral, Foreign Policy Research Institute, August 2016, [49] Sari Horwitz, Head of DC Based Russian Cultural Center Being Investigated as Possible Spy, Washington Post, 23 October 2013, [50] Molly Redden, FBI Probing Whether Russia Used Cultural Junkets to Recruit American Intelligence Assets, Mother Jones, October 2013, . [51] Stratfor, A Political Scandal in Estonia and Russian Influence in the Baltics, December 2010, [52] Jacqueline Grapin, Perspectives: Russia boosts its influence in France, European Affairs, July 2016, [53] Transcript: Putin Says Russia Will Protect the Rights of Russians Abroad, Washington Post, March, 2014, [54] Charles Clover, The Unlikely Origins of Russia’s Manifest Destiny, Foreign Policy, July 2016, [55] Ibid. [56] Damir Magusic & Agnia Grigas, Putin’s Compatriots, The American Interest, October 2016, [57] Melanie Amann, Markus Becker, Benjamin Bidder, Hubert Gude, Konstantin von Hammerstein, Alexej Hock, Christiane Hoffmann, Martin Knobbe, Peter Maxwill, Peter Müller, Gordon Repinski, Sven Röbel, Anna Sadovnikova, Matthias Schepp, Jörg Schindler, Christoph Schult , Russia’s Propaganda Campaign Against Germany, Spiegel, February 2016, . [58] David Herszenhorn, Putin Vows to ‘Actively Defend’ Russians Living Abroad, Atlantic Council, July 2014, [59] Agnia Grigas, Compatriot Games: Russian-Speaking Minorities in the Baltic States, World Politics Review, October 2014, [60] The Global Politics, The Pan-Slavism and Tsarist Russia’s Balkan Policy, December 2016, [61] Julia Ioffe, Russia and Georgia, Three Years Later, New Yorker, August 2011, [62] Derek Averre & Lance Davies, Russia, humanitarian intervention, and the Responsibility to Protect: the case of Syria, Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs, July 2015, vol.9, n.4, [63] Agnia Grigas, Compatriot Games: Russian-Speaking Minorities in the Baltic States, World Politics Review, October 2014, [64] Sarah de Geest, Russian Intervention in Ukraine: R2P Limits and reclaiming the Concept and Narrative, Human Security Centre, April 2015, [65] News and Events, Guy Mettan’s book on the reasons for Western Russophobia was published, Endowment for St Andrew the First-Called Foundation, May 2016, [66] Authur de Liedekerke, The rise of paramilitary groups in Central and Eastern Europe, New Eastern Europe, January 2016, [67] Aleksandr Gostev & Robert Coalson, Russia’s Paramilitary Mercenaries Emerge From The Shadows, RFE/RL, December 2016, [68] Damir Marusic, Did Moscow Botch A Coup in Montenegro?,The American Interest, October 2016, [69] Agnia Grigas, Compatriot Games: Russian-Speaking Minorities in the Baltic States, World Politics Review, October 2014, [70] David Clark, Putin is Exporting Sovereign Democracy to New Allies, Financial Times, December 2016, [71] Sarah Fisher, Sovereign Democracy: Russia’s response to the color revolutions, The University of Louisville’s Institutional Repository, May 2014, [72] David Trilling, Russia Poll: Migration Likeliest Threat to National Security, Eurasianet, July 2013, [73] Owen Jones, Putin is a human rights-abusing oligarch. The British left must speak out, The Guardian, January 2016, [74] Melissa Hooper, Issue Brief: Six Ways (Other Than Hacking) that Russia is Exploiting Divisions and the Rise of Xenophobia in Europe, Human Rights First, January 2017, [75] Melissa Hooper, Russia’s ‘Traditional Values’ Leadership, in Sharing Worst Practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, Foreign Policy Centre, June 2016, [76] ibid. [77] Peter Montgomery, International Backlash: The Religious Right at the UN, Political Research Associates, November 2016, [78] Mall Hellam, Russia In Europe: the reactionary values agenda, Open Estonia Foundation, 2016, [79] Ibid. [80] Giorgi Lomsadze, A ‘Family’ Gathering Commemorates an Anti-Gay Riot, Coda Story, May 2016, [81] David Rutz, 5 Times the Washington Post Failed at Fact-Checking, Washington Free Beacon, March 2015, [82] US Department of the Treasury Resource Center, Ukraine-related Designations, March 2014, [83] News, KAPO declassifies Savisaar files,, December 2010, . [84] Ott Ummelas, Estonian Police Detain Kremlin Ally in Bribery Investigation, Bloomberg, September 2015, [85] Hannah Levintova, How US Evangelicals Helped Create Russia’s Anti-Gay Movement, Mother Jones, February 2014, . [86] Russkiy Mir Foundation, Vladimir Yakunin Leaves JSC ‘Russian Railways’, August 2015, [87] Russkiy Mir Foundation Information Service, Head of Rossotrudnichestvo Participates in Dialogue of Civilizations, September 2014, . [88] Ben Knight, Putin associate opens Russia-friendly think tank in Berlin, July 2016, [89] Lukas Wehnert, Stand up to Western Top Dogs, Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, September 2016, [90] Dialogue of Civilizations Endowment Fund, About the Foundation, last visited March 2017, . [91] Association Dialogue Franco-Russe, Events Calendar, last visited 4 March 2017, [92] Claire Demesmay, ‘There are Always Two Sides to the Truth’: French Susceptibility to Russian Propaganda, German Council on Foreign Relations, DGAPkompakt, Number 4, February 2016, [93] Ibid. [94] Endowment for St Andrew the First-Called Foundation, About the Foundation, last visited March 2017, [95] Ben Knight, Putin associate opens Russia-friendly think tank in Berlin, July 2016, [96] Anna Lindh Foundation, ALF Network of Networks, last visited March 2017, [97] Claire Demesmay, ‘There are Always Two Sides to the Truth’: French Susceptibility to Russian Propaganda, German Council on Foreign Relations, DGAPkompakt, Number 4, February 2016,; Erasmus, A new Orthodox church next to the Eiffel Tower boosts Russian soft power, The Economist, December 2016, [98] Lukas Wehnert, Stand up to Western Top Dogs, Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute, September 2016, [99] Dialogue of Civilizations Rhodes Forum, The Chaos of Multiplicity: An Urgent Call for Dialogue, The Rhodes Forum 2016, last visited March 2017, [100] Istoki Endowment Fund, All-Russian Programme ‘Sanctity of Motherhood’, last visited March 2017, [101] Ibid. [102] Cole Parke, Natural Deception: Conned by the World Congress of Families, Political Research Associates, January 2015, [103] Hannah Levintova, Did Anti-Gay Evangelists Skirt US Sanctions on Russia?, Mother Jones, September 2014, [104] Giorgi Lomsadze, A ‘Family’ Gathering Commemorates an Anti-Gay Riot, Coda Story, May 2016, [105] Ibid. [106] Hannah Levintova, The World Congress of Families’ Russian Network, Mother Jones, February 2014, [107] Olga Khvostunova, The Propaganda of the Putin Era, April 2013, Institute of Modern Russia, [108] The Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, About IDC, last visited March 2017, [109] Van Herpen, Marcel. 2016. Putin’s Propaganda Machine. Pp 242-266. Rowman & Littlefield. [110] Makarychev, Andrey S. 2009. In Quest of Political Subjectivity: Russia’s ‘Normative Offensive’ and the Triple Politicisation of Norms, Readings in European Security vol. 5. Center for European Policy Studies. [111] Right Wing Watch, Globalizing Homophobia: How the American Right Supports and Defends Russia’s Anti-Gay Crackdown, In Focus, February 2014, [112] Ibid. [113] Ibid. [114] Vladimir Potanin Foundation, 2016-The New Philosophy of Philanthropy, last visited March 2017, [115] EODE-Eurasian Observatory for Democracy and Elections, EODE Think Tank, last visited March 2017, [116] EODE-Eurasian Observatory for Democracy and Elections, EODE Elections, last visited March 2017, [117]Anton Shekhovtsov, Pro-Russian extremists observe the illegitimate Crimean ‘referendum’, Anton Shekhovtsov’s blog, 17 March 2014, . [118] Van Herpen, Marcel. 2016. Putin’s Propaganda Machine. Pp, 242-266. Rowman & Littlefield. [119] Jacqueline Grapin, Perspectives: Russia boosts its influence in France, European Affairs, European Institute, July 2016, [120] Ibid. [121] Ibid. [122] Ibid. [123] Ibid. [124] Sanita Jemberga, Mikk Salu, Šarūnas Černiauskas,The Kremlin’s millions, and its support of pro-Russian activists in the Baltic, October 2015, [125] Sanita Jemberga, Mikk Salu and Šarūnas Černiauskas, The Kremlin’s millions, and its support of pro-Russian activists in the Baltics, Foreign Policy News, October 2015, [post_title] => The non-governmental sector: Pro-Russia tools masquerading as independent voices [post_excerpt] => There has already been much discussion in the Russia-watching world about the tools Russia uses to spread its influence, and it is quite an arsenal. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => non-governmental-sector-pro-russia-tools-masquerading-independent-voices [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-14 23:27:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-14 23:27:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [18] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1538 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:35:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:35:13 [post_content] => Georgian government efforts to improve and promote the country’s international image have both political and economic dimensions. As Euro-Atlantic integration has become a major theme of the Georgian political agenda, the government has sought international support for the country’s integration into Western structures. The economic dimension is equally important, because Georgia’s two major political parties, United National Movement (UNM) and the Georgian Dream (GD), both consider direct foreign investments and tourism development as key to economic growth. Respectively, both UNM- and GD-led governments used public relations campaigns as a foreign policy tool of choice to promote the country’s international image, though their tactics and the scale of their efforts in this direction greatly differ.   UNM and the national branding build-up After the 2003 ‘Rose Revolution’, the Georgian government set very ambitious goals, which required the intensification of efforts to promote the country’s international image, alongside radical reforms within the country. The United National Movement (UNM) Government’s national branding and international promotion policy was largely determined by the personality of the President, Mikheil Saakashvili, who was directly involved in policy planning and implementation. The vertical organisation of executive power and the government’s control over mass media allowed the UNM government to tailor the country’s international image in accordance with the political elite’s plans and priorities.   The great focus of the UNM on nation branding and international promotion drew frequent criticism from the opposition and part of the public, mainly because the image of Georgia that UNM strove to create was a far from the real situation in the country, especially with regard to economic conditions, the level of democratisation, protection of human rights and media freedom. Another reason for public frustration was that, against the backdrop of the economic hardship that a majority of Georgian citizens had to endure, the amount of money that the UNM government poured into these programmes was largely perceived as a wasteful use of public funds that could have been spent more beneficially for the people. However, UNM representatives usually cite the following reasons to justify their branding/promotion policy:  
  1. Firstly, it was essential to erase the perception of Georgia as a post-Soviet country. Prior to the Rose Revolution, Georgia was often viewed as a failed state. As a result, the UNM government made institutional development and state building its top priority. Along with institutional reforms, another important goal of the government was to inform the international community about its ambitious reform agenda.
  1. Secondly, it was necessary to present Georgia as part of Western civilization in order to smooth the country’s path towards integration into – and eventual membership of – Western structures. The UNM national branding policy was based on the narrative that Georgia’s 1991 declaration of independence was the first step on its way to return to its ‘European home‘, and that the country actually started moving towards the goal in 2003. To fulfil its objectives, UNM needed to portray Georgia as a pro-Western, democratic nation.
  Georgia – ‘the beacon of democracy’ and a reformist country Due to Georgia’s Soviet legacy, the country has little experience of democracy. Therefore, the new government, which took power in the wake of the 2003 Rose Revolution, attracted great attention and fuelled heightened expectations. Immediately after taking office, the UNM government ‘rolled up its sleeves’ and launched an intense effort to create an image of Georgia as a democratic and reformist country. Given the lack of democracy in neighbouring countries and the other countries of the region, Georgia’s efforts to establish democracy was a rather ‘exotic’ regional phenomenon. UNM took advantage of this niche and used it as one of the main instruments in its international public relations (PR) policy. In addition, UNM representatives and Mikheil Saakashvili often cited international rating agencies, most often the World Bank Doing Business reports and Freedom House Country Reports, both to drive its point home and to prove its efficiency in the eyes of the international community.[1]   The reforms were used as another significant international PR instrument for the UNM government. Police reform, reorganisation of public services, and economic improvements were at the forefront of the government’s publicity campaign.[2] According to a personal interview with a former official of the National Security Council, two policy areas were major priorities: firstly, to share experiences, and in some cases ‘export’ reforms to other post–Soviet countries, and secondly, to represent Georgia as a reformist and democratic state to Western countries.   Obviously, international ratings do not reflect the full picture of democratic processes in a country. Accurate assessment of democratic development requires much more than to measure democracy and its components on the basis of an international organisation’s pre-defined indicators. However, international ratings can be instrumental in promoting a country’s image in the international arena. The democratic image of Georgia that the UNM government tried to promote was in stark contrast to the real situation, which was brought to light in the later years of the UNM administration such as the 2012 prison scandal and subsequent events.[3]   Unlike its predecessor, the Georgian Dream (GD) government pays much less attention to international ratings, even though some international agencies have upgraded Georgia’s rating in certain areas. For instance, after 2012 Georgia has consistently received a rating of 3 (where a score of 1 represents the highest level of democratic freedom and 7 the lowest level) in Freedom House surveys, as opposed to scores of 3.5 and 4 during the second term of UNM rule (2008-2012). According to Transparency International, the country’s performance in the Corruption Perception Index has also improved.[4] The GD government’s shift of focus away from the international PR campaigns can be explained by two factors: Firstly GD was one of the most outspoken critics of the UNM government’s excessive penchant for PR campaigns, which it said were out of touch with reality; secondly GD is reluctant to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, because it is well aware that such a policy can backfire. UNM’s overzealous international publicity campaign turned a blind eye to the country’s domestic problems and deeply annoyed the Georgian public, which eventually led to growing public indignation.   Post-war strategy The 2008 war had a significant impact on the government’s national branding and international PR policy. As a result of the war with Russia and the economic crisis that ensued, the UNM government faced new challenges. After the war, Russia began laying the groundwork for recognising Abkhazia and South Ossetia (SO) as independent states. The Georgian government responded with a new foreign policy initiative – non-recognition policy – and intensified its efforts to win support not only from Western nations, but also from Latin American and African countries (as Russia succeeded in persuading several countries[5] from these regions to recognise Abkhazia’s and SO’s independence). For instance, the government opened Georgian embassies and consular services in Latin America and Africa, to try to prevent more countries from recognising the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.   During and after the 2008 war, amid Russia’s anti-Georgian propaganda, Tbilisi has increased its cooperation with Western (mainly American) lobbying companies in order to promote Georgia’s positive international image, attract world media attention to Georgia’s situation and establish communication lines between the Georgian ruling elite and US decision-makers.   According to Institute for Development of Freedom of Information research, based on lobbying companies’ reports to US Congress, the Georgian government paid around $7 million (USD) from public funds (mainly from the National Security Council budget) for the services of lobbying firms between 2008 and 2012, and $2.6 million USD in 2013-2015 (GD government).[6] After the 2012 elections, the government curtailed public funding for lobbying activities. However, according to news agency Netgazeti, GD employed contract lobbying services in the USA during election campaigns[7] that means the government is using lobbying mainly to support its party.       Economic dimension – tourism and investments The economic dimension of national branding and international promotion policies has gained more prominence since the 2009 economic crisis. While before the 2008 conflict, UNM was anxious to create and promote Georgia’s image as a democratic and reformist country, the post-war economic recession forced it to rethink its priorities and make economic recovery a centrepiece of its policy. Priorities were therefore shifted towards measures to facilitate tourism development and attract foreign investment. To achieve its objectives, the government enacted massive economic liberalisation. Free trade agreements were signed with many foreign countries, and taxes were cut to one of the lowest levels in the world during the period of UNM rule. In addition, the government greatly eased labour regulations, giving employers a free hand in deciding employment terms: hiring/dismissals, the number of working hours a day, and wages for normal and extra working hours. The main motivation for these changes was to create a comfortable environment for foreign investors. The Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Georgian embassies) were actively involved in the effort to attract as much foreign investment as possible. All Georgian ambassadors were instructed to do their best to encourage foreign investors to invest in Georgia. It is noteworthy that the need for foreign investments prompted the government to interact and communicate more actively with Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries. Despite the growth in foreign investment[8], its importance was exaggerated, as the economic conditions of the Georgian residents and the unemployment rate remained largely unchanged. According to official data, the share of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Georgia’s GDP in 2007-2012 ranged from 19% (the highpoint in 2007) to 6% (average during 2009-2012)[9].   Since 2003, as part of its international promotion policy, the government has made substantial efforts to present Georgia as a country of great tourism potential. Tourism became a priority economic sector under the UNM Government. The Georgian National Tourism Administration (GNTA) was created as one of the mechanisms to increase Georgia’s popularity abroad.To attract tourists to the country, GNTA actively employs TV and online video ads about Georgia, and takes part in various international exhibitions. It also assists Georgian tourism companies to help them improve their communication and cooperation with their foreign partners. The main target regions of the GNTA’s tourism development strategy are post-Soviet, neighbouring and Middle Eastern countries; this represents a clear deviation from the UNM government’s course, which tended to prioritise tourists from Europe and North America. Another visible difference is that the UNM government had a major focus on TV advertisements, while today, the greater focus is on social and digital media.   The GD government continues down the same path in terms of tourism development. The GNTA budget and apparatus has been steadily increasing in recent years, doubling employee numbers, (the budget was increased from 10 416 990 GEL in 2011 to 22 963 000 GEL in 2016), a clear indication that tourism development remains high on the government’s priority list.[10] The tourism industry is one of the main sectors of the Georgian economy. The number of foreign tourists visiting Georgia has been steadily growing in recent years. According to official data, 5 million more tourists arrived in Georgia in 2015 than in the previous year, a 2.2% increase.[11]   Conclusions The current government’s PR policy is much less aggressive than the PR policy of its predecessors. In the UNM government, decisions were made on the highest political level. However, from 2012-2016, decisions were made differently: GD, as a coalition of very diverse groups, struggled to agree and implement a coherent strategy in many aspects. It is important also to note that the national branding policy used to be personally directed by Mikheil Saakashvili. This aspect, together with the centralised political system, eased the decision-making process. It remains to be seen, however, whether the GD is willing to embrace its predecessor’s approach and carry out a national branding and promotion campaign similar to the UNM’s. The international promotion of Georgia was a top priority for the UNM government, which channelled substantial funds into its PR campaigns (including payments for lobbying firms and international TV ads). The current government has focused mostly on traditional diplomacy with less spending on various aspects of public relations, trying to be less salient in the international arena regarding their positions on political issues. [1] Internet.GE, Georgia in 9th place in the Doing Business ratings, October 2012, [2] Mikheil Saakashvili – Georgia is in Highest League of World Championship in Doing Business, October 2009, [3] Leaked videos of torture and harsh treatment of inmates. [4] Freedom in the World, Freedom House 2017 report [5] Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru. [6] Georgia’s lobbying activities in USA, 2008-2015, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, p.11, [7] Net Gazeti, Georgian Dream’s contracts with American lobbyists during election campaign, January 2017, [8] From 1996 to 2003, the foreign direct investment ranged from 82.2 to 265.3 million USD, in contrast to UNM period, when the FDI ranged from 499.1 to 2015 million USD. [9] Geostat (National Statistics Office of Georgia), August.2013, [10] Caucasus Business Week, Georgia is Attractive Tourism Destination for All Four Seasons; November 2015; [11] Tabula, The year of 2015 saw an increase of tourists by 2.2 percent in Georgia, January 2016, [post_title] => Georgia’s international promotion during the United National Movement and Georgian Dream eras [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => georgias-international-promotion-united-national-movement-georgian-dream-eras [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-14 23:38:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-14 23:38:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [19] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1543 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-03-21 21:25:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-21 21:25:51 [post_content] => For the Republic of Armenia, the relationship with its global Armenian diaspora has always been complex, and at times, even confrontational. Marked by misunderstanding and a deep cultural divide, this rocky relationship is natural, however. The fundamental divergence of interests between an established state and a networked diaspora has usually contributed to division and difference. But in the case of Armenia, there is an inherent consistency of commitment from its diaspora. This element of care, concern and commitment stems from a combination of the core threats facing the Armenian state and the challenge of survival. While obviously rooted in the tragic nature of Armenian history, most notably demonstrated by the Armenian Genocide of 1915, the existential threat has also been more recent, from the devastating earthquake of 1988 to the onset of war over Nagorno-Karabakh.   State vs. nation While the origins of the Armenian diaspora pre-dated the emergence of Armenian statehood by several centuries, the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is widely interpreted as the ‘starting point’ of reference for the ‘contemporary Armenian diaspora’, as the ‘dispersal of Armenians from their historic homeland in the Ottoman Empire’ and the subsequent ‘partial Armenian exodus from Eastern Armenia after the Soviet takeover in 1920 also contributed—albeit to a much lesser degree—to the ‘diasporisation’ of the Armenians in the 20th century’ with a ‘new exodus towards North America and Europe’.[1]  This was also driven by the underlying geographic divide between the older wave of Armenians seeking refuge in the diaspora from the Ottoman Empire, and with little or no direct link to what became Soviet Armenia. And given the seventy years of the Armenian state within the Soviet Union, bonds and links to the diaspora were only further weakened. This also served as a lingering division between both the identity and the origins of the diaspora and the re-establishment of the independent Armenian state at the collapse of the Soviet Union.   A second key turning point came in the period 1988-1991, as the diaspora’s ‘traditional focus on identity preservation and Genocide recognition’ were ‘augmented by a new concern for the survival and well-being of a new emerging state’ in the wake of the 1988 earthquake and the declaration of Armenian independence in 1991.[2] But such a crisis-driven focus has been difficult to sustain and has been largely inconsistent and sporadic. This transformation of the worldview of the diaspora was matched by a recognition of the diaspora by the new Armenian state. For example, the National Security Strategy of the Republic of Armenia officially identified ‘Armenia-Diaspora relations’ as a ‘significant component’ of national security and recognised the role of the diaspora as offering ‘a serious degree of economic and cultural potential, especially as a means to promote trade, tourism, preservation, development and publicizing of the cultural heritage…to foster Armenia’s global integration and consolidation of democracy’.[3]   But the relationship is essentially asymmetrical, in two contradictory ways. First, in terms of sheer demography, the diaspora is roughly double the size of Armenia. Most estimates hold that while the population of the Republic of Armenia is well below three million, over six million comprise the global Armenian diaspora. Yet conversely, a second defining element of asymmetry is the inherent difference and division between an established, recognised state with its own elected government and a disorganised, disenfranchised and diverse diaspora spanning many countries and divided between several competing power centres. This fundamental asymmetry has never been effectively addressed and has only exacerbated the natural divergence of interests between the contrasting perspectives and interests of the Armenian state and the Armenian diaspora, or ‘nation’.[4]       Diminished returns Disappointment within the diaspora is also deep, despite the emotional bond and ethnic loyalty to Armenia. That sense of frustration within the Armenian diaspora is driven by a common perception that the Armenian government maintains a policy that is very welcoming to aid, assistance and philanthropy, but which is strictly exclusionary in terms of any diasporan engagement in internal domestic politics. This has bred a resentment that has only been exacerbated by the cultural divide between a post-Soviet, authoritarian government, with a disturbing lack of democratic credentials or free and fair elections, and a more Western diaspora.   As one diaspora-based group noted, ‘twenty years after Armenia’s independence and despite all its efforts, the Diaspora is yet to see a meaningful change in Armenia, one tied to, and be driven by, a modern developmental vision’.[5] This has further contributed to a degree of ‘diminished returns’ as both sides have tended to be disappointed as their unrealistically high expectations of the Armenia-Diaspora relationship have been repeatedly dashed.   Harnessing economic potential Despite the apparent economic advantage of a well-connected, commercially successful and innovative global diaspora, Armenia has never been able to fully harness the economic potential of engaging the diaspora. The paucity of investment by the diaspora was due to two fundamental impediments. The first, and most daunting disincentive to investment was of course entrenched corruption. In fact, corruption still dissuades many diasporan investors from engaging in Armenia.   And despite gains in regulatory reforms related to the establishment and registration of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), outside investors still face the burdens of weak contract enforcement, arbitrary tax inspection and a closed economy dominated by ‘oligarchs’ with inordinate market control over the import and export of key commodities. This set of challenges has also greatly reduced the past period of investment in the 1990s, which never recovered and has yet to return.   Against this backdrop, more recent efforts by the Armenian government to attract investment from the diaspora have been hampered by an underlying lack of trust and a disappointing investment climate. In order to overcome these shortcomings in investment, Armenian Prime Minster Karen Karapetyan has instead focused on enticing the “best practices” of entrepreneurial talent and professional expertise, calling on the diaspora to actively contribute to “the reforms underway in Armenia in order to… introduce a new culture of management, and to employ the knowledge and potential of our top-most professionals of the diaspora for achieving pan-Armenian goals,” specifically identifying the sectors of heath care and education as “key areas” for achieving “immediate results.”[6]   That outreach effort is also part of a broader, ambitious programme of reforms announced by the premier after his September 2016 appointment, which include efforts to more effectively combat corruption, improve tax administration and create ‘equal conditions’ for all businesses. To date, however, the prime minister has moved slowly, as his promises have generally been limited to superficial changes in personnel, rather than any demonstrable reforms targeting the sources of corruption.   Political prowess Since independence, there have been two notable central elements of the relationship between the Armenian state and the diaspora. Over time, each issue has remained a constant, core issue of both domestic politics in Armenia as well as for identity politics within the broader diaspora. While these issues have remained unchanged and unchallenged, they have defined and constrained Armenian foreign policy, as well limiting domestic discourse and debate.   The first of these core issues is the Armenian genocide, which not only influences the country’s troubled relationship with neighbouring Turkey but also directly impacts Armenia’s relationship with its global diaspora. But it is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that, as the second essential factor of Armenian foreign policy, presents a much more dynamic and more direct challenge. The inherent challenge of managing a stalled peace process, coupled with the ever-present threat of ceasefire violations and border skirmishes, have only elevated and exacerbated the political significance and severity of the Karabakh issue.   And at the same time, the recent surge in clashes over the Karabakh conflict has further exacerbated the closed, more one-sided nature of the Armenian state’s approach towards the diaspora. While in terms of internal politics, which have been marked by an environment that has only forced out more moderate views in favour of a more militant stand within the domestic political spectrum, it has also limited diasporan engagement.   In the wake of the most serious escalation of fighting in April 2016, however, when a large-scale Azerbaijani military offensive succeeded in seizing and securing territory, there was renewed interest within the diaspora over the threat to Armenian security. This concern was driven by the realisation that the first military victory for Azerbaijan since the 1990s posed a new, elevated threat to state security. Beyond the renewed interest, however, the fact that the ‘frozen’ conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh had entered a new, much more serious combat phase, but also posed new risks to the delicate state of regional security and stability. And this new context suggests a new period of deeper and more determined diaspora support for Armenia.   Such a new period of diaspora engagement will clearly focus on attempts to leverage the political prowess and influence of the Armenian communities in the West. Moreover, it is the Western-based communities, from the United States to Europe, which are more politicised and more deeply assimilated than the other diaspora centres in Russia or the Middle East. Although partly due to the open environment in the West, which fosters a greater and more open opportunity for local political activity, the Armenian community of Russia is the primary economic provider, accounting for the overwhelming amount of remittances or money sent to Armenia from abroad.   But in terms of political prowess in the West, the primary centre is the United States, followed by some European countries. Despite a population of only about 2 million Armenians in the United States, the Armenian-American community is politically active and sophisticated, with key constituencies in several electorally important American states (notably California, Florida, Michigan and New York) and Congressional districts. And the political prowess and influence of the community has steadily increased in the past several decades. Led by two rival political organisations, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), and the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), the lobbying and advocacy power of this segment of the diaspora has been widely recognised. In fact, many political observers in Washington rate the ‘Armenian lobby’ as the second most influential ethnic-based group, second only to the pro-Israel lobby, and much better organised than its Azerbaijani or Turkish counterparts.   In fact, there is a profound contrast between a well-integrated, politically active and astute Armenian-American community with a grassroots political network and the Azerbaijani and Turkish advocacy and lobbying effort dependent on their respective embassies. This also serves to inherently limit the efficacy of the lobbying efforts by Azerbaijan and Turkey, which is generally seen as a foreign government interfering in domestic American politics. Although both Azerbaijan and Turkey seek to offset this disparity by relying on well-resourced and financially impressive efforts, for the American political system, the power of grassroots constituents and voters almost always hold the upper hand in terms of political clout and influence.   This so-called ‘Armenian lobby’ was also able to exert its political leverage in two pivotal moments. First, in 1992 Armenian-American pressure groups were able to advocate new U.S. legislation that excluded Azerbaijan from a list of former Soviet republics available for U.S. aid. The exclusionary legislation, as part of the Freedom Support Act, imposed a punitive censure on Azerbaijan for its ‘offensive use of force’ against Nagorno-Karabakh and due to its imposition of a ‘blockade’ of Armenia. The legislation remained in force until 2002, when then-President George W. Bush granted the first in a series of annual waivers of the provision.[7]   And second, again in August 2006, it effectively derailed the confirmation of a new U.S. ambassador to Armenia by the U.S. Senate.[8] The nominee, Ambassador-designate Richard Hoagland, was targeted due to his refusal to recognise the Armenian genocide. Although in his confirmation testimony, he did refer to the mass killings of Armenians by Turks in the early 20th century, he was careful to avoid the term genocide in order to conform to the official policy of the U.S. Department of State.   What next? Despite the rather open divide and divergence between the Republic of Armenia and its global diaspora, there is a profound change already underway. More specifically, the change consist of a new, much less tolerant perspective within the diaspora, where shortcomings in Armenia’s democracy, its string of tainted elections and entrenched corruption will now serve to pose new challenges and demands for accountability. The other side of this change is also emanating from Armenia, which in the face of severe threats to its security over the Karabakh conflict, will be forced to accede to these fresh demands. This has also expanded the relationship between the Armenian government and the diaspora, as the Armenian foreign ministry has increasingly enhanced its own diplomatic strength by relying on support from diaspora lobbying groups. Beyond a reliance on those lobbying efforts in favour of the recognition of the Armenian genocide, this has more recently added an element of supportive advocacy in defending the interests of Nagorno-Karabakh.   And in response to the severity of the threats from the Karabakh conflict, as Azerbaijan has increasingly sought to settle the conflict militarily, the diaspora has been pressurising several Western nations to support Armenia. While this effort has included a campaign of recognition of the self-declared ‘independence’ of Nagorno-Karabakh among U.S. states and European regional governments, it has also been matched by efforts to impose punitive policies against Azerbaijan. These latter efforts have sought to leverage European disdain for disturbing trends of energy-driven corruption in Azerbaijan and moves to curtail civil society by the Azerbaijani leadership.   Thus, while Armenia has yet to become the centre of gravity for the diaspora, the future relationship between the state and its networked diaspora will only reflect a new, more mature and even more equal nature. The real question, however, is whether this enhanced engagement by the diaspora will be sustainable over the longer term. [1] Policy Forum Armenia (PFA), Armenia-Diaspora Relations: 20 years Since Independence, August 2010, [2]  Ibid. [3]  Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, National Security Strategy of the Republic of Armenia, January 2007. [4]  Hrant Gadarigian, Analyst Richard Giragosian: “Armenia looks at the diaspora with misunderstanding and sometimes skepticism,” Hetq, January 2010. [5] Policy Forum Armenia (PFA), “Armenia-Diaspora Relations: 20 years Since Independence,” August 2010, [6] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Armenian Service “Karapetian Appeals to Diaspora Armenians for Support,” February 2017, [7]  Julie Corwin, “U.S.: Confirmation Row Shows Power of Diaspora Lobbies,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), August 2006. [8]  Ibid. [post_title] => Armenia’s diaspora: Helpful advantage or harmful adversary? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => armenias-diaspora-helpful-advantage-harmful-adversary [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-15 00:06:38 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-15 00:06:38 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [20] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 981 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2017-01-10 17:26:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-10 17:26:19 [post_content] => John Harley Breen examines the challenges Burma/Myanmar faces as it attempts to transition to a more open political structure after decades of military and colonial domination. It looks at the history of military rule and the economic and political power structures that this embedded. The paper looks at relationship between the state and minority groups across the country and challenges around the emerging peace process. [post_title] => FPC Briefing: Why Burma’s political transition should be viewed with caution [post_excerpt] => John Harley Breen examines the challenges Burma/Myanmar faces as it attempts to transition to a more open political structure after decades of military and colonial domination. It looks at the history of military rule and the economic and political power structures that this embedded. The paper looks at relationship between the state and minority groups across the country and challenges around the emerging peace process. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => fpc-briefing-why-burmas-political-transition-should-be-viewed-with-caution [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-26 17:03:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-26 17:03:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [21] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2299 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-11-21 11:45:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-21 11:45:40 [post_content] => Under Vladimir Putin, Moscow has assiduously sought to retain its authority over the states of former-Soviet Eurasia (with the grudging exception of the Baltics), through a combination of political connection, military threat, security guarantees and economic cooperation. Quite how successful it has been has tended to vary over time and in relation to the complexion of the country in question. Very broadly, Moscow has found it much easier to maintain positive relations with authoritarian rather than democratising regimes, and this has been especially true of a relatively unremarked form of ‘soft power’ it has developed, that of intelligence cooperation directed towards the mutual suppression of activists and opposition forces.   This ‘Axis of Repression’ extends through Central Asia to Belarus, via Azerbaijan. It also used to include Ukraine, under semi-democratic clients such as Viktor Yanukovych, but clearly that is no longer the case. None of these regimes could be considered client states of Moscow’s. They have their own interests, and often advance them precisely by playing off Russia against other actors, whether the West in the case of Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko, or China with Kazakhstan. However, they generally share with the Kremlin a keen interest in their own political longevity, and also a disinclination to allow Western notions of free elections, transparent government and human rights to take root.   The Russian security apparatus At the time of writing, the Russian domestic security apparatus is in a state of flux, with suggestions that almost all the agencies will be united in one super-agency, in effect recreating the Soviet-era KGB.[1]However, striking a statement of the increasing authoritarianism of the Putin regime, in practical terms this will simply be a ‘repackaging’ of existing services and will not have a substantive impact on the capacities and specialisms of the Russian security community.   The dominant element of this community is the Federal Security Service (FSB, Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti), which is the main domestic security and counter-intelligence agency, yet which has in recent years also increasingly operated abroad. The lead espionage agencies are the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR, Sluzhba vneshnogo razvedki) and the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU, Glavnoe razvedyvatel’noe upravlenie) of the General Staff, military intelligence. Beyond that, though, is an array of other, more specialised agencies such as the Federal Guard Service (FSO, Federal’naya sluzhba okhrany), responsible for the security of government officials and facilities, and the infamous E Centres of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD, Ministerstvo vnutrennykh del) tasked with combating ‘extremism,’ which in practice tends to mean political dissent.[2] Even before the ascendancy of Putin – a former KGB officer whose career was largely spent monitoring Soviet citizens in East Germany – these agencies had demonstrated little enthusiasm for reform, transparency and democratisation.[3] Under Putin, though, they have been empowered with both steadily-growing budgets and wider remits. The accepted wisdom among Western counter-intelligence services is that their networks are now as active and extensive as during the height of the Cold War, and they have demonstrated both inventiveness and ruthlessness in their activities.   In particular, they have maintained a characteristic that pre-dates even Soviet practice, actively working against perceived challenges to domestic security abroad. This has ranged from monitoring the activities of disaffected émigrés and NGOs whose activities are deemed hostile to the interests of the state – which can include human rights agencies and those committed to fighting corruption – all the way to murdering individuals, typically current or former Russian citizens, considered traitors and security risks. The presumed assassination of FSB defector Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 attracted particular attention, but since then there has, for example, been a steady stream of murders of Chechens associated with the rebellion in the North Caucasus which have been attributed to Russian agents.[4]   ‘RepressIntern’ The strength and spread of Russia’s intelligence apparatus, combined with various regimes’ desires to secure themselves by observing, harassing or in some cases even eliminating political rivals abroad has given Moscow a specific opportunity to gain leverage in its neighbourhood. It has demonstrated a strong commitment to developing mutually-supportive intelligence-sharing understandings that also extend to direct ‘active measures’ intended to maintain friendly authoritarian regimes in its so-called ‘near abroad.’ Although this is envisaged in terms of bi- and multi-lateral support, given Moscow’s evident and overwhelming superiority in the intelligence field, this inevitably becomes one more instrument in its campaign to dominate post-Soviet Eurasia through a mix of coercion and assistance.   This is more than just a matter of statecraft. Even though in the 1990s, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan purged their security services of many ethnic Russians, the intelligence and security agencies of Belarus and Central Asia, in particular, are still dominated by veterans of the KGB, as was Ukraine’s until the 2014 Euromaidan rising. They are thus also linked by a complex, invisible network of friendships and contacts that unites these agencies.[5] Kazakh security chief Vladimir Zhumakanov was a former KGB officer, for example, as was Belarus’s Valery Vakul’chik, while their Uzbek counterpart Rustam Inoyatov goes one better, being also the son of a KGB colonel.   What could be called a ‘RepressIntern’ – pace the Bolsheviks’ ComIntern[6] – extends beyond the informal connections that often mean information is shared not through official channels but over a drink or a telephone call.[7] There is formal intelligence sharing through bilateral arrangements, and also the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation structures.[8] Beyond that, there has been active training support and the exchange of technological and methodological assistance. For example, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and – a legacy of pre-Euromaidan days – Ukraine all use telephone monitoring systems based on Russia’s SORM (System for Operative Investigative Activities).[9]   ‘RepressIntern’ at home Beyond that, though, regimes whose paranoia or hunger to visit vengeance on their enemies abroad outmatch their capabilities find particular value in their relationship with the Russians. The FSB in particular has demonstrated a willingness to watch, arrest and sometimes deport targets of friendly regimes, especially Central Asian ones. Given that these are often connected with Islamic organisations, this especially reflects a common concern about the potential spread of jihadism. Moscow has proven willing to extradite opposition figures into the hands of its authoritarian allies, and shares information freely.[10] Given the large number of Tajik migrant labourers in Russia and growing concerns about their possible radicalisation, this has in particular spurred cooperation with Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security. For example, FSB, MVD and Federal Migration Service officers detained a number of Tajiks regarded by Dushanbe as opposition activists, including Murodzhon Abdulkhakov Savriddin Juraev (both arrested in Moscow in 2011 and deported to Tajikistan) and Abdulvosi Latipov (arrested in 2012 and extradited despite a European Court of Human Rights request for a stay until it was able to consider the case in full).[11]   The Russian state has also appeared willing to allow its authoritarian allies a degree of latitude operating within its own borders. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Turkmenistan’s Committee for National Security (made a Ministry in 2002) operated in Moscow and elsewhere surveilling and harassing émigré Turkoman opposition figures.[12] More recently, it has tended to be Uzbekistan’s National Security Service that has been most active. In 2011, for example, Fuad Rustamkhozhaev, co-founder of the opposition Popular Movement of Uzbekistan, was shot dead in the western Russian town of Ivanovo.[13] A wealthy businessman, he was especially dangerous to the regime precisely because of his money and contacts, and was living in self-imposed exile because he feared for his life in Uzbekistan. Under normal circumstances a state-sanctioned killing within Russia would be grounds for the most strident of protests from the government, but instead it was hurriedly covered up.   ‘RepressIntern’ abroad Beyond that, though, the Russians are also willing to use their external intelligence capacities in support of allies’ repressive campaigns. According to the VSD, Lithuania’s State Security Department (foreign intelligence), for instance, while the KGB of Belarus is very active in watching Belarusian émigré opposition groups in Lithuania, it does so with the assistance and close cooperation of the Russian FSB and SVR, even to the point of mounting joint operations.[14]   This even appears to extend to ‘wet work,’ the Russian services’ euphemism for assassination. In 2014, for example, Uzbek émigré Abdullah Bukhari was murdered in Istanbul. A religious leader who fled Uzbekistan in 2006, Bukhari had received death threats from the Uzbek regime.[15] However, the individual arrested for the killing is a Russian-born Chechen whom the Turkish authorities claim was engaged by the FSB.   In 2015, ethnic Russian Uzbekistani national Yuri Zhukovsky was arrested in Sweden and charged with the attempted murder in 2012 of another Uzbek cleric in exile, Obidkhon Qori Nazarov.[16] However, his alleged associate, Tigran Kaplanov, was also named as a person of interest in connection with the Bukhari murder. While he may have simply been a killer for hire, senior Swedish counter-intelligence officers have suggested he was actually also an FSB asset, and it is the case that the two men got to know each other in Moscow.[17]   Prospects for ‘RepressIntern’ It is clear that not even all regimes within post-Soviet Eurasia seek or need Russian intelligence assistance against opposition forces. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan all largely content themselves with shared intelligence from the FSB and SVR. To an extent, this sometimes correlates with the level of democratisation, but with Tajikistan and, especially, Azerbaijan it appears to be more a product of growing disenchantment with Moscow.   Azerbaijan once cooperated with the Russians quite significantly, but the partition in 2015 of the Ministry of National Security into the State Security Service and the Foreign Intelligence Service has been both cause and symptom of increasing scepticism about Moscow’s motives, only exacerbated when it later tried to brand Azerbaijan’s finance minister a ‘triple agent’ in apparent retaliation for being excluded from a major gas pipeline deal.[18] The head of the former was a career police officer, while Baku’s new spymaster, 38-year-old Orkhan Sultanov, has a Western education and postdates the old KGB connections.[19]   Russia’s intelligence ties in former Soviet Eurasia are under pressure. While many other nations in the region may share the so-called ‘Moscow Consensus’ of post-Cold War authoritarianism,[20] this does not extend to a desire to become Russian clients. As Putin’s policies become more assertive and less collegiate, this creates tensions in the region, especially as other patrons may be available, from China to Iran. Ukraine’s refusal to bow to military pressure has also undermined Russian authority and countries such as Moldova, Armenia, Georgia and even Kyrgyzstan and Belarus have to a greater or (sometimes very much) lesser extent committed themselves to at least some deeper democratisation and diversification of their ties, even if only for the most pragmatic of reasons.   This does not mean the ‘RepressIntern’ is dead. In some ways, quite the contrary, as Moscow will have to demonstrate even greater value as an ally to advance its cause. However, while this specific authoritarian alliance, rooted in collaborative repression, will be deeper, it is likely to be much more narrow, as only especially toxic regimes such as Uzbekistan find true value in this relationship. [1] Soldatov, Andrei, Putin has finally reincarnated the KGB, Foreign Policy, 21 September 2016,; Galeotti, Mark, 'New KGB' plans betray Putin's anxiety, ECFR Commentary, 19 September 2016, [2] For more detailed discussion of the external intelligence agencies in particular and the interactions between then, see Galeotti, Mark. (2016) Putin’s Hydra: inside Russia’s intelligence services, European Council on Foreign Relations, available at [3] Knight, Amy, Spies without Cloaks: The KGB's Successors, Princeton University Press, Princeton: 1996 [4] Including at least seven people assassinated since 2008 in Istanbul’s Zeytinburnu neighbourhood, with its large proportion of émigrés from former Soviet Eurasia. [5]  Lefebvre, Stéphane & Roger McDermott. 2008. Russia and the Intelligence Services of Central Asia. International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence 21: 254-5. [6] The Communist International, or third international, that brought together the (pro-Soviet) Communist Parties from across the world. [7] One Russian FSB officer, for example, told me that before 2014, he kept in touch with a counterpart in the SBU, Kiev’s security service, and they would often share intelligence when the Ukrainian accompanied his wife on ‘shopping and theatre’ visits to Moscow. [8] The CSTO is a Russian-dominated regional defense alliance comprising Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The SCO unites China, Russia and Central Asian states. [9] Soldatov, Andrei and Irina Borogan, In Ex-Soviet States, Russian Spy Tech Still Watches You, Wired, 21 December 2012, [10] Farooq, Umar, The hunted, Foreign Policy, 2 April 2015, [11] David Lewis, Exporting repression: Extraterritorial practices and Central Asian authoritarianism, in Adam Hug (ed), Shelter from the Storm: The Asylum, Refuge and Extradition Situation facing Activists from the former Soviet Union in the CIS and Europe, Foreign Policy Centre, London: 2014, [12] As chronicled in Shchekhochikin, Yuri, Radi GB, Moscow: 2000. [13] Exiled Uzbek Political Activist Shot Dead In Russia, RFE/RL News, 26 September 2011, [14] Marcin, Andrzej and Raś Kinga, Baltic States’ Intelligence Services Report Increased Threat from Russia, PISM Bulletin 42, 15 July 2016, [15] Uzbek dissident assassinated in Istanbul, one arrested, Hurriyet Daily News, 12 December 2014, [16] Sweden imam attack: The Uzbek hitman and the unanswered questions, BBC News Online, 15 December 2015, [17] Richard Orange, Uzbekistan: Swedish Trial Features Testimony About Alleged International Assassin Network, Eurasianet, 3 December 2015, [18] Russia suspected behind outing of Azerbaijan’s Sharifov as a ‘triple agent’ spy over gas pipeline dispute, US-Azerbaijani Citizens for a Civil Society, 26 March 2016, [19] Emil Samanyan, Overhaul of Azerbaijan’s National Security Ministry and its Significance, Armenian Weekly, 29 December 2015, [20] David Lewis, The ‘Moscow Consensus’: Constructing autocracy in post-Soviet Eurasia’, in Adam Hug (ed.) Sharing Worst Practice: How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression, The Foreign Policy Centre,  May 2016,   [post_title] => ‘RepressIntern’: Russian security cooperation with fellow authoritarians [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => repressintern-russian-security-cooperation-fellow-authoritarians [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 11:04:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 11:04:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [22] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2301 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-11-21 11:40:23 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-21 11:40:23 [post_content] => You are the ones who are hurting yourselves. Someday, in five-ten years, you will have to return, or your parents will tell that it is time for you to come back home, or you will be kicked out of Europe. You will have nowhere to go then, and we will make you answer for every single word of yours and for your every action. I know all the webpages of all the young people who are residing in Europe, every Instagram and Facebook profile, every account of every social network, we are writing down your every word and putting them on record, we have all data on you, who you are, and what you are doing, we know everything. Nowadays, the modern age and technologies allow us all of that, we know everything and can find anyone, so do not make it worse for yourselves. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Head of the Chechen Republic, in a video published to YouTube[1]   The Head of the Chechen Republic does not need to exaggerate. Ramzan Kadyrov has ruled the North Caucasian republic of 1.2 million people with an iron fist since 2007, when he was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. His legitimacy largely rests on his ability to keep Chechnya, which fought two bloody wars with Moscow in the 1990s, firmly a part of the Russian Federation.   Kadyrov, who fought with his father against the Russian state until 1999, has also worked to ensure that his security apparatus is not limited by national borders. When the Head of the Chechen Republic wishes to punish those he deems guilty of even minor personal insults, location has not proved to be a serious limitation.   I know because I am one of them. In Russian, the word is vinovny – ‘a guilty one’. I cannot speak freely as to why I have left my home, as it is not just my own safety that is at stake, but that of my relatives, my colleagues, and my friends.   The vinovny include journalists, human rights activists, intellectual or religious regime critics, and the occasional rival warlord. We are far from homogenous, and joining our club is not difficult – often, a sharply-worded post on social media will suffice.   Much has been written, both in Russia and abroad, about how the vinovny are persecuted in Chechnya, but here I would like instead to discuss the persecution of Chechens abroad. From our perspective, abroad encompasses not just Europe and the Middle East, but also the rest of the Russian Federation. If it is as claimed that Ramzan Kadyrov can reach Boris Nemtsov on the steps of the Kremlin, - and the Nemtsov family believe there is strong evidence to suggest the head of Chechnya was responsible[2] – then he will have no issues doing the same to a near-anonymous Chechen in a suburban flat in Moscow or Rostov-on-Don.   Kadyrov has developed several strategies for intimidating, harassing, and when needed, murdering Chechens abroad. In recent years, he has become more proactive than reactive, as spectacular assassinations have given way to the more mundane practice of constant surveillance. It is this method we will discuss first.   Today, the Chechen state keeps close tabs on its people abroad through constant surveillance of both social media and ordinary telecommunications. The Chechen security services, whose members are a mix of former rebels who moved to Moscow’s side in the 2000’s – for a variety of reasons ranging from greed to blackmail, and not always of their own volition – and newer recruits simply desperate for a job of any kind, operate largely as Kadyrov’s private army. They are largely autonomous from federal Russian security services, and what interaction does happen between the structures is largely limited to training and intelligence sharing. Free from legal restraints, they are able to tap the phones of all relatives and friends of vinovny abroad.   This extends now to social media and blogs, formerly a place for dissident Chechens to organise and discuss social problems openly. Since the early 2000s, he has recruited teams of programmers and bloggers to control and shadow all Chechens online. There is even a state apparatus, the Security Council of the Chechen Republic, for this very purpose.   Not all Chechens are deterred by constant surveillance, however. Once they have decided to move beyond general surveillance to direct action, Kadyrov’s men gather all available information and weigh all possible options for punishing their target. The initial goal is to find kompromat, or compromising material, which can be used to shame or discredit critics on social media. If none exists, they will fabricate it.   An illustrative case is that of Chechen refugee Minkail Malizaev, who gained asylum in Germany with his family several years ago. Outraged by accounts of public humiliations, arrests, and other human rights abuses back home, he took to Facebook in May 2016 to condemn Kadyrov and his supporters using a very strong Chechen slur that roughly translates as ‘Putin’s bitches’.[3]   The retribution began immediately after the Facebook posts were published. Chechen security services rounded up all Malizaev’s relatives still living in Chechnya, including women and children, and forced them to beg Minkail to return and apologise to Kadyrov. He refused, and his relatives were eventually released – with the exception of Malizaev’s brother, whose fate is still a mystery, as his family does not know whether he is alive or dead.   His family has not publicly testified about how they were treated in captivity, but we can speculate based on reports from other Chechens who have been punished in the place of their relatives. If, like Malizaev, the vinovny fails to return, his relatives can be deprived of their social security benefits and property, their houses can be burned down, and in some cases, they can be expelled from Chechnya entirely.   Minkail Malizaev still refuses to apologise, and the threats against him continue. Years ago, these measures were more effective, and vinovny would often return to protect their family – often at the risk of their own life.   Returning vinovny can expect to be severely beaten, and after a bit of cleaning up, perhaps with makeup to hide cuts and bruises, to be forced to apologise on television. Following that, the ultimate fate of each person differs: he can either leave Chechnya forever, or with Kadyrov’s pardon, he can try to resume his life at home – but later, when the public has forgotten the incident, he could still be kidnapped, murdered, or sent to prison on some new charges, usually related to drugs or financial fraud.   Most Chechens abroad are aware that their relatives will be punished for any perceived crimes they may commit against Ramzan Kadyrov or the Chechen state, and choose to proactively sever all communication with friends and family at home for their own protection.   The government also actively interferes in online media in order to create the illusion that dissident Chechens abroad are the exception, rather than the rule. In late 2015 and early 2016, Chechen emigrants held a number of public demonstrations against Ramzan Kadyrov’s rule in several European cities.[4] Almost immediately, a simultaneous phenomenon sprung up: videos on social media of Chechens living in Europe, who instead praised Kadyrov as the true benefactor and leader of his people.   The videos appear to have been directed both at Europeans who might sympathise with Chechen refugees, as well as to remind the refugees themselves that they are not beyond Kadyrov’s reach in places like Oslo or Vienna. One video, entitled ‘Chechen Joke 2016’ and posted to YouTube under the ‘comedy’ category, is 16 seconds of a Chechen living in Hamburg, Germany, brandishing a pistol and threatening to murder any Chechens in Europe who dare to criticise Kadyrov.[5]   Prominent Chechen activists and human rights defenders who move abroad face further difficulty escaping Kadyrov’s reach. All refugees, regardless of status, are often kept in common camps where they must stay until their case is decided. As many activists and journalists are well-known people, it does not take long for them to be recognised by fellow Chechen, Ingush, Dagestani, or Russian refugees.   I can say from personal experience that refugees spend most of their spare time on social media communicating with relatives at home. Due to widespread wiretapping and monitoring of social media, often all it takes is for one refugee to innocently mention they’ve seen a certain human rights defender or journalist, and the vinovny’s anonymity is lost. Unfortunately, it is also common for people to report on others for Kadyrov, in order to obtain certain rewards.   However, such opportunistic informants are only complementary, as the Chechen government also sends its own agents to Europe disguised as refugees. Sometimes they stay undercover in order to monitor the emigrant populations' political sentiments or act as informants. Other times, they make themselves known in emigrant communities as a reminder that escaping from Chechnya does not mean an escape from political violence.   There is also the case of Said Emin Ibragimov, a harsh critic of both the Kremlin and the Chechen government who obtained political asylum in France years ago. In 2015, he was kidnapped while fishing near his home in Strasbourg. His captors, who he says spoke with Moscow accents, coaxed him to agree to stop his criticism; when he refused, they spent two days torturing him, beating him with iron bars and burning his fingers with cigarettes. His tormentors left his body in a forest near where he was taken. It is unclear whether he was supposed to survive.   Ibragimov insists his captors were FSB agents, not Chechens. Although Kadyrov’s agents have unquestionably taken the lead in intimidating Chechens abroad, they are by no means the only ones trying to stamp out dissent around the world.[6] If the punitive methods described thus far prove impractical, the Chechen state can pressure uncooperative Chechens abroad through the lobbying, blackmail, or bribery of public and religious figures in the country where the dissident resides.   Take the case of Dzhafar, an ethnic Chechen with Jordanian nationality. After posting videos on social media criticising the Chechen government on what may seem to be mundane matters to outside observers – primarily regarding the difficulties the Chechen diaspora has obtaining visas to visit relatives at home – Adam Delimkhanov, a member of the Russian Duma who is widely regarded to be Kadyrov’s right-hand man, travelled to Jordan with his entourage specifically to force Dzhafar to recant.   When death threats failed to convince Dzhafar to apologise, Delimkhanov reportedly informed the Jordanian government that Chechnya would cease to subsidise the thousands of Syrian Chechen refugees currently living in Jordan.[7] In response, the Jordanian government communicated to Dzhafar that they would not protect him from Delimkhanov, and it was in his best interests to publicly apologise.   Dzhafar met with Delimkhanov and agreed to repent. After apologising, he received a phone call from an unknown person in Chechnya, telling him: I do not want to have your blood on me, so I am telling you what I heard and what I know. You did not have to apologise, you were innocent and you did not have to make any excuses. This was done with the aim of making a public image of you apologising and being forgiven. But in three-four months, when everyone forgets about the incident, you will be killed anyhow. And no one will be held accountable for your death.   At the end of the video telling his story, Dzhafar states his plans to give up Jordanian citizenship and move to Turkey.[8][9]   When such coercion fails, the next step is for Kadyrov’s personal security forces to physically exterminate a person. Their exact methodology has changed slightly in recent years. In the past, his close allies would travel abroad to carry out the deed personally, but now the preferred method is to engage local contractors. One of Kadyrov’s close associates controls all aspects of the crime, but the one who finally carries it out is usually a local, who consents for money, blackmail, or some other reason.   A few high-profile murders of Chechens abroad that can be traced to Kadyrov himself include the killings of a former bodyguard in Vienna, a formidable pro-Moscow militiaman in Dubai, and a prominent businessman in Paris. In terms of lower-profile murders, human rights watchdogs have lost count of how many Chechen militiamen have been murdered in Turkey.   The most vivid example of the unimportance of borders for Chechens is the assassination of Sulim Yamadayev, former commander of the pro-Moscow Chechen militia Vostok Battalion on 28 March 2009. He was shot in the underground car park of an elite residential complex in Dubai, where he had reportedly been living under an assumed name for several months. Seven Chechens have been formally accused of the murder and placed on an Interpol wanted list, one of whom is the aforementioned Adam Delimkhanov, the member of the Russian Duma who would later travel to Jordan to threaten Dzhafar. They all remain at large, and at least one of the accused, Suleiman Germeyev, is wanted for a number of other murders.   Next is the case of Umar Israilov, a former a member of Kadyrov’s paramilitary forces and at one time, one of his personal bodyguards. Israilov and his father, Ali Israilov, fled Chechnya in 2006, and both filed cases with the European Court of Human Rights alleging the systematic murder and torture of Chechen citizens by security forces led by Ramzan Kadyrov and Adam Delimkhanov. After several years in hiding, the Israilovs settled in Vienna.   Before Israilov was murdered, he reported being threatened by men claiming to represent Kadyrov and asked Austrian police for protection. He was refused. In an interview with the New York Times given shortly before his death, Israilov claimed Kadyrov had offered a reward for his capture. He was murdered on 13 January 2009 on the streets of Vienna. [10]   According to investigators, he died in a kidnapping gone wrong. Four Chechen exiles attempted to grab Israilov from a Vienna sidewalk, but Israilov broke free and began to run. Eventually one of his pursuers, Lecha Bogatirov, tired of the chase and shot Israilov several times in the back. All but Bogatirov were arrested and eventually received long prison sentences. Bogatirov escaped, and is believed to have safely returned to Chechnya, where in November 2010, he appeared, apparently by accident, on camera on the Russian television network Rossiya 2 in a story filmed in Grozny, Chechnya’s capital.[11]   Our final example is the still unsolved murder of Abdulla Erzanukaev, also known as Abdulla the Austrian, who was shot dead in a friend’s apartment in Nice, France on 6th May 2011. The French police reported curious conflicting accounts of his death, and at one point ruled a man who had confessed to the crime could not have done so. Erzanukaev was a successful businessman who had sought political asylum in France, but who also reportedly used his wealth to financially support secessionist Chechen militant groups opposed to Ramzan Kadyrov’s rule.   With the exception of a thinly reported raid on other Chechen emigrants in Nice several months later, there have been no further developments or charges in Erzanukaev’s case.   In conclusion we will reiterate that these are only the accounts of the most high-profile critics, and that the murders and beatings these vinovny were subjected to largely pale in comparison to those who lack the means to leave Chechnya, or believe that moving as far as a Moscow suburb will protect them from Kadyrov and his sympathisers. If Dzhafar in Jordan did not have a significant following on social media, we would not know his story. If whoever killed Abdulla Erzanukaev had been a little more careful, we would not know his. Chechens are accustomed to living in fear wherever they are. So far, Europe has been no different. [1] See on YouTube at [2]  Shaun Walker, Boris Nemtsov murder investigators name Chechen mastermind, December 2015, [3] Minkail Malizaev, who called the Kadyrovtsy “Putin’s bitches”: I will not disown my words! - Leon Adam, YouTube video.    [4] The humiliation of Chechens. Kadyrov. The story continues – Current Time TV, YouTube video. [5] Chechen joke 2016. Kadyrov’s guard Petukh Hamburgskij – YouTube video - [6] BBC Russia, Chechen human rights defender: I have been tortured by the Russian agents via [7] According to Dzhafar, ethnic Chechen refugees receive 250-300 USD 'personally’ from Kadyrov. [8] During the editing process, Dzhafar Yordanskij’s YouTube account was suspended on grounds of “multiple third-party notifications of copyright infringement.” At the time of writing, his videos have been uploaded by YouTube accounts, but it is unclear if they will be taken down before publication. [9] Dzhafar Yordanskiy – how it happened. YouTube video [10] Ali Israilov on the secret prisons and torture in Chechnya – Voice of America, YouTube video$;HR97 [11] Israilov’s killer, on the run from Austria, filmed by “Vesti” program in Grozny Published 24 November, 2010. [post_title] => Chechnya - Repression without borders [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => chechnya-repression-without-borders [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 11:09:28 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 11:09:28 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [23] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2303 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-11-21 11:30:45 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-21 11:30:45 [post_content] => As political opposition, free press and civil society have disappeared from much of Central Asia they have moved into exile. There are none more aware of this shift than the security ministries of the Central Asian states. Just as these individuals and movements faced repression at home, they now face it abroad, especially elsewhere in the Former Soviet Union, but also beyond. The Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) database was built to chart the extra-territorial security measures deployed by Central Asian states and the human rights threats, abuses and concerns faced by exiles and opposition movements. It was initiated in October 2014 by John Heathershaw and Alexander Cooley in partnership with David Lewis and Edward Lemon. At first it was constructed in an ad hoc and inductive manner as cases came up in wider research; later it became more systematic and deductive with search of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) archive and other standard sources. The first publication of the CAPE database took place in November 2016.[1] All 125 cases included in the first public edition of the database are citizens of the five Central Asian Republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). What we have found is the widespread and increasing use of extra-territorial security measures by all Central Asian states but with more than 75 per cent of cases relating to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.   Each entry in the database is a particular political exile from one of the five republics. An ‘exile’, for the purpose of our analysis, is a category of emigrant who has settled or spent a prolonged period overseas for reasons which are wholly or partly of a political character. Therefore, labour migrants and other types of migrants are excluded. In some cases, the exile may not identify as an exile and may claim to be an economic migrant but may be targeted by their home country’s government for political reasons. Exiles may be refugees or asylum seekers or may not. Many of the persons in the database have sought temporary haven in many countries, often pursued by their home government. Their movements should also be included in the database entry. We identify four categories of exiles: 1) Former regime insiders and family members; 2) Members of opposition political parties and movements; 3) Banned clerics and alleged religious extremists, including alleged members of proscribed terrorist groups; 4) Independent journalists, academics and civil society activists.   Some political exiles span the boundary between two or more of these categories. Overall, the database includes some odd bedfellows from an ex-President (Kurmanbek Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan) to lowly human rights activists and journalists. Inclusion in the database does not imply an assumption either of innocence or of guilt on charges filed by the state of concern. Many persons have been found guilty in their home states in trials that do not meet international standards. A few have been found guilty in jurisdictions where fair trials are found. Many others have not been convicted of anything. What they share in common is having been deemed threatening to some degree by the regime of their home country.   Incidents and measures recorded in the database are those based on already-published sources such as court records, reports by human rights groups and credible press reports. We also gather information direct from exiles, their family members, lawyers and activists which is not in the public domain or included in the public database. In other words, the database only includes information already made public. It serves as a place for the collation and analysis of data – a one-stop shop to learn about political exiles and, more importantly, the patterns of extra-territorial security to which they are subject.   ‘Extraterritorial security’ denotes a range of practices to track and ultimately detain, capture or assassinate an exile who is deemed a threat to the regime in power. While security officers may portray their targets as transnational militants or terrorists who are threats to national or international security – sometimes with due cause – they are subject to extraterritorial measures due to being identified as a threat to regime security. We identify three stages of extra-territorial security. Individuals are:
  • Put on notice, which includes informal warnings and threats to individuals and intimidation of family members and formal arrest warrants, including Interpol notices, and extradition requests
  • Arrest and/or detention, which includes short-term and long-term periods of detention ordered by courts and irregular detention and detention without charge, and conviction to serve a sentence at home
  • Rendition and/or attack, which includes a formal extradition to face torture and imprisonment, informal rendition often following release from detention, disappearance, assassination and serious attacks with an attempt to murder or disable.
  A total of 38 persons (over 30%) of the entries in the database have been subject to these most extreme measures of extraterritorial security.   Table 1: Central Asian political exiles by country and stage
  Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3 Total
Kazakhstan - 9 1 10
Kyrgyzstan 5 2 2 9
Tajikistan 7 26 14 47
Turkmenistan 4 5 2 11
Uzbekistan 2 27 19 48
Total 18 69 38 125
  Kazakhstan Whilst there were only 10 cases in the database which involved Kazakhstan, all of these cases featured serious incidents associated with Stage Two – arrest, extradition – and Stage Three – torture, rendition and death. This may reflect the fact that all but two Kazakh cases involved exiles who were former insiders or secular opposition activists, indicating the acutely political nature of the state’s deployment of extraterritorial security. Many of these exiles fled to places beyond the former Soviet space to countries which will not extradite persons on politically-motivated charges or where torture is possible. However, this does not free the exiles from the long arm of the Kazakh state. In 2007, Rakhat Aliyev was sacked from his position as Kazakh ambassador to Austria, divorced from President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s daughter and sentenced in absentia to 40 years in prison for organised crime.[2] Aliyev was also charged with the kidnap and murder of two Kazakh bankers- the lawyers of whom have been accused of belonging to a cover organisation for the Kazakh secret service.[3] Aliyev handed himself in to the Austrian authorities, though they refused Kazak extradition requests on the grounds of the country’s appalling human rights record.[4] Whilst in investigative custody, Aliyev died in an Austrian prison in February 2015. The circumstances surrounding his death remain a mystery.   Kyrgyzstan Since the 2005 ‘Tulip Revolution’ Kyrgyzstan has attempted to shake its authoritarian Soviet-era image, and so it is perhaps unsurprising that it contributes just nine of the cases in the CAPE database. In addition, its extraterritorial security measures have mostly targeted former regime insiders from previous governments that the successor regime claims have genuinely committed crimes and fled to avoid justice. Targets include former presidents’ families, namely the Akayevs[5] and the Bakiyevs. Both former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev[6] and his son Maxim have been convicted in absentia and given lengthy prison sentences, Kurmanbek for allegedly organising mass killings[7] and Maxim for attempted murder[8] and corruption.[9] The type of extraterritorial actions taken against these exiles also suggests an attempt to move away from authoritarian traditions, with formal arrest warrants and court cases favoured over intimidation and violence. This transition has not been absolute, however, with our research uncovering several cases of individuals who experienced more severe and informal forms of extraterritorial action against them. These include abduction by plain clothed officers and alleged beatings by Kyrgyz authorities.[10] Numerous countries have also refused extradition requests from Kyrgyzstan for reasons including unfair trials and politically motivated charges.[11] These reports suggest that, while Kyrgyzstan’s extraterritorial campaign is less severe than other Central Asian states, it still seeks to ‘export repression’ to places where exiles have found safe haven.   Tajikistan Tajikistan is one of two countries that feature most frequently in the database with a total of 47 recorded cases. This is likely to be the tip of the iceberg with the government itself claiming in the first six months of 2016, that Russia alone had extradited 71 citizens back to the country.[12] There appears to have been a huge spike in the number of cases in the last 2-3 years, reflecting a hardening of Tajikistan’s repressive state. Just six of the 47 cases occurred before 2010, and just sixteen before 2014. In September 2015, Tajikistan’s repression of political opposition movements culminated in the forced closure of the country’s principle opposition party – the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). Official observers estimated that hundreds of IRPT members were arrested and imprisoned on politically motivated charges.[13] However, the regime’s desire to suppress its critics has not been confined to its borders.   Table 1 indicates that Tajikistan was one of the countries with the highest number of incidents from Stage One – charges, INTERPOL notices and intimidation often against exiles who lacked a public profile prior to this persecution – in addition to having one of the highest totals overall. Included in these 47 Tajik cases were incidents of intimidation, arrest and even assassination, in the case of Umarali Kuvatov – the founder of Group 24 who was shot dead in Istanbul in March 2015. Kuvatov had previously been in cooperation with Shamsullo Sokhibov, the son-in-law of the President Imomali Rakhmon, though claimed his shares had been taken by Sokhibov by force. In March 2015 Kuvatov was shot dead on the streets of Istanbul after being tracked around the world from Russia to UAE to Kyrgyzstan before moving to Turkey.[14] He was arrested at the request of the Tajik government and detained in Dubai before being released; he had just acquired legal refugee status shortly before his death. The research revealed that the Tajik authorities have not simply targeted the ‘high profile’ secular opposition activists like Kuvatov. Less significant members of Group 24 and their families have also suffered from extra-territorial security. Nematullo Kurbonov returned to Tajikistan after threats were made against his family. Kurbonov was arrested at Dushanbe airport on 9th October 2014, though later disappeared. Some sources have claimed that Kurbonov is serving a four year prison sentence though there remains no official record of a trial.[15] Kurbonov’s story and others like it reinforce David Lewis’ proposition that transnational spaces in Central Asia have resulted in regimes targeting families as a means to bind exiles to their home countries.[16]   Furthermore, incidents involving the other three groups of exiles – former insiders, alleged religious extremists and independent activists - were also significant. Dodojon Atuvulloev – former publisher of the independent newspaper Charogi Ruz (Day Light) – was stabbed by two unidentified assailants in Moscow in 2012.[17] Although Atuvulloev survived, he has endured further trauma as an INTERPOL red notice denied the journalist entry to Russia and Georgia in 2013, despite having held political refugee status in Germany since 2002.[18] There has been an overwhelming rise in Tajik asylum applicants. In the first half of 2016, 660 Tajiks sought asylum in Poland, surpassing the 527 applicants throughout 2015.[19] Yet Atuvulloev’s story illustrates that even those who have received refugee status do not have their freedom, in addition to Tajikistan’s misuse of intergovernmental organisations. In August 2016, an INTERPOL red notice was posted for Muhiddin Kabiri in violation once again of commitments made by the international police organisation in 2015 not to post notices in politically-motivated cases.   Turkmenistan     The total number of cases in the database that involved Turkmenistan is significantly lower than those involving Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. However, it should not be assumed that these figures suggest that Turkmenistan is not a state of concern in this area of extraterritorial security. For the 11 cases that did feature in the database, the extent of Turkmenistan’s wrath was felt, particularly in the case of Akmukhammet Bayhanov. As leader of the opposition movement Hereket, Bayhanov faced politically motivated charges of assisting Moscow-based Turkmen opposition exiles, which resulted in a four year prison sentence.[20] During his sentence, Bayhanov spent several months at Ovadan-Depe, a prison outside Ashgabat notorious for its extensive use of torture.[21] Like Kazakhstan, it is former insiders and secular oppositionists that compose the majority of the 11 cases. Therefore, the extent that these figures represent the full extent of Turkmenistan’s extraterritorial security may be questioned due to the enforced censorship and complete lack of political space in the country for almost the entire time since independence. President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov’s government has maintained systematic control over the country’s media; Freedom House estimated that in 2014 only 12.4% of the population had access to the internet.[22]   Uzbekistan The state of Uzbekistan presents a strong example of trends witnessed in the region, accounting for 37% of exiles in the CAPE database. The likely reason for this is its harsh repression of political opponents and independent religious movements that has forced thousands to flee abroad.[23] The Uzbek regime has perhaps the most extensive and institutionalised system of extra-territorial security with many long-standing cases compared with Tajikistan. Thirty-five per cent of all Uzbek cases progress to the third and final ‘stage’ of extraterritorial security, compared with 26 per cent among the other Central Asian states.   Among Uzbek cases in the database, three major commonalities were identified. First, an overwhelming majority of exiles have been sought for affiliations with banned religious organisations and religious extremism.[24] Religious exiles from Uzbekistan are often charged with ‘attempting to overthrow the constitutional order’, implying paranoia within the regime about its endurance and the threat from Islamic fundamentalism. This type of accusation is also perhaps used to gain legitimacy for its extraterritorial campaign, as Uzbekistan often frames its actions as part of the wider global fight against terrorism.   The second trend identified relates to Uzbek officials using a mix of formal and informal mechanisms to attempt to control exiles, which draws parallels to its handling of domestic affairs. Formal tactics include the use and misuse of legal and policing agreements, while informal mechanisms include surveillance, threats and attacks, abductions, forcible renditions and even assassinations. The case of suspected IMU member Ikromzhon Mamazhonov is illustrative of the more severe use of these tactics. He was detained in Russia in 2012, with his extradition being ordered by Uzbekistan and upheld by Russian courts. With ECtHR involvement, Mamazhonov’s extradition was eventually stayed in March 2013 and he was released from detention. He seemingly disappeared, however, and a few months later his lawyer received a phone call from a man identifying himself as Mamazhonov, who stated that he was being held in custody in Andijan, Uzbekistan. His current whereabouts remain unknown.[25]   The final trend seen partially in the above example is that Uzbekistan, like Tajikistan, maintains deep inter-service contacts with Russia’s security services, who seemingly aid it in its extraterritorial campaign. The case of Mamazhonov implies collaboration and complicity by Russian officials, as do other abduction cases.[26] The database also records occurrences of Uzbek officials interrogating citizens held in Russian prisons,[27] as well as Russian authorities denying Uzbek exiles’ asylum requests[28] and using their own migration laws to assist Uzbekistan in extraditing wanted persons.[29] Overall, analysis of cases involving Uzbekistan highlighted the extraordinary measures it takes to control its exiles and the extent to which the Tashkent regime has exported repression.   Conclusions The CAPE database represents the first systematic, recurrent collation and analysis of all cases of exile and extra-territorial security in the Central Asian space.[30] It provides a source for further research and a resource for human rights activists and those who support asylum seekers to put individual cases in their wider political context. Annual reviews and updates are planned with the support of postgraduate research assistants at the University of Exeter. Unfortunately, the cases of extra-territorial security are increasing in number and the CAPE database is likely to increase in size at a dramatic rate as more sources become available and more cases are documented. Further research is needed to plot the relationship between informal measures of intimidation and persecution of friends and family members alongside the formal measures of exporting repression. [1] For more on the CAPE Database please visit the project website: [2] BBC, Kazakh pair in Austria trial after Aliyev jail death, April 2015, [3] Tony Paterson, Rakhat Aliyev: Claims of murder over death of rival to Kazakhstan's president in Austrian prison, The Independent, March 2015. [4] Malta Today, Austrian judge rules Rakhat Aliyev was not murdered in jail, December 2015, [5] Askar Akeyev ruled from 1990 (during the Soviet era) until the March 2005 Tulip Revolution. [6] Bakiyev ruled from 2005 until 2010, when protests saw his government collapse. [7] BBC News, Kyrgyzstan former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev sentenced, February 2013, [8] Jim Armitage, Despot's son with £3.5m home sued for ‘ordering hit on Briton’, Evening Standard, March 26, 2015, [9] BBC News, Kyrgyzstan convicts ex-leader's son Maxim Bakiyev, March 2013, [10] Amnesty International, Eurasia: Return to torture: Extradition, forcible returns and removals to Central Asia, London: Amnesty International, 2013, 49-50. [11] Belsat, Zhanysh Bakiyev to escape punishment?, September 6, 2012,; Jerome Taylor, Kyrgyzstan's ‘prince’ Maxim Bakiyev in the dock as US extradition battle begins, The Independent, December 7, 2012, [12] Asia Plus, Tajikistan conducts negotiations with Interpol member nations over extradition of IRPT leader, July 2016, [13] Human Rights Watch, Tajikistan: severe crackdown on political opposition, February 2016, [14] IWPR contributor, Tajik Dissident's Murder Rattles Opposition, Global Voices, March 2015, [15] Human Rights Watch, ‘Tajikistan’. [16] David Lewis. 2015. Illiberal spaces: Uzbekistan’s extraterritorial security practises and the spatial politics of contemporary authoritarianism. Nationalities Papers 43: 146. [17] Reporters Without Borders, Tajik opposition journalist stabbed in Moscow, January 2012,,41676.html [18] Radio Free Europe, Russia denies entry to Tajik opposition journalist, July 2013, [19] Yan Matusevich, The Quiet Tajik Refugee Crisis, The Diplomat, August 2016, [20] Farangis Najibullah and Muhammad Tahir, Campaign Seeks Proof That Former Turkmen Minister Alive,  Radio Free Europe, October 2013, [21] Ibid. [22] Freedom House, Turkmenistan, 2015, [23] David Lewis, Exporting repression: Extraterritorial practices and Central Asian authoritarianism, in A. Hug (ed.), Shelter From the Storm: The Asylum, Refuge and Extradition Situation Facing Activists from the Former Soviet Union in the CIS and Europe, London: The Foreign Policy Center, 2014, 11. [24] Political opponents, activists and journalists feature too, in smaller numbers. [25] European Court of Human Rights, Case of Mamazhonov v. Russia. Judgment, October 2014, [26] For example, European Court of Human Rights, Case of Abdulkhakov v. Russia. Judgment, October 2012,; European Court of Human Rights, Case of Ermakov v. Russia. Judgment, November 7, 2013,; European Court of Human Rights, Case of Kasymakhunov v. Russia. Judgment, November 2013, [27] Vitaly Ponomarev, Гражданин Узбекистана совершил самоубийство в московском СИЗО после угроз сотрудников узбекских спецслужб [A citizen of Uzbekistan committed suicide in a Moscow SIZO after threats from the officials from the Uzbek special services], Memorial, December 2012, [28] No individual in our database who applied for full refugee status in Russia had their request accepted. [29] For example, European Court of Human Rights, Case of Rakhimov. Russia. Judgment, July 2014, [30] For a more detailed discussion of the Tajik and Uzbek cases in the database see Alexander Cooley and John Heathershaw, Dictators Without Borders: power and money in Central Asia, London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017, chapter 8 [post_title] => Practices and patterns of extraterritorial security: Introducing the Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) database [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => practices-patterns-extraterritorial-security-introducing-central-asian-political-exiles-cape-database [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 11:14:58 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 11:14:58 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [24] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2307 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-11-21 11:15:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-21 11:15:43 [post_content] => It wasn’t very long ago that citizens of Uzbekistan were confident that living abroad and having refugee status meant safety. They were sure that emigration was a panacea for them and for their relatives left behind in the country of origin. Many have already seen the loss of this illusion.   In 2005-14, within the framework of refugee assistance, the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (AHRCA) documented 114 cases of extra-territorial repression. Almost all those concerned were declared wanted by Uzbekistan. At that time, half of them already had refugee status, others were UNHCR applicants. The AHRCA continue our monitoring activity, and we have discovered 45 similar cases over the past two years. Moreover, in half of the cases extra-territorial repression was repeated and became harsher.   Thus, refugee status or even citizenship of European countries, the US or Canada does not always provide effective protection. This situation deserves the most serious attention.   How does the secret service of Uzbekistan collect information about political emigrants? What methods of pressure are used against them if they keep up their civil engagement after emigrating? What are the threats to Uzbek citizens who live abroad for a long time? Such questions arise when we examine the risks to Uzbek political emigrants.   Over the past one and a half years, the situation of Uzbek refugees has considerable worsened. Especially most complicated are the situations of those who are still in the countries of the former USSR, with their old Uzbek passports, who are wanted by Uzbekistan but keep up their civic activity through the mass media or on their personal Facebook pages.   Even those who have been granted residence permits in Europe, the USA, or Canada do not feel safe if they are wanted by INTERPOL. The strengthening of the international investigation system after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris in January 2015 has led to more frequent arrests and extradition requests. Now, hotels, transportation and other amenities in the West where personal data are registered are involved in the search system. Unfortunately, the updated security systems do not take into consideration the potential abuse of INTERPOL mechanisms such as the false charge fabrication practices used by repressive regimes such as Uzbekistan. In Uzbekistan, there are more than 12,000 prisoners convicted under politically motivated sentences.   Unfortunately, in free democratic countries where Uzbek citizens find refuge, the personal data of people under international protection are not protected. We know from reliable sources that telecommunication companies display data about their customers in open reference resources. With the help of such resources it is very easy to find the home address and telephone numbers of political emigrants just by knowing their names. Public critics of the regime are in serious danger. There are instances whereby after an interview with a human rights activist or a political leader is published, an all-round harassment in social media is unleashed against them. Insults and threats, anonymous phone calls and libel campaigns are used in which relatives living in the country of origin are forced to take part. The relatives are coerced and pressured in order to stop the political emigrants’ participation in the investigation of corrupt transactions in which high ranking officials are involved or their activity in human rights projects. More and more often, law enforcement agencies put pressure on activists by confiscating their property in their home country or sentencing them to jail in absentia without the possibility of appeal. All the above mentioned circumstances emerge unexpectedly for Uzbek citizens who live abroad for a long time and affect their future lives in profound ways.   Daniel Anderson and the ‘Norwegian syndrome’ The number of persons who have returned from Norway to Uzbekistan between 2014 and November 2016 who have been jailed has reached 30, with varying sentences. In case of their return to their home country, dozens of citizens of Uzbekistan living in Scandinavian countries risk being arrested based on self-incriminating testimonies given under duress. This process is on-going.   Norway is an attractive country for Uzbeks because it has jobs, living standards are higher than in Uzbekistan and, as it seemed until recently, life there is safe. Back in 2007, some entrepreneurs even decided to open a ‘business’ consisting of cheap labour recruitment to Norway. An agency was opened in Uzbekistan to recruit potential workers for jobs in Norway and it helped them in obtaining the Schengen visa. That way, it facilitated the illegal transportation of people across borders (smuggling).   There were many candidates. They paid the fraudsters between five to ten thousand US dollars in cash. The migrant workers came to Norway where they were met by other intermediaries. Instead of job contracts those intermediaries wrote false stories for them to be submitted to the migration service and dragged them into the refugee status-obtaining procedure so that their clients could live for free in the refugee camps and then obtain the right to live in Norway legally. After their applications were considered, the applicants received work permits and could find jobs without the intermediaries’ help.   In 2008, a serious scandal occurred. 17 migrant workers came to Norway from Bukhara. As usual, they were taken to the refugee camp and were offered to apply for political asylum pretending they were gay or that they were witnesses of the Andijan events of 2005. It was hoped that because Uzbek law persecutes sexual minorities, Norway would grant refugee status to these pseudo-refugees. They lived for several days in the camp and video-recorded the living conditions of people from Uzbekistan, they made up a list of the Uzbek applicants and declared that they wanted to go back home because they had been cheated. Norway then deported them.   After a while, Uzbek TV ran a documentary about fraudsters exporting ‘traitors of the motherland’ to Norway. The people shown in the documentary said they were cheated, came back, voluntarily submitted themselves to the National Secret Service of Uzbekistan (SNB), and gave over all the information which they had collected in the refugee camp.   Norway has been under close attention from the SNB, especially since 2000, when it granted refugee status to the leader of the Erk opposition party, Mukhammad Salikh. In 2008, after the 17 Bukhara migrant workers cheated by fraudsters returned home, the Uzbek law enforcement agencies started developing their own informant network in Norway. Soon after that, the Uzbek authorities found out how and through whom migrant workers were going to Norway and Sweden and also the reasons some of them did not go back to their home country.   In December 2014, in Uzbekistan, a propaganda programme entitled Hiyona[1], translated from Uzbek as ‘Betrayal’, was run on the Oʻzbekiston national TV channel just several days before the trial of the characters shown in the documentary. No-one is surprised by the violation of the presumption of innocence in Uzbekistan. For 35 minutes of the film’s duration, its authors present their version of the story of the eight men, six of whom sought refugee status in Norway.   In Norway, they worked and went to the mosque on Fridays. From time to time, they would get together and watch documentaries on the internet about the suffering of Muslims in war-ridden countries and sent a share of their earnings to help them. They all repented with tears and asked for forgiveness from the Uzbek people ‘for perjury against Uzbekistan’ in Norway when they sought political asylum in violation of both Uzbek and Norwegian law. The film characters declared that they ‘repented committing a mistake by joining extremist organisations and betraying their Motherland’.   As it transpired during the trial, the main person shown in the film learnt about the documentary which was shown on national TV where fragments of interrogations recorded with hidden cameras were featured. In the courtroom, one of the defendants showed his tongue had been torn into two pieces and confessed that he was tortured during the inquiry and investigation.   In the court trial, it also transpired that two other men named Ilkhom Azamov and Temur Zoitov returned from Norway and reported to the SNB on six other defendants, those who had ‘made a mistake and betrayed their Motherland’. Azamov and Zoitov also lived in Norway and communicated with the ‘traitors’. Six people were convicted to twelve and thirteen years of jail. They were found guilty of complicity with a certain ‘Islamic Movement of Turkestan’[2] which was declared a terrorist organisation . Three more[3]  were convicted for the ‘Non-reporting of crime or harbouring of crime’. They were released under amnesty by the court.   The film and the trial had a profound effect on the public in Uzbekistan and abroad. The Norwegian government immediately reacted to the process. It decided to suspend all deportation cases of Uzbek citizens to their country of origin. And then, all departments of the Norwegian migration agency[4] started reconsidering the cases of Uzbek applicants and requesting information from human rights organisations. Upon their return to Uzbekistan, the so-called ‘Norwegian Uzbeks’ were convicted for actions which they had not committed in Uzbekistan. In Norway, sexual minorities are not persecuted and watching the videos which they watched is not banned. These are typical stories of Uzbek citizens who are trying to find jobs in order to provide for their families in Uzbekistan. The consequences for many of them have proved to be very grave.   On 30th September 2016, a Norwegian citizen of Uzbek origin, Daniel Anderson, came back to Oslo from Uzbekistan[5]. For more than 18 years he had been living outside Uzbekistan, visiting his relatives from time to time. In March 2014, he received a phone call from Uzbekistan from a female relative who informed him that his mother was very ill. He was overwhelmed with emotion and he decided to visit his mother, unsuspecting that this was a provocation.   On 13 April 2014, he went to Kyrgyzstan. For fear of political repercussions for his participation in public protests and signing petitions against forced labour and protection of torture victims, he decided to try to enter Uzbekistan unnoticed. He crossed the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border, walked through a village where houses of the residents of Uzbekistan and Southern Kyrgyzstan are divided by a road. Local residents are eligible to cross the border freely. There is no border control point there, so he walked safely into the territory of Uzbekistan. That same day he went to see his mother. After a few hours, a group of SNB officers came to his house. First, they took him to the passport agency and then to the investigation detention centre of the Ferghana SNB where he was tortured. He was sentenced to 9 years in jail[6]. He spent three years in jail. Anderson’s health was seriously damaged; he sustained injuries to his liver and kidneys.   The SNB officer was in the possession of information about Andersen’s connections with activists living abroad. The SNB investigator was a man whom he met in Oslo several times during Friday prayers in the mosque. Anderson could not deny his acquaintance with ten colleagues because during the interrogations he was shown photographs where he was with friends in Norway fishing and at public protests. The investigator told Andersen that he obtained these photos from his email; therefore, he thinks that his email inbox had been hacked. Anderson admitted that he was forced under torture to sign false evidence against Uzbek political emigrants Mukhammad Salikh, Nadejda Atayeva and Alim Ataev. He was forced to testify that these individuals sent him to Uzbekistan to organise a coup d’état.   Later, he discovered that, based on his evidence given under torture, criminal cases were opened against five persons who he used to communicate with in Norway. They rented temporary accommodation together and thus came to know each other. Based on that false evidence, criminal cases were opened against them and they were declared wanted. Such abuse of INTERPOL mechanisms has become a normalised practice in Uzbekistan.   Daniel Anderson says that in July 2016, seven migrant workers were deported from Norway to Uzbekistan. In Uzbekistan, they were not arrested immediately but only in September. First they were summoned for interrogation by the SNB and then new criminal cases were opened. He knows this because he was also summoned to the interrogation because one of those seven individuals told the investigator that he knew him. Concurrently, a new criminal case is being administered in respect of the already convicted ‘Norwegian Uzbeks’ who returned two years ago.   What happens to those who return to Uzbekistan? Since 2012, we have been receiving information that residents of Uzbekistan who stay abroad for more than 3 months are scrutinised by passport control in the airport upon arrival. This has been documented in cases of those returning from a number of countries including Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Turkey and Egypt. This is due to the fact that there are considerable Uzbek diasporas in those countries. In a separate office room in the airport, they are interviewed by an SNB officer who often introduced himself as a counterintelligence department officer. First, he examines their passports and asked them standard questions about why they left to go abroad and what they did there. He also shows them photos of both familiar and unfamiliar persons and asked which of those persons the interviewee communicated with and under which circumstances.   We managed to interview applicants who personally experienced this, or whose relatives have done. Sometimes they were not able to recognise the people they were asked about. Those witnesses told us that the SNB officer had many photographs, mainly passport photos of a larger size. As a rule, the interviewees recognise several political emigrants[7].  Besides the personal photos, they are shown photos of people at meetings and rallies. It is possible that photo and video material is collected from the personal pages of political emigrants in social networks and through the SNB’s agents that have infiltrated the refugee population.   In 2013, in Sweden, a criminal case was opened in respect of an Uzbek citizen who was hiding in Uzbekistan from criminal liability for domestic violence committed in Sweden. They found on his computer photos of political emigrants who live in Sweden as well as libellous articles which were published later on the internet anonymously. Furthermore, there were photographs taken with a hidden camera in the airport, in a restaurant and in other public places in Sweden. Subsequently, a criminal case was opened against him in Sweden. He returned to Uzbekistan and soon after started an online periodical with anonymous provocative materials. The interviewed witnesses described the photographs that were discovered in this agent’s computer.   In 2013, in Tashkent airport, a female citizen of Uzbekistan who had a Swedish permanent residency permit due to her daughter’s illness was detained. She had returned to Uzbekistan in order to renew her passport. She was pregnant and she had a young daughter with her. She was detained while passing through border control as soon as they saw that she lived in Sweden. They held her for 11 hours without explanation and just asked her one question: “Why did you come?” When she explained the purpose of her visit, they started showing her photos, then they took her to a room with one bed. For 6 hours they wouldn’t let her go to the bathroom and didn’t give her food or water although her little daughter was crying from hunger. When she passed out, they gave her water and took her back to the SNB officer for further interrogation. She was trying to explain that in Uzbekistan it wasn’t possible to get medical treatment for her daughter and she didn’t know anybody in the photos. They shouted at her and forced her to sign a false statement that she was a member of the Erk Party. She refused to write a self-incriminating paper or give evidence against people whom she didn’t know and had never seen. After that, the SNB officer’s tone became especially rude and he threatened to deprive her of her parental rights.   They let her go thanks to a relative who called a confidential city hotline and said that she disappeared in the airport with a young ill daughter. They let her go after midnight. For more than 4 months the woman couldn’t change her passport or get permission to leave the country. They opened a criminal case against her under Article 223 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Unlawful entry and exit from the Republic of Uzbekistan) because she left Uzbekistan without an exit visa from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. However, our applicant didn’t violate the passport regime. She produced all the documents proving that she married in Sweden and her daughter was undergoing treatment there. Finally, she was compelled to leave Uzbekistan secretly and now she is afraid of going back. According to her neighbours, a few weeks after her departure a district police officer and SNB officers started visiting her residence address in Tashkent. Two years later the apartment was sealed in the presence of neighbours and a representative of the prosecutor’s office.   One of the applicants for support from the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia worked as the head of a shift at Tashkent airport. He testified that SNB officers have keys to all service exit doors of the airport. When individuals return to Uzbekistan via an extradition request they are always met by SNB officers. They take them to the SNB investigation detention centre on Krasnogvardeyskaya Street in Tashkent without a passport control stamp, therefore for many months, their relatives might not even know where they were arrested. They look for them in the meantime in the places where they were arrested prior to their extradition. Usually this happens if a citizen of Uzbekistan is arrested in Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan. Even if lawyers join the search for the arrested party, it is not possible to find them quickly.   Information about who is detained in the SNB investigations detention centre is not always given to their lawyers, but only when the detainees have been taken to the Tashtyurma prison, which means that charges against them have already been brought. The main proof of guilt is the self-incriminating testimonies obtained under torture. They are even forced to give evidence against any political emigrants they have met or any that the SNB has information that they have met.   Observations by the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia show that there is an urgent need to carry out reform of the systems of the UNHCR and INTERPOL. Also, at the government level of the states who have ratified the UN Convention on Refugees, it is high time to create conditions whereby the country which is providing international protection to refugees also protects their personal data, in addition to ensuring the safety of those who engage in public activities and are subject to attacks by the secret services of their country of origin. [1] Link to the film Betrayal [2] They were all jailed under the Articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan: 159 (Encroachment on the constitutional order of the Republic of Uzbekistan), 244-1 (Production and dissemination of materials containing threat to public security and public order), 244-2 (Creation, leadership, participation in religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other banned organisation), 246 (Contraband). See below for their names. [3] Three more were convicted of the violation of article 241 CC RU (Non-reporting of crime or harbouring of crime): Zaitov Timur Tulkunivich, Agzamov Ikramhuja Bahramovich, Zakirov Akmal Akhmadalievich. They were amnestied by the court. [4] Immigration Appeals Board (UNE), UNE stops return to Uzbekistan, December 2014, [5] Hege Wallenius and Gordon Andersen, Daniel tells of escape from prison nightmare in Uzbekistan, VG, September 2016,[23808803%20daniel_forteller_om_flukt_fra_fengselsmareritt_i_usbekistan_jeg_trodde_jeg_skulle_doe_der_inne] [6] In 2014, Daniel Anderson was convicted for the violation of articles of CC Ruz: 160 (Espionage), 120 (Pederasty), 159 (Encroachment against constitutional order), and 223 (Unlawful entry and exit from the Republic of Uzbekistan) and sentenced to 9 years of jail. Conditional punishment was used for health reasons.   [7] Mukhammad Solikh, the leader of the Erk opposition party; Obidkhon Nazarov, a religious authority figure; Mukhammadsolikh Abutov, the founder and editor of the Tayanch website, Nadejda Atayeva, President of the Association for Human Rights in Central Asia (this author); Kudrat Babadjanov, a journalist political emigrant; Yevgeniy Dyakonov, journalist, political emigrant; Ismail Dadadjanov, one of the leaders of the Birlik Party. [post_title] => The situation of the Uzbek refugees: New threats and methods of pressure [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => situation-uzbek-refugees-new-threats-methods-pressure [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 11:27:41 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 11:27:41 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [25] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2311 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-11-21 11:05:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-21 11:05:11 [post_content] => Azerbaijan wages a vicious crackdown on critics and dissenting voices by arresting and prosecuting human rights defenders, youth activists, critical journalists and opposition political activists, as well as by adopting laws and regulations restricting the work of independent groups and their ability to secure funding. Although in 2016 the authorities conditionally released or pardoned a number of individuals previously convicted on politically motivated charges, they have arrested many others on spurious criminal and administrative charges to prevent them from carrying out their legitimate work. None of those released had their convictions vacated, several face travel restrictions, some had to halt their work due to almost insurmountable bureaucratic hurdles impeding their access to funding, while many chose to leave the country and continue the work from abroad.   However, in addition to using criminal and administrative sanctions against human rights defenders, journalists and activists, the Azerbaijani authorities have also arrested, prosecuted and harassed activists’ family members with the apparent aim of compelling the activists to stop their work. As the cases described in this article reflect, the authorities have targeted the relatives of outspoken journalists and activists who have fled abroad out of fear of persecution and continued their vocal activism in exile. In some cases, relatives in Azerbaijan have publicly disowned or renounced their relationships with their close relatives abroad, possibly as a means to avoid retaliation by the authorities for their relatives’ vocal criticism. Below are just some examples of cases from recent years when the Azerbaijani authorities explicitely targetted the relatives of journalists and activists in exile.   Emin Milli, Meydan TV Founder and Director Emin Milli is a dissident and exiled journalist, who is the founder and the director of Meydan TV, based in Berlin. Operating since 2013, Meydan TV is one of Azerbaijan's last surviving independent media outlets and is only able to operate out of Germany, cooperating with freelance journalists based in Azerbaijan and neighbouring countries. Meydan TV carries material critical of the Azerbaijani government and its policies related to human rights, corruption, and similar issues. Several journalists cooperating with Meydan TV have faced criminal investigations.[1]   Milli was imprisoned in 2009 for two-and-a-half years on criminal hooliganism charges, in retaliation for his criticism of the government.[2] In June 2015, authorities arrested Milli’s brother-in-law, Nazim Agabeyov, on drug charges. In April 2016 a court sentenced Agabeyov to a three-year suspended sentence, which includes a travel ban. Milli considers the charges against Agabeyov to be “bogus and absurd,” intended to punish his relatives for his critical reporting.[3] A week after Agabeyov’s arrest, 23 of Milli’s relatives sent a letter to President Aliyev calling Milli a traitor, hostile to Azerbaijan’s ‘great success, development, prosperity and integration with foreign countries.’[4]   On April 20, 2016, the Azerbaijani authorities launched a criminal investigation into ‘alleged illegal practice and profit-making in an especially large amount, large-scale tax evasion and abuse of power resulting in falsification of elections and/or referendum results’ involving 15 journalists who cooperate with Meydan TV.[5] The journalists are all at liberty pending the investigation, but at least seven of them face travel bans.[6]   The authorities began questioning several freelance journalists cooperating with Meydan TV in September 2015, after the journalists had reported on large-scale protests in Azerbaijan’s fourth largest city, Mingechevir, where a young man died in police custody in August 2015, allegedly from ill-treatment by police.[7] Officials invited the journalists for questioning, claiming to be investigating the Mingechevir incidents. However, the questions related almost exclusively to Meydan TV, its payroll practices, staff, and funding. The authorities placed a number of the journalists under travel bans.[8]   Mehman Huseynov, photo and video journalist Mehman Huseynov is a photo and video journalist and social media activist, who police have been harassing since 2012, when he photographed and publicised police violence as Azerbaijan prepared to host the Eurovision Song Contest.[9] Huseynov is the brother of Emin Huseynov, director of the Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, who now resides in Switzerland since his offices were sealed shut by the authorities in 2014, as described above.[10]   The authorities initiated a criminal case against Mehman Huseynov in June 2012, detained him for a day, charged him with hooliganism ‘committed with resistance to a representative of the authority’, and released him on his own recognizance, but the criminal investigation is ongoing. Huseynov explained that there have not been any significant developments in the investigation in the past three years, but the case is still pending. Police have detained and interrogated him on numerous occasions since then.[11]   According to Huseynov, after his brother Emin left the country, the investigator has not hidden from him the motives for keeping the 2012 criminal investigation open. Huseynov said: “The investigator said, ‘We could not arrest your brother, but we control whatever happens to you and your family.’ They cancelled my ID card and passport and I cannot get new ones, and couldn’t travel anywhere, even if I wanted. I received a response this week about my most recent request to travel abroad. They say that I am not allowed to, claiming there is a risk that I would abscond because of the pending criminal investigation.”[12]   Officials have never questioned Huseynov about the incident with the police officer and he is not aware of any meaningful investigative steps. Without identification documents, Huseynov cannot authorise power of attorney to a legal representative and thus is also not able to file a lawsuit against any official actions. The absence of identification also prohibits him from formal employment and education.” [13]   Ganimat Zahidov, Azadlig newspaper editor-in-chief Ganimat Zahidov is the editor-in-chief of the major opposition daily newspaper Azadlig and the pro-opposition television program Azerbaijan Saat (Azerbaijan Hour) which is broadcast by satellite for a few hours every week from abroad. The authorities have often jammed transmission and removed the channel from satellite broadcasts, but Azerbaijan Saat has continued to broadcast by frequently identifying new host channels.[14] Arrested after publishing articles critical of the government, Zahidov was sentenced to four years in prison in 2008 on dubious hooliganism charges. He was released under a 2010 presidential pardon, but in 2011 fled to France after officials threated him and his family.[15]   According to Zahidov, several of his family members who remain in Azerbaijan have been targeted in retaliation for his continued critical journalism.[16] The authorities detained two of Zahidov’s nephews as well as a cousin in June 2015. A court sentenced the nephews to detention for allegedly disobeying police orders, and immediately brought criminal drug charges against the cousin, Rovshan Zahidov. One nephew was released after serving his sentence, but the authorities brought drug charges against the other nephew, Rufat Zahidov. Both Rovshan Zahidov and Rufat Zahidov were convicted in 2016 on criminal drug charges and are serving six-year prison terms. Both had spent nearly a year in pre-trial detention prior to their convictions.[17] Both have denied the charges and said they never used drugs. Forensic examinations also could not prove any drug history.[18] In recent years, the authorities have also targeted other journalists affiliated with Azerbaijan Saat. Its anchor, the well-known journalist Seymur Hazi was arrested in August 2014.[19] In the same month, the brother of the programme’s other anchor, Natig Adilov, was arrested on trumped-up drug charges, which Adilov said was in retaliation for his own journalism.[20] Their colleague Khalid Garayev was arrested in late October 2014, when police accused him of hooliganism for ‘swearing in public’, after which he was sentenced to one month in detention.[21]   Tural Sadigli, blogger and social media activist Tural Sadigli, a blogger and political activist, fled Azerbaijan in January 2013 fearing arrest. He continued to author the popular pro-opposition Azad Soz website and Facebook page, where he often posts articles and videos on political prisoners and corruption. In January 2015, Sadigli participated in a protest outside the offices of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, during a visit by President Aliyev. Sadigli’s Berlin protest prompted authorities in Azerbaijan to retaliate against his family members.[22]   On February 13, 2015 police in Baku detained Sadigli’s brother, Elgiz Sadigli, on spurious drug charges. According to Tural Sadigli, his brother alleged that police planted drugs on him in the police station and in his car. He was initially held in pre-trial detention for two months on charges of allegedly possessing 1.5 kilograms of marijuana, but then released to house arrest. In November 2015 an Azerbaijani court convicted Elgiz Sadigli, sentenced him to two years’ probation, and banned him from traveling outside of the country. He was interrogated twice during the seven-month investigation into the drug charges, but police focused questions on Tural’s activities in Germany.[23] He appealed the conviction but in January 2016, the appeals court left the verdict standing.   Also on February 13, 2015 police called in Sadigli’s father for questioning and held him overnight on allegations of swearing in public. The police informed his father that his and Elgiz’s detentions were in response to his son’s political activities in Berlin.[24]   The relatives of at least three other exiled activists who joined the Berlin protest have also been called in for questioning, according to information gathered by Sadigli. Police in Sumgayit and Baku invited their relatives to the police station, kept them for several hours, and questioned them about their relatives’ political activities and who organised the Berlin protest. In one case, police showed one of the relatives a picture of the Berlin protest. Police warned them that they would be in trouble if their relatives in Germany continue their anti-government activities. In two cases relatives apparently lost their jobs as retaliation.[25]   Rasul Murselov, opposition activist Rasul Murselov is an activist with the opposition Azerbaijani Popular Front Party (APFP) and is active on social media. In August 2014, Murselov participated in a workshop in Georgia, which included participants from Armenia, a neighbouring country locked in a protracted conflict with Azerbaijan. Upon his return to Azerbaijan, the authorities questioned Murselov about his contact with Armenians. Fearing arrest Murselov fled and sought asylum in a European country.[26]   In September 2015, Murselov’s parents and five other relatives renounced all connections to Murselov in an appeal to President Aliyev and several government agencies.[27] Murselov explained that the authorities’ pressure on his parents was in retaliation for his work: “My parents were repeatedly summoned to the police station and questioned about my activities. They were under pressure and threatened with dismissals from their jobs. Their decision to disown me was the only way for them to deflect the constant harassment from the police and other officials.”[28]   Conclusion In recent years, Azerbaijan have been engaged in a vicious crackdown on critics and independent civil society groups. In its October report, “Harassed, Imprisoned, Exiled,” Human Rights Watch documented the government’s concerted efforts to undermine civil society.[29] In addition to the cases described above of harassment against the relatives of activists in exile, the authorities used false, politically motivated criminal and administrative charges to prosecute political activists, journalists, and others criticising the government and its policies. The government has built a restrictive legal and policy framework to paralyse the work of independent groups. Lawyers willing to defend critics have faced retaliation and disbarment. Although the authorities released several human rights defenders and others in early 2016, many others remain in prison or fled into exile.   The international community has responded to Azerbaijan’s lack of respect for human rights in a disjointed and inconsistent manner, hindering the possibility of a clear, unified policy response to the civil society crackdown. Throughout 2015 and 2016 the European Union (EU), the United States (US), and Azerbaijan’s other bilateral and multilateral partners have issued statements deploring the arrests and convictions of activists and journalists and welcoming releases, but failed to impose consequences for Azerbaijan’s human rights crackdown.   The severe drop in global oil prices in 2015 took a significant toll on Azerbaijan’s petroleum export-dependent economy. Low economic performance and depletion of oil revenue reserves prompted the Azerbaijani leadership to seek loans from multilateral development banks.[30] This provided additional opportunities for these institutions to insist on institutional reforms, including fostering an enabling environment for civil society as a precondition for certain assistance.   The EU and Azerbaijan are about to embark on negotiating a new framework document to replace the 1999 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which provided the legal framework for EU-Azerbaijan bilateral relations in the areas of political dialogue, trade, investment, and economic, legislative, and cultural cooperation. The new agreement is designed to foster closer political and economic ties between Brussels and Baku, but the lengthy talks on the new partnership will also provide the EU with an invaluable opportunity to press Azerbaijan for concrete improvements in the area of human rights. Efforts should include urging the authorities to release journalists, political activists, and human rights defenders imprisoned on bogus charges; to stop the harassment of journalists, activists, other government critics, and their relatives; to end the crackdown on civil society; and to bring legislation related to freedom of association into line with international norms. [1] Afgan Mukhtarli, Azerbaijan: Campaign against Meydan TV Continues,  IWPR, November 3, 2015, [2] For more on Milli’s detention and conviction in 2010, see: Azerbaijan: Young Bloggers Jailed, Human Rights Watch news release, November 2009,; and Azerbaijan: Appeal Court Leaves Bloggers in Jail, Human Rights Watch news release, March 10, 2010, [3] Milli published this statement on July 27, 2015: [4] Meydan TV, Relatives disown Emin Milli, July 2015, [5] Meydan TV, Meydan TV under criminal investigation, Meydan TV, April 2016, [6] Telephone interviews with lawyer Elchin Sadigov, August 14 and 17, 2016. [7] IWPR, Street Protest After Death in Azerbaijan Police Custody,  IWPR, August 2015, [8] Interviews with lawyer Elchin Sadigov, August 14 and 17 2016. [9] Human Rights Watch, Azerbaijan: Retribution Against Photographer,” Human Rights Watch news release, June 14, 2012, [10] The Guardian, Swiss fly out opposition journalist hiding at its embassy,  The Guardian, June 2015, [11] Criminal Code of Azerbaijan, art. 221.2.2. Telephone interview with Mehman Huseynov, September 16, 2016. [12] Telephone interview with Mehman Huseynov, September 16 2016. [13] Telephone interview with Mehman Huseynov, April 10 2016. [14] Reporters Without Borders, Ganimat Zahid, 2016, [15] Frontline Defenders, Case history of Ganimat Zahidov, 2016, [16] Telephone interview with Ganimat Zahidov, April 11 2016. [17] IRFS, Critical journalist Ganimat Zahid’s relatives sentenced to 6 years in prison, June 2016, [18] Telephone interviews with Ganimat Zahidov and Natig Adilov, April 10 and 11 2016. [19] Azerbaijan sentences opposition journalist to 5 years in jail, Reuters, . [20] IRFS, Opposition activist Murod Adilov sentenced to 6 years in prison, May 2015, [21] J, Journalist Khalid Garayev arrested for 25 days (UPDATED), October 2014, [22] Human Rights Watch, Dispatches: Jailed in Azerbaijan for Protest in Berlin, February 2015, [23] Telephone interviews with Sadigli’s family members, names withheld, and Tural Sadigli, September 15 2016. [24] Telephone interviews with Tural Sadigli, April 24 and 27 2016. [25] Telephone interviews with Tural Sadigli and protest participants, names withheld, August 16 2016. [26] Details withheld for security reasons. Interviews with Rasul Murselov, April 8 and 9, 2016. [27] “Parents disown their political prisoner son,” Musavat Daily, September 9, 2015, [28] Telephone interviews with Rasul Murselov, April 8 and 9  2016. [29] Human Rights Watch report, “Harassed, Imprisoned, Exiled: Azerbaijan’s Continuing Crackdown on Government Critics, Lawyers, and Civil Society,” October 20, 2016, [30] Jack Farchy, “IMF, World Bank Move to Forestall Oil-Led Defaults,”Financial Times, January 30, 2016, [post_title] => Azerbaijan targeting families of activists in exile [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => azerbaijan-targeting-families-activists-exile [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-07 11:52:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-07 11:52:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [26] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2082 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-10-26 19:45:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-10-26 19:45:26 [post_content] => From the FPC's Europe and the people: Examining the EU's democratic legitimacy London Conference on October 26th 2016 the After Brexit: Can we build a new democratic foundation for UK-EU relations? panel comprising: Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP, Emma Reynolds MP, Douglas Carswell MP, Professor Vernon Bogdanor (Kings College) and Stephen Booth (Open Europe),with Marie Le Conte (Buzzfeed) chairing is available to watch: [post_title] => Europe and the people: After Brexit: Can we build a new democratic foundation for UK-EU relations? panel video [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => europe-people-brexit-can-build-new-democratic-foundation-uk-eu-relations-panel-video [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 19:54:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 19:54:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [27] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 688 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-09-13 14:50:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-13 14:50:09 [post_content] => The Democrat nominee Hilary Clinton has been seen to personally insult President Putin on occasions. For example, comparing him to Hitler over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea resulted in reciprocated derogatory comments from Putin. Whilst this is unlikely to seriously harm bilateral relations, a Clinton Presidency would benefit from a reversal in such rhetoric if US-Russia relations are to improve. Putin and Clinton would likely retreat from using personal insults should she be elected to the White House, though with a string of personal insults on record, Russia would initially find this hard to work with and this may hinder initial policy progress. However, a Clinton Presidency also creates opportunities for Russia to work with. For example, Clinton is considerably experienced in politics, particularly in foreign affairs following her tenure as Secretary of State. This is underscored by her knowledge of engaging positively with Russia; the 2009 ‘reset’ being a case in point. Personal networks within the upper echelons of the Kremlin will be a strong point from which to start for a Clinton Presidency and Russia will benefit from the experience that her team will bring, in terms of understanding international positions and the ability to create mutually beneficial deals i.e. when Russia allowed transit of US weapons and personnel across Russian territory, ratified in 2011. Significantly,< Russia has usurped by Saudi Arabia as the world’s third largest investor in defence>. Russia’s < defence budget for 2015 was $66.4bn> though figures for 2016 suggest this has < dropped to $49.1bn>. As a rational actor, however, Russia will want to create and maintain a consistent upward trend in defence spending should Clinton be elected due to her continued history of criticism regarding Russian foreign policy. This is further underscored by Russia’s < medium term strategic aims in Syria and Ukraine> – though cost pressures point to a weakened position for Russia in terms of bargaining in these conflicts. Positively, too, working with Clinton on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation has the potential to assist in mutual trust and would allow Russia to see itself as an equal partner in international affairs, along with the US, which is a longstanding aim of Putin’s. In general, Clinton < "does not have much time for Russia">, though as President, she would be likely willing to work with Russia on the key contemporary geopolitical issues, namely the Syrian conflict, European security and combatting ISIS. Conversely, a Trump Presidency would harbour little political experience from the new President himself. This is underscored by the contradiction between his positive rhetoric on Russia and the Republican Party’s longstanding anti-Russian position. Engaging with a politically-untested US President is an unprecedented situation, which not only Russia but the whole world will need to adapt to. Trump’s pro-Russian rhetoric on the campaign trail may not stand up to scrutiny when in the Oval Office, however. Once elected, Trump would likely be restricted in implementing certain promises made during his election campaign, not least because they have often been at odds with the established status quo on US-Russia relations. However, recent reversals in senior Republican rhetoric have been unexpected and will likely be beneficial to the architects of Russian foreign policy. For example, Newt Gingrich said “< I’m not sure I would risk a nuclear war over some place, which is the suburbs of St. Petersburg>”, which was in reference to Trump’s statements that the Baltic states would need to “< fulfil their obligations to us>” in return for US guarantees on NATO involvement in the unlikely eventuality of a Russian military invasion. Russian foreign policy would be heavily influenced by such reneging in terms of institutional commitments – specifically regarding NATO’s < commitment to all members> – giving the Kremlin increased flexibility in regard to activities in countries of close proximity, particularly Ukraine. Rather than producing a line of personal insults to Putin, as Clinton has, Trump has consistently praised the Russian President. Rhetoric is easy to produce and it is important to consider, however, that these complements shield the lack of political experience Trump has and perhaps more importantly for the candidate himself, the lack of business experience in Russia, reflecting his “< abysmal lack of connections to influential Russians>”. Further, Trump has tweeted, he has “< zero investments in Russia>”. This lacuna in relations with Russian business and political elites is both potentially advantageous to Russia in the sense that there is open ground on which to generate new policies and business deals beneficial to the Kremlin, though simultaneously this reality has pitfalls. That is to say, inexperience on these matters has the potential to create misunderstandings and more broadly negatively affect Russian foreign policy, especially through inexperienced policy implementations on part of the US. It is important to note, however, that < the true nature of Trump’s investments in Russia and Russian investments within the Trump business empire> remain opaque. There are strong reasons, however, for Russia to desire a Trump Presidency. First of all, Trump has argued against continued membership of the institutions, which represent the post-Second World War liberal peace, most noticeably NATO and the WTO. Trump’s comments on the fulfilment of Article V, in regard to protecting other member states – in this case, the Baltics – have significant ramifications for the security situation in Eastern Europe. While it is unlikely that Russia will invade these states, the possibility of the US not coming to their aid in response to external threats should their obligations to the US not be met, has shaken the organisation and would have widespread repercussions for other NATO members, too. More broadly, a Trump Presidency would see a break with over sixteen years of broken efforts in terms of securing and maintaining strong US-Russian relations. These include Russia’s aim to reintegrate with the West, particularly after 9/11; the vetoing of the Iraq War; NATO enlargements; Putin’s 2007 Munich Speech; the lack of cooperation following the 2009 ‘reset’; plans to locate missiles in Czech Republic and Poland; and sanctions since 2014. These challenges have represented the volatile nature of US-Russia relations since Putin was first elected in 2000. The Kremlin will see Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric as refreshing with the potential to create a genuine ‘reset’ in relations, with Russia’s position in terms of bargaining power, considerably leveraged. More profoundly though, a Trump Presidency would give Russia more confidence to act within its near-abroad i.e. Ukraine. Whilst the Baltic states are not the primary concern of Russian foreign policy, maintaining influence in Ukraine is, and can be seen through a series of events since the Orange Revolution in 2004. Overall, Russia will have contingency plans for either outcome. While the election result is too hard to call with opinion polls showing potential victory for either candidate, it is nonetheless essential for Russia to be able to move forward in bilateral relations with the US. Russia has broken with the post Cold War peace order but a return to continuous candid relations is not beyond reach. There are challenges that are significant for both countries to consider and where cooperation can be achieved. For example, the Syrian Civil War; efforts to combat ISIS; and most recently maintaining stability in Turkey – that is to say, from the US perspective, maintaining Turkey’s international commitments i.e. to NATO and from a Russia perspective, solidifying the volatile nature of bilateral relations since 2015 and mutually utilising Turkey as a key player in fighting ISIS and the wider Syrian conflict. Less pressing issues where cooperation can be made include further downsizing of respective nuclear arsenals and visa-free programmes, which remain longer-term issues. In 2013, RT – a Russian state-run television outlet – published < emails between Clinton and former advisor Sidney Blumenthal>, which eventually resulted in a political scandal during the US Presidential elections. This has been recently compounded as < further emails were acquisitioned on the eve of the Democrat Convention in July 2016>, leading to accusing rhetoric against Russia, citing Putin’s desire to compromise Clinton resulting in a Trump Presidency. Soon after these leaks, Trump’s Presidential Campaign Chairman, Paul Manafort resigned following the discovery of handwritten ledgers from former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych, < totalling $12.7mn, stressed as illegal by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau>. It is uncertain how the documents were discovered but the timing is significant, and ultimately damaging for the Trump campaign. As the election nears, it appears that Russia is laying its cards on the table as to whom it considers its preferred choice for President. For the first time, there is a lack of bipartisanship towards Russia from within the two main US political parties. This is what makes the 2016 election unique from a Russian perspective. September 2016 Samuel Rogers is a PhD Candidate at the University of Bristol and was recently a visiting fellow at the Harriman Institute at Colombia University. He will be joining a panel discussion with General Richard Shirreff at the Bristol Festival of Ideas entitled < 2017: War with Russia?> taking place on Monday October 24th 2016 from 6.30-pm-8.00pm. [post_title] => US Elections 2016: Russia’s Preferred Choice [post_excerpt] => The victor of the US Presidential Elections in November 2016 will be either Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump. Both candidates have views that are inconsistent with each other regarding Russia and on the institutions that influence policy towards Russia. From a Russian perspective, there are advantages and disadvantages in relation to each potential outcome. It is therefore timely to consider to what extent each candidate may benefit Russia in terms of policy objectives. This article addresses the pros and cons for each candidate in this regard. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => us-elections-2016-russias-preferred-choice [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 09:02:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 09:02:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [28] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 687 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-09-05 11:58:49 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-05 11:58:49 [post_content] => How does private sector development support structural transformation and enhance sustainable development outcomes? This might range from wealth and investment creation to employment-led growth. Private sector development might also drive innovation and technological development to building essential infrastructure. Furthermore, business and enterprise can also support entrepreneurship, help improve the quality of work and provide much needed increases in labour productivity. How can sustainable business support, strengthen and champion its impact on women's resilience and wellbeing? In addition, how might governments, in partnership with civil society, provide support to facilitate and influence the development impact of business on women? By examining the transformative effect of business on women's lives, livelihoods and wellbeing, the event series aims to explore a number of key themes including: • Female entrepreneurship, employment and agricultural development: Promoting food and nutritional security by improving support to women producers. • Bridging the gap between science, technology and innovation for development transformation in Africa: Tackling development dilemmas in agriculture (e.g. food and livestock security) and the environment (e.g. biodiversity and forestry). What works, what doesn't and how can success be appropriately scaled-up and replicated? • Women and environmental resource management: Adapting to a changing environment and balancing conservation and consumption in an age of scarcity and uncertainty. The event series is scheduled to take place 2014-16. Following the roundtable discussion series, the FPC will produce a report (to be launched in 2016/17) which will build on the discussions and insights exchanged during the course of the event series. The report will capture the salient issues discussed and key findings identified. This event forms part of a wider Foreign Policy Centre series entitled: Africa Rising? Building Africa's Productive Capacity for Inclusive Growth. Additional project supporters include Barclays and CDC Group. [post_title] => Summary note 5- Investing in women's economic resilience & social wellbeing [post_excerpt] => In a series of Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) roundtable discussions - supported by Nestlé - the FPC seeks to explore how business can play a more constructive role in building resilience to improve women's economic and social wellbeing across Africa. This series of roundtable discussions is taking place at a time when global development priorities are being reshaped and redefined by the 17 recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change agreement (COP21) which aspires to keep global temperature rises below 1.5°C (above pre-industrial levels) however, has yet to provide the commitments needed to achieve this. In addition, at a time when the level of global inequality and insecurity disproportionately affecting women and girls continues to be compounded by the aftermath of an unprecedented global economic crisis, on-going global economic fragility and austerity producing mounting uncertainty. These conditions present very real challenges for public spending dedicated to sustainable development. As such, understanding the development transformation role played by business and enterprise across both the formal and informal sectors has become increasingly important. How does private sector development support structural transformation and enhance sustainable development outcomes? This might range from wealth and investment creation to employment-led growth. Private sector development might also include driving innovation and technological development or help to build essential infrastructure. Furthermore, business might also support enterprise development, help improve the quality of work and provide much needed skills development and improved productivity. This summary note reflects the discussions which took place at the fifth session which focused on supporting innovation to promote food and nutritional security across Africa. This is particularly significant for women and girls given the interface between agriculture, rural economic development, and the need to build sustainable food systems to improve nutrition. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => summary-note-5-investing-in-womens-economic-resilience-social-wellbeing [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 09:02:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 09:02:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [29] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 685 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-06-14 13:11:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-06-14 13:11:13 [post_content] => How does private sector development support structural transformation and enhance sustainable development outcomes? This might range from wealth and investment creation to employment-led growth. Private sector development might also drive innovation and technological development to building essential infrastructure. Furthermore, business and enterprise can also support entrepreneurship, help improve the quality of work and provide much needed increases in labour productivity. How can sustainable business support, strengthen and champion its impact on women’s resilience and wellbeing? In addition, how might governments, in partnership with civil society, provide support to facilitate and influence the development impact of business on women? By examining the transformative effect of business on women’s lives, livelihoods and wellbeing, the event series aims to explore a number of key themes including: • Female entrepreneurship, employment and agricultural development: Promoting food and nutritional security by improving support to women producers. • Bridging the gap between science, technology and innovation for development transformation in Africa: Tackling development dilemmas in agriculture (e.g. food and livestock security) and the environment (e.g. biodiversity and forestry). What works, what doesn’t and how can success be appropriately scaled-up and replicated? • Women and environmental resource management: Adapting to a changing environment and balancing conservation and consumption in an age of scarcity and uncertainty. The event series is scheduled to take place 2014-16. Following the roundtable discussion series, the FPC will produce a report (to be launched in 2016/17) which will build on the discussions and insights exchanged during the course of the event series. The report will capture the salient issues discussed and key findings identified. This event forms part of a wider Foreign Policy Centre series entitled: Africa Rising? Building Africa’s Productive Capacity for Inclusive Growth. Additional project supporters include Barclays and CDC Group. [post_title] => Summary note 4- Investing in women's economic resilience & social wellbeing [post_excerpt] => Part of the 'Africa Rising? Building Africa’s Productive Capacity for Inclusive Growth' series In a series of Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) roundtable discussions - supported by Nestlé - the FPC seeks to explore how business can play a more constructive role in building resilience to improve women’s economic and social wellbeing across Africa. This series of roundtable discussions is taking place at a time when global development priorities are being reshaped and redefined by the 17 recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Change agreement (COP21) which aspires to keep global temperature rises below 1.5°C (above pre-industrial levels) however, has yet to provide the commitments needed to achieve this. In addition, at a time when the level of global inequality and insecurity disproportionately affecting women and girls continues to be compounded by the aftermath of an unprecedented global economic crisis, on-going global economic fragility and austerity producing mounting uncertainty. These conditions present very real challenges for public spending dedicated to sustainable development. As such, understanding the development transformation role played by business and enterprise across both the formal and informal sectors has become increasingly important. How does private sector development support structural transformation and enhance sustainable development outcomes? This might range from wealth and investment creation to employment-led growth. Private sector development might also include driving innovation and technological development or help to build essential infrastructure. Furthermore, business might also support enterprise development, help improve the quality of work and provide much needed skills development and improved productivity. This summary note reflects the discussions which took place at the fourth session which focused on how science and technology can help drive more open and inclusive innovation to explore how best women and girls across Africa might be empowered to meaningfully contribute to shaping sustainable development solutions which address the challenges they face across agriculture and the rural economy. In essence, what works, what doesn’t and how can success be appropriately scaled-up and replicated? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => summary-note-4-investing-in-womens-economic-resilience-social-wellbeing [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 09:02:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 09:02:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [30] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2323 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-05-24 10:40:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-24 10:40:26 [post_content] => The recent history of law making in Eastern Europe and Central Asia has been characterised by a significant number of countries adopting laws that suffocate civil society and limit human rights activism. The governments of Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have adopted laws to promote their world views on suppressing civil society, sharing bad ideas and putting pressure on dissidents abroad. Considering the common characteristics of these countries and the common enemy their regimes all face (in the form of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)), it is by no means a coincidence that after Russia adopted a so-called ‘foreign agents law’, former Soviet countries with totalitarian tendencies started to look at ways in which similar repressive laws could be developed.   The political context of former Soviet countries varies, from totalitarian regimes trying to maintain their political power and economic advantages that only benefit certain political elites, to countries that have undergone numerous revolutions in the struggle to find an identity and form a modern state. While countries such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have enjoyed economic freedom of action due to their energy reserves, widespread social and economic hardship in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have made these countries fundamentally dependent on Russia. Belarus, on the other hand, has always maintained the closest partnership with the Russian Federation. Other countries of the former Soviet Union (except the Baltic States that are now part of the European Union), Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia have paid a heavy price in recent years for turning their backs on the Kremlin but have nonetheless enjoyed relative freedom from external political pressure.   This article aims to look into the available legal tools shared for the purposes of repression in the former Soviet countries. Soviet law-making in many ways still underpins the legal culture of the region. Hence, in order to establish the origins of collaboration between countries that aim to promote laws that curb the existence of NGOs, it is important to draw analysis from the historical understanding of the shared history of law-making in the post-Soviet countries. This article aims to help the reader understand the post-Soviet legal culture and also the ways in which friendly experience-sharing takes place with the aim of fighting a common enemy – NGOs.   For this reason, I will focus on countries that have already adopted laws to limit civil society space (the so-called NGO laws). These include the Central Asian countries, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Russia. For the purposes of this article, I will refer to these countries as former Soviet countries, unless otherwise indicated. Where other former Soviet countries are mentioned I will use individual country names.   The crafting of socialist law The Russian Federation has had a historical role in law-making in all of the former Soviet countries. This is particularly true in the context of Central Asia, where only after Russian conquest, and later Soviet rule, were modern type administrative institutions introduced.[1] This also meant that the Soviet regime isolated all five Central Asian countries (as all other Soviet states) from worldwide movements towards national independence and the development of new national identities and institutions. Indeed, popularisation of Soviet consciousness, and intensified attempts at the ‘Russification’ of ethnic minorities in Central Asia also distanced these five Soviet countries from the rest of the world.[2] Following the October revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks created the system of socialist law that, despite having roots in the civil law tradition, is recognised as being distinct from it.[3] This permutation of European law only took place in the Soviet context and largely ignored local customs, including in countries occupied by the Soviet Union in the wake of World War Two.[4]   Soviet law acted to maintain the existing political system and to prevent social unrest, and was used as a blatant instrument to these ends in the hands of the Soviet political establishment. At the same time, Leninism was giving rise to a legal system under which the powerful were able to manipulate the laws to serve their own institutional and individual interests. In this context, Soviet law was generally viewed as a coercive and effective instrument for imposing its policy goals on an often reluctant but, out of necessity, politically passive citizenry. It also meant that law had become a flexible tool for repression and for establishing a strict authoritarian regime, by manipulating legal institutions and incapacitating courts and legal systems.[5] Furthermore, this meant that for ordinary citizens, law represented a symbol of repression and terror, and only contributed to the estrangement of Soviet citizenry from participating in public life.   Current political affairs in former Soviet countries The countries discussed in this article are diverse, however they all share Soviet history. These countries never had statehood before the Soviet Union was created and therefore after the fall of the Union they faced the crisis of seeking an identity, as nationalism was on the rise. All of these countries are largely governed by the same political elite that ruled during the Soviet era. The exception is Kyrgyzstan, which underwent a number of revolutions. Elections in these countries are compromised by falsification of results, harassment of political opponents, and most of all by ‘overwhelming support’ for the ruling parties.[6]   Rulers in post-Soviet countries have hardly changed. In Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, former Communist Party leader, has ruled the country since before its independence.[7] In the same vein, Kazakhstan has been ruled by Nursultan Nazarbayev – former chief of the Communist Party since the independence of the country.[8] Azerbaijan is governed by Ilham Aliyev – who took over from his father Heydar Aliyev’s presidency.[9] After a referendum in 2009, the Constitution was amended to remove the two-term limit on the presidency. Aliyev was elected for a third five-year term in 2013. In Tajikistan, Emomali Rakhmon, former cotton farm boss, has been in charge since 1994.[10] The country is expected to have a referendum in May 2016 to make Emomali Rakhmon the president for life. In Belarus, President Lukashenko has been in charge since 1994.[11] In Russia, Vladimir Putin has been a dominant political figure since 2000. A former FSB chief of the Russian Federation, he served two terms as president between 2000 and 2008 and resumed the presidency again in 2012. The country that remains the most isolated from the outside world in Central Asia is Turkmenistan, considered an authoritarian state. Neither independent political activity nor opposition candidates are allowed in Turkmenistan, and political gatherings are illegal.   Kyrgyzstan has been the black sheep of the neighbourhood, undergoing a number of political changes and revolutions. Despite all the human rights problems that have harmed the country’s good reputation,[12] the country stands out in Central Asia for its parliamentary democracy. Almazbek Atambayev, a businessman and former prime minister, was elected president in October 2011. His election represents the country’s first peaceful transfer of presidential powers since the collapse of the Soviet Union.[13] Despite this, recent changes discussed below will show that the Kyrgyzstan political elite also developed ways of suppressing civil society and curbing NGO activism in the country.   Modern governance of civil society and the legacy of socialist law Hangover from socialist law Despite the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed 29 years ago, socialist law still continues to have a profound influence on what is and what will be. The spirit of the law that Leninism created is strongly held by current political establishments in former Soviet countries and nihilism towards the rule of law is deeply rooted in the fibre of these societies. As such, a hangover from the Socialist laws is manifested in multiple ways, including a vagueness in the law, the poor quality of many statutes, and laws that have only compounded the problems of instability. Laws often are riddled with vague language and internal inconsistencies, often intentionally crafted to be used for political repression.   Even in cases where good intentions are evident, the relative inexperience of the legislators, who have gone without any training in how to draft a workable statute or how to manoeuvre it through a faction-ridden legislative body, still affects the quality of laws made in former Soviet countries. If one compares current law-making practices in the former Soviet countries to the experiences of the earlier days of the Soviet Union, it is clear that the nature of this political use of law has been deeply cemented into the socio-political culture of these societies.   To sum up, writing in 1986, a group of academics from the University of Illinois stated: ‘it is impossible to develop a satisfying logical structure for Soviet legislation. The difficulty is that the legislative bodies sometimes pass laws codifying one part of the system of Soviet law; while at other times they pass legislation dealing with a particular social problem by applying the methods of a number of different branches of law.[14]   The modern function of civil society in former Soviet countries The resistance towards NGOs and attempts to undermine dissident opinion in former Soviet countries should not be surprising. It is widely understood that the establishment of international norms, by which the conduct of states can be measured or judged, is the primary preoccupation of NGOs.[15] This means that there is a constant tension between socialist law – that allows existing political establishments in former Soviet states to subordinate the law to politics and use it as a repressive mechanism – and international norms that oblige states to create an environment for the realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.   One of the many threats that NGOs pose to existing political regimes in the region is the possibility of political opponents using human rights NGOs for their own purposes. This would mean that NGOs are working alongside opposition parties to undermine political stability in the country in question. This tension is evident in all former Soviet states, where NGOs leaders are charged with politically motivated charges.[16] In an environment where the only independent information on human rights abuses is provided by NGOs, it comes as no surprise that the dictatorial regimes of the former Soviet Union blame NGOs, accusing them of being enemies and agents of Western countries that use human rights to attack more vulnerable and non-Western countries. In almost all of these countries poverty is widespread (often due to corruption, as social welfare is not available for the community) and institutions are either incapacitated or unable to perform their state function. Therefore, NGOs increasingly perform roles to fill these gaps, including seeking redress and access to justice on behalf of citizens. Increasingly, NGOs have provided legal aid in all the former Soviet countries, in addition to providing healthcare, education and welfare in some cases. The legal aid system is almost non-functioning in all of the former Soviet countries and NGOs are the only bodies providing free legal aid. Extreme levels of corruption within government institutions have also dissuaded international aid agencies and institutions from working closely with state institutions, and hence an increased shift has been observed in donor policies.   This, on the one hand, demonstrates the state’s failure to protect human rights and sends a message to society about its inability to properly fulfil its functions and obligations under human rights law. On the other hand, it indicates that NGOs are and can be important players in providing social services and influencing social processes in society. In circumstances where states are weak and corrupt, the only way to help them maintain their position is to curb dissident viewpoints. This not only undermines state sovereignty but also political stability in these countries (where political stability = existing political regimes).   Russia, civil society and an affair of law making The current President of the Russian Federation came from a Soviet KGB background, and shows a rather ambivalent approach to civil society. He has been suspicious of its independence, and particularly of its often foreign sources of funding, and therefore its goals. [17] Putin’s attitude towards civil society and NGOs in particular was challenged by the cascade of colour revolutions that took place in the neighbouring countries of Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and Kyrgyzstan (2005).[18] At this point, the head of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, started to complain that foreign NGOs were damaging the national security of Russia and requested a legal basis to enable him to deal with them.[19] Patrushev’s appearance in the State Duma marked the start of the war on civil society in Russia. Numerous vague changes in legislation put an ‘onerous bureaucratic burden on the operation of non-commercial and non-governmental organisations’ [20] to specifically affect their ability to receive foreign funding. The government of Russia from this point onwards began to promote the establishment of Government Organised Non-Governmental Organisations (GONGOs), which continuously engaged in smear campaigns against individual NGOs by accusing them of being covers for espionage or otherwise serving foreign interests. Considering the history of the Soviet Union and the concept of espionage, it is no surprise that the citizens of Russia started to fall under the trap of the state and believed the fabricated news produced by the state media.   In parallel, a ‘demand’ was created in Russian society and from the law-makers to ‘protect the national security’ of the Russian Federation, which seemed under attack from foreign-funded NGOs. By adopting the ‘foreign agents’ law, Russian legislators and society increasingly believed that if NGOs are funded by foreign donors, they must have ‘foreign orders’, and if they have ‘foreign orders’ this means they are against Russian ‘national security’. This is indeed a notion widely held within the FSB[21], and by President Putin himself, who sees groups which make up civil society serving as a front for international espionage and attempts from abroad to undermine the Russian state and way of life. Hundreds of NGOs are now forced to enlist themselves as ‘foreign agents’ further discrediting them in the eyes of the public.[22] Whilst this law was aimed at suppressing civil society in-house, Russia has gone a step further by adopting the law on ‘undesirable NGOs’ which targets international NGOs operating in Russia. When an international NGO is listed as undesirable, any cooperation with them is pronounced illegal, meaning that prosecution will be sought of individuals. Amnesty International has reported that such a list mostly includes US-based donors.[23]   Sharing worst practices The countries of the former Soviet Union have different reasons for adopting the same viewpoints as the Russian Federation. Whilst the role of NGOs may be different in these countries, depending on their economy and social acceptance, there is a shared interest in maintaining political power and eradicating a space for freedom. For example, all former Soviet countries have been under some influence from Russia, some more then others. This can be explained by a number of reasons, though the main reason remains its heavy political and legal reliance on Soviet, now Russian, governance. A longing for the certainties of Soviet rule is still strong in all five Central Asian nations, making it important to remain close to the Russian Federation with its political, legal and social culture. Even more, in the Caucasus, the culture of Socialist law and a dictatorial political regime has allowed the government of Azerbaijan to share worst practices with Russia without ‘direct consultations’. This includes restrictions on foreign funding for NGOs. Such support can only be made in pursuant to the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan. Furthermore, both sides will have to be registered with the government to obtain a right to give and receive a grant. NGOs have been made to adhere to numerous reporting obligations to the government, either before receiving or after implementing the grant, making it difficult for civil society to operate.[24] Similar changes have been proposed and adopted in Central Asian countries. In Kazakhstan, new amendments to the Law on Non-Profit Organisations were adopted, creating a central ‘operator’ to raise funding and administer state and non-state funds to NGOs, including foreign funding, for projects and activities that comply with a limited list of issues approved by the government. [25] Similar laws were adopted in Tajikistan in August in 2015, when NGOs had been facing significant fines from multiple state institutions.[26] Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have traditionally restricted NGO operations that has largely included access by foreign donors.   Kyrgyzstan remains the only country so far in the region to have not adopted restrictions on civil society. Though it was discussed in a first plenary hearing in the parliament, the law was withdrawn in June 2015. A political rhetoric exists, however, that states the need for closer ties with Russian politics and cohesion with its socio-legal and political systems. Therefore, there is a belief that the adoption of such a law is only is a matter of time. This is particularly true when considering how Russia has maintained and reinforced its economic ties with Central Asia. It has established a number of institutions that oversee political, economic and other major aspects of policies in the region. The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), initiated by Russia, which now counts Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the Russian Federation as member states[27], began as a body that dealt with the economy, but has grown to have political ambitions. [28] The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)[29] – a political body established by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan – members of the Shanghai five mechanism[30] – and Uzbekistan[31] - has declared protecting human rights as a main objective. Yet the SCO has been widely criticised for being a vehicle for enabling states to commit human rights abuses.[32]   These two institutions, as well as individual political and economic ties with the countries, allow Russia to not stop at the borders of the Russian Federation when ‘protecting national security’. Fear of civil society-fuelled revolutions means that the government has to engage with neighbouring countries to stop ‘attacks from civil society’. For this reason, regional institutions such as the EEU, SCO and other, wider bodies such as the Commonwealth of Independent States[33] allow Russian leadership in the region, and actively promote its legal and political systems alongside formalising Chinese influence in the case of the SCO. Similarities in political leadership, governance and government institutions make it easy for these countries to adopt similar laws, but it also makes it easy for them to subordinate such laws to their political tastes and views.   Conclusion The governments of Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan have abused the power given to them by their constituencies to act as gatekeepers for the protection of rights and freedoms. While practicing different methods of suppressing civil society, the foundation upon which these countries have based methods of operation lies within the Soviet legal and political culture. This not only acts as a source of political inspiration for bad law-making, but also heightens societal nihilism towards government institutions, which feeds back into creating a breeding ground for the usurpation of power by political elites.   Sharing practices will continue to play a significant role in legal professionals’ lives in the region. Trapped in remote geographical locations, law-making can often be a difficult task and can only be determined by taking into account existing political and economic pressures. In societies where the political viewpoints of the leaderships have a higher value than the constitution, and where rule of law is a neglected concept, it becomes important to call for wider reforms, not only at the national level, but internationally. Reforms should continue to pressure former Soviet states to respect the rule of law, good governance and the accountability of government.   There needs to be a shift from sharing bad practices to sharing best practices, making the law superior to politics. Only the rectification of historical error will allow former Soviet nations to free themselves from the legacy of Socialist law and develop a system that is based on modern legal culture; a culture that respects rule of law and civil society. [1] Waugh, Daniel Clarke, Ruffin, M. Holt and Center for Civil Society International. 1999. Civil society in Central Asia. Seattle: University of Washington Press. [2] H. Seton-Watson
Source. 1956. Soviet Nationality Policy. The Russian Review, Vol. 15, No. 1 pp. 3-13
. Published by: Wiley on behalf of The Editors and Board of Trustees of the Russian Review Stable. [3] Kathryn Hendley Kathryn Hendley. 1996. Trying to Make Law Matter: Legal Reform and Soviet Labour Law in the Soviet Union Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. [4] Waters, Christopher P. M. 2004. Counsel in the Caucasus: Professionalization and Law in Georgia. Leiden, NLD: Brill Academic Publishers. [5] Supra, note 2. [6] For more information on elections in the Former Soviet Countries see: [7] In April 2015, he won another five-year term, with 90.39% of the vote amid little competition. OSCE/ODIHR, Limited Election Observation Mission - Final Report, Republic of Uzbekistan: Presidential Election, 29 March 2015, p 25. Available at: EurasiaNet, News, Uzbekistan: Karimov Heads for Landslide in Competition-Free Vote, 26 March 2015,; The Guardian, 30 March 2015: Karimov has undertaken his fourth term of office, even though article 90 of the constitution stipulates a clear limit of two consecutive presidential terms. Transparency International has put Uzbekistan under one of the world’s 10 most corrupt countries. See: [8] The constitutional limit of two consecutive terms for the presidency was abolished in 2010, allowing President Nazarbayev to stay in the power until 2020 without facing election. OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission - Final Report, Republic of Kazakhstan: Early Presidential Election, 26 April 2015, [9] Heydar Aliyev was previously the Soviet leader of Azerbaijan from 1969-1982. [10] President Emomali Rahmon has been in charge for 23-years. [11] Lukashenko re-elected in September 2001. After the 2004 change to the Constitution, allowing a president to run for more than two terms, President Lukashenko was re-elected in March 2006, again in December 2010 and most recently on 11 October 2015. More information on elections in Belarus: [12] Human Rights Watch, Briefing Memorandum on Human Rights Concerns in Central Asia, October 2015, [13] BBC News, Kyrgyzstan country profile, January 2016, [14] Olimpiad S. Ioffe, Peter B. Maggs. 1986. The Soviet Economic System: A Legal Analysis, University of Illinois with the support from National Council for Soviet and East European Research. [15] Marcinkutė, Lina. 2012. The Role of Human Rights NGO's: Human Rights Defenders or State Sovereignty Destroyers?. Baltic  Journal of Law & Politics. Volume 4, Issue 2. [16] Amnesty International. Amnesty International Report 2015/16 - Europe and Central Asia Regional Overview, For Central Asia’s politically motivated imprisonment see HRW world report, Central Asia: Worsening Rights Record, [17] Greene, Samuel. 2014. Moscow in Movement: Power and Opposition in Putin's Russia. Palo Alto, CA, USA: Stanford University Press. [18] Georgia underwent the so-called ‘Rose Revolution’ in 2003 – a peaceful transition of power after widespread falsification of the election results in November 2003; Ukraine followed in 2004 with the ‘Orange Revolution’ – also spurred by falsified elections and this largely forced a transfer of power in Ukraine; Kyrgyzstan also underwent number of changes and its first change of power via revolution took place in 2005. The 2005 (First) Kyrgyz Revolution became known as the Tulip Revolution however, arguably, it saw some violence in the beginning. These revolutions should be considered milestones in freeing up these states from Soviet style governance and stepping into a new era of statehood. [19] News release: ‘Шеф ФСБ нашел виновников ‘’бархатных революций"’. 12 May 2005.шеф-фсб-нашел-виновников-бархатных-революций/a-1581944. [20] Supra, note 17. [21] Putin was the head of the FSB and secretary of the Security Council in July 1999, shortly before he became prime minister and then a president in 2000. In 1999 President Putin – then a prime minister - gave an interview stating that ‘foreign security services, under diplomatic cover, very actively use in their work various ecological and social organisations, commercial firms, and charitable foundations. This is why these structures … will always be under our fixed attention. The interests of the state demand this from us.’ [22] Supra, note 16. [23] Ibid. This includes the Open Society Foundations who are supporting this publication. [24] International Centre for Not for Profit Law (ICNL), NGO Law Monitor: Azerbaijan, Also. Venice Commission, Opinion 787/2014 Azerbaijan, [25] Supra, note 16. [26] Ibid. [27] For more information on the Eurasian Economic Union, see: [28] Eurasian Economic Union, What's the EEU and What Are Its Chances?, 2 January 2015, [29] Charter of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, [30] The ‘Shanghai five’ mechanism was established between 1996 and 2001 in order to facilitate multilateral negotiations on border issues among its members. It also handled the demilitarisation of border areas. European Parliament, Briefing, June 2015: The Shanghai Cooperation Organization, p 2, [31] Shanghai Cooperation Organization website: [32] FIDH, Publication of a report: "Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: a vehicle for human rights violations", 3 September 2012: [33] For more on the Commonwealth of Independent States: [post_title] => How countries and institutions in the former Soviet Union help create legal tools of repression [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => countries-institutions-former-soviet-union-help-create-legal-tools-repression [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-13 11:23:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-13 11:23:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [31] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2325 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-05-24 10:35:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-24 10:35:17 [post_content] => Since gaining their independence in 1991, the five countries of Central Asia have never been easy places to be a human rights defender (HRD). From the very beginning, when international donor organisations began operating in the region in the early 1990s, human rights organisations, as well as other NGOs involved in projects that are far less politically contentious – from environmental monitoring to renovating children’s homes – have been accused of representing ‘outsider interests’, and seen as threats to the authority of the state and its institutions. In Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, harassment, restrictions on funding and acceptable activities, and state co-option have effectively closed down civic space, with no independent national or international NGOs (whether engaged in human rights work or anything else) able to operate openly (since the early 2000s in the case of Turkmenistan[1] and the mid 2000s in the case of Uzbekistan).[2]   In the other three countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan – NGOs have until recently faced less overt pressure, although methods of bureaucratic control have been used by authorities to constrain their activities, with complicated re-registration or taxation procedures being common examples. But since 2014, HRDs and other civil society actors are now reporting an increase in the pressure they are facing, most marked in Tajikistan (and accompanying what appears to be an attempt by President Emmomali Rahmon to consolidate control and eliminate all potential opposition to his rule), but evident in all three countries.[3]   Different methods are being employed in each country, but the aim appears to be the same: the delegitimisation of the idea that an independent civil society is a necessary component to a stable, prosperous, functioning society. The rhetoric of civil society and human rights is being rejected as ‘Western propaganda’, and civil society activists are being smeared as ‘foreign agents’ attempting to impose ‘alien’ values on ‘traditional’ Central Asian societies, whether or not the groups that they are involved with receive money from abroad. While this is an attack on civil society in its broadest sense (encompassing the silencing of independent media and of alternative political voices, as well as ever increasing restrictions on the rights to protest and dissent in other forms), its most obvious manifestation has been attacks on, and the delegitimising of, NGOs.   Kyrgyzstan, long regarded as the most open and democratic country in the region, has recently seen smear campaigns against individual HRDs on social media, aimed particularly at those who’ve spoken out against Kyrgyzstan joining the new Eurasian Economic Union, or in favour of LGBTI rights, as well as the high profile raid on ‘national security’ grounds of the Osh-based offices of one of the country’s most long-established and well-respected human rights organisations, Bir Duino.[4] Punitive inspections and prosecutions for alleged administrative and/or tax violations are being used in Tajikistan in an apparent attempt to harass individual HRDs and close down the organisations that they work with; these have also been justified on ‘national security’ grounds.[5] The fines imposed have been high enough as to jeopardise the financial survival of the organisations concerned. In Kazakhstan, vaguely worded clauses on ‘social discord’ in the country’s new Criminal Code (which came into force in January 2015) have been used to prosecute (or threaten with prosecution) civil society activists for posts on social media sites, including posts disseminating information about human rights abuses.[6]   In addition to these varied tactics, all three countries have also seen attempts (in some cases, successful) to introduce legislation designed to further delegitimise NGOs or to increase state control over them. In Tajikistan, amendments to the Law on Public Associations mean that NGOs registered as public associations now have to notify the Ministry of Justice about any foreign funding that they receive, and proposals have also been put forward that would effectively require re-registration for all NGOs. In Kazakhstan ‘leaders’ of associations convicted under the ‘social discord’ clauses in the Criminal Code face stiffer penalties,[7] and a new law that came into force in December 2015 will lead to the creation of a central, state-run ‘operator’ to administer and distribute state and non-state grants to NGOs, including funding from outside of Kazakhstan. Finally, a draft law to force NGOs receiving foreign aid and engaging in any form of vaguely defined ‘political activities’ to adopt and publicly use the label of ‘foreign agents’ was adopted at its first reading by the Kyrgyzstani parliament. The bill seemed designed to serve no other purpose than to stigmatise organisations that rely on foreign funding for support.[8]   The influence of Russia on these attempts to close down civic space is most evident in the draft ‘foreign agents’ law in Kyrgyzstan, which mirrored closely similar legislation passed in Russia in 2012.[9] Legislation passed or under consideration in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan is not so obviously aligned, and in both cases more closely reflects authorities’ focus on national security concerns.   However, the influence of Russia is evident in other tactics being used to delegitimise and attack NGOs, such as the use of punitive prosecutions on tax or administrative grounds against NGOs and individual HRDs, even though the specific legislation used in each of these three countries by the authorities for such prosecutions is unique to that country. In Russia, March 2013 and May 2014 saw raids on NGO offices,[10] followed by steep fines for failure to comply with the ‘Foreign Agents’ law. While this may be a tactic that was not pioneered in Russia (countries such as Azerbaijan and Belarus have long made use of it), Russia’s considerable political, economic, and cultural influence over the Central Asia region has meant that Russia has ‘led by example’ and played a role in emboldening authorities in these countries to adopt the tactic themselves.   Much of the rhetoric attacking human rights and human rights defenders in the state-controlled media in Central Asia[11] has echoed language around the ‘clash of civilisations’ between immoral, decadent and corrupted ‘Western values’ and wholesome (Russian) ‘traditional values’ that has come to dominate official and media discourse in Russia.[12] Labelling NGOs in receipt of funding from abroad as ‘foreign agents’ (whether or not this is done using legislation) serves to cement their association with (corrupted) ‘Western values’, discrediting them and setting them up for further attack.   Following on from this, as has again also been the case in Russia, the institutions pushing the association between human rights, NGOs and ‘Western values’ have focused almost exclusively on a short list of sensationalised thematic areas related to the wider human rights agenda. Top of this list are LGBTI rights, but it also includes women’s rights, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities and work on strengthening democratic institutions (such as election monitoring), all of which are presented as alien and a threat to the stability and wellbeing of wider society. Work on these thematic areas is undertaken by a very small number of NGOs in Russia as in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where the vast majority of NGOs are concerned with social welfare. Yet these thematic areas have come to represent ‘what NGOs do’, and the way they are portrayed - with such hostility - has come to shape how wider society views NGOs and their agendas. Once again, this makes it much easier for NGOs to be attacked and their legitimacy undermined. That said, while the influence of Russia and Russian discourse around NGOs on the worsening climate for civil society in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is clear, it is important not to ignore other important factors influencing this trend in Central Asia.   The most significant of these is the growing strength of national security agendas. In Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, raids and punitive inspections of NGOs’ premises have been justified on the grounds of possible links to militant groups; in Tajikistan, this has left human rights NGOs extremely vulnerable to ‘guilt by association’ and unwilling to speak out against human rights abuses that are going on under the current crackdown. In Kazakhstan, prosecutions for posts on social media breaking the laws on national and social ‘discord’ have been linked to upholding the sovereignty and integrity of Kazakhstan, again justified on national security grounds.   The worsening economic climate across the region is another factor. As economic conditions worsen and unemployment rises, the demonising of independent civil society fulfils the dual purpose of silencing a source of potential criticism of the authorities’ handling of the economic situation, and providing a useful distraction from economic woes.   Finally, this trend is not limited to Central Asia (or indeed, the wider former Soviet space). All over the world, governments are challenging the autonomy and legitimacy of civil society groups, and restricting their activities using a combination of legislation and logistical barriers, as well as public attacks and threats.[13] Receipt of funding from abroad is a particular area of contention and in many countries national NGOs are finding that their ability to access foreign funding is becoming more and more compromised. This includes countries where civil society groups have historically been well organised and outspoken, such as India, Bangladesh, and Hungary.[14]   It is hard to say whether Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan will continue their trajectory towards the complete shut down of civic space witnessed in neighbouring Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. In Kyrgyzstan, in the event, by the time the draft ‘foreign agents’ law returned to the parliament for its second reading, the bill had been considerably revised, including the removal of any mention either of ‘foreign agents’ or of ‘political activities’.[15] Even with these changes, it was ultimately rejected by the parliament on its third and final reading.[16] Meanwhile, the downturn in the Russian economy (which is resulting in a withdrawal of Russian investment and a reduction in migrant remittances) may be prompting the government in Kyrgyzstan to rethink its relationship with Western donors. In Kazakhstan, an uneasy status quo has long existed between the authorities’ desire to stifle dissent on the one hand, but present Kazakhstan as a progressive, outward-looking state on the other, meaning that a full-scale crackdown seems unlikely.  In Tajikistan, however, the situation seems far, far bleaker, with NGOs fearing that it will not be long before they are prohibited from operating at all. [1] See Bohr, Annette. 2016. Turkmenistan: Power, Politics and Petro-Authoritarianism. London: Chatham House, pp. 46-47. [2] See CIVICUS. 2013. The situation is becoming dire for civil society in Uzbekistan | an interview with Sukhrobjon Ismoilov, CIVICUS, 10 May, and Human Rights Committee. 2015. Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Uzbekistan. CCPR/C/UZB/CO/4. Geneva: Human Rights Committee. [3] For a comprehensive overview of the state of civil society and freedom of expression and association more generally in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, see: Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights / Nota Bene / Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights / International Partnership for Human Rights. 2015. SPOTLIGHT: FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS IN CENTRAL ASIA Recent developments in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. Brussels: IPHR. For Kyrgyzstan, see: IPHR. 2015. Submission to EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue, 18 May 2015: The civil society situation in Kyrgyzstan. Brussels: IPHR. See also individual country entries in Amnesty International. 2016. Amnesty International Annual report 2015/16. The State of the World’s Human Rights. London: Amnesty International. [4] Amnesty International, Public Statement. Five Years On: Justice Still Denied. EUR 58/1846/2015, 2015, London: Amnesty International; Chris Rickleton, Kyrgyzstan Arrests American Journalist, Raids NGO Office. Eurasianet, March 2015. [5] Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights et al, Spotlight: Fundamental Rights in Central Asia Recent Developments in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. [6] Bruce Pannier, The Victims Of Kazakhstan's Article 174. Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, February 2016, [7] Article 174, Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan. [8] See individual country entries in: Amnesty International, Amnesty International Annual report 2015/16. The State of the World’s Human Rights. 2016, London: Amnesty International. [9] International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. 2016. NGO Law Monitor: Russia. [10] Farangis Najibullah, Russia Launches New Wave Of Raids On NGOs. Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, May 2014; BBC. Fears for NGOs in Russia as tax raids multiply. BBC, March 2013, [11] For a flavour, see this response to Amnesty International’s annual report: 2016. Amnesty International желает очередной смуты в Кыргызстане?, February 2016. See also: Разве позволяется Америке навязывать чуждые менталитету кыргызского народа устои и традиции?, January 2016, [12] Masha Gessen, Russia is remaking itself as the leader of the anti-Western world. The Washington Post, March 2014,  For an extensive account of how the ‘traditional values’ discourse has become institutionalised in Russia, see: Chandler, Andrea, Democracy, Gender, and Social Policy in Russia: A Wayward Society, 2013, London and New York: Palgrave. [13] Thomas Carothers and Saskia Brechenmacher, Closing Space: Democracy and Human Rights Support Under Fire. Washington D.C, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2015, [14] Carothers and Brechenmacher, Closing Space, p.9; Carothers, Thomas. 2015. The Closing Space Challenge: How Are Funders Responding? Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, November 2015 [15], Парламент принял во втором чтении измененный законопроект об «инагентах»., April 2016, The revised law was passed on its second reading, but still needs to go before the parliament a third time and to be signed into law by the President. The revised draft law retains the requirement that NGOs provide information about their sources of funding, and publish yearly financial reports. [16] Adilet Makenov, Депутаты отклонили законопроект об НКО., May 2016, [post_title] => Russia’s influence in shrinking civic space in Central Asia [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => russias-influence-shrinking-civic-space-central-asia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-13 11:37:45 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-13 11:37:45 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [32] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2330 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-05-24 10:15:53 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-24 10:15:53 [post_content] => The trend: State enforcement of traditional values Over the last ten years, the countries of the former Soviet Union have seen a growing trend of legislation aimed at protecting the sensibilities of religious believers in Christian and Orthodox countries from information they deem ‘blasphemous’ or harmful, and institutionalising the promotion of religious values. Examples range from Georgian legislation that allows ‘believers’ to engage in private discrimination against LGBT persons in accordance with their religion, to Russian legislation that punishes offence to the sensibilities of Orthodox believers.   The steady development of conservative values-based legislation has been followed in the last five years by growing rhetoric at a grander level that has placed these legislative initiatives within a new context. This new context, described by Vladimir Putin as he prepared to begin his third term as president, is a growing cultural dichotomy – sometimes now called a culture war – between states such as the United States that espouse ‘liberal values’ and the ‘conservative’ or ‘traditional’ values associated with Russia. Within this framework Russians refer to Europe as Gayropa to emphasise its acceptance of altered gender roles and LGBT relationships that Russians deem ‘deviant’; a framing that has perhaps been more about solidifying a Russian identity than about describing a culture. And it has contributed greatly to a new Russian identity – that of the global saviour of humanity from the degeneracy of the West.   Indeed, recently Russia has not only espoused internally the values associated with a ‘traditional’ or religious right agenda under Putin’s guidance, but has taken on a leadership role to promote them internationally. This leadership has at least two components, one being leadership by example: the political leadership in Russia works with the Orthodox Church to prepare and pass legislation and to direct public opinion about human rights activists, NGOs, artists and current events. The effectiveness of this campaign – which treats the church as a political force – has been admired and its strategies adopted by conservatives in other places such as Georgia, Latvia and now even Poland. The other component of Russia’s leadership in this sphere has been direct pressure on other countries to adopt similar values and legislation that supports them. These countries include Central Asian states such as Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan that draw much of their media from Russian language sources originating in Russia, as well as fellow Eurasian Economic Union participants Armenia and Belarus that receive large amounts of funding from Russia.   How has Russia stepped into this role of the global defender of traditional values? What strategies has it used? I argue below that it is not only Russia’s relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church that has given it this power, but also its relationship with multinational religious right organisations. I also note that Russia’s monopoly on Russian language media, and its recent forays into influencing non-Russian language media, especially in Europe, have not only increased acceptance of the culture war theory globally, but also have helped propel Putin and Russia to a perceived leadership role within this context.     Russia promotes traditional values agenda internally: Propaganda laws Russia’s recent leadership of the traditional values global agenda has been most effectively shaped by its development of anti-LGBT ‘propaganda’ laws, which were passed within the country as early as 2006 at the regional level in Ryazan.[1] Yet, the language of ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ was not confined to discussions of this law or to Ryazan. It seems to have caught on much more widely in the early 2000s in Russia. The first federal law banning ‘propaganda’ of homosexuality was proposed as early as 2003 by Duma deputy Alexander Chuev. When this effort failed, he proposed it again in 2004 and in 2006.[2] In 2005, Chuev proposed a bill denying teaching positions or other rights in public life to anyone engaging in ‘propaganda for homosexuality,’ whether through ‘a public speech, work displayed in public, or mass media, in particular including public demonstrations.’ Although the bill ultimately failed, it gained the support of over one-fifth of the 450-member Russian Duma.[3]   Federal law prohibiting LGBT propaganda – to protect minors – passes in Russia In March 2012, after 11 regional laws had been passed in Russia, and over 20 others considered, the Duma representative from Novosibirsk Oblast introduced the federal law prohibiting propaganda showing LGBT relationships as equal to heterosexual relationships.[4] Draft Law 6.13.1, as it was known, was the subject of great internal discussion, though it did not seem to grab international attention until the law was passed. Yelena Mizulina, leading proponent of the federal law, adopted the language of LGBT rights as part of a deviant and Western-associated identity/norm. When asked about the proposal, she stated that there was a need for the legislation because LGBT persons were falsely presenting their relationships to children as if they were normal. Mizulina has become a force in the Russian community pushing its version of ‘family values’, she is now the head of the Duma committee on the family.   The law passed in the Duma unanimously, 436-0, with just one deputy abstaining from the vote.[5] The final language of the law banned the dissemination of ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’ among minors, in effect making it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships, and prohibited the distribution of material on gay rights.[6] It introduced fines of up to 100,000 rubles (about 3000 USD at the time) for individuals who use the media or internet to promote ‘non-traditional relations’.[7] Organisations that violate the law can be fined up to 1 million rubles (about 30,000 USD at the time) and closed down for up to 90 days. Foreigners can be detained for up to 15 days and deported, as well as fined up to 100,000 rubles, for breaking the law.[8] The anti-LGBT propaganda legislation was signed by Putin on 29 June 2013, in the face of protests by the US, European countries and the local LGBT community.[9]   While not enforced more than a handful of times, the law ushered in a spike in anti-gay discrimination and violence, as well as immense fear on the part of LGBT groups who not only understood that they might be arrested at a moment’s notice, but also increasingly became targets, as the law legitimised a message that they were unprotected deviant citizens.[10] Many gay and lesbian people were fired from teaching positions in universities and schools,[11] LGBT persons reported an increase in medical personnel refusing them health care, and organisations like the Russian LGBT Network documented an uptick in physical attacks.[12]   The Russian propaganda law and others like it (such as the Lithuanian law passed in 2009) have been found to violate international law principles of freedom of opinion and expression, as well as principles of equal treatment, by the European Court of Human Rights, the Venice Commission and European Parliament.[13] In 2014, the Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that the Russian authorities repeal the law and ‘ensure that children who belong to LGBTI groups or children of LGBTI families are not subjected to any forms of discrimination by raising the awareness of the public on equality and nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.’[14] Despite this, the Russian Constitutional Court found the Russian law did not violate the Russian Constitution or international principles in 2014.[15]   Beyond propaganda laws, other forms of traditional values legislation The propaganda law was only one piece of Russia’s strategic implementation of a traditional values agenda.   In 2010, the Duma passed the Law on Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health and Development, which mandates standards for all mass media for children and requires review by a panel of experts. Amendments to the law restricted information about LGBT relationships that can be shown to children.[16] Similar laws have been passed in the Baltics and have been proposed in Poland. In 2011, Russia began restricting the ability of clinics to discuss abortions.[17] In June 2013 the Duma passed a law banning foreign same-sex couples from adopting children in Russia.[18] In February 2014 a government decree banned unmarried individuals from countries where same-sex marriage is legal from adopting Russian children.[19] A number of countries in the region have similar bans on adoption by same-sex couples – domestic or international (Belarus, Hungary, Lithuania). The City of Moscow banned Pride parades for 100 years, a ban that was upheld in the courts.[20] Pride parades have similarly been banned in Moldova, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland and Serbia.   And significantly, just minutes after passing the propaganda law in third reading, the Duma passed a law allowing jail sentences of up to three years for ‘offending religious feelings’, a legislative initiative launched in response to the Pussy Riot protest in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February 2012.[21] The two laws vastly increased the power of the Orthodox Church in governing everyday life in Russia.   With the passage of these policies, it became clear that certain viewpoints, those that deem LGBT relationships as normal and healthy, would be deemed offensive and subject the speaker to prosecution, whereas speech criticising human rights workers and NGOs, calling them ‘traitors’ or ‘fifth column’ (referring to their status as spies) would be protected.[22] Indeed, in March 2016, Patriarch Kirill, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, described human rights as ‘global heresy’ and faced no criticism or consequences.[23] He said that many Christians mistakenly consider human rights ‘more important than the word of God.’[24] Media statements like this, which have been made on behalf of both the Orthodox Church and the Russian government, contribute to what might be termed a Russian campaign to redefine human rights as limited by state sovereignty and the family unit. This campaign can also be seen in Putin’s speeches and in Russian-sponsored resolutions at the United Nations Human Rights Council.   This trend continued in 2016 with the proposal of legislation by Duma member Ivan Nikitchuk that would have prohibited any display of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ such as hand-holding in public.[25] Nikitchuk stated that the propaganda law had proved ‘insufficiently effective’. However his draft law was pulled from consideration in late January 2016.[26]   Also in January 2016, a Russian Orthodox Church Commission on family issues approved a resolution on priorities to support family life, and notably stated that one of the greatest threats to the family is the effort ‘to introduce in Russia a law on the so-called prevention of family violence.’[27] The Commission indicated that such a law undermines the protected family unit. This notion of the inviolability of the family, as against the individual, in order to protect a parent’s right over the child, is the hallmark of Russia’s traditional values leadership at home, and increasingly also in the international sphere.   The increased links between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government during Putin’s current term have been decried by speech and tolerance activists as a source of worry; this relationship was the subject of Pussy Riot’s famous performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 2012. But this relationship is not only worrisome in Russia. Conservative ‘traditional values’ churches are focusing more on politics throughout Eastern and Central Europe, especially in countries like Latvia – where Alexsey Ledyaev’s megachurch is growing, in Georgia and Serbia where the Orthodox Church holds great sway, and in Poland where the newly-elected conservative government has claimed that it knows the Catholic religion better than the Pope.   This method of fusing conservative religious ideology with political ideology in mainstream media and governance is one that Russia is pioneering as a political strategy, and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are taking notice.   Russia’s leadership in the international sphere In addition to pushing a traditional values agenda internally, Russia has taken its international leadership of and role as the protector of conservative values and religious believers seriously, pushing or supporting consistent legislation in a number of countries. It has either pushed for copycat anti-LGBT propaganda laws, putting the weight of Russian language media behind these laws, in places like Central Asia and Armenia, or borrowed and improved upon strategies that have been used by other governments, for example in the Baltics and Poland.   Central Asia – Russian language media influence In 2014, two bills, one entitled ‘On protection of children from information harmful to their health and development’, and one that would have prohibited broadcasting such information, were introduced in Kazakhstan, modeled upon Russia’s propaganda law, with its focus on protecting children from supposedly harmful information about LGBT relationships.[28] Russian influence has also appeared in Kazakhstan in the form of legislation regulating NGOs, including limits on foreign funding similar to Russia’s ‘foreign agents’ law – again based on a fear of foreign influence from the West.[29] Neither law has passed. It is possible that Kazakhstan’s bid to host the 2022 Olympics led to an initial rejection of the draft propaganda laws. In May 2015, the Constitutional Court invalidated the drafts, stating they contained vague wording and were not in line with the Constitution.[30] Supporters said they may introduce the laws again.[31]   In countries such as Kazakhstan and Armenia, Russian influence seems to include pressuring the governments as members of the Eurasian Economic Union, through backchannel lobbying, to adopt ‘Russian-style’ traditional values, in the form of conservative values and anti-foreign influence legislation, and specifically anti-LGBT propaganda laws. However, both countries have are wary of allowing outside pressure to dictate their values. After the incursions into Ukraine, Kazakhstan has become more wary of Russian influence, for example its ability to turn ethnic Russians living in Kazakhstan against the government or to divide the nation.[32] The government has therefore curtailed Russian media within the country, by requiring that TV stations use Kazakh commercials – a requirement that Russian stations cannot meet – to limit this influence, a method that has also been adopted by Tajikistan and Baltic countries that have outright de-licensed or shut down Russian outlets.[33] Yet, a strong preference for conservative family values remains in Kazakhstan, making it a country to watch for future legislative proposals.   Kyrgyzstan has, more than Kazakhstan, embraced Russian media and influence within the country. Legislators, such as Tursunbai Bakir Uuely, author of Kyrgyzstan’s foreign agent-style legislation, has admitted publicly that he was influenced by Russian approaches in developing his draft law on NGOs.[34] As a result of Russian influence, rhetorical trends similar to those in Russia have appeared in public discussions of foreign organisations, who are often called ‘traitors’ or ‘fifth column’, and in discussion of LGBT issues.[35] A propaganda law that was even more severe than the Russian law, because it banned all information regarding ‘non-traditional sexual relationships,’ and carried criminal penalties, was proposed in 2014 and received popular support.[36] The proposal also led to a 300 %increase in violence against LGBT persons, gang rapes, corrective rapes and the firebombing of one organisation.[37] However, Kyrgyzstan’s need to balance Russian influence and support against that of the United States, where it seeks additional financial support – especially now that Russia’s economic troubles have had significant financial repercussions throughout Central Asia[38] – have created an opportunity for EU and US voices to exert influence that might prevent the law’s passage. The law has gone through second reading and is poised for final consideration at the time of writing (April 2016). Russian language media definitely provides support in Kyrgyzstan, with a steady stream of messaging that decries American and Western ‘liberal values’ that threaten the family and the local way of life, in contrast to the traditional values protective of the family promoted by Russia.   Armenia, Moldova, Belarus – Caught between the EU and Russia Armenia and Moldova are increasingly at a crossroads as they are small countries considered by Russia to be within its sphere of influence. While each has received substantial financial support from Russia, most recently, both have rejected propaganda laws in the hope of developing closer ties with the EU.   Armenia cannot ignore Russia’s pressure and influence, since Russia is its major patron, especially at a time when Russian support is acutely necessary for Armenia to defend its interests in Nagorno-Karabakh. For its part, Russia needs to increase its power in Armenia to protect what it sees as its sphere of influence, especially in light of Ukraine’s increased dealings with the EU and US. To do so, Russia has encouraged influential conservative Armenians from Russia to enter Armenian politics to promote Russian values, and continues to seek an isolated Armenia disconnected from the EU and US and more reliant on Russia.   In 2013, Armenia briefly introduced a proposed law aimed at protecting Armenian family values from public promotion of ‘non-traditional sexual relationships’ – language similar to the Russian law. Opponents of the law said it was introduced ‘in Russia’s shadow’, similar to the anti-NGO law Russia had pushed for in Armenia, on the basis that NGOs corrupted Armenian society by encouraging ‘European values.’[39] However, Armenian authorities were not convinced; sponsors of the bill withdrew it within days, stating that the issue was not a priority for Armenian authorities.[40] That same year, 2013, Moldova passed legislation that prohibited ‘relationships [other] than those linked to marriage and the family,’ but then repealed the law a few months later.[41] Authorities stated that the repeal was due to Moldova’s interest in signing an Association Agreement with the EU, which occurred in 2014.[42] The repeal was opposed by Russia and by Moldovan religious activists, who gathered in front of the parliament building to try to prevent entry of officials as they came to repeal the law. However, more recently, frustration has grown with the pro-European government, and pro-Russian politicians – who would be inclined to support joining the Russia-led Customs Union over the EU – have gained power.[43]   Belarus, a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (with Armenia and Kazakhstan) has also proposed its own version of Russia’s propaganda law, which was first discussed right after Moldova’s law was proposed in 2013, the year it seems Russia decided to export the propaganda law idea.[44] It was not formally introduced until 2015, and passed first reading in October 2015.[45] It remains under consideration, but has still not been passed. Similar to Central Asia, Belarus’s economic concerns with Russian alignment may provide an opportunity for the EU and US, and may help defeat the draft law at this time.  With increased fears of Russia encroaching on Belarus, or gaining too much control, President Lukashenko now may be distancing himself from Russia. Recently the EU lifted most sanctions against Belarus after the release of five political prisoners,[46] and Lukashenko has even threatened to leave the Eurasian Economic Union.[47]   Ukraine and Georgia – Espousing traditional values Russia’s promotion of traditional values in politics and media has taken hold in Ukraine and Georgia. Even as the conflict with Russia continues, and as the country’s far-right remains virulently anti-Russian, many conservative Ukrainians espouse Russian-style traditional values.[48] Ukraine was the first country to consider an anti-LGBT propaganda law similar to Russia’s.[49] In October 2012, the parliament passed first reading of a law that would have introduced sanctions for the import, production or distribution of products that promote homosexuality.[50] The law was scheduled for second reading, but did not move forward after President Poroshenko took office, likely as part of attempts to improve Ukraine’s chances of EU affiliation. However, the sensibility linked to passage of the law has not disappeared. A gay pride march in 2015 in Kyiv was met with attacks and firecrackers containing nails injured several police officers, wounding one seriously.[51] An attempt to hold an LGBT Equality Festival in Lviv in March 2016 was cancelled after local politicians and police spoke out against the event, and the venue cancelled the reservations of the organisers.[52] When the event was moved to another hotel, over 200 far-right protesters surrounded the venue shouting ‘kill, kill, kill’; only one police car responded to the distress call from the festival-planners.[53] Eventually, at a court hearing, the judge banned the event. However, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while condemning the Pride event in 2015, did call for its supporters not to use force against protesters.[54]   Georgian conservatives seem recently to be working with their Russian counterparts, even though the governments of the two countries are at odds. Pavel Astakhov, the Russian children’s rights ombudsman, has appeared at conferences on conservative values in Georgia, and the same international and American conservative organisations that work in Russia, such as the World Conference of Families, also work with Georgian conservatives.[55] A 2013 attempted LGBT march was famously met by violent religious protestors that were largely led by religious clerics.[56] Shortly after these violent attacks on LGBT persons, the Georgian Patriarch declared the day a holiday to celebrate family values.[57] And a year after that, the World Congress of Families – an international organisation that unifies religious opponents to LGBT rights, women’s sexual and reproductive rights and children’s rights – decided to hold its annual conference in Tbilisi.[58] The conference will take place in May 2016, with the participation of both leaders from the Russian Orthodox Church as well as members of state organisations and Putin allies – not just from Russia but from elsewhere, such as Marine Le Pen from France and Larry Jacobs and Allen Carlson from the US.[59] Most recently, Georgian conservatives have drafted a bill that would amend the Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, though it does not yet have the 76 votes required in parliament.[60] Advocates for the bill say that they are following the lead of Croatia, Hungary and Latvia, all of which already have constitutional language that bans gay marriage.[61]   Before signing an agreement with the EU in 2014 to allow visa-free travel for Ukrainian citizens, the EU dropped its requirement that the country pass anti-discrimination laws protecting gay and transgender citizens, in light of government reluctance.[62] The government eventually added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination law in late 2015.[63] In Georgia, consideration of the required anti-discrimination amendments led conservative activists to claim that moving toward Europe is an assault on Georgia’s traditional values. Georgian Orthodox Church officials stated that they consider the anti-discrimination legislation ‘propaganda’ and the ‘legalisation of deadly sin’. To appease the church, the government added an exception to the anti-discrimination statute stating that if an action is taken to protect ‘public order and morals’ it cannot be deemed discrimination.[64] NGOs have spoken out against this change.   While the Ukrainian and Georgian churches play a significant role in supporting these legislative proposals and actions, their leaders often espouse the Russian framing of cultural conflicts between the West and Slavic peoples. In Georgia, economics and media also matter. After Georgian Dream came to power in 2012, it opened the door to Russian media in the country, which had previously been banned.[65] Russian channels are now the most-watched news source.[66] In addition, pro-Russian NGOs have been growing rapidly in recent years, as has trade with Russia.[67] All of this has increasingly presented Russia and Russian views and values, in a positive light. Georgians also seem to be impatient with progress on the side of the EU. In mid-2015, one study indicated that 26% of Georgians were willing to give up ties with the EU and move toward Russia, and 31% were willing to join the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.[68] Russian media messaging has also had an effect in Ukraine itself, where pro-Russian militants have dismantled local media stations in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and tried to replace them with Russian messaging.[69]   Fuelling Russia’s leadership:  Russia’s media monopoly and its relationship with a worldwide religious movement Two key aspects of support for these initiatives are Russian language media – largely monopolised by Russia where the government has a stranglehold on the messaging that is presented, and Russia’s relationship with worldwide conservative religious strategists that have assisted in its ascendancy to the role of guardian and protector of conservative values.   Conservative messaging in Russian media Russian language media has played a huge role in garnering support for traditional values initiatives in places such as Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and to a lesser extent in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, since large majorities of those citizens speak Russian and engage with Russian-language media, which is almost entirely produced by or with the assistance of Russia.[70] Consulting firm M-Vector has reported that Russian-backed media makes up approximately 90% of the media consumed by Central Asians every day.[71] Similarly, a Kremlin-backed television station is the second most trusted source of political news in Kyrgyzstan, while internet penetration is only 20 %.[72] Just recently, news reported significant Russian language media now being beamed into Georgia.[73] Each of these countries therefore has a large Russian-speaking population watching and interacting with media largely controlled by Russia, who are therefore exposed regularly to conservative messaging that emphasises a lack of tolerance towards and even hatred of gay and transgender people. As reported by the BBC, since Russia’s propaganda law was enacted, the number of news reports on Russian channels referring to homosexuality has skyrocketed, and nearly all reports are negative or even hostile. The main messaging describes LGBT people as an ‘aggressive minority’ who are opposed to ‘parents fighting to give their children a healthy upbringing.’[74]   Russian language resources on LGBT issues overwhelmingly present certain facts – even citing discredited studies, for example, that children raised in gay and lesbian households are disadvantaged compared with children raised by heterosexual parents. Alternative studies, or the information discrediting this information, is not readily available in Russian.[75]   With Russian government, foundation and other Kremlin-friendly entities buying up media outlets in Europe[76] in places like France, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Russian messaging is expanding beyond Russian language media and reaching out to conservatives more deeply throughout Europe, bringing its language of a culture war, the evils of Western immoral norms that are imperiling the world, the deviance of Western concepts of gender and its threats to the family, and anti-LGBT beliefs.   Connections to the global religious right Russia’s rhetoric of a culture war between the West and Russia helps Russia set itself up as the guardian of conservative religious values on the international sphere. However, its rhetoric is not new. A similar conflict has been promoted by Christian right leaders in the West, including in the US, for years. While their narrative has traditionally been less geographically focused, it also pits liberal values such as LGBT rights, gender equality and individual control over reproductive rights, against conservative beliefs that give the state or church power to regulate family, reproduction, limits on LGBT rights. Indeed, Russia has ‘copied … the experience of American fundamentalists’ in developing some of its legislation and ideology.[77]   While it has borrowed this rhetoric to support its moral values leadership, the concept of Russia as a leader meant to save the spiritual world harks back centuries to a popular nineteenth century form of nationalism called Slavophilism.[78] This ideology imbued Russian civilization with a special mission to enlighten other nations, and protect religious believers.[79] More modern religious Russian thinkers expanded this theory to include a type of imperialism and to connect it to the Russian conservative belief in a Russkiy Mir, or Russian World,[80] based on the idea that eventually all Slavs will unite globally and be led by Russia.[81] The concept of Russkiy Mir no doubt plays a part in Russia’s attempts to persuade other regional countries to adopt Russian-style laws. Russia is now expanding this theory to portray itself as the leader in protecting the ‘natural family’ values on behalf of religious conservatives worldwide. Many religious leaders agree that Russia is well-placed to take on this role. World Conference of Families Managing Director Larry Jacobs declared in 2013 that ‘the Russians might be the Christian saviours of the world.’[82]   The Russian Orthodox Church has worked hard in recent years to link its political ideas to those of like-minded leaders in Europe and the USA. It has developed connections with powerful American businessmen with ties to Russia, including individuals connected to the Koch Brothers[83], and the World Conference of Families, an international network of socially conservative groups funded by the religious right.[84] In November 2010, Russia’s Sanctity of Motherhood organisation presented its first-ever national congress on the issue of solving the ‘crisis of traditional family values.’[85] One of the speakers, Larry Jacobs, offered to create an alliance of American evangelicals in support of Russia’s traditional values crusade.[86] Researchers claim that this alliance marked the beginning of traditional values fervour in Russia and the former Soviet Union.[87]   Local nationalist churches, similar to local nationalist parties in France, Hungary and elsewhere, have also worked to support Russian conservative values leadership by passing local initiatives.  A member of this coalition is the Latvian megachurch of Alexsey Ledyaev, a pastor of Russian descent whose New Generation Church based in Riga serves as the nerve centre for a worldwide Christian values movement.[88] Ledyaev has close ties to the American religious right[89], Watchman on the Walls and Scott Lively.[90] In a recent documentary, Lively called Latvia ‘the battle line where homosexual powers are trying to push their way into the former Soviet Union.’ [91]   ‘Culture War’ messaging in a slumped economy Putin’s circle has used this rubric of the culture war between Russia and the West to negatively frame the intentions of the US and EU in Ukraine. They began using this rhetoric even before Russia felt the threat of Ukraine joining Europe, at the time when Russia first began aggressively pushing anti-LGBT propaganda laws, in 2013. That year, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Duma, Alexei Pushkov wrote on Twitter: ‘The release of [jailed politician Yulia] Timoshenko will provoke EU demands that Ukraine should broaden the reach of gay culture. Instead of victory parades, Kiev will be holding gay-pride marches.’[92] The Kremlin similarly referred to Moldova’s interest in an accession agreement to the EU (in 2013) as a turn towards gay marriage. Pushkov commented to a newspaper that, as a condition of the agreement, Moldova was instructed to ‘organise regular gay-pride parades.’[93] Consistent with its foreign policy, Russia perceives positive views of gay culture on its borders – i.e. in Ukraine – as a symbol of an encroaching Western culture, such that it is not only considered a threat to fundamental values and the gender order of society, but also to its national identity, national security and political stability. Identifying these threats allows Russia to assure not only its own population, but also traditional values conservatives in its perceived sphere of influence, that they must look to Russia to save Europe, and the world, from this degeneration and the threats it poses.   When Ukraine’s Maidan protests began, the Kremlin referred to them as the Gayromaidan to try to reframe the situation in a way that might work to Putin’s benefit: to suggest that what Ukraine was moving toward was the embrace of gayness, rather than a more general move toward democratic freedoms, pluralism and growth.[94] Putin made clear that the values that Ukrainians looking Westward were buying into were counter to Russian and Slavic values. Downplaying and devaluing interests in individual rights protection, tolerance and pluralism, Putin and his regime equate Western values with gay marriage and with the supremacy of LGBT rights for two reasons. First, this has the effect of suggesting to Ukrainians, or Moldovans, or others in the region who have not yet decided whether to join the EU and US in supporting human rights and open democratic values, that if they do they will become members of a club that does not share their values.  At the same time, this messaging also persuades Russians that they do not want to follow in the footsteps of a country like Ukraine – to invite a period of instability by asserting their rights to greater freedoms – and therefore helps protect Putin’s rule at home.   While Russian influence in the former Soviet Union and in Europe has been growing over the last ten years, due to its increased economic support of Central Asia and the Caucasus, energy deals with Europe and funding of political parties and politicians, the current economic slump in Russia provides a window of opportunity for the EU and US. Russia’s waning financial support to some states has led many, such as Belarus, Armenia and Moldova, to re-consider whether Russian ‘values’ are really a good fit. If the EU and US take concerted action to support these countries that are on the fence between traditional values and the ideas of equality, growth, and democracy, this may be a time for them to consolidate and solidify movements toward democracy in the region.   The risk of allowing Russia to continue to exert leadership on the traditional values front is that, with its zeal for protecting gender ‘norms’ and traditional families as against the rights of individuals to equality and respect, Russia will successfully change the global understanding of human rights as inherent in the individual against the encroachment of the state. Indeed, this seems to be Russia’s intent, as evidenced by its international rhetoric, UN Human Rights Council resolutions, and the limitations it places on human rights at home. With greater Russian leadership in the sphere of values internationally, the concept of an alternative to individual rights could be established – one in which individual rights must be limited by the interests of groups such as the family (as defined by the state) or the state itself. If the EU, the US and other pro-human rights states want to preserve international human rights norms, they need to act, at the UN, in the realm of international media, and by honouring, expressing and explaining the significance of their own democratic and pluralist-based values. [1] Why this region was suddenly moved to pass the law is still a mystery, though there is speculation that at least some of the impetus can be traced back to relationships between Orthodox leaders in Russia and Alexey Ledyaev’s church in Latvia, which prioritized anti-LGBT legislation as part of its international policy, as well as with the U.S. religious right organization Watchman on the Walls led by Scott Lively (who visited Ryazan in the mid-2000s). See Jeremy Hooper, Scott Lively Stirring Russia’s Pot: A Timeline, GLAAD, May 7, 2014, [2] Human Rights First, Convenient Targets the Anti- ‘Propaganda’ Law & the Threat to LGBT Rights in Russia, pp. 8-9, August 2013, [3] Human Rights Watch and the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, “We have the Upper Hand” Freedom of Assembly in Russia and the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender People, June 2007, No. 1, [4] Human Rights First, Convenient Targets the Anti- ‘Propaganda’ Law & the Threat to LGBT Rights in Russia, pp. 9-10, August 2013, [5] Miriam Elder, Russia passes law banning gay ‘propaganda’, The Guardian, 11 June 2013, [6] Ibid. [7] HRW, License to Harm: Violence and Harassment against LGBT People and Activists in Russia, December 2014, [8] Ibid. [9] Ibid. [10] Kieran Guilbert, Russia’s LGBT youth left isolated, victimized by ‘gay propaganda’ law, Reuters, 14 September 2015,; HRW, License to Harm: Violence and Harassment against LGBT People and Activists in Russia, December 2014, [11] Joshua Keating, The Chilling Effects of Russia’s Anti-Gay Law, One Year Later, Slate, 9 October 2014, [12] Oleg Kucheryavenko, Kirill Guskov, Michael Walker, Cost of indulgence: rise of violence and suicides among LGBT youth in Russia, Health and Human Rights Journal, 18 December 2014, [13] Written statement submitted by the International Commission of Jurists, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status, UN General Assembly Human Rights Council, A/HRC/22/NGO/11,11 February 2013 [14] HRW, ‘That’s When I Realized I was Nobody’ A Climate of Fear for LGBT People in Kazakhstan, 23 July 2015,

[15], КС запретил расширительно применять закон о запрете ЛГБТ-пропаганды [Constitutional Court prohibited broad application of law prohibiting LGBT propaganda], 25 September 2014,;, Конституционный Суд запретил расширительное толкование федерального закона о запрете гей-пропаганды [Constitutional Court prohibits expansive interpretation of federal law prohibiting gay propaganda], 25 Sep 2014,; Human Rights First, Russian Constitutional Court Rules on Anti-Gay Law, 26 September 2014

[16] PEN America, Discourse in Danger: Attacks on Free Expression in Putin’s Russia, pp. 7-8, January 25, 2016, [17] Adam Federman, How US Evangelicals Fueled the Rise of Russia’s ‘Pro-Family’ Right, The Nation, 7 January 2014, [18] David M. Herszenhorn and Erik Eckholm, Putin Signs Bill that Bars US Adoptions, Upending Families, New York Times, 27 December 2012,; Human Rights Watch, License to Harm: Violence and Harassment against LGBT People and Activists in Russia, December 2014, [19] The Telegraph, Russia bans adoptions from countries that allow gay marriage, 13 February 2014,;  Human Rights Watch, License to Harm: Violence and Harassment against LGBT People and Activists in Russia, December 2014, [20] BBC, Gay parades banned in Moscow for 100 years, 17 August 2012,

[21] Yekaterina Metelitsa, Госдума приняла «закон Pussy Riot» – о защите чувств верующих [State Duma passes ‘Pussy Riot law’ – on protection of religious feelings], Slon, 11 June 2013,;

[22] PEN American Center, Discourse in Danger, pp. 20-21, 25 January 2016, [23] Anna Dolgov, Russia’s Patriarch Kirill: Some Human Rights are ‘Heresy’, The Moscow Times, 21 March 2016, [24] Marc Bennetts, Putin Brings God – and potential jail time for atheists – to Russia, Washington Times, 4 April 2016,

[25] Andrew Roth, New Russian legislation could ban holding hands in public if you’re gay, Washington Post, 14 January 2016,; Olga Slobodchikova, Коммунисты предложили сажать за каминг-аут - но не лесбиянок [Communists propose punishment for coming out – but not for lesbians], BBC, 23 October 2015, [26] The Moscow Times, New Anti-Gay Law Rejected by Russian Duma Committee, 18 January 2016, [27] Lena Zezulin, The Russian Orthodox Church, the law, and family violence, Wheel Journal, 9 February 2016, [28] Meredith Kucherov, Kazakhstan Following Russia on Gay ‘Propaganda’ Law, Human Rights First, 24 September 2014, [29] Catherine Putz, Kazakhstan Considering A New NGO Law, The Diplomat, 19 October 2015, [30] Joanna Lillis, Kazakhstan Strikes Down ‘Gay Propaganda’ Law After Olympics Outcry, Eurasianet, 27 May 2015, [31] Human Rights Watch, ‘That’s When I Realized I was Nobody’ A Climate of Fear for LGBT People in Kazakhstan, 23 July 2015, [32] Joanna Lillis, Jouranlists Fred as Russian Media Swamps Kazkhstan, Eurasianet, 18 November 2014, [33] Paul Goble, Nazarbayev Blocks Russian TV in Kazakhstan, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol 13 Issue 2, 5 January 2016, [34] Asel Kalybekova, Kyrgyzstan Q&A: Author of ‘Foreign Agents’ Bill Seeks to Thwart ‘Sabotage’, 3 October 2013, [35] Interview of Human Rights Watch researcher, August 2015, Bishkek; Glenn Kates, ‘Traitors’ Slur Goes Mainstream in Russia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 26 March, 2014,; Theodore P. Gerber and Jane Zavisca, What 18 Focus Groups in the Former USSR Taught Us About America’s Image Problem, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2015, [36] Catherine Putz, Kyrgyz Anti-Gay Propaganda Law Moves Forward, The Diplomat, 16 June 2015, [37] Andrew North, A Violent Struggle Over National Identity, CodaStory, 3 May 2016, [38] Ankit Panda, Central Asia’s Ruble Awakening, The Diplomat, 3 February 2015,; Marlene Laruelle, EUCAM Policy Brief: Russia and Central Asia, September 2014, [39] Armine Sahakyan, Armenia’s anti-NGO laws inspired by Moscow, EurActiv, 24 March 2015, [40] Dan Littauer, Armenia withdraws proposed Russian-like anti-gay propaganda law, LGBTQ Nation, 8 August 2013, [41] James Nichols, Moldova Overturns ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ban in Anticipated EU Membership Move, Huffington Post, 14 October 2013, [42] Ibid. [43] Mansur Mirovalev, Moldova and the Russia-EU tug-of-war, AlJazeera, 30 June 2015, [44] Freedom House, Belarus: Freedom in the World 2015, 2015, [45] Slava Bortnik, Belarus weighs Russian-style anti-‘gay propaganda’ law, Erasing 76 Crimes, 27 January 2016, [46] Jennifer Rankin, EU lifts most sanctions against Belarus despite human rights concerns, The Guardian, 15 February 2016, [47] Christopher Harriss, Propaganda? Belarus President Lukashenko distancing himself from Russia, International Business Times, 31 January 2015, [48] In this way, the Ukrainian far right resembles the Polish far right, which also despises Russia, yet has begun proposing and passing legislation that in many ways mirrors Russian legislation in its religious focus (such as anti-abortion legislation), curtails LGBT rights (a propaganda law was proposed in 2007), aims to protect believers (the Polish and Russian laws prohibiting offense to believers have almost the same language), and reframing human rights activists as traitors (the head of Poland’s Law and Justice Party has called opposition figures enemies of the state, and has proposed an anti-terror law that would punish individuals for “interfering” in policy decision-making, very similar to the Russian foreign agent law which restricted the “political activity” of NGOs. [49] Amy McKinnon, The Kremlin’s Reach, Coda Story, 18 January 2016,; [50] Written statement submitted by the International Commission of Jurists, a non-governmental organization in special consultative status, United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council, A/HRC/22/NGO/11,11 February 2013 [51] Randy R. Potts, Kiev Pride: A Success Despite Attacks, The Daily Beast, 6 June 2015, [52] Shaun Walker, LGBT festival in Ukraine abandoned after far-right protest, 20 March 2016, [53] Ibid.

[54] National LGBT Portal of Ukraine, Київський Фестиваль Рівності відбудеться у травні [The Position of the Clergy on March of Equality], 5 June 2016,; Randy R. Potts, Kiev Pride: A Success Despite Attacks, The Daily Beast, 6 June 2015,

[55] Christopher Stroop, Russian Social Conservatism, the U.S.-based WCF, & the Global Culture Wars in Historical Context, The Public Eye Magazine, Winter 2016; [56] Natalia Antelava, What Was Behind Georgia’s Anti-Gay Rally?, The New Yorker, 23 May 2013, [57] DFWatch Staff, Georgian patriarch declares May 17a day of family values, Democracy & Freedom Watch, 12 May 2014, [58] Christian News Wire, Georgia Chosen As Site for World Congress of Families X, 3 November 2015, [59] World Congress of Families News, World Congress of Families X-Civilization at the Crossroads: The Natural Family as the Bulwark of Freedom and Human Values, Vol. 9 No. 3, April-May 2016,; World Congress of Families Part of the Tentatively Scheduled Speakers, [60] Peter Montgomery, Country of Georgia Considers Constitutional Marriage Ban, Religion Dispatches – Annenberg: University of Southern California, 19 March 2016, ; Michael K. Lavers, Georgian prime minister seeks marriage amendment, Washington Blade, 3 April 2014,; DFWatch Staff, Georgia may amend Constitution to bar same-sex marriage, Democracy & Freedom Watch, 2 February 2016, [61] Michael K. Lavers, Georgian prime minister seeks marriage amendment, Washington Blade, 3 April 2014,; DFWatch Staff, Georgia may amend Constitution to bar same-sex marriage, Democracy & Freedom Watch, 2 February 2016, [62] Agence France-Presse, Ukraine eschews visa-free EU travel by blocking law to protect gay people, The Guardian, 5 November 2015, [63] European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT Rights, MEPs welcome Ukraine’s new LGBT anti-discrimination clause, 12 November 2015, [64] Cristina Maza, Georgia is a Terrible Place to Be Gay, Balkanist, 24 May 2014, [65] Economist, As Georgia chooses between Europe and Russia, attitudes to homosexuality are caught in the crossfire, 20 May 2015, [66] Ibid. [67] Ibid. [68] Economist, As Georgia chooses between Europe and Russia, attitudes to homosexuality are caught in the crossfire, 20 May 2015, [69] Naja Bentzen and Martin Russell, Briefing: Russia’s manipulation of information on Ukraine and the EU’s response, European Parliamentary Research Service, May 2015,; Jill Dougherty, Everyone Lies: The Ukraine Conflict and Russia’s Media Transformation, Harvard Kennedy Center Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, July 2014, [70] Peter Rollberg and Marlene Laruelle, The Media Landscape in Central Asia, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, vol. 23 n. 3, Summer 2015, [71] Paul Coyer, The Media Battle for Hearts and Minds in Russia and Central Asia, Forbes, 31 December 2014, [72] Ibid. [73] Felix Kartte, Russian beams message into Georgia: ‘You belong to us’, Politico, 7 May 2016, [74] Stephen Ennis, Homophobia spreads in Russian media, BBC, 17 January 2014, [75] Human Rights Watch, ‘That’s When I Realized I was Nobody’ A Climate of Fear for LGBT People in Kazakhstan, 23 July 2015, [76] Nicole Gallina, Russia has opened up another front in the Czech Republic, Euromaidan Press, 29 March 2015,; Van Herpen, Marcel H. 2016. Putin’s Propaganda Machine. London. Rowman & Littlefield. Pp. 81-90. [77] Adam Federman, How US Evangelicals Fueled the Rise of Russia’s ‘Pro-Family’ Right, The Nation, 7 January 2014, [78] Christopher Stroop, Russian Social Conservatism, the US-Based WCF, and& the Global Culture Wars in Historical Context, Political Research Associates,16 February 2016, [79] Ibid. [80] Christopher Stroop, Russian Social Conservatism, the US-Based WCF, and& the Global Culture Wars in Historical Context, Political Research Associates,16 February 2016, [81] Ibid. [82] Brian Tashman, World Congress of Families Praises Russian Laws ‘Preventing’ Gays from ‘Corrupting Children’, Right Wing Watch, 13 June 2013, [83] Adam Federman, How US Evangelicals Fueled the Rise of Russia’s ‘Pro-Family’ Right, The Nation, 7 January 2014, [84] Cole Parke, US Conservatives and Russian Anti-Gay Laws – The WCF, Political Research Associates, 17 October 2013, [85] Hannah Levintova, How US Evangelicals Helped Create Russia’s Anti-Gay Movement, Mother Jones, 21 February 2014, [86] Ibid. [87] Ibid. [88] Christian Telegraph, Christian Movement ‘New Generation’ Celebrated 25th Anniversary, Crossmap, 5 December 2014,; Phoebe A. Greenwood, Crucible of Hate, The Guardian, 1 June 2007, [89] Phoebe A. Greenwood, Crucible of Hate, The Guardian, 1 June 2007, [90] Southern Poverty Law Center, Extremist Files: Scott Lively, 2014, [91] Aarian Marshall, Happy Pride, Just 200 Miles from the Russian Border, The Atlantic: CityLab, 19 June 2015, [92] Oleg Riabov, Tatiana Riabova, The decline of Gayropa? How Russia intends to save the world, Eurozine, 5 February 2015, [93] Oleg Riabov, Tatiana Riabova, The decline of Gayropa? How Russia intends to save the world, Eurozine, 5 February 2015, [94] Ibid. [post_title] => Russia’s ‘traditional values’ leadership [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => russias-traditional-values-leadership [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-13 12:03:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-13 12:03:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [33] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2332 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-05-24 10:10:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-24 10:10:46 [post_content] => Leaders in the majority of countries of the former Soviet Union have long viewed the expression of alternative viewpoints and dissent as a threat, establishing economic and legislative environments that stifle independent media and limit civic space. Since the Ukraine crisis, the climate for freedom of expression has deteriorated even further: having already brought traditional media to heel, authoritarian leaders are now focused on extinguishing the few remaining spaces for free expression – particularly the internet. National security is often invoked as a pretext for restricting free speech, although the extent and focus of repression differs according to country: [1]
  • In Russia, having ensured the dominance of state-owned or state-affiliated media, the government continues to employ legislative tools to silence the few remaining independent voices, increasingly refusing to tolerate any criticism of its policies, particularly with regard to Ukraine.
  • In Central Asia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have long been among the most repressive states in the world, and continue to develop new means to prevent dissent. Concerned by the potential for spill-over from Ukraine, their declining economies and the threat from violent Islamic extremism, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have undertaken a renewed clampdown on freedom of expression in the name of stability, targeting expression about inter-ethnic relations, protest, political Islam, minority religions and criticism of government. The speed of deterioration in Tajikistan, focused on the political opposition, is very alarming, while regression in Kyrgyzstan is also of concern, given earlier signs of reform.
  • The situation in Belarus remains stably repressive, while Azerbaijan seems to have used the diversion of events in Ukraine to accelerate a crackdown on all criticism of the government, waging a crude campaign of repression against independent journalists, bloggers and civil activists alike.
  • Finally, despite a far more positive environment for free expression following reforms post-Maidan, Ukraine is nevertheless failing to ensure a climate for pluralistic debate, and specifically with regard to those criticising the war effort or voicing pro-Russian opinions.
  This essay addresses trends within three broad categories pertaining to increasing violations of the right to freedom of expression: 1) increasingly restrictive legislative environments, targeting the media online and offline, as well as expression more broadly; 2) the expansion of digital technologies, particularly surveillance, to crack down on freedom of expression; and 3) persecution and harassment of the few remaining independent media outlets, alongside bloggers and social media.   Increasingly restrictive legislative environments The legislative environment is extremely dynamic across the region, with governments in several countries frequently amending existing legislation, in order to restrict freedom of expression, in violation of their obligations under international law. The development of legislation covering both media and the internet is often reactive or opportunistic, responding to specific social and political developments in the country, with the aim of preventing expression on sensitive topics, rather than constituting a plan to develop a coherent framework for media or internet regulation.   For example, in July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved amendments to Article 280 of the Criminal Code, increasing the liability for public calls to action aimed at violating the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation from three to four years and adding increased penalties for using the internet for such calls, stipulating a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment.[2] This was designed to prevent criticism of the Russian government’s actions in Crimea, and has since been used against those speaking out on this topic, amidst widespread criticism from human rights groups that charges are groundless.[3] As the conflict continued, in May 2015, Putin extended the law on state secrets, in order to classify any information revealing Russian military casualties as a state secret, regardless of whether they occurred during times of war or peace,[4] presumably aimed at preventing the circulation of information about Russian military casualties during covert operations in Ukraine.   Meanwhile, in April 2014, Kazakhstan announced amendments to an existing law on ‘emergency situations’, requiring all media outlets operating in areas where a state of emergency has been declared to submit content to the government for approval prior to publication. While, in extremely limited circumstances, international law permits prior censorship in the interests of protecting national security during a public emergency which threatens the life of the country, this provision is open to abuse as it assumes an automatic derogation from the right to freedom of expression allowing for unnecessary application. Moreover, Kazakhstan lacks safeguards to prevent arbitrary invocation of a state of emergency – for example during times of protest. Adil Soz, a Kazakh media rights advocacy group, believes that the amendments provide a legal basis for the government to prevent the dissemination of information about unrest in Kazakhstan, responding to fears that Kazakhstan might see its own Maidan movement, inspired by events in Ukraine.[5]   Ukraine adopted a package of four laws in May 2015, introducing criminal penalties for propaganda of Communist and/or Nazi regimes and their symbols, providing for up to 10 years in prison for repeated offences or if committed using the media.[6] Since its introduction, the legislation has been used to ban Ukraine’s Communist Party,[7] and has been criticised by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe for including overly broad provisions that could ‘stifl[e] public debate about… modern Ukrainian history’, as well as explicitly targeting the media, ‘enabl[ing] the authorities to shut down media and/or control media output at their discretion.’[8] The legislation is symptomatic of Ukraine’s desire to cut itself off from its history and extinguish pro-Russian feeling.   The greatest novelty over the past few years is the extension of legislation regulating mass media to explicitly include internet resources – as we have seen in Kazakhstan (2009); Russia (2010; 2014); and Belarus and Uzbekistan (2014).[9] Theoretically, this may confer additional rights and protections for people publishing on the internet; however in reality, given the regressive nature of media law in the region, this confers burdensome requirements on independent journalists and bloggers. Such legislative changes allow for a more efficient crack down on online speech, by increasing internet users’ liability to broadly worded criminal charges, and providing stronger penalties where prohibited information is disseminated on a website recognised as mass media.[10] In some cases, distribution of content specifically over the internet may act as an aggravating feature, thereby incurring additional sanctions – for example, this is the case in Russia regarding incitement to extremism and incitement to separatism, following 2014 amendments to the criminal code.[11] Meanwhile, amendments to the Law on Informatisation in Uzbekistan introduced criminal charges for content posted exclusively online.[12]   Governments are using such legislation to explicitly target bloggers and independent/non-affiliated journalists – the only people still providing independent and critical assessments of events in country – who do not have sufficient resources to comply with extensive media law provisions, nor to protect themselves against extremely broadly worded criminal charges. If facing criminal charges, few have the means to mount any sort of defence, encouraging self-censorship. The clearest example is Russia’s infamous Bloggers Law, which requires bloggers with more than 3,000 daily visitors to register with Roskomnadzor, the state media regulatory body, and to comply with the same legislation as traditional media.[13] Uzbekistan’s Law on Informatisation also expanded the definition of a blogger to include any ‘physical person, who posts on his/her website and/or pages of others’ websites on the Internet generally accessible information of a socio-political, economic and other nature, particularly for its discussion by users,’[14] and imposed extremely burdensome requirements on them, including an obligation to verify the truthfulness of information before posting.   Authorities have also sought to limit access to information by introducing new legislation and strengthening the powers of regulatory bodies to block online content without a court order, in violation of international standards.[15]   In December 2013, the Russian Law on Information, Information Technologies and the Protection of Information was amended to grant the Prosecutor General and his deputies the power to directly order Roskomnadzor to block information deemed to contain illegal content such as incitement to unsanctioned public protests and to ‘extremist’ activities.[16] Combined with 2012 amendments to the Law on Protection of Children, which allowed Roskomnadzor to blacklist and remove information deemed harmful to children, this further strengthened the authorities’ ability to arbitrarily remove content and removed safeguards that allow content owners to challenge unfair removal. Changes to the Russian law were swiftly followed by amendments to legislation in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, enabling relevant government bodies to block websites without court orders – often on arbitrarily defined grounds of national security.[17]   States use blocking as a crude way to try to regulate the internet and limit the freedom to exchange information and ideas online, rather than focusing on legitimate restrictions, recognised under international law, such as child pornography. Indeed sites across the region are regularly blocked by governments in order to stifle dissent. A notable case of this is the blocking of various social media and independent news websites in Tajikistan on the evening of 4 October 2014, following the publication of critical reports about the government of Tajikistan, as well as open letters by the opposition movement ‘Group 24’, based outside Tajikistan, calling on people to gather for an anti-government rally in Dushanbe.[18] In Russia, opposition sites,, and, have been blocked since March 2014 on the grounds that they ‘contain calls for illegal activity and participation in public events held in violation of the established order.’[19]   A lack of transparency over blocking processes makes it very difficult for website owners to challenge decisions to remove content. In Central Asian states, governments frequently deny having blocked websites[20]; while in Russia, notices from Roskomnadzor to remove content do not need to specify what content was problematic or why. Failure to respond to a warning to take down the content within 24 hours, however, can lead to the website in question being completely blocked and the imposition of serious administrative sanctions. Such lack of clarity leads to self-censorship to prevent websites being blocked. Alongside these relatively newer legislative projects, numerous broadly worded charges remain on the Criminal Codes of countries across the region – and some have had their scope or penalties extended – and are evoked in similar ways across the region to supress dissent. Defamation charges remain a widely used tool for preventing criticism of government officials and public figures. Despite positive overtures towards reform a few years ago, a number of countries have recently strengthened defamation provisions and continue to actively apply them.   For example, Russia decriminalised defamation in 2011, only to reintroduce defamation as a criminal offence in 2012 on Putin’s return to the presidency. Meanwhile, despite partially decriminalising defamation in 2011;[21] Kyrgyzstan adopted amendments to its criminal code in 2014, undermining any progress, by introducing a clause prohibiting the dissemination of ‘knowingly false messages about the commission of crimes’, effectively re-criminalising defamation. A month previously, Kazakhstan, which already had eight criminal provisions prohibiting defamation, amended its criminal code to include a new offence of ‘knowingly disseminating false information’, which includes both facts and opinions and provides for up to 10 years in prison. Even where defamation has been fully or partially decriminalised – for example in Tajikistan – excessive civil defamation cases, which lack fair protections and defences, provide a mechanism to prevent criticism of governments and stifle small media outlets.[22]   States also retain various legislative acts and criminal charges with the stated aim of preventing violent extremism. While this is a legitimate aim in itself, such laws fail to precisely define ‘extremism’, or other key terms[23], and confer broad powers on the state, which allow for disproportionate restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.[24] These are aggressively used throughout the region. In Russia, where a court may order the closure of media outlets and websites if it deems them extremist, Roskomnadzor frequently issues warnings on spurious matters to newspapers and websites, whereby three such warnings precipitates a court trial to consider closure.[25] Similarly, clauses included in criminal codes aimed at preventing incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, a legitimate aim under international law, lack clear definitions, enabling arbitrary application.[26]   The expansion of digital technologies to crack down on freedom of expression Governments have sought to strengthen their surveillance powers, to increase state access to communications (both private and on social media), while also cracking down on anonymity and encryption. Given high levels of censorship and regressive legislation, this poses a significant threat to freedom of expression, where anonymity is vital to allow individuals to meaningfully express themselves – a fact recognised by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.[27]   Since the late 1990s, Russia has gradually increased the capabilities of its ‘System for Operational Investigative Measures’ (SORM), initially developed in the Soviet Union, which requires Internet Service Providers to install equipment that directs all internet traffic to an FSB terminal – enabling them to monitor all internet activity, including private communications.[28] Some level of SORM capabilities almost certainly exists in other post-Soviet countries; although it is difficult to assess the extent of this given the lack of transparency around questions of national security. Certainly, increasingly alarmed about the threat of popular protest, other states in the region have looked to expand their SORM capabilities: since 2011, Belarus, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan have all used Russian technology suppliers to update their systems.[29]   At the same time, a number of states have sought to outlaw anonymity. For example, in Russia Roskomnadzor stated that the aim of the infamous ‘Bloggers’ Law’, which requires real name registration of bloggers, was to de-anonymise popular internet pages to ensure that those writing online could be held responsible for what they publish.[30] Belarus has legislated to ban anonymisers, which allow internet users to circumnavigate censorship and access banned resources.[31] Several states, including Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, routinely block anonymising sites.[32]   Governments have long sought to regulate encryption technologies, while Kazakhstan has looked to go even further and ensure government access to encrypted data, announcing in December 2015, that all internet users would need to install a ‘national security certificate’ that would act as intermediary between them, and websites, allowing the government to access all encrypted transactions occurring within the country.[33] It is currently not clear if this will go ahead, however, as it is difficult to understand how it would be technologically implemented.   Harassment and intimidation of independent media and bloggers Pervasive surveillance and broadly-worded, aggressive legislation expedite the application of charges to silence independent media or bloggers writing about abuse of power or expressing dissent. This is facilitated by ambiguous interpretation of laws and the absence of an independent, impartial judiciary.   There are two broad approaches to the application of criminal charges to restrict expression: first, the abuse of broadly-termed legislation and charges, outlined in section one, which gives a veneer of legality to politically-motivated prosecutions; and second, the more crude application of trumped up criminal charges, such as blackmail, fraud or narcotics. While Russia has increasingly focused on the first approach,[34] Azerbaijan, which has led the most aggressive crackdown on freedom of expression of any state in recent years, tends to have favoured the latter.[35] Meanwhile, the most repressive states, including Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, employ a combination of the two – often applying multiple charges against those they deem a threat.[36]   It would be impossible to list all examples of the abuse of criminal charges to restrict public interest journalism in this publication. Some of the most egregious recent cases include:
  • In Azerbaijan, Khadija Ismayilova, an independent award-winning journalist who prominently investigated government corruption in Azerbaijan, remains in prison. She was jailed in December 2014 and sentenced on 1 September 2015 to seven and a half years on charges of libel, tax evasion, illegal business activity and abuse of power.[37]
  • In Kazakhstan, in November 2015, Yaroslav Golyshkin, the editor-in-chief of Versiya, an independent newspaper in Kazakhstan, was convicted to eight years in prison on charges of financial extortion. The charges were made after the newspaper published an article implicating a local Governor’s son in the rape of a woman.[38]
  • In Russia, Sergey Reznik, known for investigative reporting on corruption in Southern Russia, received three years imprisonment on charges of insult and misleading authorities. He was already serving an 18 month sentence on similar charges.[39]
  • In Tajikistan, Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov, a journalist from Asht known for his reporting on corruption among local authorities, was sentenced to eleven years in prison in April 2014, after being convicted on charges of blackmail and fraud.[40]
  Worryingly, and despite progress on media freedoms, Ukraine has also applied unfounded criminal charges to silence unwanted expression. Ruslan Kotsaba, a blogger and journalist, has been held in pre-trial detention since February 2015, after he was arrested on charges of treason and obstructing the work of the armed forces, following the publication of a video on YouTube, in which he criticised the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine and called upon Ukrainians to reject military conscription.[41] International standards set a high threshold for determining when speech may be restricted, which Kotsaba’s video clearly did not meet. As such, the decision to prosecute him is an attempt to silence legitimate expression considered undesirable by the Ukrainian state. As well as targeting well known journalists, criminal charges are increasingly brought against ordinary internet users, many of whom have limited influence over others. The purpose of such prosecutions, which are often widely covered in local media, seems to be to set precedents of impermissible speech, and to encourage self-censorship among the internet community.   In February 2016, a Russian court in Yekaterinburg sentenced Ekaterina Vologzheninova to 320 hours of 'corrective labour' for ‘inciting hatred and enmity on the grounds of ethnicity’, following posts on the social media site, Vkontakte, criticising Russia’s annexation of Crimea.[42] A month later, Viktor Krasnov, a resident of Stavropol, was charged with insult of the religious convictions or feelings of citizens, following comments on the social media site, Vkontakte, in which he crudely criticised God and the Bible.[43] In both cases, human rights activists who have viewed the texts in question believe the charges to be unfounded. Meanwhile, in March 2015, a Kazakh court convicted Tatiana Shevtsova-Valova under Article 174 of the Criminal Code, ‘incitement to hatred’, after posting comments on Facebook in support of the policy of Russia in the conflict with the Ukraine, which were deemed as insulting ethnic Kazakhs.[44] She was the first social media user to be prosecuted for incitement online, and received a four-year suspended sentence. Throughout the year, incitement charges were brought against several other bloggers and social media users.[45]     [1] This essay focuses primarily on the context in countries where ARTICLE 19 is working. [2] RFE/RL, ‘Putin Toughens Punishment For Public Calls For Separatism’, 22 July 2016 [3] For example, in September 2105 a Russian Court in Tartarstan sentenced Rafis Kashapov, an activist, to three years in prison on charges of undermining Russia’s territorial integrity and inciting hostility towards the Russian people following his posts on social media, including a piece titled “Crimea and Russia Will be Free from the Occupants!” (See: Human Rights Watch, ‘Dispatches: Russia, Crimea, and the Shrinking Space for Free Speech’, 28 September 2015, [4] The Guardian, Vladimir Putin declares all Russian military deaths state secrets, [5] RFE/RL, Kazakhstan’s Emergency Media Law, 8 April 2014 [6] Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Ukraine’s Decommunisation Law hammered by Venice Commission for violating democratic standards, 12 December 2015, [7] Amnesty International, Ukraine: Communist Party ban decisive blow for freedom of speech in the country’, 17 December 2015 [8] Venice Commission Opinion no. 823/2015 ODIHR Opinion no. FOE-UKR/280/2015 CDL-AD(2015) 041, Joint Interim Opinion on the Law of Ukraine on the Condemnation of the Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) Regimes and Prohibition of Propaganda of their Symbols’, Adopted by the Venice Commission at its 105th Plenary Session Venice (18-19 December 2015), [9] In 2009, Kazakhstan amended its Mass Media law to recognise all internet resources, including blogs, discussion platforms and social media sites, as mass media outlets. A year later, Russia passed a law allowing mass media regulation to apply to internet resources; and in August 2014, Russia’s so-called “Bloggers Law”, entered into force requiring bloggers with more than 3,000 daily visitors to register with Roskomnadzor and to comply with laws governing mass media. In 2014, Belarus amended its Law on Mass Media; and Uzbekistan, its Law on Informatisation, to extend Mass Media law to cover a larger array of internet resources, including bloggers. [10] The Criminal Codes of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan all include increased penalties for certain crimes when committed by a mass media outlet – for example, in Belarus, media outlets face more severe penalties for libel; defamation; insult of the President; calls to harm Belarus’s national security; in Kazakhstan, media face more severe penalties for defamation, libel and insult charges, and calls to separatism or terrorism. [11] SOVA Centre, ‘Inappropriate Use of Anti-Extremist Legislation from January 2014 through August 2015, in Brief’, 10 September 2015 [12] IRIS 2014-10:1/32, Uzbekistan Statute regulates blogging, [13] Human Rights Watch, ‘Russia: Veto Law to Restrict Online Freedom’ 24 April 2016 [14] IRIS 2014-10:1/32, Uzbekistan Statute regulates blogging, [15] The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression has clearly stated that blocking provisions should be clearly laid out by law; any determination on what content should be blocked must be undertaken by a competent judicial authority and any blocking decision must be based on a clear law, necessary and proportionate. (See: [16] Cappello M. (ed.), Regulation of online content in the Russian Federation, IRIS extra, European Audiovisual Observatory, Strasbourg, 2015 [17] Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2014, [18] ARTICLE 19 and PEN International, Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Tajikistan, September 2015,,-PEN-Intl-&-English-PEN-Submission-to-UPR-of-Tajikistan.pdf [19] Human Rights Watch, Russia: Halt Orders to Block Online Media, 23 March 2014 [20] For example Tajikistan denies involvement in the blocking of social media sites on 3rd October (described above): [21] The Telegraph, ‘OSCE hails Kyrgyzstan decision to decriminalise libel’, 19 July 2011, [22] For example, in February 2013, a Dushanbe district ordered the newspaper, Imruz News, to pay 50,000 Somoni (approximately USD 8,000) in compensation for “moral harm” under Article 174 of the Civil Code, which protects honour, dignity and business reputation. The case concerned an article published in 2012 about the son of Rustam Khukumov, head of the Tajik Rail Road, who was sentenced to 9.5 years imprisonment in Russia for involvement in narcotics trafficking and later released in a prisoner exchange for Russian pilots in Tajikistan. The defence argued that it was reasonable to publish the article, as it did not contain offensive material, and was based on information published in many Russian newspapers. (See: ARTICLE 19 and PEN International, Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review of Tajikistan, September 2015,,-PEN-Intl-&-English-PEN-Submission-to-UPR-of-Tajikistan.pdf [23] Kazakh legislation prevents the ‘promotion’ or ‘glorification’ of extremism. [24] For example, the Kyrgyz Law On Countering Extremist Activity enables the authorities and the prosecutor’s office to demand the dissolution of NGOs and religious organisations engaged in ‘extremism activity in violation of human rights’. Similarly, the activities of mass media involved in the distribution of extremist materials may be terminated. In the absence of a clear definition of ‘extremist activity’ or what constitutes a ‘violation of human rights’ this is a very broad power, which is clearly open to abuse.[24] For example, see: ARTICLE 19 Legal Analysis, ‘Kyrgyzstan: Law on Countering Extremist Activity’, December 2015, Similarly, the Russian Law on Extremism. [25] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, ‘Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015: Russia [26] See for example, Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2015: Kazakhstan, This charge has been criticised by the European Parliament ( [27] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, A/HRC/23/40, 17/04/2013, PARA 47. [28] CSIS, Reference Note on Russian Communications Surveillance, 18 April 2014, [29] Privacy International, In ex-Soviet states, Russian spy tech still watches you, 10 January 2013, [30] The Calvert Journal, ‘Mass media law for bloggers comes into effect’, 01 August 2014, [31] Global Voice, ‘Belarus Bans Tor and Other Anonymizers’, 25 March 2015 [32] Freedom House, ‘Freedom on the Net 2015: Kazakhstan’,; Eurasianet, Tajikistan Blocks Websites Again, Holds Anti-Riot Simulation, 6 October 2014 [33] Digital Report, ‘Experts Concerned Kazakhstan Plans to Monitor Users’ Encrypted Traffic’, 5 December 2015 [34] See, for example, the SOVA Centre for extensive monitoring on how anti-terror legislation is applied in Russia ( [35] Although this has been expedited by changes to legislation governing NGOs, increasing the vulnerability of activists and human rights defenders to criminal charges concerning financial crimes. [36] An example of this is the ongoing campaign against, successor to Respublika, an independent newspaper which was highly critical of the Kazakh authorities, until its closure was forced in 2012, on charges of extremism. In December 2015, charges of narcotics possession were brought against Yuliya Kozlova, a journalist with the paper, who was acquitted in a rare not-guilty verdict in February 2016. The site’s owner, Guzyal Baydalinova remains in pre-trial detention, charged with “deliberately spreading false information”. See: [37] The Guardian, ‘Azerbaijan journalist Khadija Ismayilova vows to continue fight from prison’. 1 September 2015 [38] Open Dialogue Foundation, ‘Kazakhstan: The oppression of journalists and bloggers’, 22 January 2016,kazakhstan-the-oppression-of-journalists-and-bloggers1 [39] Committee to Protect Journalists, ‘Imprisoned Russian journalist sentenced to new three-year jail term’, 22 January 2015 [40] ARTICLE 19, Central Asia: Legalised harassment of journalists must stop, 8 September 2016 [41] ARTICLE 19, ‘Ukraine: Government must release blogger imprisoned for over a year on treason charges’ 9 February 2016 [42] Human Rights in Russia, ‘Person of the Week: Ekaterina Vologzheninova’, 29 February 2016, [43] RFE/RL, ‘Russian Man Could Be Jailed For Saying God Doesn't Exist’, 2 March 2016 [44] RFE/RL, ‘The Victims Of Kazakhstan's Article 174, 2 March 2016, [45] Ibid [post_title] => Freedom of the media under attack across the former Soviet Union [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => freedom-media-attack-across-former-soviet-union [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-13 12:08:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-13 12:08:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [34] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2334 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-05-24 09:50:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-24 09:50:58 [post_content] => Despite being a constitutionally protected right, freedom of peaceful assembly remains undervalued, over-regulated and inadequately protected in many countries in the former Soviet Union.[1] Some of the most egregious responses to public gatherings have occurred in the context of opposition mobilisation during election periods.[2] As Graeme Robertson has noted, maintaining electoral advantage in post-Soviet ‘hybrid regimes’[3] depends on portraying ‘an air of invincibility or permanence’ by ‘pre-empting threats that emerge from outside the elite in the form of mass protest or unrest’.[4] Pre-emption may take the form of intensified repression of opposition protesters and also the mobilisation of pro-government activists (‘counter-organising’).[5] Evidently, such impulses preclude the emergence of functioning, let alone pluralist, democracies (though they have also sometimes inspired novel forms of protest, such as the handclapping protests in Belarus,[6] and toy protests in Barnaul, Siberia).[7]   This short essay does not attempt to comprehensively catalogue violations of the right to freedom of assembly in the former Soviet Union. Nor does it focus on those examples of repression characterised by excessive use of force against demonstrators,[8] targeted crackdowns on opposition movements,[9] or the repeated failure of states to uphold their positive obligations to adequately protect assemblies from violent counter-demonstrators,[10] particularly those organised in support of LGBTI rights.[11] Instead, the essay aims simply to highlight three key background factors (relating to powers, procedures and penalties) which continue to thwart the full realisation of this fundamental right in the post-Soviet space. These are, respectively: the excessive discretion conferred on regulatory authorities; notification requirements that are tantamount to authorisation requirements; and the imposition of disproportionate penalties for relatively minor infractions of the law.   Legal framework: Cut from the same cloth? It is important first to emphasise that while the notion of regional contagion suggests that states ‘mimic internationally illegitimate actions that are deemed regionally appropriate’,[12] the restrictive practices discussed here are neither uniform within, nor unique to, the post-Soviet space.[13]  Furthermore, while it might be thought that the restrictive practices of today are simply a legacy of the former Soviet regime, and that the legal frameworks within the region were ‘cut from the same cloth’, this would be an over-simplification. Certainly, in some countries, the Decree of the Chairmanship of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on ‘Rules for Organising and Holding of Assemblies, Rallies, Street Processions and Demonstrations in the USSR’ (28 July 1988) continued to be applied post-independence.[14] This Decree emphasised the need to apply for permission for assemblies, the ‘right’ of the authorities to offer another time and place for an assembly, and the obligation on the authorities to stop an assembly where no application had been submitted. The continued influence of this Decree today is perhaps especially pronounced in Ukraine where no specific law on public assemblies has yet been enacted, thus enabling local councils to arbitrarily restrict assemblies.[15] Indeed, the European Court of Human Rights has required the urgent implementation of specific reforms in Ukraine’s legislation and administrative practice to remedy this ‘structural’ problem.[16]   However, throughout the 1990s, many of the newly independent states adopted bespoke laws on freedom of assembly against the backdrop of fundamental constitutional reform.[17] Indeed, some countries (such as Armenia and Moldova)[18] have since introduced significant liberalising amendments to their laws on assembly, sometimes after consultation with civil society representatives and with legislative support provided by international bodies such as the OSCE and the European Commission’s Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) programme.[19] In this light, the increasingly remote common legal heritage does not adequately explain the present day sharing of bad practices within the region – regard must also be had to perceived internal security imperatives, the development over time of a stock repertoire of police responses to public gatherings, the combination of a regulatory mind-set (which prioritises the management and control of assemblies over their facilitation) and high levels of discretion enjoyed by the regulatory authorities.   Bans and restrictions: Excessive discretion The Russian Assembly Law, for example, has been roundly criticised for conferring ‘too broad discretion on the executive authorities to restrict assemblies.’[20] Such discretion commonly translates into restrictions that wholly undermine the very essence of the right to peacefully assemble – particularly the principle that ‘the right to freedom of assembly includes the right to choose the time, place and modalities of the assembly.’[21] In several countries, widely framed discretionary powers have enabled the excessive prioritisation of ‘traffic’ considerations over assemblies,[22] reliance on unsubstantiated threats to public order or national security,[23] bans imposed because another demonstration is taking place at the same location,[24] or because the proposed assembly coincides with a public holiday or significant date.[25]   In some countries, there remains only a power to prohibit (or ‘temporarily ban’) assemblies, rather than a power to impose more narrowly tailored restrictions.[26] Indeed, many countries retain blanket bans on assemblies in central or symbolic locations (or designate specified assembly locations which are routinely ‘preferred’ by the authorities).[27] The implications of unchecked discretion for freedom of assembly are stark. For example, in Ukraine, just before the Euromaidan demonstrations began in November 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern at reports that the success rate of local authorities’ applications to court seeking a ban on peaceful assemblies was as high as 90 per cent.[28] Likewise in Kazakhstan, a study by the Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (KIBHR) found that between October 2012 and March 2013, 76 per cent of all applications to hold gatherings were rejected.[29]   Procedural problems: Notification in name, authorisation in practice Underlying this broad discretion in many countries is a more fundamental procedural problem, namely, the subjection of assemblies to a de facto authorisation procedure. In the Russian Federation, for example, Article 5 of the Assemblies Act provides that an ‘organizer of a public event shall have no right to hold it when … no agreement has been reached with the executive authority’. This requirement to ‘agree’ the conditions for an assembly with the authorities is far removed from a simple notification process (where neither agreement nor approval is expected). Moreover, the ‘take it or leave it’ nature of any ‘agreement’ reached under this ‘notification and endorsement’ process is one that significantly imperils the right to freedom of assembly.[30] The erosion of the right is compounded by two further related practices that commonly also arise – the default dispersal of spontaneous assemblies (or those that depart in any way from the terms authorised), and the prohibition on any prior promotion of a public event that has not yet been ‘agreed’.[31] Recently in Kazakhstan, for example, Ermek Narymbaev, was convicted of organising an unsanctioned protest after posting on Facebook that he was going to Almaty’s central square to hand-deliver a list of demands to local government representatives.[32] Such practices undermine the principle that peaceful assemblies should take place without impediment (and the corresponding negative obligation of states not to interfere with this fundamental freedom). Indeed, as the European Court of Human Rights recently emphasised (in a case against Azerbaijan), the enforcement of notification or authorisation requirements ‘cannot become an end in itself’.[33]   Punitive sanctions for minor infractions and an over-emphasis on organiser’s ‘responsibilities’ In recent years, concerns have been raised about a trend towards ever harsher penalties and sanctions. By way of example, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe raised serious concerns in relation to the introduction in Azerbaijan of possible fines for assembly participants of up to two-and-a-half times – and for organisers, of up to seven-and-a-half times – the average monthly salary.[34] Similarly, in relation to the Russian Federation, the UN Human Rights Committee lamented ‘the strong deterrent effect’ of amendments introduced in 2012, and amended in July 2014, which impose high administrative sanctions on assembly organisers previously convicted of similar administrative offences.[35] The 2014 reforms included the possibility of custodial sentences for participation in an unauthorised public gathering and a maximum fine of 1 million roubles or five years’ imprisonment for repeat violations. These concerns were recently borne out in the conviction of Ildar Dadin, initially for three years (later reduced to two years and six months).[36] Such provisions exist in clear tension with the principle stated by the European Court of Human Rights, that ‘the freedom to take part in a peaceful assembly is of such importance that a person cannot be subjected to a sanction – even one at the lower end of the scale of disciplinary penalties – for participation in a demonstration which has not been prohibited, so long as this person does not himself commit any reprehensible act on such an occasion.’[37] Moreover, in several countries there have been attempts to shift certain responsibilities onto assembly organisers that ought properly to lie with the state (for example, for maintaining order, providing emergency medical cover, or cleaning-up in the aftermath of an assembly). The attendant administrative or criminal liability that such laws also impose (should these responsibilities not be met) has a further chilling effect on the enjoyment of the freedom to assemble.   Conclusion In large part, this essay identifies a failure to adequately embed the principle of proportionality in the regulatory framework governing the right to freedom of peaceful assembly (whether in relation to powers, procedures or penalties). While there are undoubtedly regional exceptions, there are also discernible patterns that evidence the sharing of bad practice. The underlying problem that must be remedied (albeit one that is not unique to countries in the former Soviet Union) is the persistent belief that peaceful assemblies are to be managed and controlled rather than facilitated. [1] Translations of several assembly laws in the region are available at: [2] See, for example, A/68/299, Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association in the context of elections, 7 August 2013, paras 18-19, 29, highlighting the intimidation and arbitrary detention of opposition activists, and use of excessive force against protesters, in Belarus in December 2010, and in the Russian Federation in both December 2011 (Parliamentary elections) and May 2012 (Presidential elections). See also, Final Human Rights Assessment of the Events of 19 December 2010 in Minsk, Belarus  (CIC: December 2011); and, International Expert Commission, Evaluation of events on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012 (Moscow: December 2013) [3] Regimes in which there is some degree of open political competition but where the prevailing institutional landscape renders this competition unfair. See Robertson, Graeme, B. 2011. The Politics of Protest in Hybrid Regimes: Managing Dissent in Post-Communist Russia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 6. [4] Robertson, 169. Indeed, the perceived risks associated with protest are heightened in hybrid regimes which ‘are without the full-blown institutional repressive apparatus of closed authoritarians’ (Robertson, 173). [5] See also Freedom House, ‘Voices in the Streets: Mass Social Protests and the Right to Peaceful Assembly’, 24, describing the co-option of assemblies in Kyrgyzstan by ‘political and business forces wishing to create the impression of public support for a cause or initiative’, and the related widespread practice of ‘payment for participation in assemblies’. [6] Protest in Belarus: Clapping ’bout a revolution, The Economist, 28 June 2011, [7] Toys protest against government in Barnaul, Siberia – video, Reuters, 20 February 2012,; Russia mayor bans election activists’ toys protest, BBC, 6 March 2012, [8] The most notorious events are perhaps those of 16 December 2011, when police shot at and killed at least 12 striking oil workers in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan (see, Norwegian Helsinki Committee. The Right to Public Protest: A freedom of assembly and association issue in Kazakhstan); The killing of eight protesters in Yerevan, Armenia on 1 March 2008 when police cleared an opposition protest camp in Liberty Square in the wake of the Presidential elections of 19 February (see ‘Eight killed in Armenia protests’, BBC News, 2 March 2008); and the killing of hundreds of protesters in Andijan, Uzbekistan on 13 May 2005. See further, McClinchey, Eric. 2013. States of Protest in Central Asia. PONARS Eurasia Policy Memo No. 299, [9] See, for example, Human Rights Watch, Tajikistan: Severe Crackdown on Political Opposition, 17 February 2016 [10] In relation to Kyrgyzstan, for example, see Freedom House, ‘Voices in the Streets: Mass Social Protests and the Right to Peaceful Assembly’, 28-29, [11] There are many examples. Key cases include Bączkowski v Poland, Appl No. 1543/06, 3 May 2007; Alekseyev v Russia, Appl Nos. 4916/07, 25924/08 and 14599/09, 21 October 2010; Identoba v Georgia, Appl No. 73235/12, 12 May 2015; and Milica Đorđević v Serbia, currently before the European Court of Human Rights.  See also, UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of the Russian Federation, CCPR/C/RUS/CO/7, 28 April 2015, para. 10(a); UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Georgia, CCPR/C/GEO/CO/4, 19 August 2014, para. 8; UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of Ukraine, CCPR/C/UKR/CO/7, 22 August 2013, para. 10. [12] Cardenas, Sonia. 2007. Conflict and Compliance: State Responses to International Human Rights Pressure. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 110. See also, Ambrosio, Thomas. 2010. Constructing a Framework of Authoritarian Diffusion: Concepts, Dynamics, and Future Research. 11 International Studies Perspectives, 375-392. [13] This is clear, for example, from the OSCE/ODIHR Freedom of Assembly Monitoring reports which have also found such practices to be prevalent elsewhere. See, OSCE, Monitoring of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in Selected OSCE Participating States (May 2013 – July 2014), 17 December 2014; OSCE, Report on the Monitoring of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in Selected OSCE Participating States, May 2011–June 2012, 9 November 2012, As a recent report by Thomas Carothers and Richard Youngs implicitly recognises, totalising conclusions should be avoided even whilst recognizing that regional contagion effects may be evident. Carothers, Thomas and Youngs, Richard. October 2015. The Complexities of Global Protests. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 6, [14] See the Decree of the Chairmanship of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on “Rules for Organising and Holding of Assemblies, Rallies, Street Processions and Demonstrations in the USSR” (28 July 1988). Continued reliance on this Decree has been held by the European Court of Human Rights to lack the requisite legal foreseeability. See, Mkrtchyan v. Armenia, Appl. No. 6562/03, 11 January 2007, paras 30-45; Vyerentsov v Ukraine, Appl. No. 20372/11, 11 April 2013, para. 54. [15] See, A/HRC/31/CRP.7, UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, 17 March 2016, para. 127. Also, Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of Ukraine, CCPR/C/UKR/CO/7, 22 August 2013, para. 21. Jagland, Thorbjørn. State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: A security imperative for Europe. Report by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe (April 2016), at 56 and 58. [16] Vyerentsov v Ukraine, Appl. No. 20372/11, judgment of 11 April 2013, para. 95; Shmushkovych v. Ukraine, Appl. No. 3276/10, 14 November 2013. [17] Notably, in Hungary, the Act of Assembly (which remains in force today) was one of the last reforms introduced by the Communist Parliament in 1989. See, Szabó, Máte. 2009. Demonstration Democracy in Hungary: Policing Protest – from the Catacomb of Unofficial Activities to Rioting. In Sajó, András (ed) 2009. Free to Protest: Constituent Power and Street Demonstration. Utrecht: Eleven International Publishing, 221-242. [18] See, Jarman, Neil and Hamilton, Michael. 2009. Protecting Peaceful Protest. 1(2) Journal of Human Rights Practice 208-235, at 224-226. While the legislative framework is but one explanatory factor at play, one might contrast, for example, the apparently permissive attitude of the authorities to the tent encampments in Chisinau in September 2015 with the grave violations committed against protesters following post-election demonstrations in April 2009. See, UN Human Rights Committee, CCPR/C/MDA/CO/2, Concluding Observations in relation to the second periodic report submitted by the Republic of Moldova, 4 November 2009, para. 8. See also, for example, Vasilie Ernu, Vitalie Sprinceana, and Ovidiu Tichindeleanu, Moldova’s Movement From Below, 17 March 2016, [19] For example, in Montenegro in September 2015. [20] Venice Commission, CDL-AD(2013)003, Opinion No. 686/2012 on Federal Law No. 65-FZ of 8 June 2012 of the Russian Federation, 11 March 2013, para. 36. See also, UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of the Russian Federation, CCPR/C/RUS/CO/7, 28 April 2015, para. 21. [21] Sáska v Hungary, Appl. No. 58050/08, 27 November 2012, para. 21. [22] See, for example, Körtvélyessy v. Hungary, Appl No. 7871/10, 5 April 2016. Such ‘traffic logic’, as Nicholas Blomley has argued in a different context, serves to reconstitute public space as a ‘transport corridor’ rather than as a ‘site for citizenship.’ Blomley, Nicholas. 2007. Civil Rights Meet Civil Engineering: Urban Public Space and Traffic Logic.  22 Can J. L. & Soc: 55-72, 64. [23] For example, UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the initial report submitted by Kazakhstan, CCPR/C/KAZ/CO/1, 19 August 2011, para. 26 (‘applications for permission to hold assemblies are often declined on the grounds of public order and national security’). [24] For example, Alec Luhn, Pro-Federalism protests in Siberia banned after at least nine activists held, The Guardian, 17 August 2014, [25] See, for example, Paul Goble, Easter Becomes Latest Official Excuse To Limit Freedom Of Assembly In Russia – OpEd, Eurasia Review, 1 May 2016 [26] This was, for example, a point criticized by the Venice Commission in relation to the Georgian Law prior to July 2011. See, Venice Commission, CDL-AD(2011)029, Final Opinion on the Amendments to the Law on Assembly and Manifestations of Georgia, Opinion no. 547/2009, 17 October 2011, para. 8. See also Article 9 of the Serbian Public Assembly Act 1992 (as amended). Yearbook of the Balkan Human Rights Network Editorial Board, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, Human Rights Report (Ljudska Prava Izveštaj), Issue: 01 / 2012, 209-228, at 226. [27] See, for example, CDL-AD(2007)042, para. 25; Joint OSCE/ODIHR, Venice Commission Opinion on the Public Assembly Act of the Republic of Serbia, CDL AD(2010)031,para.38; Venice Commission Opinion on Federal Law No.65-FZ of 8 June 2012 of the Russian Federation amending Federal Law No.54-FZ of 19 June 2004 on Assemblies, Meetings, Demonstrations, Marches and Picketing, 11 March 2013, CDL-AD(2013)003, paras 39-40. UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the initial report submitted by Kazakhstan, CCPR/C/KAZ/CO/1, 19 August 2011, para. 26 (designation of areas for holding assemblies, ‘routinely located in the outskirts of city centres’) and similarly Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, Mission to Kazakhstan, A/HRC/29/25/Add.2, 16 June 2015, para. 53 and Norwegian Helsinki Committee. The Right to Public Protest: A freedom of assembly and association issue in Kazakhstan. [28] UN Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of Ukraine, CCPR/C/UKR/CO/7, 22 August 2013, para. 21. [29] Norwegian Helsinki Committee. 2015. The Right to Public Protest: A freedom of assembly and association issue in Kazakhstan, 6. [30] See also, Report by Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, following his visit to Azerbaijan, from 22 to 24 May 2013, CommDH(2013)14, 6 August 2013, paras 63-67.; Jagland, Thorbjørn. State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law: A security imperative for Europe. Report by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, April 2016, at 56 and 58, [31] Venice Commission, CDL-AD(2013)003, Opinion No. 686/2012 on Federal Law No. 65-FZ of 8 June 2012 of the Russian Federation, 11 March 2013, paras 34-36. [32] Human Rights Watch. Kazakhstan: Activist Jailed over Currency Protest, 25 August 2015. [33] Ibrahimov and Others v Azerbaijan, Appl Nos. 69234/11, 69252/11 and 69335/11, 11 February 2016, para. 79. [34] Report by Nils Muižnieks, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, following his visit to Azerbaijan, from 22 to 24 May 2013, CommDH(2013)14, 6 August 2013, paras. 70-73. [35] Human Rights Committee, Concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of the Russian Federation, CCPR/C/RUS/CO/7, 28 April 2015, para. 21. [36] Moscow Activist Handed Three-Year Sentence for Breaching Protest Laws, Moscow Times, 7 December 2015; Sentence Reduced for Moscow Activist Accused of Violating Protest Laws, The Moscow Times, 31 March 2016 [37] Gasparyan v. Armenia (no. 1), Appl. No. 35944/03, 13 January 2009, para. 43. [post_title] => Practices relating to freedom of assembly in the former Soviet Union [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => freedom-assembly-former-soviet-union [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-13 12:16:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-13 12:16:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [35] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2338 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-05-24 09:45:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-05-24 09:45:51 [post_content] => The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) purports to be a broad-based international organisation formally tasked with promoting multilateral cooperation within Central Asia. However, a deeper look at this organisation illustrates that it is dedicated, at a fundamental level, to preserving the authoritarian status quo in Central Asia under the guise of combating the 'Three Evils' of terrorism, separatism and extremism. This essay utilises social network analysis to depict the legal framework which has emerged since the SCO's formation in 2001 and identifies those multilateral agreements which are most central to this framework. Policymakers wishing to promote democracy within Central Asia must understand that they are not only confronting state-level, domestic impediments to liberalisation, but also a complex, interconnected and self-reinforcing interstate structure which is antithetical to such aims. Consequently, political change is going to be very difficult to achieve in the short-to-medium term.   The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has emerged as one of the most important multilateral organisations in the former Soviet Union and the most important in Central Asia, serving as a key means for promoting cooperation amongst Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and an external, regional power, China. It began as a series of meetings to resolve border issues and produced two treaties on confidence-building and reducing forces along their mutual borders in 1996 and 1997 respectively. This grouping came to be known as the 'Shanghai Five' after the city of the talks and its number of members.[1] Subsequent meetings led to the formation of a formal international organisation in 2001 and the signing of the SCO Charter in 2002. Since then, the organisation has grown, serving as a forum for the discussion of mutual concerns, as well as an umbrella for cooperation in a variety of areas.   Like most international organisations of this type, its member states have many shared interests and the organisation itself purports to serve many functions. However, one function has stood out: the SCO's role in advancing a regional agenda which runs counter to promoting democratic political development and human rights by prioritising regime stability over political change. This has been examined from a broad perspective,[2] but systematic, data-driven analysis which reveal the mechanisms of this role, is lacking. This essay attempts to fill this gap.   The Sharing Worst Practice project of the Foreign Policy Centre seeks to investigate how authoritarian practices are shared or replicated in the former Soviet Union by exploring the legal frameworks which facilitate these processes. This essay contributes to this project through an application of the 'treaty nestedness' analysis to the SCO. This approach focuses on the links between international agreements and other important documents to identify which are the most central to a legal framework and how they form an interconnected network of treaties. This essay examines a unique database of 48 SCO documents from 2001 to 2015 to illustrate how these authoritarian practices are deeply embedded in the structures of the SCO through a treaty network which places combatting the so-called 'three evils' of terrorism, separatism and extremism, as well as the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS), at the very heart of this organisation.   Treaty nestedness analysis International agreements are the cornerstones of international law and international relations. They serve as primary vehicles of interstate cooperation, as well as for the transmission and strengthening of international norms. This can occur bilaterally or multilaterally, with the latter most likely happening within the context of an international organisation. However, these agreements do not exist within a vacuum, but rather occur within a broader legal framework which binds states together. One only needs to consider the core treaties of the European Union, and how they in turn led to a whole host of additional agreements, to understand how such a legal framework has institutionalised cooperation amongst the EU member states. Similarly, the values of democracy and human rights identified in these earlier EU documents have been strengthened by subsequent agreements.   These legal frameworks can be understood by utilising an approach which focuses on how treaties and other key documents connect to one another through references to prior treaties and documents. This is called 'treaty nestedness' analysis,[3] since a treaty which references a prior treaty is said to be 'embedded' or 'nested' within that earlier document. These references buttress the earlier agreements through a reaffirmation of both the obligations and norms expressed in these earlier documents. As this process continues, an increasingly complex, interconnected and self-reinforcing legal structure is created in the form of a 'treaty network' – a web of obligations and norms. The documents which are the most referenced serve as the foundations of this network and are referred to as 'lodestones'.   Although the legal framework of the SCO pales in comparison to that of the European Union, over thirty international agreements have been signed under its auspices, from which the core functions and purposes of the SCO can be discerned. Moreover, the SCO is not meant to be a supranational organisation, like the EU. Instead, "…the SCO organization model is less legalistic and more normative in nature than a Western democratic undertaking."[4] Consequently, the political statements by its heads of state, released as annual declarations, play a very important role in elaborating these functions and purposes. Thus, in addition to the formal legal documents, these declarations need to be included in any analysis of the SCO's legal framework.   From these agreements and annual declarations, a network analysis of the SCO has been conducted and a visual representation of this legal framework created. This process codes each document by year and number -- with the most prominent and relevant (such as the SCO Charter and the agreements on combating the 'three evils' and creating the RATS[5]) specified by name. Each is represented in Figure 1 below as a 'node' which links to other documents.[6] Nodes are symbolised by two shapes: squares and circles. Squares represent documents that are primarily referenced by other documents; circles represent agreements which primarily reference other documents. Nodes are sized in accordance with the number of agreements which reference them or the number which they themselves reference – the larger the node, the more it serves as a lodestone of the legal framework. Thus, the SCO Charter (in the centre of the network) is the largest square since it is the most mentioned document in the network.   The SCO legal framework Figure 1 depicts the SCO network of forty-eight documents: thirty-three agreements and fifteen declarations. Although this means that there are a lot of nodes and connections between them – hence, the web imagery identified above – a clear pattern emerges. In the centre of the network are four key documents, sized in regard to how many times they are referenced:  the SCO Charter, the UN Charter, the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism ('Three Evils Conv'), and the Agreement on the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure ('RATS').[7] These four agreements constitute the lodestones of the SCO's legal framework.   Figure 1 – SCO legal network   It should be expected that the SCO Charter would be the most referenced document since it serves as the foundation upon which the entire organisation is based. It is wide-ranging and not only establishes the organisation's institutional structure, but also outlines its founding principles. Beyond conflict avoidance and promoting general cooperation amongst its members, a central theme which emerges is the organisation's mission in fighting what Chinese officials have referred to as the 'three evils' of terrorism, separatism and extremism. This is reflected in the organisation's list of 'goals and objectives', its 'areas of cooperation', and the inclusion of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure as one of the organisations' two permanent bodies. It is also reflected in the content of the documents which were adopted under the auspices of the SCO between 2001-2015, as seen in Figure 2. Of the thirty-three SCO agreements, thirteen (nearly forty percent) dealt specifically with the issue of combatting the 'three evils', compared with fifteen which covered a variety of single-issue agreements.[8] Clearly, this is a priority for the SCO – more so when one considers that that some of the single-issue and organisational structure agreements also reference this anti-terrorism mission.   Figure 2 -- Content of SCO Agreements   The 2001 declaration which transformed the informal Shanghai grouping into a formal international organisation and the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism and Extremism were signed the same day, fundamentally linking this mission with the SCO itself. This convention and its principles are therefore unsurprisingly the second-most referenced amongst the SCO documents. Although the definitions of these three concepts all include some sort of use of violence by its perpetrators, in practice these definitions have been criticised by human rights groups[9] for being overly broad and utilised to cover any political threat to the SCO governments, all of which are rated 'not free' by Freedom House, with the exception of Kyrgyzstan, which is rated 'partly free'.[10] Threats to the government are portrayed as threats to the state itself and therefore the labels of terrorist, separatist and extremist have been applied quite liberally to place non-violent political opponents under their umbrella: 'These definitions offer significant scope…to act preemptively to nullify any threat to the integrity of their nation-states or regimes. This provides legitimacy to act with force to defend their position against any opposition that can be defined as representing a violent challenge to their authority'.[11] This agreement commits the SCO states to 'cooperate in the prevention, detection and suppression' of these activities, to provide legal assistance to their fellow SCO governments, and to exchange information on individuals and groups. Possibly the most controversial section of this agreement is the requirement to extradite suspects, ensuring that there is no safe haven for political dissidents within the region as long as one member of the Convention deems a suspect. Cooley referred to this Convention as creating 'the legal and cooperative framework' for a 'wave of renditions' which has ensured that the governments of the region are not challenged.[12] Cooley cited numerous cases of multilateral cooperation amongst security officials in the transfer of Uighurs from several SCO countries to China, Uzbeks living in Russia to Uzbekistan, and the leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Tajikistan to Tajikistan where he was sentenced to a prison term of twenty-three years. Even those with refugee status granted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees are not immune to politically-motivated extraditions.   The primary mechanism for implementing this framework is the Regional Anti-Terrorism Structure (RATS), created through a 2002 treaty, which is the third most prominent agreement in the SCO legal network. Although the name would seem to suggest that it is focused on only one of the 'three evils', it is in fact charged with combatting all three – thus, seeking to delegitimise all political dissent with the label of terrorism. The primary function of the RATS is to amass and analyse information on groups and individuals suspected of taking part in terrorism, separatism or extremism and to compile an extensive database which can be accessed by its members. This database has been used as the basis of extradition requests, in accordance with the RATS's role in carrying out the 2001 Shanghai Convention. It is unclear exactly how large the database is, but in 2010 it was reported that there were 42 groups and 1,100 individuals listed, reflecting a nearly three-fold increase since 2006.[13] The list is kept secret by the SCO and the RATS has not released the criteria by which groups are added. It is suspected that, in addition to clear terrorist groups such as al-Qaida and the Taliban, peaceful opposition groups have also been blacklisted. Since the events of the Arab Uprisings in 2011, the SCO members have intensified their crackdown against potential sources of opposition and the database is now most likely considerably larger. The RATS does not have enforcement powers of its own but instead coordinates activities amongst the internal security services of its member states and assists them in counterterrorism operations by providing expertise and organisational support. It also organises joint exercises to promote interstate cooperation on counterterrorism, holds training sessions to improve the technical practical aspects of these operations, and facilitates the 'exchange of experiences' amongst member states.[14] In short, the RATS serves as the central locus of the process of 'sharing worst practices' amongst the SCO member states.   The final lodestone agreement in the SCO legal network is the UN Charter. Obviously, this broad document contains many purposes and principles, some of which are contradictory. While many of the references by SCO documents to the UN Charter are vague expressions of general support for its ideals, a consistent theme which emerges is the UN's foundation upon the principle of state sovereignty. This is particularly apparent in the SCO heads of state declarations beginning in 2012, coinciding with the Arab Uprisings and an increasing resistance by these states to democracy promotion. Statements are found in each of these declarations which link the principles of the UN to the 'independent choice' of states to their own path of 'political and socio-economic development'.[15] This defence of state sovereignty over human rights and democracy should be read as justification for preserving the political status quo and rejecting external criticisms of authoritarianism. These statements aim to create a rhetorical defence of autocracy by presenting both the desire for political change as an infringement on state sovereignty and external criticisms as representing disrespect for the 'historical background and national peculiarities of each State'.[16]   Conclusion The SCO has many functions, such as fostering interstate cooperation, preventing regional conflict, and even advancing some geopolitical aspirations. However, Cooley is correct when he referred to the SCO as a 'league of authoritarian gentlemen', primarily interested in regime survival, rather than democracy or human rights.[17] This perspective is validated by the core SCO agreements and echoed by the SCO heads of state declarations. The interconnected and self-reinforcing web created since 2001 should therefore be seen as seeking to establish an 'architecture of authoritarianism' – a legal framework which promotes and strengthens non-democratic norms and practices within the region.   Policymakers wishing to promote democracy within Central Asia must understand that they are not only confronting state-level, domestic impediments to liberalisation, but also a complex, interconnected, and self-reinforcing multilateral order which is antithetical to such aims. In order to change this dynamic, policymakers will need to put pressure on these governments to be more transparent about their intraregional extradition processes and the blacklisting of opposition groups through SCO institutions, as well as to challenge these governments’ expansive definitions of the ‘Three Evils’. Nonetheless, given that authoritarianism is reinforced at the state and regional levels, political change is going to be very difficult to achieve in the short-to-medium term. [1] Uzbekistan had yet to join. [2] Ambrosio, Thomas.  2008.  Catching the 'Shanghai Spirit':  How the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Promotes Authoritarian Norms in Central Asia.  Europe-Asia Studies 60(8):  1321-1344; Aris, Stephen.  2009.  The Shanghai Cooperation Organization:  'Tackling the Three Evils'.  Europe-Asia Studies 61(3):  457-482. [3] Slobodchikoff, Michael.  2013.  Strategic Cooperation:  Overcoming the Barriers of Global Anarchy.  Lanham, Maryland, Lexington Books. [4] Aris, p.477. [5] In both cases, direct references found in these documents to combating the 'three evils' of terrorism, separatism, and extremism, as well as the functioning of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, have also been included in the database, even if explicit references to these two treaties are not made. For example, the SCO Charter identifies the RATS as one of the most significant, permanent bodies of the organization – even listing it before the secretariat – but does not specifically reference the 2002 treaty which created it. This slightly looser definition of the embedded agreements is therefore more reflective of their actual importance to the SCO. [6] Other, prominent, international agreements are also included in this database, as they are referenced by these documents. For example, the United Nations Charter figures prominently in SCO texts. For a full list of the database, see the following website: [7] There are two other things to note about this network:  there are three nuclear non-proliferation treaties found in the upper-left corner of the network (NPT, CANWFZ, and CZNWFZ_2) and the 2007 Treaty of Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation (2007-02), found in the upper-right corner of the network is repeatedly referenced as signifying one of the cornerstones of cooperation amongst the SCO member states. [8] Each of the following is covered by a separate agreement:  economics, anti-drugs, emergency management, education, customs, military exercises, culture, information security (two), agriculture, crime, health, science/technology, transportation, borders. [9] For example, Human Rights in China.  Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights:  The Impact of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, 2011, p.3. [10] Freedom House, Freedom in the World: 2015, [11] Aris, p.467. [12] Cooley, Alexander.  2012.  Great Games, Local Rules.  Oxford, UK:  Oxford University Press.  p.107. [13] Human Rights in China, p.85. [14] Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure.  Activities. [15] Dushanbe Declaration of Heads of State of the SCO.  2014. [16] As cited in the 2007 Treaty on Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Between the Member States of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. [17] Cooley, Alexander, The League of Authoritarian Gentlemen, Foreign Policy, 30 January 2013, [post_title] => The legal framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: An architecture of authoritarianism [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sco-architecture-of-authoritarianism [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-12-13 12:23:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-12-13 12:23:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [36] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 684 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-03-23 15:41:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-03-23 15:41:20 [post_content] => Internally, increasing social divisions persist. With chronic underinvestment in services such as health, housing and education, Russia runs the risk of underestimating the potential for widespread social discontent, which may be exercised on the streets, such as the Moscow Protests in 2012, led by opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Worse still for the incumbent regime, potential outcomes could mirror the fate of Yanukovich in neighbouring Ukraine who was ousted in 2014. While this may seem a dramatic outcome, the continued lack of engagement with these situations compounds its potential. Another key area, which successive Russian governments have failed to take initiative on is economic diversification. The heavy overreliance on the extractive energy industry, through sales to foreign markets has been exposed by the unprecedented decrease in global oil prices – which are at their lowest since the 1990s – and this decrease is having an adverse impact on the Russian economy. While attempts have been made to participate more strongly in areas other than energy, such as the Skolkovo technology hub,  investment is limited and fails to have the impact anticipated by former President Medvedev when he championed the idea during his time in power. Perhaps most pressing of all internal concerns in Russia are the persistent high levels of corruption relative to other European countries. The more prevalent forms of corruption in Russia occur on the judicial and public procurement level, greatly impeding efforts to counteract this problem through legal frameworks. The effect of this is debilitating to civil society as a whole, preventing the establishment of genuine democratic creations such as NGOs, opposition groups and internet and media freedoms. Externally, Russia is facing a schism in the post-Soviet status quo vis-à-vis its former adversaries. Since the < first election of Vladimir Putin in 2000>, Russia had sought to involve itself more heavily with the West and western institutions e.g. the WTO. As the first decade of this century continued, Russian desire for integration into such institutions waned, culminating in Putin’s speech at the < Munich Security Conference> in 2007. Nine years on, such institutions have effectively turned their backs on Russia and in some instances become openly hostile to it (though Russia < did join the WTO> in 2012). Most importantly, this has been driven by the onset of the Ukraine crisis, begun in Kiev – < the origin of Russian culture> – in < November 2013> in the city’s Maidan square, which culminated in the fleeing of < President Yanukovich> in February 2014. This widely unpredicted alteration in political structure on Russia’s border is < considerably more significant> than the Georgian War of 2008, not least because of the de facto divide, which has split Ukraine into government vs rebel military skirmishes, loosely kept in check by the fragile < Minsk Protocol>. Russia’s external difficulties have increased as a direct result of the conflict in Ukraine. Primarily, these have materialised through < Western-imposed economic sanctions>, designed to weaken Russia through bans on food imports and access of Russian banks to Western credit lines. Additional external challenges for Russia include, but are not limited to, first the recent decision to < partially withdraw from military action in Syria>, which is intended to (a) challenge ISIS directly and (b) show support for long-term ally, President Assad. Second, strains in relations with strategic allies – or at least those states with the potential to become so – as set out by Russia’s pro-Western integration drive in the early 2000s such as the < European Union states> and < Turkey, the first NATO member to shoot down a Russian plane for fifty years>. The potential to over or under react to these challenges would be present for any state in Russia’s situation. At a time when < Russia’s budget deficit> is predicted to reach $21.7bn in 2016, meaning this year will be the < first since 2011 where military spending has not increased significantly>, which is in line with maintaining the deficit at 3% of GDP, pragmatic financial decisions will have to be undertaken, which do not threaten the government’s domestic and international position. What is clear is that Russia cannot afford to maintain conflict in Ukraine, airstrikes in Syria, finance large energy projects such as < the planned nuclear power plant construction in Hungary>, while sanctions and low oil prices persist. Russia is at a critical juncture. Never in the post-Soviet period has it endured such internal and external pressures with genuine potential to undermine the economic and political power – and will – of the regime. 2016 will be a year in which tough choices have to be made. One key question is, which of the outlined challenges is most important for Russia and the current government’s longevity, especially given the next Presidential elections are just two years away? Internally, Russia should do more to strengthen the rule of law, which will lay the foundations towards the creation of a truly independent judiciary, which is a key step in tackling corruption at the legal level. Russia’s best option externally will be to engage with the US and its allies and to negotiate the terms of sanctions, thus freeing up financial mechanisms allowing it to diversify its economy in the longer term. By doing so, higher potential will be generated to find a political solution in the Ukraine and further, a broader international coalition could then be formed, which includes Russia as a key partner, to counteract ISIS, especially in Syria. Regardless of these issues, there persists a culture of informality in the annals of Russian political power, whereby many of the close associates of the Kremlin are engaged in a culture of < clientelism and opaque methods of decision-making>. The trusted personnel surrounding Putin help to ensure that the ruling party, United Russia, maintain power but simultaneously, it is crucial they do not repeat the mistakes of other post-socialist governments who typically underinvest domestically, < resulting in popular protest>. Samuel Rogers is a PhD Candidate at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS)at the University of Bristol. [post_title] => Russian Pragmatism: making the right choices in 2016 [post_excerpt] => For the remainder of the second half of the second decade of the twenty-first century, Russia has an unprecedented number of internal and external issues (addressed below), which have combined to reach a critical point, not seen since the end of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter of a century ago. Taking these concerns together, they have the potential for increased internal upheaval in the form of a repeat of the , high levels of (though this slightly in late 2015) and further deterioration in relations with ‘partners’ such as the and are genuinely realistic. The list of problems that Russia faces is long and has increased, especially since the onset of the and the in February 2014. The issues can be divided into two categories: internal and external. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => russian-pragmatism-making-the-right-choices-in-2016 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 09:02:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 09:02:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [37] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 683 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2016-02-16 13:38:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-02-16 13:38:07 [post_content] => The country is conscious that whilst its oil and political stability has given it the opportunity to significantly develop over the past forty years, it is not immune to the chaos that is gradually creeping across the entire region. Of particular concern considering the Sultanate’s geography is the spectre of Iranian-Saudi relations deteriorating further. Oman has the political and economic motivations to push for a wider peace agenda across the region and is worthy of a closer look. The country is undergoing a transition. The collapse in oil prices has had a significant impact on the Omani economy forcing the government to reduce public spending and remove subsidies around fuel in particular. The price of unleaded petrol went up earlier this year by a one third after a 17 year freeze moving Oman from the 9th to 13th cheapest place in the world to fill up your car. This could have a silver lining if the country is able to genuinely diversify its economy. One sector that has vast potential is that of tourism. Long, unspoilt beaches (some of which have Turtle nesting zones) coastline views of Dhows fishing out to sea and the spectacular Green Mountains are arguably more sustainable assets than oil and gas. Yet for this sector to flourish the ‘brand’ of the region has to be less ISIS and more ‘peaceful oases’. As an Arab League and GCC player Oman’s diplomacy is based around the primacy of avoiding conflict. Last year’s decision by Saudi Arabia to start military operations in Yemen placed huge pressure on the Omani ‘peace first’ strategy, but the Sultanate managed to avoid getting dragged in and preserved its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Oman’s relationship with Tehran and Riyadh allowed it to play a key role as host to the Iranian nuclear talks, a potential game changer for the region. The country is perhaps unique in having had joint military training with both Iran and the US and with the Straits of Hormuz on its doorstep, where a 5th of the world’s oil passes through, is very much in the centre of a potential global flashpoint. Speaking to senior Omani diplomats you get a clear sense of the role that they see the country playing. One spoke of how “globalisation for Oman started a thousand years ago when our sea faring history saw us engage and build friendships across the world. We do good things in the region for security and peace yet we don't get any recognition in the West - because we're too modest”. Such modesty could be a valuable asset and I was struck when visiting the country that there is huge potential for the Sultanate to be the home of conflict resolution efforts for the region. Indeed as the set piece peace efforts around Syria’s conflict have failed to date under the glare of the publicity of the Geneva, Vienna and Munich conferences, Muscat sits well placed as the site for more ‘modest’ track two efforts. Essentially could Muscat be to Geneva what Oslo was for Madrid? Oman’s problem solving potential has also seen it take in Guantanamo Bay prisoners, reliving pressure from President Obama who may still make his pledge to close the camp before he leaves office. This January ten Yemeni men were sent to Oman bringing the detainee population below 100 for the first time. In Muscat a new National Museum is preparing to open in April that within the modern era section focuses on Oman’s values of tolerance and moderation. One Omani journalist I met described the country’s foreign policy as ‘keep everyone as a friend’. Their diplomats regular cite the importance of inclusiveness and dialogue as a priority and despite the obvious challenges to such well meaning thoughts the country appears to be effectively walking the fine line keeping onside with all. The track record and potential of Oman as a diplomatic pivot is of particular interest for the United Kingdom who’s historical, cultural and economic connections place it at the top of the league table of allies. If the UK can further support the bridge into economic diversification that Oman is attempting then it could find relations even closer. There is an obvious UK interest in supporting Oman’s efforts to become the region’s indispensable peace maker, although I would argue that maintaining its ‘quiet’ approach is essential for continued effectiveness. [post_title] => Oman – The Quiet Diplomat [post_excerpt] => In a Middle East increasingly defined by the fires of war it takes a lot of work to keep out of the headlines. The Sultanate of Oman doesn’t have the record breaking tall buildings of its Gulf neighbours and has ensured that the worsening violence in Yemen has not spilled over across its borders. Instead, away from the international focus that tends to follow events in Syria, Israel-Palestine and Iraq, Oman is working the levers of quiet diplomacy behind the scenes. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => oman-the-quiet-diplomat [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 09:02:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 09:02:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [38] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 682 [post_author] => 38 [post_date] => 2015-12-11 15:15:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2015-12-11 15:15:34 [post_content] => How does private sector development support structural transformation and enhance sustainable development outcomes? This might range from wealth and investment creation to employment-led growth. Private sector development might also drive innovation and technological development to building essential infrastructure. Furthermore, business and enterprise can also support entrepreneurship, help improve the quality of work and provide much needed increases in labour productivity. How can sustainable business support, strengthen and champion its impact on women’s resilience and wellbeing? In addition, how might governments, in partnership with civil society, provide support to facilitate and influence the development impact of business on women? By examining the transformative effect of business on women’s lives, livelihoods and wellbeing, the event series aims to explore a number of key themes including: • Female entrepreneurship, employment and agricultural development: Promoting food and nutritional security by improving support to women producers. • Bridging the gap between science, technology and innovation for development transformation in Africa: Tackling development dilemmas in agriculture (e.g. food and livestock security) and the environment (e.g. biodiversity and forestry). What works, what doesn’t and how can success be appropriately scaled-up and replicated? • Women and environmental resource management: Adapting to a changing environment and balancing conservation and consumption in an age of scarcity and uncertainty. The event series is scheduled to take place 2014-16. Following the roundtable discussion series, the FPC will produce a report (to be launched in 2016/17) which will build on the discussions and insights exchanged during the course of the event series. The report will capture the salient issues discussed and key findings identified. This event forms part of a wider Foreign Policy Centre series entitled: Africa Rising? Building Africa’s Productive Capacity for Inclusive Growth. Additional project supporters include Barclays and CDC Group. [post_title] => Summary note 3- Investing in women's economic resilience & social wellbeing [post_excerpt] => Part of the 'Africa Rising? Building Africa’s Productive Capacity for Inclusive Growth' series In a series of Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) roundtable discussions - supported by Nestlé - the FPC seeks to explore how business can play a more constructive role in building resilience to improve women’s economic and social wellbeing across Africa. The proposed series of roundtable discussions come at a time when global development priorities are being reshaped and redefined in the wake of a post-2015 UN Millennium Development Goals’ agenda. In addition, 2015 marks the 15th anniversary of the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. This resolution promotes the importance of women in building peace and security in states affected by conflict. All this is coupled with the fact that the global economic recovery remains fragile. Existing inequality and insecurity disproportionately affects women, and has been compounded by the unprecedented global economic crisis, on-going austerity and mounting uncertainty. These conditions present very real challenges for public spending dedicated to development. As such, understanding the development transformation role played by business and enterprise has become increasingly important. This summary note reflects the discussions which took place at the third session which focused on environmental resource management. The event attempted to understand how best to support women to adapt to a changing environment (with respect to water scarcity, climate change challenges, energy insecurity etc.) and balance conservation and consumption in an age of scarcity and uncertainty. In essence, what works, what doesn’t and how can success be appropriately scaled-up and replicated? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => summary-note-3-investing-in-womens-economic-resilience-social-wellbeing [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-27 09:02:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-27 09:02:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )

Russian Pragmatism: making the right choices in 2016

Internally, increasing social divisions persist. With chronic underinvestment in services such as health, housing and education, Russia runs the risk of underestimating the potential for widespread social discontent, which may…

Article by Samuel Rogers

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